The focus of the month is nada yoga, the yoga of sound and vibrations and music. My teacher David Life said that the first step in nada yoga is to become receptive. In other words, to listen. We may think it's easy. After all, we've had decades of practice listening! And yet, how common is it that we pretend to listen but we are really just waiting for the other person to finish so we can say our piece? While the other person is talking, we are already composing our own thoughts in our head, ready to respond or refute or argue. That is not truly listening because we are set in our agenda. No matter what the other person says, we are going to say what we want anyway. Listening is not only keeping quiet verbally-- that is just being polite. Listening is also quieting the mind and shutting off that mental noise. To listen is to be fully open to the reality that someone else is sharing with us, regardless of our own preconceived notions and biases and opinions. The poet Mark Nepo said it more eloquently: "To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear."
There are many attributes we cultivate in a yoga practice that help us become good listeners. The humility in child's pose is what we need to acknowledge that there are truths bigger than ours. The heart openers in backbends allow us to let go of hurts that may blocking our ability to truly hear the depth of what others say. The surrender in forward bends give us the release of our past. The courage required in inversions helps us be more open to what is different and unfamiliar and even what we perceive to be risky. Listening is to work on all of those, so that we can get deeply in touch with our own inner voice. If we suppress listening to truth of who we are, how can we expect to listen to the world at large? Therefore, in the practice of listening, include yourself. Living is not merely about moving from one thing to another, unconscious and lacking mindfulness. Living our lives to the fullest includes deeply listening to the pauses, the transitions, the ways in which we may choose to stop or have the stops made for us.
Nada yoga is the yoga of sound and vibrations and music. And because it is so, this practice is available to us at all times, wherever we may be. Spend today being more in tune with deep listening. Listen to the sounds you hear around you-- the voices, the laughter, what is said and what is not said. Listen to the words in the conversations you are a part of-- the intention, the sincerity, the direction, the meaning of it all. Listen to the sounds of nature-- the soft sounds of leaves as they rustle against each other in the wind, or the distant chirp of birds, or the excited barks of a dog. Listen. Listen. Listen. And be willing to be changed by what you hear.