Yogic Listening, Conscious Hearing

In one of his many illuminating talks available for download on his website, Jeffrey Armstrong, Tour Leader of the Sacred Journey to India with Jeffrey Armstrong, March 1-15, 2014, discusses the importance of listening and its relationship to yoga. What is yogic listening and how can bringing more focus to our listening improve our lives?

 

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Jeffrey tells us that, “In India, in the yoga culture, the speakers and the listeners are always considered to be on the same platform. There’s not a notion that one is higher than the other, but rather the idea is that they are all gathering for a similar purpose.” This balanced dynamic between listener and speaker, then, suggests a different approach to listening than we are maybe used to in the western world, and certainly a different role for the speaker or “teacher”. The speaker is not communicating to persuade us, he is merely passing on a message:

“One of the most important processes of yoga is hearing and in yoga tradition the person speaking is not speaking on their own behalf but rather is speaking as an ambassador or emissary, and is like a messenger bringing a message which they have been taught to transmit without altering. So the art and science of being a teacher within the yogic tradition is to listen to your teachers and hear a message that’s been passed down over a very long period of time and to listen so well and so carefully that you can repeat it back again and again exactly as if they had said it.”

Sandi Graham & Jeffrey Armstrong, Tour Leaders:
A Sacred Journey to India with Jeffrey Armstrong, March 1-15, 2014

 

This type of listening, listening to learn a message, implies that we focus all our attention on the act of listening rather than letting ourselves get distracted by reacting to the content of the speech. While we’re taught that critical thinking and analytic skills are important, here, in yogic culture, we’re being asked to wait a while before reaching into that toolbox. We’re being asked to simply listen, to retain knowledge so that we can later come to that knowledge and see how it feels to us. This level of non-reactive, highly focused listening, of course, does not always come easy, but breathing can help us:

“The yogis taught that the link between the body and the mind is the breath. Normally we breathe approximately 10 breaths per minute… and I’d like you to think of this as the electric fence that’s guarding your body… when you slow your breathing down the wave forms start to stretch out and in the boundary between 3-5 breaths per minute the fence drops and you go into receive mode rather than into project mode. [In this place] you receive very well through your ears without deflecting.

Instead of arguing with the knowledge, create a place in your mind to park it, create a place to store it so that later on you can meditate on it, because since it’s not the opinion of the speaker it’s pointless to argue with it because they’re not saying you have to believe it … It would be like arguing with the TV… I’m just broadcasting a message that’s been preserved for you. My goal is just to broadcast it; your goal in this yoga is to receive it and not to believe it in that moment, but just to park it somewhere in your mind, create a place, remember it clearly. So questions are ‘Did I hear you right?’, ‘Did you say this?’, ‘Is that what you meant?’, ‘Have I got it exactly right?’, and when you have [got it right], you park that and then when you go to meditate, you go to where that knowledge is, you pull it out and see if you believe it, if it reaches you and satisfies you.”

When we listen in this way we are practicing yoga. We are also improving our health and well-being on many levels when we apply this art of conscious hearing to our everyday lives.

 

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At work, for instance, instead of instantly reacting to comments in a meeting, question that you have fully understood the message and then make a note of that message (on paper or in your mind) to come back to in a more conscious way. Bring curiosity to what your friend or relative is saying about a controversial topic, be sure you are fully hearing what is being said, rather than reacting in the moment with judgment. With children or grandchildren play a game of “I Hear” instead of “I Spy” to help everyone become more aware of the aural landscape around them and grow more in tune with the joy of hearing.
To practice your yoga listening more intensely, consider joining the Sacred Journey to India with Jeffrey Armstrong, March 1-15, 2014. This journey is a 2-week immersion into Vedic Wisdom and Yoga Philosophy & Lifestyle and will include at least 30 hours of teachings with Jeffrey, including a 30-hour VASA Philosophy Certification, so gives plenty of opportunity for listening to messages passed down for us to hear. This journey, which is open to everyone, from those with no previous yoga experience to those at an advanced level, also includes time at the International Yoga Festival where Jeffrey is a guest speaker.  
Be it a talk in India or the blown snow in Iowa, I wish you a calm, conscious listening experience.
All quotes are taken from Jeffrey’s talk, “The Purpose of Yoga”: To listen to this talk in full, visit his website: http://www.jeffreyarmstrong.com/store-free/the-purpose-of-yoga. To read more about this incredible journey to India, visit SacredEarth Journeys.
~ Kim Bridgett