In September 2013, The Listening Post celebrated its 5th year of serving Anchorage. We have, in our first five years, trained over 100 listeners and listened to nearly 8,000 visitors from our community.

As volunteer listeners we offer a natural and basic level of respect to each individual who crosses our threshold: we listen. So simple to state, yet do not mistake the depth of its reach when it is actually practiced. Being heard and being seen matters. If you have visited our space on the mezzanine of the Downtown Transit Center, you may have noticed the particular feel of what we do. By honoring the uniqueness of each individual, by being available to what they need to share without imposing assumptions or judgments on them, we truly respect who they are in that moment. This level of respect quiets the soul and soothes heart and mind. This level of respect is an act of love and compassion.

It might be easy to jump to a conclusion as to what love and compassion need to look like. When someone describes a personal situation of suffering there may be a reflex of trying to fix it (or, sadly, a reflex of blaming them for being in that situation in the first place). The listeners at The Listening Post keep reflexes in check in order to reflect the essence of what has been shared. The essence, of course, is not suffering. The details of the situation may include suffering, but the person sharing their woes is still a person – whole and complete always. This wholeness is the essence that deep listening reflects. This is the basis of love and compassion practiced at The Listening Post.

At the Listening Post, two listeners serve during a shift. After a shift we often share with each other what unfolded during the day as a way of debriefing and as a way of continually growing in our skills as listeners. Often we are humbled by the stories of our guests. For our 5th anniversary celebration, twenty of us gathered. As humbling as it is when two of us share a day of listening, imagine twenty listeners sharing memories from our first five years of service in listening! If anyone reading this harbors a sense that being humble is low or dull or somehow a subdued energy, our gathering redefined humility to include a profound sense of heartfelt joy and gratitude.

Listening to another, putting one’s own thoughts and needs aside for a moment, taking the chance of dropping opinions, judgments, and assumptions could sound like something only a saintly soul could or would want to do. Listening changes us. It doesn’t, however, turn us into saints. What it seems to do is demonstrate something other than what our dominant culture teaches us. Instead of taking control of a situation and trying so hard to improve it, listening and being available in the moment for another human being has shown us over and over that there is something outside of ourselves that we can trust. This “something” may or may not need to be to defined. What strikes us as important is that by listening and letting go (instead of trying to control the outcome) we are learning, always anew, what deep listening is and the depth of natural human resilience it reflects.

We did set an entire day aside to celebrate our first five years of serve. Through our celebration and recollection of those we have served and been touched by, our commitment to the sacred art of listening was palpable. We still desire to serve as listeners. Within the gathering of celebrants, we were witness to a deepening of our commitment to serve.

The Listening Post is in service to Anchorage, Alaska for five years and counting. As our listening expands, our gratitude abounds. Thank you for supporting the Listening Post.