Humans are the only species that rush through life. The mere rushing is what pulls us out of our center. Out of our knowing. If we can slow down enough we can begin to get the answers to our questions.
But slowing down takes a great deal of courage because we have to face the entirety of our experience transformation and not just what is pleasing to us. We must first learn to listen and then the answers will come. Yoga begins with listening. Many people say that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening, but many times in my meditation practice I am still the one that is doing all of the talking.
Listening is a devotional practice of surrender and it is the most powerful tool we have to become in harmony with our life. Not the hearing we do with our sense organs, but the internal listening we do when we get quiet enough to hear our bodies being filled with breath.
In order for us to listen, we need to slow down and stop questioning everything, or ask better questions. When we are caught up in the activity and busyness of life (Rajas), we tend to ask the wrong questions, because we are unfocused and distracted.
You never see an animal questioning why it is here, or what it is supposed to do.
Start simply, by listening to your body, as we do in mindfulness practices.
The body is giving us messages all day, it is just that we are usually too trapped by the thoughts in our heads, or the ideas about who we are or what we should be doing, that we don’t listen. It’s funny to me that the two biggest questions I hear in yoga therapy, life counseling sessions are: “What am I supposed to do?” and, “Who am I supposed to be?”
We don’t have to think about inhaling to receive our next breath. We could, but it would drive us mad. The same is true of these two questions we ruminate over constantly. They cause psychosis.
What blocks the answers from flowing into us is the fact that we think we are doing anything at all. As the Bhagavad Gita says, “ The one who has seen the truth thinks, ‘I am not the doer,’ at all times. When he sees, hears, touches, when he smells, eats, walks, sleeps, breathes.”
Listening to our bodies’ messages in the moment is one of the most important things we can do to stay in the flow with who we are. It is very practical, to listen to our body’s response as if it were a compass. Although we are not just our bodies, it is the vehicle of “the seeker” to get us to the road home, embodiment and flow. Simply begin by listening to the bodies many messages, from pain to pleasure, anxiety to boredom, and all of the emotions in between. The more balanced we become from listening to what we really need to nourish ourselves through movement, food, activity, rest, and environment, and the company we keep, the more tuned in we become.
One fall morning my body’s message to me, was to run the trails around the park. My immediate response from my lower mind was, “No, I am done with that now. It is November and it is a good time to snuggle inside and be a writer.”
My slightly higher mind responded, ”We always get stuck when we label ourselves, or each other. It is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of judgment. The ego loves labels, but the spirit seeks to flow free. Our labels always eventually become our obstacles.”
When we label ourselves, we bury ourselves.
I listened to my body, my intuition, and my higher mind. I did this over something so simple as going for a run. Even though my lower mind made up a number of excuses: “Don’t do it. It’s been too long, and you have to conserve your energy for teaching yoga teachers tonight. You don’t want to be sore tomorrow.”
After the run…I was clear, focused and ready to sit down and enjoy writing, rather than fantasizing about some image of “writer.”
True happiness comes when we do not listen to the mind trying to project some attachment from the past or illusion of the future.
I was trying to “save” my energy for all the other labels and to-dos on my list. If I had not listened to the most simple request from my body I would have spent the afternoon eating extra food, drinking coffee, and trying to artificially create the clarity that a walk or run gives us mentally and physically.
True health comes from listening to our bodies’ requests to move, play and work, rather than a rigid and repetitive exercise routine that most of us succumb to as the ideal of health.
I used to think that if I loved to run I had to be a “runner.” Label it!
And if three miles per day is good, then five miles per day is better. I used to run six miles per day, six days per week and on the days when I couldn’t make it, I felt like a failure, like something was missing.
Movement makes us feel great, but our bodies crave different types of movement all day long, not just six miles on flat terrain and then being sedentary for the rest of the day. We are not liberating ourselves, we are merely strengthening our habits of labeling and the self doubt of never being able to live up to these labels.
Health is being able to do what your body wants to do. If you feel like dancing, then dance. If you want to hike a mountain, take a hike. If you want to go for a three mile run, do it. The most joyful thing about living this way is that you get to play every day, whether it is a yoga practice or choosing to walk to get the kids instead of driving, or hiking a mountain. Your body will feel great doing it all.
Liberation comes when you can enjoy the moments of your life, knowing you do not have to recreate or compete with the experience again tomorrow.
I can only write from an authentic space. If I am caught up in my labels and attachments and seeking love, I am not in the authentic space for truth and light to flow through.
When you drop your labels you can do your dharma.
Author: Dani McGuire
Editor: Travis May
Image: Author’s Own