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Learning to Listen

One of the benefits of a regular long term yoga or meditation practice is the increased capacity to listen. At first this may be focused on listening to external sounds such as a teacher’s voice or sounds in the surrounding environment, but slowly, over time, the attention shifts to cultivating an internal listening; listening to the breath, to mental formations, to areas of tightness or fluidity in the body. The process of listening, like the practices of yoga and meditation, is multi-dimensional and multi-layered.

In meditation we learn to ‘tune in’ to the sensations of the breath, body and mind. Through observation of thought activity we can practice letting go of the mind stuff that doesn’t serve us in the present moment. As one’s practice is established, the bridge between mental thought and holding patterns in the body is forged. At first this may be simply focusing on the mobility (or immobility) of the large physical structures such as muscle and bone. Over time, however, as the practice deepens to the subtle body, it is possible to foster an awareness of motility, the spontaneous and free movements within the fluid body. (An example of motility is the natural contracting of the stomach in the digestive processing of food, or the heart’s involuntary pumping of blood). In order to invite these involuntary movements to meet the patient listener, it takes a present sensitivity of touch and intention. Understanding that all organs, all tissues and all cells of the body are in a constant state of ebb and flow can be helpful in refining our ability to tune in to this submerged frequency.

Why would one want to gain access and understanding into this internal world of fluid sacs, organs and involuntary, spontaneous movement deep within the body’s core? First off, increased motility promotes a state of wellness throughout the visceral organs. The more stagnant the organs and fluid sacs of the peritoneum, pericardium and plural cavities, the more potential for lowered immunity and disease. Secondly, the yogic practices such as pranayama and the shat karma kriyas take on an increased effectiveness when the practitioner has an heightened awareness of the fluid spaces that are being lifted, massaged and cleansed in the process, aiding in movement and increased energy flow into the subtle body. Third, the more we understand the fluid movements within our core, the more connected, adaptive and whole we become. We literally learn to inhabit the body’s container from the inside, out. After all, in our fetal development the organs were developed prior to skeletal formation, so it makes sense that freeing the movement of organs and their encompassing fluid sacs would aid in realigning the related bony landmarks. With increased consciousness of the soft, inner world comes an expansion and understanding of relationship between the inner and outer world. We can inhabit our body in a fuller, freer, more meaningful way. This in turn expands our capacity to listen and self regulate, regardless of whether we are tuning into the breath, body or mind. In fact, it is through this deep listening that our understanding of boundaries expand and dissolve into fluid unity.

Learn to sit still, to wait until your dust has settled, and your air has become clear. Wait for deep stillness. Then, start. Develop intuitive perception and understanding for everything. Pay attention to everything, especially to the little things. Changing the little things often brings about the largest improvements. Treat everyone, and every part of everyone, as equal. Every cell in the body has consciousness. Every minute structure is a hologram. The more awareness we focus, the more our perception of time slows down…

[the more we can be present].

Above all, go slowly. You cannot go too deep, just too fast.

When you don’t know what to do, ask for a cup of tea. Learn how to ask for help. The ancient Greeks believed that not asking for help could get you killed.

Meditate. Live purely, be quiet, and do your work with mastery.

-various quotes from Hugh Milne

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