So you know that feeling when everything has gone wrong and you are trying to figure your shit out and you are a yoga teacher so people kind of think you should have something figured out by now but you just don’t and your birthday is coming up and you are not where you thought you’d be this year (again) and you are trying to think of something valuable and interesting and intelligent to say and you’ve just got a whole big pile of nothing at all?
Well, I do.
So I thought I might try this thing where I shut up.
Well, I didn’t entirely shut up. I talked to my belly. I said okay belly. Tell me whats up. Tell me what you are thinking. Tell me everything so I can do something about it and fix things and make it all better so my heart will stop hurting so much and I can figure out how to be less of a human and more of a super hero and know what to do all the time and not feel so lost and confused okay tell me.
So I shut up (again) and listened. Guess what my belly said?
I just need time.
Time. Time to digest. To process everything that’s come in, everything that’s changed and got lost and hurt, the places where there are holes where certain hearts used to be, the the things I wanted to say, the things I shouldn’t have said, the nights I’ve trawled the thin silk threads of social networks to find something real, something warm. To separate the beauty and the nourishment from the shit. Time to listen.
And of course it was my belly that knew this. Don’t ever ask your heart any deep questions–it will tell you all kinds of things it wants, and it will tell you how deeply, with no regard for time, practicality, geography, or general rational intelligence. Your belly, though, has to deal with (filter, detoxify, process, eliminate) everything you go through. Your heart is wild and gorgeous and terrible. Your belly is a neural net of information, nervous responses, and memories. Your belly knows all your secrets.
And lately my belly has been full of life-destroying antibiotics. See, I’ve gotten strep throat now for the second time this season. My wise yogi friends got all up in my facebook and told me I should ask myself what I haven’t been saying, what truths have gotten half swallowed and stuck in my throat.
Some of these lovely yogis already know that, to quote Deb Shapiro, Your Body Speaks your Mind, and that when something hurts literally or physically, it mirrors something else that hurts. One of the emotional maps we use in yoga is the Chakra system, and the throat chakra is our centre of self expression–truth, lies, honesty, silence, and creative output. Often we think of needing to write or talk or confess something to clear this area, to clear the air. And sometimes it is.
But the chakras work the same way an open palm does–it is an offering, a giving away, a showing forth, but it requires the sweet and necessary possibility of receiving. We forget that it is really important to sometimes shut up and listen.
I’ve been thinking of a fallow field. After soil has nourished and brought up a certain number of crops, farmers will leave that soil for a period of time to let it regain its naturally fertile properties. Farmers will just leave it alone for a while. Just, you know, leave it alone.
So lately, I’ve been trying less to figure all my shit out (it’s hard). I’ve been trying to listen more when people talk, ask more questions, sit back, wait (it’s amazing what people will tell you if you just wait). I’ve been teaching in my classes that we are here not to change our bodies and tell ourselves how to heal, but to bow our crazy heads to our wild and gorgeous hearts and our infinitely wise guts and just listen. And I’ve been reading a lot of poetry, which I think helps.
So in the spirit of this listening, and the spirit of me having no idea about a damn thing, I’ll let Hafiz speak my last words for now. Well, technically it’s translator Daniel Ladinsky’s words, who is amazing and takes his liberties, so I’m going to go ahead and take mine with a little editing, and figure the two will forgive me for not entirely shutting up here.
The words stop
And you can endure the silence
That reveals your heart’s pain
Or that great gut-wrenching-sweet longing,
That is the time to try and listen
To what your body
Hafiz poems and excerpts are from Daniel Ladinsky’s Penguin publications The Gift, Poems by Hafiz © copyright 1999, and I Heard God Laughing, Poems of Hope and Joy © copyright 1996 & 2006. Reprinted by permission of the author.
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