What are “Listening Spaces”?

Our Listening Spaces are online events, usually held over zoom where we come together as a community to share around a theme and practice deep mindful listening.

Listening Spaces are:

  1. A practice of learning how to listen inwardly to our own hearts, bodies and minds – and to take care of our personal experience – whilst listening outwardly to others
  2. A place where we ‘listen with our hearts’ meaning that we listen beyond the words, to the feelings being communicated beneath the words. We seek to suspend our judgements and ideas whilst we listen, offering an unconditional openness to the person that is sharing their story
  3. A place where we ‘speak from our hearts’ meaning that we speak from our own experience, rather than discussing ideas or theories. We try to be spontaneous – not planning what we’ll say – but checking in to our hearts to see what wants to be said in the moment. Everything is welcome: what is difficult, what is nourishing, what needs time to find words and what is brief and light-hearted. We try to avoid lengthy back-story or explanation by going straight to the essence of what is going on for us. And we seek to speak with an awareness of how our words will land in the hearts of others.
  4. A ‘contained’ space – which means we have some agreements to keep the space appropriate and safe: one person speaks at a time, we avoid interruption, cross-talk or advice-giving to individuals or the group, and we agree to a contract of ‘confidentiality’, not sharing or discussing what we have heard in the listening space outside of the group.

Why attend a Listening Space?

You might be wondering what the benefit is of getting a group of people, possibly strangers, to get together and just hear each other speak. 

It certainly doesn’t happen often in our usual family, social or work lives.  But there’s actually a long history of this form of communication being valuable for building communities and sharing experiences. 

It isn’t just all about listening to others talk about difficult things.  We really do benefit from this form of listening, here are just a few of those ways:

Connection. Psychologists believe that one of the key factors to psychological wellbeing is ‘relatedness’, where there is a connection of empathy and trust between individuals.  Often called ‘connection’ it is vital for us to see others as humans and feel an element of commonality between us.

Not only does this help us feel that we relate to others, it can actually help us to reduce levels of fear and anxiety.

Awareness. We speak and listen all the time in our daily lives.  But how aware are we when we do it?  Listening in this form, encourages you to listen with awareness.  Aware of the person you are listening to – listening to the words they say, and the meaning of their word choices.  Listening to their body language. But it’s also about being aware of yourself as part of that ‘conversation’.  Aware of how you react when someone says something you find difficult, for example. We don’t often get the chance to ‘practice’ these skills in a situation where we have the time and space to be aware of what we notice.

A problem shared is a problem halved. This old saying applies very well here.  In our lives we often feel we have to help or fix things for people when they share something.  We launch into giving advice or telling them our own similar experiences.  It’s all well meant, but it can put pressure on the speaker to ‘feel better’ and sometimes disconnects them from their own ability to solve their own problems – we get used to thinking we need others to fix things for us.  Listening in this format is about hearing someone express themselves – with all its associated emotion or challenge – and simply experiencing that.  Allowing them to share and lighten the load of it going around in their head and that is enough.  There’s a real freedom to speaking knowing that you don’t need to fully explain everything to the listener, simply to express yourself and then stop.  A problem halved.

What happens in a Listening Space?

  1. We begin with a short guided mindfulness practice so that we can ground ourselves in our own experience, by listening inwardly as the foundation for our listening together 
  2. The Facilitator will invite a brief ‘checking-in’ go-around, in alphabetical order of our names, so we can share our name and where we are & perhaps one word to convey how we are
  3. The Facilitator will briefly review the ‘contract’ of the listening space and open the space to a ‘pop-corn’ open sharing 
  4. To share, each person can un-mute their mic and speak in turn. Whilst one person is speaking, we all practice just listening
  5. In an online forum, we request that everyone, wherever possible, is present on video and brings their full attention to the listening space, leaving aside all other projects for that time in order to really give our presence to each other

Here are some things you might find helpful to know:

  • You won’t be made to share anything, although we do encourage everyone participating in the session to share something no matter how brief or long it might be.
  • There isn’t a “right” or a “wrong” way to practice, it’s just about showing up
  • We’re not going to force you to come back – give it a try, if you want to join us again you can, if it’s not for you that’s okay too!
  • It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, our listening spaces are open for people who have never been before, or who have been to many and are looking for a new community.

How do you access Listening Spaces?

The best way to join a Listening Space is to join our online community. As well as Listening Spaces you’ll also get access to a whole range of well being resources and sessions. We don’t have a set schedule and Listening Spaces have different themes, and are on different days each month.

We run free Listening Spaces as often as we can for people to join and try, and these are all published on our facebook page. However, due to the sensitive nature of the events we mostly hold Listening Spaces that are directly supporting our community members only.

Co-hosted Listening Spaces for your community, or place of work.

We co-host listening spaces for different communities, and have a variety of experience running Listening Spaces online tailored to communities needs. This could be for your community group, team or your place of work. It can be an amazing way to rebuild connections, that have been broken over the last couple of years.

Contact us to arrange a listening space or find out more.

Before, joining in a Listening Space online, please do check that this is the right environment for your needs at this moment. It’s important to know that a Listening Space is not therapy and the facilitators are not acting as therapists in holding the space. If you’re currently holding something very personal and very difficult, we really ask you to make contact with dedicated mental health support. If you are unsure whether Listening Spaces are right for you, please get in touch.