Splitting up into pairs for exercises on deep listening is one thing we’ve gone through a lot during the Ecovillage Design Education in Sieben Linden. Also as a Permaculture apprentice we go with people through this valuable process again and again when we do our action learning guilds. What does it mean deep listening and why do we do it?
The answer can be given through a little exercise that you can do with a friend or anyone who is up for it. Two people sit together when the First of them asks the Other “How are you today?” While the Other takes two full minutes to express his or her feelings or what he/she has done on that particular day, the First person does everything possible to show he/she is not listening: drawing or writing on a piece of paper, playing with the mobile or a dog that’s around, tying up the shoelaces, etc. After two minutes they change sides. After both sides had their turn, they can reflect on their experiences before going through the same question again, this time listening to each other with their full being.
Listening with one’s full being is deep listening. It is important in the second part of the exercise to look in the other person’s eyes and being fully present, empathic, listening without judging. This is a process of mutual giving.
It helps to reflect on what you experience in the process of listening and being listened to. This act of reflection is an important step for connecting with an experience and clarifying it for oneself, bringing it into being within oneself and learning from it. The concept of Action Learning draws the circle of Thinking or Learning, then Planning, Acting, Reflecting and back to Thinking and Learning anew. It is a circle of progressive learning. In the action learning guild we come together to answer four questions to someone who listens deeply to us:
1) What is going well, as a …. (permaculture apprentice, living being, wife, parent,…)
2) What is challenging as a …
3) What is my long term vision or goal?
4) What are my next achievable steps?
In doing so and being listed to while sharing our thoughts we create that connection between our internal processes and the outside world, the world of action. This connection is essential in learning that is directed towards action.
You have a set time in which you talk, normally a bit longer for the third question (ex. 5, 5, 7 and 5 minutes or 10, 10, 15 and 10 minutes). If you don’t have anything to say for most of the time you just sit with it and wait for things to emerge. The listener also sits quietly, fully present, not trying to judge or giving advice.
You can be aware of the qualities in this process. The listener is present, patient; the talker is reflecting and open for things to emerge from inside. Both are giving and receiving at the same time.