The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice

Translated into Catalan, German, Slovenian and Spanish

Inspiring text and contemplative artwork combine to communicate the three essential qualities of deep listening—silence, reflection, and presence. They demonstrate that the key spiritual transformation can be as basic as practicing the art of listening.

Kay Lindahl
Illustrations by Amy Schnapper

8 x 8, 160 pp | b/w illus. | 978-1-893361-44-7

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Hearing and listening are two different things. Learning to listen—really listen—requires sacred practice.

The Sacred Art of Listening guides you through forty practices of deep listening—to our Source, to ourselves, and to each other.

Inspiring text and contemplative artwork combine to communicate the three essential qualities of deep listening—silence, reflection, and presence. They demonstrate that the key to healthy relationships and spiritual transformation can be as basic as practicing the art of listening.

You will learn how to:

  • Speak clearly from the heart
  • Communicate with courage and compassion
  • Heighten your awareness and sensitivity to opportunities for deep listening
  • Enhance your ability to listen to people with different belief systems

“The lost art of listening is found in The Sacred Art of Listening. The work of Kay Lindahl could assist you to find your spiritual path.”

Pauline Oliveros, composer/performer and founder of Deep Listeningsm

“This elegantly profound book will help lead us to a more enlightened time when the listening ear, not the penetrating eye, will be our primary symbol of understanding. The Sacred Art of Listening will help us create harmony within ourselves as well as with all around us.”

Brooke Medicine Eagle, author of Buffalo Woman Comes Singing and The Last Ghost Dance

“This is a truly beautiful book, and a powerful one—opening us in an effective and practical way to wondrous new depths of human living. So much in so few pages, true wisdom.”

M. Basil Pennington, ocso, author of
Centering Prayer

“I like the insight that life is too often defined by meetings instead of meeting. We need both at the same time. The Sacred Art of Listening, in its wise and reflective way, tells us how. Read, ponder, and inwardly digest it.”

Malcolm Boyd, poet/writer-in-residence, Cathedral Center of St. Paul, Los Angeles

The Sacred Art of Listening unlocks multiple doors of separation and allows the reader to enter into realms of authentic and clear relationships.”

Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, Episcopal Bishop, Diocese of California; founder and president of the United Religions Initiative


What is your background, and what led you to focus on the art of listening?

My first response to this question is that, although I didn’t know it at the time, I’ve been in training all of my life to do this work on listening. I started on my career path working as a registered nurse. Then I married and became a stay-at-home mom of five children, doing volunteer work for La Leche League, teaching and counseling moms who wanted help with nursing their babies. A few years later I worked for Seminars on Sexuality, providing sex education for adults. The moms and dads of the La Leche League discovered that they needed help in talking to their kids about sex, and it began with their own education.

My next career was in financial planning, teaching and advising people about their future financial well-being. Even though the work was diverse I now see the threads—the importance of listening, the ability to teach, and the training I underwent to present myself—which were part of everything I’d been doing over the years.

My spiritual path took on a new dimension when, in 1991, a family health situation made me realize that I needed a stronger spiritual base to cope with the problem. It was then that the practice of Centering Prayer was introduced to me. Taking twenty minutes twice a day to be in silent prayer was a totally new concept to me, and it was just what I needed. It has totally transformed my relationship with God—I learned how to listen to God. Right around that same time I became very involved with the interfaith movement. I began facilitating monthly dialogues with people from diverse faith traditions. We created guidelines for listening to each other.

About ten years ago I was invited to co-lead a weekend retreat with my spiritual mentor. As we planned the time, it became clear that my part was all about listening—to God, to self, and to others. We did three workshops together and then he nudged me very gently into a conversation about what I was really called to be doing. After prayer and reflection I realized that I was indeed being drawn into this work by God. So I opened The Listening Center and closed my financial planning practice. It’s been an amazing journey, led by the Spirit.

What is the purpose of the book?

The reflections are part of my journey and experiences on the circle of life. The purpose of this book is to share those reflections with the hope that they will illumine your spiritual journey by providing access to a new way of listening to God, to self, and to others. The vision that pulls me forward is peace in the world—and particularly peace among the followers of the many world religions. Learning how to listen to and speak with each other is one of the critical elements of this vision. Affirming the sacred art of listening is my response to this call. This exploration of a spiritual approach to listening continues to expand my understanding of what it means to listen. The sacred art of listening is something to incorporate and use every day, and I hope my book helps you to do that.

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  • Silence is a fundamental quality of listening. What is your personal response to silence? What is your communal experience with silence? What makes you comfortable or uncomfortable with silence?
  • Reflection is the result of listening to your soul and discerning the wisdom of your inner voice. Describe a time when you experienced your inner voice. What did you learn about yourself? The Divine? How do you recognize the voice of God at work in your life?
  • Presence allows us to listen with our hearts, giving our full attention to another. Think about and discuss a time when someone was really listening to you. They weren’t thinking about what they were going to say next, where they were going to go next, or their next chore on the to-do list. They were simply there, present with you. What did that feel like? How often do you experience this type of listening? When have you provided this kind of listening to someone else? What did it feel like to be present for another person?
  • One of the keys to learning the sacred art of listening is making a commitment to practice every day. Discuss how you can incorporate a daily practice into your life. What are the benefits of doing so?
  • The cultural and religious diversity in our communities calls for a way of listening that transcends words and belief systems. Describe your personal vision of what this form of listening requires. What is the value in listening to others’ stories? What can you gain by listening? What do you give?
  • Deeper connections come from discovering what we have in common. Discuss how you might use listening as a way to discover how we are alike, rather than how we are different.
  • How do you listen with respect to someone you disagree with? What are some of the ways you can prepare yourself to do so? What are some helpful phrases to use that show that you are listening, but do not convey agreement? Make a list of these phrases, then try them out with each other. What do you think? Are they effective? Gentle? Thoughtful? Unkind? Insensitive? Explore the many ways your simple phrases can be interpreted and work on improving them so their points are very clear.
  • Who would you like to impact with the quality of your listening?