LISTEN (Chinese Symbol)

Learn the art of Sacred Listening and Deep Dialogue. Sitting in a circle and listening at a heart level takes guidance, practice, and togetherness. In this workshop you will learn how to participate in dialogue (not debate nor discussion) and practice the sacred art of listening. Dialogue is about connection, understanding, and healing. In circle we let go (suspend) assumptions and listen with the ears of our heart. Through the practice of deep dialogue we participate in the divine nature, practice openness and vulnerability, and learn via mind-body-spirit.

Additional details below:
Bohm’s Dialogue Guidelines
Bohm’s Dialogue Principles
Top Ten Powerful Listening Practices


Sitting in circles is rooted in ancient tradition. Circles have been a common form for discussing issues of importance to the community throughout the ages and in our time. Circles provide support, generate mutual understanding, strengthen relationships and create spaces for healing and transformation. Circles are egalitarian – all voices are heard equally. There is no front of the room or head table. They convey a sense of connectedness – we can see each other. The center becomes a focal point – a sacred space.


Arrange seating in a circle, without tables or desks. In the center, on a small table or even on the floor, you might want to create a focal point by using a beautiful scarf, a candle or some flowers, as a reminder of the sacred nature of the center.

Opening Ceremony

Mark the beginning of your time together in a circle with a brief ceremony. It is a way of welcoming everyone into the gathering, and reminds us of our interconnections. It helps us to create the safe space for our conversation. Welcome people into the circle; follow by a ritual such as lighting a candle, a few minutes of silence or the reading of a poem or short inspirational quote. A second ritual is to mark the rim of the circle by walking around the outside of the circle and inviting those still seated to welcome, greet and appreciate each one with a silent gaze.


Each voice is important in the circle, and adds to the whole. The next step is to invite everyone to introduce themselves – briefly – just saying their name, where they live, and a short “tweet” length version about something in their lives, or why they chose to attend this circle, or what they are feeling now. Once each voice is heard, the sense of community deepens, you have created a space for deep listening.

Circle Guidelines

To ensure that everyone is on the same page it is useful to share some guidelines for circle conversations. Review them each time you gather.

  • Listen and speak with respect, compassion, curiosity.
  • One person speaks at a time, without interruption or comments.
  • Speak for yourself and from your own experience.
  • Hold stories or personal material in confidentiality.
  • Be willing to discover and explore, look for something new.

Some groups use a talking piece to help focus attention on one speaker at a time – a seashell, stick, stone or any small object. The person holding the talking piece is the only one who can speak. It can be passed around the circle, or placed in the center of the circle and the next person who wants to speak takes it from there.

Most groups begin with a question or a topic to focus the sharing. State the question or topic and invite someone to begin and hand the talking piece to them. People may be quiet or uncertain. There may be times of silence. This is normal though it does sometimes make people uncomfortable at first. Silence honors what’s been said and creates space for deeper thinking. Inform everyone when you are five minutes from the end time and invite anyone who has not yet spoken if they would like to add something. Often at least one person will respond to this invitation.

Closing Ceremony

To complete the circle invite everyone to think of one or two words which express what it was like to be in the circle, or any insight they had during the circle time. Go around the circle one last time. Blow out the candle or say – this circle is now complete.


1. The group agrees that no group-level decisions will be made in the conversation. “…In the dialogue group we are not going to decide what to do about anything. This is crucial. Otherwise we are not free. We must have an empty space where we are not obliged to anything, nor to come to any conclusions, nor to say anything or not say anything. It’s open and free.” (Bohm, “On Dialogue”, p. 18-19.)”

2. Each individual agrees to suspend judgement in the conversation. (Specifically, if the individual hears an idea he doesn’t like, he does not attack that idea.) “…people in any group will bring to it assumptions, and as the group continues meeting, those assumptions will come up. What is called for is to suspend those assumptions, so that you neither carry them out nor suppress them. You don’t believe them, nor do you disbelieve them; you don’t judge them as good or bad…(Bohm, “On Dialogue”, p. 22.)”

3. As these individuals “suspend judgement” they also simultaneously are as honest and transparent as possible. (Specifically, if the individual has a “good idea” that he might otherwise hold back from the group because it is too controversial, he will share that idea in this conversation.)

4. Individuals in the conversation try to build on other individuals’ ideas in the conversation. (The group often comes up with ideas that are far beyond what any of the individuals thought possible before the conversation began.)


1. Listening
First and foremost it is important for each participant to be able to listen fully and deeply. We can develop our listening skills to be able to gain greater understanding of both others and ourselves.

2. Non-judgement
When practising listening, it is the ability to suspend any judgements that may arise and make them available for inquiry, that can lead to the generation of new knowledge. Creating a non-judgemental space for a group requires trust, openness and honesty.

3. Suspension & Inquiry
Once we have developed the ability to suspend our initial judgements, we create room to make them available for inquiry. By exploring and challenging different perspectives we can begin to see the patterns that create our thought, and opportunities for new thinking together.

5. Creativity
Dialogue is something creative. By sharing experience in a non-judgemental way, we are able to create new thinking together. Dialogue harnesses the power of our natural creativity, empowering the group.

4. Thought vs. Thinking
In Bohm dialogue, thought is seen as the product of past thinking-our memory and thought patterns. Thinking is a fresh response to any given situation, the ability to consider new ideas and perspectives.

7. New Thinking
The purpose of dialogue is to create new thinking together by sharing meaning. As Bohm said, ‘a change of meaning, is a change of being,’ and through the creation of new meaning and thinking we can achieve transformational change.

6. Creating Meaning
Dialogue allows us to appreciate the interconnectedness and interdependency of our knowledge and experience. It provides the time and space for reflection on our commonalities and differences in a way that creates meaning for all.

8. Values
For a dialogue to be successful, participants will benefit from understanding the principles of dialogue and the values of the practice. A values-based approach ensures a strong foundation for the process and its outcomes.

Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion. What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.
~Ryan Fournier



Stop talking.
One person speaks at a time. One of the most irritating listening habits is that of interrupting.

Pause before speaking.
Allow the person who is speaking time to complete their thought, wait a few seconds before responding. Another variation on this is to ask “Is there anything else?” There almost always is.

Listen to yourself.
Be in touch with your inner voice. Ask yourself, “What wants to be said next?”

Listen for understanding.
You do not have to agree with what you hear, or even believe it, to listen to understand the other person.

Ask for clarification.
If you do not understand what someone is saying, just ask.

Let the speaker know that you have heard them.
Body language: nodding, facial expressions.

Be patient and present.
Listening well takes time and your presence.

Listen with an open mind.
Be curious and appreciative of what you are listening to. Listen for new ideas instead of judging and evaluating.

Pay attention to the environment.
Stop what you are doing to listen. Turn off background noise when possible; move to a quieter corner of the room; clear your desk.

Listen with empathy and compassion.
Put your agenda aside for the moment. Put yourself in their shoes.