The Transformational Power of Listening

with Andrew Forsthoefel

The Question

At 23, Andrew Forsthoefel walked out the back door of his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, with a backpack, an audio recorder and a sign that read “Walking to Listen.”

He had just graduated from university and was ready to begin his adult life, but he didn’t know how. So he decided he’d walk and listen on a journey of 4,000 miles across the USA over the course of 11 months.

What happened on his pilgrimage changed his life. If you’re interested in the power of witnessing, listening and what it means to grow up, this episode is for you.

Our Guest

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Andrew Forsthoefel

Speaker and Author

Andrew is a writer, speaker, and peace activist living in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts. After graduating from Middlebury College, he spent eleven months trekking across the United States with a sign on his pack that read “Walking to Listen,” recording interviews with the people he met along the way.

He co-produced a radio documentary about this project that was featured on Transom.org and This American Life, and his book, Walking to Listen , tells the tale of the journey.

Truth. Is. Beautiful.

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The Talk

Along the way, thousands of people shared their stories with him, often exposing their most intimate selves to a stranger who was deeply committed to listening.

Those conversations were often tinged with threads of pain, be they from long-held divisions in race and class or from the moving stories of personal heartbreak and sacrifice.

Each one provided Andrew an opportunity for deep listening and reflection, and within it the potential for profound inner transformation.

By the end of his journey, Andrew was a different person with a new perspective on what it means to come of age today.

Having been transformed through the power of listening, his experience is a beacon of light to inspire others to step out into the world, connect deeply to others and find themselves in the process.

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The Questions

  • What was the central question, the curiosity, that fuelled your quest across the USA?
  • How did you the kindness of strangers affect your belief systems about yourself and the world?
  • What is the nature of deep listening and how does it connect people?
  • What did you learn about yourself from the loneliness and solitude of the trip?
  • How has your ability to be with yourself changed your relationships with others?
  • What did you make of each person’s deep desire to be listened to?
  • How does listening transform us on an inner level?
  • What did saying goodbye to people everyday teach you about the impermanence of things?
  • What did it teach you about grief?
  • How can we rethink the way we are with our experience through appreciating the art of listening?

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