This month, I’m challenging myself to engage in more Deep Listening — an active, contemplative, generous type of listening. I read about Deep Listening in both The Listening Path by Julia Cameron and How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell — and while I wasn’t aware of its name, this act of conscious listening is something I’ve been participating in all year.
The “Listen Lists” recurring theme is my yearning for solitude — a return to my quiet, nourishing alone time. The pandemic has robbed me of unstructured, free time where I recharge and hear my own thoughts. My home is filled with the constant sounds of Zoom meetings, phone calls — of children jumping, fighting and demanding my attention. The day is an endless cycle of monotonous tasks, and my surge capacity is completely depleted by 4 p.m. This is not an environment conducive to Deep Listening.
I decided I had to carve out more pockets of time for myself. I take a book to the park or go for a walk without my phone (so hard!). It’s during these solo outings that I’ve noticed the sounds of my environment, and more importantly, my own thoughts. There are moments for wonder and self-discovery — two things I’m struggling with when stuck inside with a relentless schedule.
This “Listen List” centers around Deep Listening. I’m aware that I’m recommending you to plug into your devices to listen to something that could actually distract you from true Deep Listening. But hopefully, this list will inspire and aid you in a more conscious connection to your environment and yourself.
“To me, the difference between a really good creator and an extraordinary creator, part of it is skill, but part of it is pure awareness.”
Writer and podcaster Jonathan Fields speaks about two different attention types: “focused awareness” and “open presence.” He also explains the importance of “meta-attention,” where you know what you pay attention to.
This conversation illuminates the same principles of Deep Listening. Jonathan reminds us how important it is to have a solid awareness of our outside world and our physiological responses from experiences. Many people are so disembodied that they don’t take notice of these responses.
I’m sure I’ve shared this episode on a past “Listen List,” but it’s worth mentioning it again. The poet and writer, Mary Oliver, was superb at paying attention. Her fascination with the world is incredibly inspiring to me.
Also, The host of On Being, Krista Tippett, is an extraordinary listener. I enjoyed this chat she had at Google about The Art of Generous Listening.
A guided meditation by the incredible psychologist and teacher, Tara Brach. Not only great for Deep Listening but deep relaxation!
Pauline Oliveros, an experimental composer and teacher, actually coined the term Deep Listening. She defines it as a “radical attentiveness,” she differentiates hearing from listening. That listening is to give undivided attention. You can listen to her talk more about this at her TedTalk.
I like to experience Pauline Oliveros’s unique sounds by going into a dark room, lying down and wearing headphones. It’s a very immersive experience — what I imagine a sound bath to be like.
“Listening is directing attention to what is heard, gathering meaning, interpreting and deciding on action.” — Pauline Oliveros
Here are a few favorites when I need music to help with deep periods of concentration, studying, or during creative projects:
- Rondo in A Minor, K. 511 by Mozart, performed by Seong-Gin Cho
- Duet for two Solo Violins and String Orchestra by Kristjan Järvi, Steve Reich
- Electric Counterpoint Ⅲ. Fast by Steve Reich
- Amélie Soundtrack
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