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AAC Profile: Kay Lindahl

August 3, 2017

Hello Kay! Can you share a little bit about yourself?
I am Kay Lindahl. I am the daughter of parents who emigrated from Sweden to a small town in western NY state in the 1920’s, where the climate was much like their native land – cold and snowy in the winter.  For the past 50 years I have been blessed to live in southern California with its mild climate and sunny weather! Currently my home is in Long Beach, a lively and diverse city just south of LA. 
I am the proud mother of five children and two step-children, ranging in age from 44 – 58, and grandmother to ten beautiful grandchildren, ages 6 – 27.  Most of them live in California but are scattered about, so our time together is very special. My amazing husband of 35 years died last summer, the hardest thing I have had to face in my life and a deeply spiritual journey.
I love to read, run, meditate, participate in generative conversations, explore new ways of doing things and live life fully.
You’re a celebrated author and incredibly respected interfaith activist, how did that come about?
My career has taken many twists and turns – including registered nurse, motherhood, volunteer work for several non-profit organizations, and financial planning. I founded The Listening Center in 1997 and conduct workshops and retreats around the world on the sacred art of listening for religious, spiritual, community and business groups and am the author of three books on listening.
What interreligious work have you been engaged with and are currently involved in?
I have been a dedicated spokesperson for the interfaith movement since 1991, when I co-founded a small local interfaith group, The Alliance for Spiritual Community.  I am a past trustee of the Global Council for the United Religions Initiative and Past Chair of the North American Interfaith Network. At this time I serve on the Board of Directors for Women of Spirit and Faith, The Interfaith Observer and the Rumi Education Center.
What do you most enjoy about working with people from faiths outside of your own?
What I enjoy most about working with people from other faiths is the opportunity to learn something new, to have generative conversations that lead to deep friendships and to add to my own spiritual practices and growth.
What do you find most challenging in regard to your interfaith effort?
One of the most challenging parts of interfaith work for me is the difficulty of getting the word out.  Media coverage is always iffy – and I am astounded that after 25 years there are still so many people who have never had an interfaith experience, nor have they heard about them.
You have been involved with the Parliament in some way since 1993, how did that come about?
I first heard about the Parliament on a conference call in 1993 – and I felt called to go to Chicago to attend, which I did.  It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life.  I felt changed on a cellular level. It was so exciting to meet people from such a variety of religions and spiritual traditions.  I went home convicted of the value of this work.  So, of course, when the 1999 Parliament came along, I had to go, and my proposal to present a workshop on the sacred art of listening was accepted. I was hooked – and attended and presented in 2004, 2009 and 2015 as well.

You are very passionate about the Parliament but how did you get involved with the Ambassador Program?
In 2009, I was asked if I would be an Ambassador for the upcoming Melbourne Parliament. I immediately said yes. Then Eileen Epperson and Shareda Hosein invited me to participate with The Listening Project. The three of us sponsored 5 training phone calls in the months leading up to the Parliament.  We had a small group of committed listeners during the Parliament, which we felt made a difference.
And then you became a member of the AAC, how did that come about?
In late 2011 Eileen called me to ask I would be interested in her project to renew the Ambassador program and I said yes. We worked hard to reconnect with the 2009 Ambassadors, work with the staff at the time, and create an application form, guidelines and eventually, an Ambassador Advisory Council.
If you could pick one thing you have learned through your involvement with the Parliament, what would it be?
One of the most important things I have learned is the value of interfaith dialogue.  Being in conversation with others whose beliefs are different from mine has taught me so much about listening and becoming more present.
 What has been the most rewarding thing you have experienced through your involvement with the Parliament?
Meeting people from all over the world and creating new friendships.  I am still in touch with people I met at the 1993 Parliament.  Each time I attend a Parliament I am blown away by the beauty of the diversity, and the experience of being at one with everyone, even though we have differences.   
You have attended and organized numerous pre-Parliament events, which has been your favorite?
I think one of my favorites was a pre-parliament event in the large garden of a private home.  We had about 75 people there – and each one had a chance to meet new people in small groups of 4 or 5 to talk about the upcoming Parliament and why they were interested in attending.  It was simple and yet the energy of those present created an atmosphere similar to that of a Parliament, where you just feel free to talk to everyone you see, knowing you will at least get a smile – if not a new lifelong friend. And to top it off, several people registered for the Parliament on the spot, while others were able to go back home and register groups of people.  

Please note: Interview has been edited for length, brevity or clarity.