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Enter the Healing Power of Deep Listening

Deep listening traces its roots back to the pioneering work of Pauline Oliveros. By being fully present and attentive to the sounds around you, going beyond just hearing, deep listening is a practice of listening to all sounds with full attention. The aim is to focus on the experience of listening rather than the content of what is being heard. In this practice, natural or technological, intended or unintended, real, remembered or imaginary sounds are explored and can be used for relaxation, stress reduction, increased awareness and active listening. Even simple activities like soundwalks can become more enriching and fulfilling when you practice deep listening.

Sound and its many forms and activities, in addition to listening, form part of my lifestyle. Understanding what happens when you pay full attention to sounds is key to understanding ourselves, others, and the world around us. Listening can expand our creativity and awareness of our immediate soundscape. Only then we can understand all that’s going on.

As you walk or move through your day, listen to the sounds of your footsteps. How do they make you feel? Can you imagine a rhythm? Play with it!

What is Deep Listening?

Deep Listening

Deep listening is a practice that involves attentive and empathetic listening, not just to sounds but also to one’s thoughts, body, and emotions, with full attention and openness. It fosters nonjudgmental communication and meaningful connections. By slowing down and being fully present, it cultivates curiosity and openness. Through this practice, we can genuinely connect with others on a profound level and bring about positive change in ourselves and worldwide communities.

Practices like Dr. Joe Dispenzas’ walking meditation go well with deep listening. My favourite take from Pauline Oliveros’s Sonic Meditations is “Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears.” This practice goes beyond surface-level listening, creating meaningful connections, fostering understanding, and promoting healing.

Deep Listening

The Origin of Deep Listening – Pauline Oliveros

Renowned composer Pauline Oliveros played a vital role in pioneering deep listening techniques within the realm of music and sound. She founded The Deep Listening Institute to share this practice with as many people as possible worldwide. She applied it as a transformative practice in her own life and as a way to compose her music. Her skills as an accordion player and improviser greatly influenced her deep listening journey.

Pauline Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros was the driving force behind this movement. As a visionary artist, she understood that listening goes beyond mere auditory perception, evolving into a practice of receptivity and empathy. Allowing us to tune into the subtle nuances, emotions, and energies present in the soundscape of our lives.

Her legacy continues to inspire and provide new perspectives on the power of listening and healing. Through her long-time dedication, Oliveros created a space for individuals to connect with themselves and others through this practice. The Heart Chant is one of my favourite exercises as it creates sonic healing for everyone engaged in it.

Pauline Oliveros spent her life trying to get people to understand what listening really entitles, and this is why I admire her work and lifestyle so much. Her life philosophy was deep listening.

Deep Listening – A Historical Perspective

Travel back in time to the 1960s and 1970s, when deep listening emerged as a practice of profound and complete attention to sound. Influenced by the Vietnam War, San Francisco, and nonverbal communication, this transformative approach to listening took shape. It was not just about hearing; it was about truly understanding and connecting with the sounds of daily life, body language, and new perspectives.

Pioneers such as Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, and David Gamper demonstrate the powerful impact of this practice on personal growth and collective consciousness. The birth of deep listening marked a paradigm shift in how we perceive and engage with the world around us. It invites us to listen with our whole being, opening ourselves to a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.

How Does Deep Listening Differ from Hearing?

Deep listening differs from hearing in that it requires actively engaging with the speaker or sound sources and being fully present in the moment.

Deep Listening

When it comes to understanding the key differences between deep listening and hearing, it’s essential to recognize that it goes beyond just the physical act of perceiving sounds. While hearing is a passive process, deep listening requires active engagement, full attention, and receptivity. It involves not only listening to sounds but also being attuned to one’s own thoughts, body sensations, and emotions. It is a conscious and intentional practice that allows for profound connections, understanding, healing, and personal growth, while hearing involves perceiving sounds.

Listen to the expert and creator of this topic explain it in this Ted Talk:

Deep Listening versus Active Listening – Key Differences

Deep and active listening are distinct skills. Active listening involves understanding and responding to someone’s communication, while deep listening is a meditative practice that goes beyond interpersonal communication.

Deep listening vs active listening

Deep listening is multidimensional and involves listening to sounds, thoughts, and body sensations, as well as listening with imagination and openness: our footsteps, heartbeat, breath and voice and finding unusual melodies in a soundscape. Deep listening also involves listening to emotions, facilitating empathy and significant connections—answering simple questions to yourself like what sound fascinates you?

Cultivating both skills can help individuals develop well-rounded communication abilities and strengthen their connections with others.

Exercise: Deep Listening During a Meditative Walking

deep listening: soundwalk

If you want to feel more connected, I suggest practicing deep listening while going on a soundwalk. This practice involves walking slowly with attention while immersing yourself in your surroundings, allowing you to explore the depths of your environment. It’s similar to a meditative soundwalk. It heightens your awareness of intricate sounds, rhythms, and textures that often go unnoticed.

Like a soundwalk, you are paying attention to the movement of your feet, the sensation of your body touching the ground beneath you and also the sounds that are being emitted. I recommend you start to slow down progressively and walk at a comfortable pace. Slowing down also helps to focus your attention on sound since we are not making as much noise with our body movement and our breath. Imagine it as a flow yoga practice, where instead of focusing only on your breath as you move, you also focus on the sounds, real and imaginary. In my experience, your intention in this practice is what matters. I applied it as a playfulness practice for relaxation and field recording.

Try answering this question while you move slowly through your chosen destination. What sound are you hearing now?


Deep listening is a practice that deepens our connection to the sounds, rhythms, and energies of our surroundings. It enhances our perception of nature, urban environments, and everyday sounds. By fostering empathy and understanding, it transforms our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world around us.

Deep listening is more than simply hearing sounds. It involves immersing ourselves fully in the present moment and embracing the richness of our soundscape. It can take many forms, like musical compositions, group meditations, and solo or group soundwalks. The practice originated with Pauline Oliveros, who believed that listening is an act of healing and transformation.

Take a moment to pause, silence your inner voice, and truly listen. By focusing on specific sounds and feeling them move through your body, you’ll gain a new perspective on the intricate power of sound. Learn how to do a soundwalk.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website, such as text, videos, images, and other material, are for informational purposes only. I am not a mental health professional. The content I share is based on personal experience and research and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on my website.

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