Awhile ago now, Kara-Leah at The Yoga Lunchbox invited people to submit a piece on what they had learned from their yoga practice. This got me thinking, long and hard. What have I learned from 18 years of daily practice, and 6 trips to Mysore, India?
In the end, I have approached the problem from the other end. I practice and teach a method of awakening spiritual awareness and after 18 years of practice and 12 years of full time teaching, I cannot say for sure that there is a God. I have my suspicions, but am not certain. I wonder if it really matters. I think that what matters is how you live your life and here, my practice has definitely provided some answers. It shows me that if you live your life with honesty, respect and compassion then you will live a peaceful life.
It is interesting that when you consider honesty, respect and compassion, that they operate on 2 levels, or in 2 directions. You need to be honest to yourself, respect yourself and have compassion for yourself, but all 3 attributes also apply in your dealings with others and with your environment. Whatever your spiritual practice may be, whether it is attending church, chanting kirtan, practicing asana, running along a beach at sunrise or a combination of many things, the result of these practices should be to bring honesty, respect and compassion into your life. If your practice has the effect of insulating you from life and the realities of living, then the trap is that it may become a self-indulgence. Yes, we do need to look deeply inside ourselves, but it is on the interface of ourselves and life that we discover how to live a good life. A practice should not rule the lives of those around you, or your own life. It should, instead, be a joy to yourself and to others.
What has this got to do with Learning to Listen? To get back to Kara-Leah’s question, I am not sure I have learned anything, but I am learning lots. One of the biggest things the Astanga Vinyasa Yoga practice continues to teach me is to listen. I am learning to listen better to my body, my heart, and to those around me, my family and my students. I still have a long way to go, but my practice is teaching me. To really hear, you need to create silence within yourself and that is what my Yoga practice is slowly leading me towards.