After a practice in an Active Listening session one woman had tears in her eyes, ‘I realise I’ve never really been listened to.’ To be really heard is a precious thing. To really listen – without thinking about what you want to say, interrupting or giving advice, but noticing what is not said and feelings arising – is a great gift. And a loving thing. This post is about listening to others, listening to yourself and listening to your inner guru.

Yoga and its practices encourage listening. In asanas (postures) we listen to the body so that we can know what the limits might be and if we could go further or stop. Proprioception, sensing what is happening in the body, is developed. In this way, yoga brings you more embodied, while paradoxically allowing you to transcend the meat of the body. Listening to the body trains you to observe the mind, the emotions and their movements. With this observation comes a detachment that allows you to relax. You move into a space where you are more able to experience peace and clarity, transcending the body, mind and emotions to know or hear something of your true nature.

Withdrawal of the outer senses, pratyahara, allows a stilling of the mind so that insights and intuitions can arise. Closing the eyes is just the beginning. In yoga nidra, the mind waves are slowed to REM and deep sleep levels but awareness is maintained so messages from the subconscious can be perceived. Some people, and contemporary science produces more and more evidence of this, believe that the personal subconscious is connected the universal field of consciousness. Synonyms for the universal field of consciousness are creation, Spirit or God. Hearing this, you know what is true. In this way yoga nidra can help you with your direction or sankalpa, so that you know deep inside, without intellectual thought or social conditioning, the aligned thing for you right now.

Many spiritual experiences are described in which people hear the voice of God, from ancient times to recent. This week a friend recounted a pivotal moment of insight during prayer when she heard a voice so loud she opened her eyes to see if other people around her had heard it. Listening to your inner guru can be a subtle thing, not necessarily a booming voice of God, and perceptions come in all ways – colours, patterns, sounds, words of a pop song, bodily sensations, smells and tastes, even, or just a simple knowing. In yoga nidra and meditation this insight, clarity and connection to the universal field can be facilitated.

The more you tune to yourself, practice yoga, refine your instruments of perception, the better able you are to listen to your friends, partners and all you come across. And, if you allow it, know that you are completely heard by God. That presence hears and sees all you do and loves you unequivocably. Calm, listen and know you are loved.

I share this prayer, shared with me

God of deep quiet,
still my soul,
my heart,
my mind,
that I may listen
in such a way that
my listening in itself
an act of love
Paul Tillich