Kincentric leadership and the role of listening
Justine Huxley reflects on the role of listening and how it brings us into deeper relationship with the more than human world.
The web of life is in continuous communication in every moment. But humanity has largely lost its knowledge of the old ways that plugged us into this ‘Great Conversation’. To rediscover or deepen our experience of kinship with all life, a primary task is to reconnect to this reality through listening.
Listening is simple but it isn’t easy. The forces of materialism are always there, pulling us towards wanting something, or into a disembodied online world with its thousand distractions. To listen to Earth and all her creatures also means to hear their grief and suffering, and to face our own complicity. Listening means to pass beyond those barriers, to quiet ourselves, to tame our chattering and overly rational minds. Listening brings us back to what is real. It is the beginning of healing, a prerequisite to reconciliation. It’s what makes authentic relationship possible.
Indigenous teachings have long honoured this deeper form of listening to the more than human and the invisible worlds. Traditional cultures recognise that all beings, including rocks and rivers and stars, have their own languages, their own stories, and their own means of communication. Science is finally reflecting this worldview, broadening its understanding to include the chemicals released by leaves or transmitted via fungal networks, the movement signals of bees, the vibrations that accompany the visual display of a peacocks’ tail, and the sounds us humans can’t hear - the infrasound rumbles made by elephants that ‘talk’ across many miles, or the vibrations within the Earth herself. Artificial intelligence is also now recording and analysing vast amounts of data, rapidly decoding the utterances of animals, plants and ecosystems, and showing us just how much we have missed. I love the story about how machine learning identified the conversations between sea turtles that human beings had overlooked. Instead of a 1 second gap between when turn taking, turtles leave a long, reflective minute between hearing another turtle communicate, and their own response. So there is much we miss because species have their own timescales.
Immersing ourselves in these new and old knowledge systems can inspire us to listen differently. To humble ourselves, to get out of the way, to be empty and present in the moment. These are profound practices we need to do over and over in order to liberate ourselves from a conditioned view of the world. Listening can help us reorganise our inner world, making space for new understandings to emerge and take root within us. Respectfully seeking out the voices of the marginalised, both human and more than human, can also help us integrate justice for people - particularly people of colour - and justice for Earth. It is foundational to living our kinship with all life and translating it into action. Kincentric leadership invites us to be constantly returning to that practice, to be leaning towards and consulting both those voices and the silence behind them in all we do, asking how can we serve those voices? How can we co-create with them? How can we open the door to healing?