Just Listen

You know that classic scenario – someone just wants to be heard, and the person listening is trying to go in and problem solve, throwing in advice before the story is fully revealed?  It leaves the speaker so frustrated.  A skilled listener can listen in a way that helps the speaker draw out the whole story, helping the storyteller naturally reveal to themselves the answers buried within the puzzle.

I think the greatest misunderstanding of yoga is that it is some kind of exercise program, or physical therapy.  A system where you can problem solve your way to freedom.

In reality, yoga is an awareness practice, the art of listening.  We put ourselves in positions where there’s something in our body that needs our attention, something pinched or tense.  This usually reveals a combination of misalignment and emotional stress.  Our job is to practice listening to it, not manipulating and forcing the tissue, but giving it the loving spacious attention it needs to open and adjust.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali II-1 : tapas svadyaya isvara pranidana kriya yoga
“passionate self-study through surrender to our true self is the activity of yoga”
– my favorite interpretation of the first yoga sutra in the portion on practice

In other words – we so passionately want to know ourselves, that we put ourselves in positions that help us feel the parts of ourselves we are least comfortable with, and instead of fighting, we surrender to a deeper knowing, we slow down and listen, and let the solution reveal itself.

Part of the art of this is to start in a position that we are relatively comfortable in, get a sense of the neutral easeful state and enjoy it.  Only then do we move towards positions where we expect to find tension, and move slowly enough so that we don’t go into overwhelm.  Instead we find the line between comfort and discomfort, and play the sweet side of that edge.  This lets us keep the subconscious aware that we are listening and not pushing, so that it can open in that feeling of safety.

Part of the problem with pain is that it appears as an invitation NOT to feel it.  The intensity of pain can feel like staring right into the sun.  We want to protect our eyes, closing or squinting or turning away. When there’s pain in the body, there’s normally some squinting, some clenching of muscles that’s been happening so long it occurs as just the way it is.  Sometimes it’s as simple as relaxing the protective measures to get relief.  With other conditions, like a damaged ligament, a diseased organ, or chronic pain, we may not be able to relieve the root cause of our pain  In these cases we may not be able to find any positions that are fully comfortable, and we need to start in a position that is as comfortable as available, and start there.  See if there’s one sensation really calling for attention more than any other, and listen.  From there we can often discover opportunities for freedom in our secondary pains.

Back to listening – one way to avoid the unsolicited advice problem is to ask them what kind of support they actually want.  Then we can offer it.  We can do the same when listening to the body.  It may reveal that it wants a different angle in a joint, or less weight on the painful side of the body.

So please remember when you practice – start in a relaxed state, where there are no (or only minimal) complaints, and move slowly.  Don’t overwhelm yourself by putting yourself in a position where there are multiple complaints competing for your attention simultaneously, just practice sweetly listening to the story your body is trying to tell you.

Enjoy

1 Comment

  1. Hema

    Schedule for a bodywork session

    Reply

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