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STRONGER TOGETHER: Deep listening

Last updated: 28/08/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses deep listening.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Dadirri, a word from the Ngan'gikurunggurr and Ngen'giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal people of the Daly River region. My initial introduction to this word was unexpected, shared with me after expressing a desire to be more consistent with my meditation practice. More than just doing it, meditation provides an opportunity to contemplate and create space for the deep listening that can occur from within. Deep listening involves more than words, instead tapping into the deeper meaning that includes unspoken needs and feelings.

Too often, we are using our head to guide our decisions and interpret the world around us. We are looking for answers from outside – seeking solutions, asking questions, hoping that someone else will step in, perhaps even step up and take responsibility. If that was the answer, people would be easily able to navigate through the complexities of life and most of the population would be experiencing a state of flourishing or mental wellbeing. Instead, research suggests that only 20% of the population experience states of flourishing at any one time (Keyes, 2005).

What if deep listening provided an alternative way?

Aboriginal writer and senior elder Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann describes deep listening as:

"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’s something like what you call 'contemplation'.”

Shirleen Campbell, proud Warlpiri and Arrente woman and third generation resident of Alice Springs Town Camp, Lhenpe Artnwe (of Hoppy’s Camp) is a family and domestic violence activist who shares her own story of deep listening. ‘In Aboriginal culture, our country and its landscape are our classroom. We connect to country as we learn and grow as adults. Our country is always ready to teach our mob and look after us.’ Shirleen refers to a painting entitled Deep Listening, that shows two grandmothers, sitting around the campfire surrounded by young boys and girls using deep listening to learn about country. This year, NAPCAN is using this beautiful artwork to prompt deep listening with children and families and to begin conversations in communities about connection, culture and belonging.

I understand. Taking time out for introspection and understand the practice of deep listening may seem to be a luxury that few can afford at the minute. Taking time to put down the phone, and just be. Taking time to walk in nature, swim in the ocean, plant the soles of your feet on the earth. Lying on the grass, looking up at the stars, holding the hand of someone you love. And allowing yourself a moment to pause, and just listen. Notice what is coming up for you in that moment. Notice how you feel, without judgement. Nothing that you need to do, nothing that you need to hold onto, just a willingness to open yourself and your heart to whatever comes next.

Too often we rely on our head to make sense of things. Yet what I am slowly learning, is that our head is limited in its capacity to provide what we often need. Our head is simply a computer processor, often bringing up thoughts that are unhelpful or choices that do not always serve us. However, there is an alternative, and that involves connecting to our heart and our soul, which, not surprisingly, will boost the power to our brain. Building community by encouraging people to explore and learn from the ancient heritage of Aboriginal culture, knowledge and understanding.

Creating better decisions, kinder humans, greater consideration for ourselves, the people around us and the land that supports us. I don’t think we can afford not to do it.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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