For those who frequent this blog, you’ve probably noticed that skillful listening on, and more so, off the mat is a topic I revisit from time to time. One reason for this is that it’s a skill I’m consistently working to refine. Like playing a musical instrument or refining our postural yoga practice, fine-tuning our listening skills requires regular checking in, honest observation, and practice.
Listening fully also goes hand in hand with something else: A commitment to being as present as possible when listening to ourselves and others.
The practice of presence is cultivated over time through honest self-confrontation, positive discipline, and belief in our potential. Practices like meditation, mindful breathing, and yogasana can be invaluable in moving us toward this more connected alignment.
Rather than go into a critique about a society that certainly doesn’t discourage multitasking and has an ever-increasing amount of mass expedient communication and streaming sideline news feeds, and how these innovations can dissolve one’s ability to cultivate singular and sustained focus, I’d like to share a quote by Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh from his book The Art of Power:
“The most precious gift you can make to your loved one is not money, power, or fame, but your true presence. To love means to be present for him/her. How can you love if you are not there? And the quality of your presence is very important. You have to be there; fresh, loving, understanding. Through the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking, you bring your mind back to your body, you establish yourself in the here and now, you are fully present, and you can go to your loved one and say the first declaration of love, ‘Darling, you know, I am really here for you.’”
This quote ceaselessly reminds me of the value of really being there for others and my ability to do so. It inspires me to be the most connected, alert, attentive, and undivided in my focus as possible, especially around those I’m closest to. This week, I’m going to honestly observe where I can exercise better presence when listening to others and refine my skills to the best of my ability.
I invite you to do the same.
Please feel free to comment about your experience and/or feelings here.
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.