Deep Listening

I was recently introduced to the term “deep listening.”

Deep Listening is the act of hearing beyond what is being said through voice.

A lot is said beyond words–through body language, the energy or essence someone is giving off, a sensibility in the room.

When I heard it, I knew I had known something of this deep listening but had never named it, or given in much thought.  Or had I?

Soon enough, I went to a figure drawing class.  Energized by a room full of artists, ready and eager to create, I looked at the subject and thought about how to capture her essence.  I let my impression of her sit in my mind and hoped that my acquired skills and technique could get across the character, mood, and presence of the subject before me.  One of the reasons I love a class full of artists working on the same subject is that it quickly becomes clear that we all have a different impression of the same subject.  What was the subject saying?  She didn’t speak.  What was I hearing?


Deep Listening indeed.

An artist listens without words.

An artist “reads” what is going on.  An artists makes decisions about what information they will include and what will be left out (of what they see) in order to convey the impression they want to give of what they are experiencing from their subject.

I have been deeply listening for years in my artwork.  Still, I hadn’t given it too much conscious thought in other things.  Doing it and being aware that you are doing it are different.

Recognizing the presence of a deep listening that has been there all along helped me to more deeply understand the concept.

We look.  We take in.  What is it saying?

All of this thinking about deep listening, and my better understanding of it through what i’ve been doing as an artist for years surprised me.  It began to help my prayer.  There are times when I sit in prayer when God’s presence is really palpable.  And sometimes its not.  With deep listening on my mind, it dawned on me to “listen” to that presence–palpable or not.  What is it saying to me?

I’ve heard people talk about listening to God for years.  I have in different ways.  But this deep listening, this one is new for me.  Or is it?

Here’s a litte excerpt about listening to help you get the jist:

“Listen,” I say.  I
hold the Tibetan bowl aloft and strike it with a wooden stick.  “What do you hear?”

“Music,” one student answers.

“A chord,” says another.

“Vibrations,” a third observes.

“You know what I hear?” 
I ask.  “ I hear Tibetan monks in
red robes with saffron wraps walking along a path to their temple.”  Many hands raise simultaneously.

“I hear a warm breeze.”

“I hear a mandala.”

“I hear the Dalai Lama.”

Then I say, “When I listen to myself and the bowl at the
same time,

I hear my heart grow peaceful.” Again, multiple hands

“I hear my sadness that the Tibetan monks are in exile.”

“I hear my excitement when I went on my first Buddhist

“I hear myself settling down.”

(–excerpt from “Three” by Maria Tattu Bowen)

Get it?

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