Building Community Through Deep Listening

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Deep Listening goes far beyond our attempts to understand others through the words they say to us. What we can gain by listening at a much deeper level is a profound connection that allows us to creatively build upon each other’s contributions.

The BanffCentre hosted the Koorie Cohort, a group of Indigenous Masters and PhD students from Monash University and RMIT University in Australia during the Art of Management Conference at The Banff Centre. This talented group of artists, playwrights, storytellers, musicians, and academics presented their work as part of the Indigenous Deep Listening Project. During this crosscultural exchange, participants explored Indigenous ways of knowing such as ‘Gulpa Ngawal’, which means “Deep Listening.”

The process involves deep and respectful listening. It means taking the time to develop relationships, listening to stories, to what is said and what is not said, and to deeply understanding what is contained within the silences and spaces. Deep Listening is best described as involving all the senses, not just listening with your ears. It is a search for understanding and meaning in a manner that invites collaboration and reciprocity.

Deep Listening in this form is something very familiar not only to Indigenous people but to artists, musicians, and creative individuals in the process of creating new works. Often termed as “insightfulness” or intuition, Deep Listening, for the artist, is at the root of seeing, hearing, and creating.

With this in mind, our group travelled to Melbourne, Australia as guests of the Indigenous Deep Listening Project, where we continued our work together with the Koorie Cohort at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education. During our visit we contributed to a film project and music CD documenting our experiences.

Reflecting on my own experiences as an artist, I believe that Deep Listening is a valuable form of communication between cultures, genders, and disciplines, and a universal language that we, as human beings readily possess. We are often too quick to jump to language or solution, and speak, when the answer really lies in listening deeply over time.

Speaking or writing in language is not always the wisest way to communicate complex systems, concepts, and problem-solving. The “language” of the arts and Deep Listening are in many ways a new way to begin to re-learn how to communicate with one another.

The Deep Listening Project shows us new ways to define relationship and kinship through arts dialogue, leading to stronger community engagement across cultures, genres, and generations. This ultimately creates an environment and language for peace, creativity, innovation, and deeper understanding.