Deep-Bone Listening, Forming Community
Have you heard of this term? In some Australian Aboriginal cultures, this is the name of a deep, spiritual, form of listening:
“Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation’.”
– Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ngangiwumirr Elder
In fact, for most of the elders in the community, this is a way of life. They listen on the move, deeply, with more than just their ears.
I call it Deep Bone Listening.
It’s not some esoteric practice. We’ve all more or less some kind of experience of Deep Bone Listening before.
For instance, have you ever listened to a piece of music and be so moved or captured by it, at a gut level?
Or when you’ve heard someone tell a story, and can put yourself into it, to the point that you could understand levels of meaning in that story?
Or when you’ve heard someone talk about what’s upsetting them, and instinctively know that what’s REALLY upsetting them is something else, hidden between the lines of what they’re saying?
Or for those who are partnered, when your partner says everything’s ok but you can SENSE that they’re not ok, because every line and curve in their tone and body is shouting this at you?
Or when you’re telling someone about something bothering you, and you KNOW that they get exactly what you mean, and where hurts?
Deep Bone Listening is allowing yourself to be moved by something else.
For some of the aboriginal communities, they use Dadirri as a means of healing collective trauma. Collectively as a community (that’s the theme I’m currently fascinated with), they come together to listen one of their own tell of his or her trauma experiences.
There’s just deep, deep open-ness, without imposing ideas, theories, should, musts, ought-to’s or, crucially, judgments on these shared stories.
And in the Listening community, the person starts to heal. If being Listened to by one person at a Deep Bone level is curative, imagine the power of being Listened to by a COMMUNITY!
It is my belief, as in my post about Friendship Benches, that Deep Bone Listening or Dadirri is one powerful practice that can build communities, and hence true connections. In fact, Friendship Benches work because they’re allowed spaces to have Deep Bone Listening – either as Listener, Being Listened To, or Both.
Each time someone Listens or is Listened to, a new connection is formed. As more people are drawn into these Listening spaces, gradually, like the roots of ancient trees reaching far and deep, merging with other roots, a meaningful network is formed.
This network is community.
We’ve got much to learn from the aboriginal cultures and practices.
Here’s how to practice Deep Bone Listening and set up your own portable, impromptu Friendship Bench/ Coffee Table/ Passenger Seat/ Workstation (you get the idea).
When a friend or colleague is talking to you (this includes complaints):
1) Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open – looking at them. Hear what they’ve got to say.
2) As you hear what they’re saying, also use your eyes to notice their behavior as they are telling their story.
3) Keep track of what comes up in your mind and body as you do 1) and 2) (Not an easy feat but it can be done!) – The responses coming up in your mind and body are sometimes important reactions to 1) and 2).
4) If something stands up from 3), share it with them. If nothing comes up as yet, just let them know you’re taking in what they’re saying by using small actions – a nod here, an “I see” there, or a “tell me more”.
For instance, over lunch a colleague is complaining about your boss for playing favorites (Step 1). He points out examples, and as he does so, you see that he’s getting redder in the face, more tensed and he’s grinding his teeth (Step 2).
You have a hunch that he’s somehow talking about himself and you remember that he’s been given a poor performance review despite his hard work (Step 3). You decide to share the hunch, telling him, “It’s not really fair is it? Boss keeps passing you over.” (Step 4)
So you see, if you only paid attention to step 1), all you would get is a complaining session where your colleagues sounds like a petty whiner. Add the other steps and a whole new understanding opens up to you about him. He’s not being petty. He’s feeling horribly bitter and discouraged.
Steps 1) to 3) might look very complex, and that is true. In my previous posts, I talked about how hearing someone say something is not Listening. Listening means taking everything in as much as you can, hence steps 1) to 3).
The way in do these steps, is I treat my awareness as a wide-open Space (See one of my earlier posts on Being Space). I’m Space for the other person (Steps 1) and 2)); and I’m Space for myself (Step 3). I’m free to notice and play with whatever pops up in this Space.
Listening is a craft. It’s also bloody exhausting to do because it goes so deep and can be an intense experience. Therefore, know that you DON’T have to Listen all the time. It’s crucial to say “No” too, when someone expects you to Listen but all you want to do is to hear.
It’s also crucial that you get Listened to as well.
So, I invite you to Listen (even briefly) to one other person, and to get that person to pay-it-forward in Listening currency. Teach them the 4 steps above.