Listening. Yoga begins with listening. To tuning into what is actually there. By beginning our beautiful practice, (whether it is a meditation, asana, or pranayama practice,) we open our ears and hear. We make space for the present moment. We listen first to the external world. We listen to the sounds outside ourselves. These sounds may have some emotional charge. A fire engine rushing by could be labeled as bad and a sound of leaves rustling outside the window could be labeled as good. But these sounds tend to have less emotional charge than those of the inner world, so we begin here.
We take the easy path.
We try to refrain from the labeling and just listen.
“ Be like a fish on a beach moving toward wave sound.” Rumi
Next, as we begin to sharpen the mind, we listen to the sounds that are closer to home; perhaps we listen to the sounds in the room. We hear the whirr of the fan overhead or the clock ticking. As the sounds sits closer we may notice a tendency to be a bit more identified with these sounds. That is the sound of my grandmothers clock; it is so nice and reminds me of Christmas when I was a child. Or… I hate that fan, it still squeaks, I need buy some oil; I never have time to do the things I need to do!
“Let yourself be silently drawn toward that which you really love” Rumi
When a sound is closer to home, it generally has more emotional charge but the process is the same; listen and withhold judgment, making space for what is. Draw the mind back again and again to the listening.
Finally, when we have practiced listening to the outer world we sharpen the mind enough to listen to the subtle sounds of the inner world. The sounds of the breath, the heart, and the circulation maybe even a growl of the belly. We move the mind to our bodies.
Oh let me tell you about emotional charge… first you will notice how quickly you are bored with this task. You will listen, and if you are lucky you will make space for what is…your heart rate as it is, your breath as it is, your everything as it is, then something will go off in your brain saying I got this, I don’t need to listen any more.
You might even make a judgment that the systems of the body are boring, trite, or unimportant. You might think that there are more important things to listen to like you own thoughts; then off you go. Into the future. Into the past, into the world of everything else except the truth of what is, what is occurring in this moment.
It only takes a couple of breaths to start your practice with listening and by doing so you will become a better listener. You will be able to listen to your friend when he/she is telling you of their hurt. Your spouse when they are sharing their success. You child when he/she is trying to connect. Listening is one of the most valuable skills we can build in our beautiful practice because it makes us better friends, lovers, and parents.
Listening makes us better teachers. Listening makes us better yogis because we can listen to our bodies and listen to our minds, making space for what is and honoring what is true.
“Your old life was a frantic running, the speechless moon comes out now.” Rumi