|Sounds of Silence
Every so often there’s a story in the news about a child who has been raised for years in isolation and confinement. One of Germany’s most famous—and debated—cases was of Kaspar Hauser, who in the 19th century purportedly grew up in a darkened cell, barely spoken to, with no more than a daily ration of bread and water for sustenance. As the story goes, Kaspar was found in Nuremburg, carrying a letter to a Captain von Wessenig, requesting the boy be trained as a cavalryman or hanged.
Whether its Kaspar or Oxana Malaya, the Ukrainian girl raised by dogs, stories of extreme deprivation hold an endless fascination for us. On a philosophical level, they ask us who or what we would be without societal conditioning; they comment on the potential cruelty of humanity and the possible altruism of other creatures.
What we don’t often consider when these stories arise is how we treat ourselves quite similarly.
We see our bodies and minds like wild children, confining them to limited space and thinking, giving them the bare necessities to keep them alive but not enough nourishment to make them stand upright and communicate. We think, one day I’m going to buy a bike and ride it to work everyday. Or, for my next vacation, I’m going to go on a Vipassana retreat and really figure this stuff out.
Even our Yoga practice can fall short of real nourishment, particularly when we do it just because it’s good for us, keeps us healthy, or fortifies an individuality we align with (I am flexible, strong, enlightened, etc.). The intention of Yoga, traditionally, has been to lift the veil of mistaken identification with our achievements and form. Krsna defines Yoga as skill in action, where the skill lies in not identifying with our actions or their results.
Many of us sense that we have an unchanging spirit, beyond body and mind—an essence of Self that transcends the specific details of this existence. Deep nourishment of our person is attention to that Self. The first step is to nurture our person with sustenance, exercise and education in order to enhance our receptivity. Next, we need to create a gap in our continuous mind stream that lets us begin to hear—and not with the ears only. The simple act of listening transforms both the listener and that which is being listened to. There’s an endless reciprocity of reflection.
Try this: In your next conversation, listen to the other person without straining to comprehend what they are saying, analyzing their behavior or language choices or planning your response. Be present without anticipation or judgment (no easy feat). Simply receive. It’s amazing how much you will hear when you give others a chance to express themselves.
It’s an enlightening practice to engage in quality conversation, but it’s also a model for how to listen to your Self. When meditating, during asana or pranayama, allow your mind to be the audience rather than a commentator. Listen to your Self and you will thrive. You’ll wonder how you never heard it before.
|What's Going On
December 21-January 4: Winter Break
Nothing says Christmas like sub-zero temperatures, so I'm dusting off the parka I haven't worn since living in the old country and heading to New England. See you next year!
March 9-11, 2012: Iyengar Intensive
The Asana Room, British Columbia, Canada
March 23-25, 2012: Iyengar Yoga
Yoga Source, Santa Fe, NM
April 1-8, 2012: Brazil Retreat
Casarao Alto Mucuge, Arraial d'Ajuda
I'm still finalizing the details, but I've got dates and a location. Could be worse.
The British a cappella group King's Singers takes on the Beach Boys.
It's amazing. Listen here.
Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.
Whether you live on the east side or hang by the ocean, I've got a class for you. Check out my schedule.