Deep Listening

As I was revisiting Mark Nepo’s text, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, this afternoon, I decided to focus on a chapter entitled, “Deep Listening.” 

This is a concept that continues to show up in my work, from interviewing someone for my podcast to editing their interview, to now writing my thesis on the importance of utilizing digital storytelling for the LGBT community. 

Nepo offered a few prompts for reflection, and here’s what I came up with...

From your experience, what is the difference between listening and deep listening?

Deep listening is listening for what’s in between someone’s words, a subpoint to the main one, a leaning in or spark of joy in the grin that forms on their face.

It’s slowed down.

It’s reading poetry instead of prose.

It’s prayer. Open to mystery, to other voices and interpretations.

It’s never complete, and can always go deeper.

From your experience, what does “participating in the world’s soul” mean to you?

It’s time, history, a connection to a longer conversation that we’ve had for centuries across thousands of languages. 

A connection to past generations and future.

A vibration in our vocal chords. The bass note to that vibration, always there though the melody may change.

As I led a discussion today with college students, I found a significant overlap with my preparation for podcast interviews. For both, I put together questions that start out specific but then open up more broadly to mystery. This is where the deep listening happens.

I invite you to ponder Nepo’s questions, and also ask yourself, when and where do you take time for deep listening? It can be alone, or with friends, or with a complete stranger. Where do the basic questions of our shared humanity arise for you?