If you take 1 thing away from this profile of Kay Lindahl, today, it should be this: She’s the woman behind The Sacred Art of Listening. As Editor of ReadTheSpirit, a well-thumbed copy of Kay’s book has been a part of my own collection of essential reading for more than a decade.
At this point in her life, Kay is a highly respected interfaith and cross-cultural teacher and a tireless professional in knitting together diverse networks of women and men. She regularly crisscrosses the country in her work, although she is primarily based in Long Beach, California. (That’s just south of Los Angeles, where she also serves on the board for the “Four Chaplains” memorial on the Queen Mary.)
Given that brief summary of her life, you might wonder: Why isn’t her book about the sacred art of teaching … or speaking … or organizing? She embodies all of those skills, after all. The answer is that she discovered years ago—thinking about her many experiences with groups: “The art of listening was the main skill that was missing for most participants.” Let me repeat that: She found that most people who are drawn to diverse dialogue groups have a real problem with—listening. Is that conclusion making you smile and nod? Recognize that truth? Kay did, early on, and created this marvelous interactive book on The Sacred Art of Listening, subtitled: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. You can move through the book’s meditations at your own pace, skip around among the 40, go back and reread them—and use them in your own group.
However, unlike many of the authors we profile in our cover stories, Kay Lindahl is not a household name nationwide. Among her accomplished goals as a listener, teacher, organizer, writer and an activist promoting diversity, she has not pursued celebrity.
So, today, rather than a typical author Q and A, as Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine, I’m going to share with you …
You Need to Know about Kay Lindahl
She’s presenting one of the workshops in the August 10-13 North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) 2014 conference in Detroit. Last year, this influential gathering was held in Toronto and, this year, it will be hosted at Wayne State University in the historic heart of Detroit. If you care about the future of interfaith relationships on this continent—and around the world—you’ll plan to attend this NAIN event in August. Here is the NAIN-Connect page where you can register right now. The final schedule of events has not yet been published, but this conference will be jam packed with: workshops, inspiring and challenging talks, plenary sessions to discuss future projects, some off-site tours exploring the history of religious diversity in the global crossroads that Detroit represents. Most importantly, NAIN is a gathering of remarkable men and women like Kay Kindahl—and including a number of ReadTheSpirit’s authors as well. If you decide to attend NAIN, please email us at [email protected] and let us know you’re coming.
2. She is a master of creative collaboration.
As publishers ourselves, our ReadTheSpirit staff is working in 2014 to dramatically expand the way we collaboratively create books. We are impressed that Kay helped to gather a circle of friends to create an award-winning book that we also highly recommend, Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power. Here is a shortened version of the story behind that book …
FROM THE BOOK: This book was born out of a deep curiosity about the current pattern of women’s spiritual leadership in North America and profound excitement about the possibilities that lie before us as women of faith and spirit. … The four editors of this book met at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, in December 2009. This Parliament was buzzing with feminine energy. People everywhere were talking about Earth-based spirituality, the Sacred Feminine, feminine principles, the full inclusion of women, women’s leadership and the critical global issues facing women and their children. Sprinkled liberally among the more than 6,000 attendees were little pink buttons with the question, “What happens when women lead?” …
Our global experiences at the Parliament inspired us to learn more about women’s spiritual leadership in our part of the world—North America. … The four of us created a new organization in 2010—Women of Spirit and Faith—with a commitment to core principles that model a different way of working: shared leadership, collaborative practices, circle processes, deep listening, mindfulness and compassionate action. The organization exists to invite the many brilliant threads of feminine spiritual leadership into relationship and to support emerging patterns of transformation. …
The next step was holding a retreat later that year for 25 women spiritual leaders from the United States and Canada. Leaders representing diversity of age, geography, ethnicity, spiritual orientation, and communities of passion came together for three days of dialogue and inquiry focused on the potential for collaboration among the many organizations and networks represented. … This conversation expanded in April 2011 with a larger gathering. … More than 150 women from across the United States and Canada came together in San Francisco to experience many diverse expressions of spiritual leadership.
This process drew together the writers—and the emerging ideas—that formed the book, Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership, finally written by more than two dozen different women and published by SkyLight Paths.
Here at ReadTheSpirit, we receive proposals for new books nearly every week—almost always by single writers planning to create books by themselves. That’s the traditional role of an author—a lone writer in a room somewhere. At ReadTheSpirit, we published our first collaborative book in early 2010, called Friendship and Faith, which featured dozens of women co-authoring a book. We’ve been encouraging collaboration ever since. Soon, ReadTheSpirit will publish our first comic book, Bullying Is No Laughing Matter, which is a convergence of dozens of cartoonists and comic artists. We believe that such innovative, cooperative books hold great promise as effective tools for building stronger, healthier communities.
So, we celebrate Kay Lindahl’s skills in this area—and we invite you to learn more from her by coming to NAIN in August and by buying a copy of her book, now.
3. She’s a certified listening professional.
Kay is certified by the International Listening Association, which is the leading professional group for promoting the study, development and teaching of listening. Kay also has a personal website, where you can explore her work. It’s an unusual little website with slowly moving words about listening that scroll across her home page—plus a series of links to read more about what she describes as “my work”—the “Listening Center.” In an interview, Kay talked about this program:
KAY: The Listening Center is the name of my work. It’s not a physical place. It’s the name of my professional work. In 1991, I started doing a meditation practice. I quickly became acquainted with centering prayer and that has been my practice every since. That has given me a deeper, richer relationship with God. I was trained by Basil Pennington and knew him well.
My denomination is the Episcopal Church, but I consider myself a very progressive Christian. About the same time I was exploring meditation and centering prayer, I also founded a local interfaith group. We got together so we could talk and find out more about each other and, right away, we found that we needed dialogue—and we especially needed to find out what works in listening to others. We wanted to avoid either debating or trying to convert.
My husband and I had moved to a new community and we realized that there was no Episcopal church nearby. We ended up being spark plugs to have a church founded in our community and the first gatherings of that church were in our home. I became very engaged in this fledgling church and the bishop at that time, Bob Anderson, came to visit us. We became friends and we would meet often. This was in the mid 1990s and we would meet and talk about centering prayer and dialogue and the start of this new church. He asked me to do a weekend retreat with clergy on prayer.
As we got to planning this, it became clear that there were three things: Listening to God, which is centering prayer, listening to others, which is the dialogue process, and then as we planned this we realize that we also wanted to talk about listening to Self. I was generating exercises and ways of presenting these three areas. The retreat was very effective. Bob and I did it one more together. It was effective again. As my mentor, Bob urged me to keep doing this. So the Listening Center came up as a way to do this work since 1997.
4. She believes this is a transformative moment.
If you haven’t already been enticed to learn more about Kay Lindahl, consider this: She believes firmly that this is a moment of historic, transformative change around the world. In our interview, she said:
KAY: So much is happening right now—and very quickly in many many places! I see a lot of people interested in finding new ways to approach all the challenges we face in our world today. There’s a lot of chaos in the world. You can’t be blind to that. But I see a groundswell of action and activity and thinking that’s going on. I see more and more of it. This is bubbling up now. This is a transformative moment and I am very hopeful about whatever is coming next for humankind.
I am seeing a great deal of movement and interest across North America, but I am also talking worldwide. I have great hope for the work being done around the world by the United Religions Initiative (URI). Through URI, I am hearing about people doing amazing work in the Middle East and Asia and other parts of the world as well. Some of the work is just mind-blowing—fueling my hope that we are onto a major transformation of consciousness on our planet. I know it. I can feel it emerging.
Care to learn more about URI? The link above goes to URI’s homepage online. There also is a Wikipedia overview article about URI’s work.
Care to read more about global peacemaking?
ReadTheSpirit hosts the website Interfaith Peacemakers, coordinated by global peacemaker Daniel Buttry and featuring a rotating series of inspiring profiles of men and women who dare to cross boundaries in pursuit of peace. See what’s new on the Interfaith Peacemakers front page today.