Do you remember the point in time when you realized that you weren’t listening?
If you don’t, then you’re not listening.
As for me, it came during the course of my project, “20 Dates in 20 Weekends.” The first few dates — besides being excruciating — were exhausting. I would come home wasted and wonder why I had no energy. I considered the issue from all angles: was I sick? Depressed? Lesbionic? Going through some sort of existential crisis?
At about date number five, it hit me.
I wasn’t used to listening to people so intently, and — evidently, by the way my dates were reacting — they weren’t used to being listened to. As soon as they noticed my attention, they would behave as if they had been living for months without oxygen; they would gulp in my attention as though their lives depended on it. At best it created a situation where all my date wanted to do was talk, and at worst, one where he was telling me things I wasn’t quite prepared to hear on a first date. Or a second. Or a tenth…
This realization created an uncomfortable awareness in me that made me feel quite filthy, so I resolved to start listening in more areas of my life. Not surprisingly, my life improved pretty dramatically.
After I had finished the “20 Dates” project, I tried to think of a way to meet strangers and listen to them without having to date them. (The dating part of that whole deal kinda sucked.) After many failed attempts, I realized that it is easier to get someone to talk if you ask them about things outside themselves.
This is how my present project, “25 Days” came to be.
I meet people at their favorite place in their city and have them tell me why they love it. This has been such a profound experience that I have quit my job and resolved to travel around the country, listening to people’s stories. I started in Portland and will be leaving for San Francisco in several days. I am traveling by train and bicycle and will be on the road for one year. In each city, a yoga studio is sponsoring me. If all works out, I will be posting on elephant about my experiences, good and bad, throughtout the process.
I have come to understand that this is my service: my yoga off the mat. I am thankful and almost shocked that this is my path. I feel like that is a very good sign.
Sara Young is a writer, artist, cyclist, amateur yogi and avid poetry appreciator. Originally from Chicago, Illinois and most recently from Portland, Oregon, Sara is presently traveling the U.S. working on her project, 25 Days.