Originally published in
KULA MAGAZINE Volume #27 July 2017
Our senses are the portals through which we experience the world. And these days, those experiences can be distracting. The beep of a phone, the rumble of a motor down the road, a child calling (okay, maybe screaming) for attention, a feeling of frustration, excitement, or joy at the latest turn of events… and then that beep of the phone again. There’s hardly a moment when we are free from the vast palette of sensations that ripple into our attention. It’s easy to get lost in all of them, and it’s no doubt that our environment can drastically color our mood or state of being.
And while it might seem ideal to leave it all behind and run off to a utopian reality of soothing and peaceful sensations at every turn, this escapism is not only impossible on the long term, but would also destroy the dynamism of life and our very understanding of what peace is. What would peace and tranquility be like without the context of chaos opposing it? Pretty boring. How would we ever know joy without experiencing sadness? How could we jump high without first rooting down?
This understanding of the duality of our experiences as equally essential parts to one whole is foundational in yoga. The whole ground on which duality stands is all- inclusive; while the brain may categorize an experience as good or bad, we could not have one without the other. The polarities of experience transpire in a space that requires the whole spectrum of them to exist.
It is through this space, this all-encompassing and inherently void element, that sound travels. When vibrations are produced in one person’s throat, they ripple through nothingness and are received by a nearby ear drum, which then picks up on these small vibrations, attunes to them, and vibrates to a similar rhythm that the brain deciphers and categorizes into a certain noise, a certain language, a certain word. And regardless of whether the brain understands the language or word, there is still that voyage of sound- a frequency that moves across space and affects the vibration of everything it touches.
This is just one of the powers of bhakti yoga.
Many ancient languages- Sanskrit in particular- understood this and were created in ways where the words not only communicated an idea or feeling, but physically evoked them in the arc of vibration made when produced. These carefully crafted words and phrases- mantras- literally change the way we move on an all-pervasive level when rippled into space.
When we begin to chant mantra and practice bhakti with this understanding, we become the architect of the environment we are in. We are able to use our voice as a conscious tool of creation and craft the surroundings in ways of our choosing.
And while this is a profound practice on its own, the effects can become more complete when paired with active listening. Just as, in our experience, sadness is a compulsory counterpart to joy, there is no up without a down, and peace emerges from the context of chaos, we must understand how to receive if we want to emit. When we can attune the input of our body to an increasingly subtle level of listening while also mastering the output of vibrational sound as a means to craft our surroundings with intent, the natural gateways of transmutation on a subtle, energetic, and physical level begin to merge as one.
Enter yin yoga.
Yin yoga brings us physically to the edge of our perceived comfort space where reactions, thoughts, distractions are triggered and asks us to stay on that tipping point. To breathe and soften into it. To fully and actively listen to all of the objections, celebrations, and chatter of the brain as the body experiences discomfort… and remain present to it all. It asks us to sit in the space that encompasses all spectrums of the experience- of duality.
By continually arriving at the edge of our comfort zone and staying with the sensations that arise, those edges become increasingly supple. This not only widens our capacity for comfort; it also hones our practice of listening. We become able to hear and listen to subtler layers of experience.
When we drop regularly into these practices of attentive listening and intentional creation, not only are we able to heal and empower ourselves, but the place from which we move becomes more welcoming and capable. With enough familiarity, we are able to take all the ‘unpleasant’ experiences- the cacophony of stimulants that surround many of our moments- and use them as invitations for deeper attention and intention. The distractions become fuel for focus when we feel they are vital components of a grand symphony.
Especially in this time, when we are met with a constant flux of sensory input, it is essential that we verse ourselves with tools on how to use them effectively. When we are able to create an inviting space of playful growth with whatever comes our way, we set ourselves up to slip easefully into harmony. We create a sound surrounding wherever we are that ripples into fullness of presence and the infinite capacity it holds.