First, HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY! If you missed last week’s post about this important holiday, check it out here. If you’re hosting a celebration for your women friends and their immeasurable potential, please comment on my blog from Tuesday, March 13, Yoga On and Off the Mat blog. The following includes info about a fun exercise I might incorporate into my IWD fete this Saturday.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune of attending my first of hopefully many classes at Manhattan’s Interdependence Dependence Project (IDP). IDP, which was founded by Ethan Nichtern in 2005, is committed to providing a secular and highly accessible approach to studying and practicing Buddhist meditation, psychology, and philosophy. The initial class was an engaging intro to meditation led by Ethan, who was granted the title Shastri, or senior teacher, in the Shambhala tradition in 2010, and his father David Nichtern, also a renowned Buddhist teacher as well as an accomplished composer.
In addition to meditating and discussing meditation, we did a captivating exercise to observe our listening skills. Thoroughly listening to ourselves and others is a skill that is refined slowly but surely with willful awareness. It’s definitely something I commit to developing every day. While I still have plenty of work to do, I can’t verbalize how beneficial the improvements I’ve been able to make have been.
The exercise, which I found particularly interesting, worked like this:
The group was divided into groups of three. One person was assigned to take four minutes to answer, “How will becoming a better friend of yourself help you be better for others?” (This, by the way, is a major objective of mindfulness practices as inward empathy is essential for strong outward empathy.) During this time, the other two members were asked to sit and listen as intently as possible and observe fluctuations in focus. When, for example, did the mind wander off to something unrelated? When did it fixate on one point made and not follow subsequent dialogue? When was it a challenge to stay quiet, perhaps out of enthusiasm? When were you present?
Afterward, we discussed our experiences before switching to the next speaker, for whom the exercise was also a good challenge. Most people found having to talk for such a long time without normal interaction awkward. I certainly did.
I encourage you to try out this listening game. It can even be done with just two people. Feel free to write about your experience here. Also, challenge yourself to lovingly observe your general listening skills more closely today. How we listen also benefits how we speak.
What else can you do to best listen fully and speak genuinely?
Yoga brings stability and calm into every discipline of Sophie Herbert's life. She is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student) and a Whole Living contributing editor. She graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art, where she nurtured her passion for documentary photography. It was during this time that she began her disciplined and diverse study of yoga in New York, Paris, and India.
Sophie has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India. She feels grateful to still visit and work regularly with the Deenabandhu Children's Home in Chamarajanagar, Karnataka. In November of 2010, she became an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back www.yogagivesback.org, a grass-roots nonprofit that helps destitute women and girls in India build more sustainable lives. Sophie has also shared her knowledge of yoga at the Prana Yoga Center in Astana, Kazakhstan. Currently, she teaches at the Park Slope Yoga Center www.parkslopeyoga.com in Brooklyn and privately. Sophie is also an avid cook.