Listen and Silent are spelled with the same letters...
I’m presently in the midst of facilitating Body Love Yoga workshops in various east-coast locations over the winter. This week I had a stopover between workshops in my old haunt - Byron Bay. During these few days my body, predictably, became unwell almost as soon as I stopped…(thank you body for holding out until I could pause to take care of you!) and this got me thinking about listening, and how the words LISTEN and SILENT are spelled with the same words.
It’s so ridiculously easy in the midst of modern life not to slow down, or pause in silence long enough to listen to what’s really going on. Whether it’s related to our bodies or our dreams – both require silence in order for us to listen.
But this is precisely where we fool ourselves, because much of the time we’re invested in NOT listening.
Had I listened to the tension in my neck building up from all the driving and months of writing essays for my masters degree, I may have avoided the days of intense headaches that met me when I stopped in Byron Bay, yet I would likely have had to pause earlier and may not have been able to continue my road trip to all the amazing groups of women joining me for Body Love Yoga....this would have been inconvenient!
And this is just the physical effect of not listening.
It also impacts the pursuit of our dreams in ways that we may not be realising....
A few days ago I was in conversation with a friend of mine in which he was describing a passion of his that he deeply wants to pursue. This dream - to own his own scuba diving business - has been with him for years, though he deliberately avoids thinking about it very much these days. I suggested that since he feels that owning a scuba business isn’t realistic at present, perhaps he could go scuba diving more regularly. That way he could experience being under water, whilst immersed in the company of others who share his passions. He thought about it pensively, then responded, “No, I don’t think I could. I’m scared I’d love it so much that I’d never come back to my family.”
There ended our conversation.
Now, I have the deepest possible respect for my friend and his family, and I know his decision is born of profound commitment to the dreams and values they share together.
Yet…my friend’s dismissal of this yearning is a reflection of his unwillingness to pause in silence, and listen. Because when we do that, we often discover inconvenient yearnings ideas and truths emerging (as in the case of my neck tension and my friend’s dismissed dream).
Many people lament that they don’t practice yoga or meditate as much as they feel they ‘should’ or would like to. Yet pausing in silence is something that can be a challenge to convince ourselves to do, precisely because in sitting in silence, we inevitably begin to notice many of the things we’ve long since dismissed as inconvenient - or impossible - for us.
Meditation and yoga aren’t meant to be a walk in the park. They’re meant to reveal us, and to allow us to see clearly so that we are empowered to make choices about how to respond to what we discover.
One of the key aspects of yoga I’m confident of – and one of the reasons I get on my yoga mat daily - is that by pausing in silence to listen to these deeper insights, they no longer show up in distorted ways. When we don’t listen to our deeper needs – whether physical or otherwise – we react - rather than respond - to our feelings, because they appear to emerge out of nowhere. We may suppress our physical exhaustion with a glass of wine; painkillers; or by pushing on fueled by adrenalin, despite exhaustion. Likewise, we may suppress the whisper of our life's passions by working overtime; numbing with food, or alcohol, TV, or any number of other 'backward' expressions of our deeper longing.
By pausing to listen to my neck pain, I was able to choose to recover and go easier for the rest of my journey. By my friend naming his longing, he was able to discuss this with his family and together they are looking at ways of making space for his dreams in their shared priorities.
Ultimately, the reminder is that if you find yourself feeling or acting in ways that baffle you; experiencing physical symptoms that confuse you; or feeling agitated when you slow down in meditation or yoga, give yourself the gift of a little silence.
Because despite the fact that it brings up feelings that can make you squirm, solutions to your most troubling questions are invariably found when you are silent - and listen.