The act of listening begins with the awareness that we have not been listening. Many of us arrive at the practice of yoga from the place of having a physical injury or health issue that leads us to the mat. This can stem from an absence of listening to the signals our bodies try to send us. A recurring running injury was the final call for me to start to listen.
In the beginning, I did not want to listen, I did not want to be still – I wanted to be “fixed” so I could get back to running. I practiced with that goal in mind, and when I thought I was “fixed” I headed back out to run only to immediately be injured again. I chuckle now at my stubbornness, but at the time it was a painful exit from a world I enjoyed and had success in, and a social circle that meant a lot to me.
Week after week I returned to my mat. Like a good friend, it listened as my body released its tightness and restriction, my heart through change and loss and my desire to run (away from myself perhaps) diminished. At the same time, my desire to be still, to listen and be taught began to grow.
Physically I listened as well. Soften your knee, lengthen your spine, calm your breath, and quiet your mind. I began to hear my inner teacher speak to me through my body, through my breath, through my emotions and state of mind. At first, I struggled to master poses while watching others handle them with ease, and still do, though now I can accept that may always be the way. There were times I was asked by my teacher to practice balancing poses in the dark, where the harder I tried, the worse it got. Stories of failure, anger and frustration came to meet me in the room and on my mat, and still I continued. The desire to learn, the willingness to be taught, was an inner call that grew as I continued to listen.
Now I cultivate stillness. I enter stillness like I would enter any place of learning or the studio where I practice. Stilling myself, listening to that which emerges. The act of listening has presented me a teacher – I meet her in the silence, I meet her in my breath, I meet her in the experiences of my life – I meet her when I’m still. Willing to be taught by my life …. I listen.