Meeting Our Deeper Knots: An Excerpt from 'Deep Listening'

For a long time, my yoga practice was all about getting stronger. I pushed myself to improve my headstands and perfect my Wheel pose. And in every class, I kept expecting my teacher to come over to my mat and tell me what a good job I was doing.

But he didn’t.

I expected him to applaud or cheerlead me. But he didn’t.

In fact, most of the time, he didn’t acknowledge me at all.

I remember thinking, “Why is he not paying attention to how hard I’m working?” I was frustrated and annoyed that I wasn’t being recognized for my efforts, but at the same time I felt embarrassed and ashamed about how much I wanted to be “seen” by him.

One day, after working hard on what I hoped would be a flawless Wheel, I relaxed on my mat and was able to notice, just for a moment, how much I was always pushing in this class and how much approval I always craved here.

For a moment, I was able to sit with the anger and frustration and embarrassment and shame I felt about wishing my teacher paid more attention to me without doing what I usually did: assume I must not be working hard enough and immediately try to figure out what more I should be doing. On this day, instead of starting that old familiar conversation in my head, I simply noticed all the feelings that were wafting up inside me.

As I listened quietly to all my knotted feelings, rather than thinking I had to fix something, I decided (as I’d practiced in meditation) to just let them all be. And out of that quiet arose an insight:

Maybe, possibly, my constant overstriving is not just happening here, on my mat.

Maybe, possibly, I’m doing excessive work everywhere in my life.

Maybe, possibly, all these reactions I’m having right now are really about some deeper longing.

And maybe, possibly, that’s something I need to pay attention to.

Because “achieving” had always come so easily to me, the idea that I lived a life of overstriving had never really occurred to me before. And on this day, I did not zip away from that idea or add on to it. I simply paused and took it in, the way I would receive a dear friend.

Listening to what arose during my stillness that day not only set me on a new path in my practice, it changed the course of my life.

Developing a Listening Practice

When we begin to relax, it’s not unusual for information to start bubbling up—often in the form of old feelings that our tension is trying to protect us from. So once we begin to release our tension and unfurl those knots, how do we listen to what we’ve stored inside us? How do we meet our “salt”?

listening practice begins with making a choice to relax with whatever comes up in our body, mind, and heart. It means choosing to receive in a tender, nonjudgmental way whatever our tension has been protecting. It means opening up, over and over, to anything we discover, without feeling the need to critique or fix or change.

Furthermore, the mind-set we cultivate to meet ourselves in this way might be the most valuable skill we ever develop. Whether we’re breathing into our tight shoulders or sobbing on our yoga mat, the way we listen to what our body is saying will either leave us feeling as though we are being cared for or as if we need to protect ourselves. It is our manner and attitude that will leave us feeling open and soft or hardened and closed.

Reprinted from “Deep Listening” by Jillian Pransky. Copyright © 2017. By permission of Rodale Books.

Jillian Pransky, E-RYT 500, author of Deep Listening, is an international presenter, meditation and yoga teacher, and certified yoga therapist.

Full Bio and Programs