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the human group - 8 - the art of listening

The Art of Listening | a human reflection

Everyone wants to be heard but nobody is listening. This phrase itself exemplifies the current state of society and the consequential environmental and qualitative crisis we are faced with.

What if conversation was more like jazz?

For a jam to work everyone needs to be aware that they are part of one thing, a band; expressing to create one whole. There is the rhythm and the lead. The rhythm holds the space with a canvas; a beat and a steady flow providing space for the lead to launch themselves into a liminal space of expression. The rhythm is the listener and the lead is the expresser.

After introducing a few guidelines for the listeners we split into pairs and took 25 minutes each listening and then 25 minutes each expressing.

The Jam started with ‘what is emerging?’

Afterwards we discussed the experience.

We discussed what it was like for the listener. One human said that the listening induced a meditational state with the similar challenge of settling the mind.

Another human said that if they focused too much, they felt fatigued, almost as if they were inducing the sympathetic nervous system of fight or flight.

There was a common anxiety to overcome in order to find the flow of the conversation. An intentional relaxation of the body and slowing of the mind, enabling one to step into the experience of the other, discover curiosities, ask a question or summarise what they have expressed just to check that the signal is being received accurately.

One human brought up the power of listening, orchestrating the jam with little bits of stimulus and witnessing how a question can sculpt the overall shape, direction and sound of the jam. The listener has a responsibility and power that is largely overlooked. It is the environment in which shapes the growth of the tree, the river and tributaries one human offered and just as we overlook the power of the environment we overlook the power of the listener.

Everyone wants to be heard but nobody is listening. This phrase itself exemplifies the current state of society and the consequential environmental and qualitative crisis we are faced with.

The listener induces a meditative state of agile awareness much like the Zen term ‘kensho’ more commonly understood as ‘a glimpse of enlightenment’, or a glimpse into the nature of things (2). A flow state, a dynamic equilibrium in which the mind has taken the backseat as a witness.

‘Do not speak until spoken through.’ - Quaker quote from Rebel Wisdom podcast (1).

As a member of a band jamming, to be highly efficient we need to learn how to enter this state of agile listening in order to support and collaborate with all players.

One individual suggested approaching the construction of a garden with active listening, making it a collaboration between the human and the environment. The gardener asks a question of the space by introducing an element; for example a garden bed growing a certain variety of silver beet. The gardener then sits back and waits for the response. The jam is underway in a creative collaboration evolving to a diverse, bountiful ecosystem in which all the players are happy and satisfied.

While in the expressing stage of the human group I felt bored at different stages of my expression, but I kept on talking, running myself through the hoops of the narratives in which I perceive my life. Playing that old track over and over again, discovering a little with the questions being offered. Attempting to find that flow at the frontier of expression.

We discussed the unloading affect of speaking. Releasing absolutely everything in rapid fire as someone provides the space. A qualitative calibration occurs, pieces finding their places, body slowly relaxing, a digestion of experience and emotion. Is it due to the content/meaning being said or is it an affect of vocal expression?

In Kirtan, the process of singing and jamming to connect with the divine. The Sanskrit word means the reciting, narrating or telling of a story (3).

'Chanting kirtan is a devotional practice that helps to uplift the mind, open the heart and bring inner peace. It is the fastest, easiest and most joyful way to achieve peace of mind.’ - Sivananda Yoga Farm (4).

Do we receive the same benefit when we express in every day life?

In our human discussion we discovered that listening is a powerful conducting force and needs to be enacted in order to collaborate with nature successfully. We also discovered that the technology of expression can open our hearts, set us in flow and free us of negative emotions and stories.

Perhaps we need not treat the meaning of words with such rabid interpretation but further understand conversation as a dance that is therapeutic for both parties.

Try jamming as the rhythm section, activate your curiosity of another and create some beautiful music.

Next week’s topic: ‘idleness, ease and nature’s play thing.’


1. Hall J, Shmachtenberger D, Wheal J. (14.09.19). ‘Making Sense of Sense-Making’ - Rebel Wisdom podcast.

2. Kensho. Wiki.ō

3. Kirtan. Wiki.

4. Sivananda farm.

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