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Listen to Your Voices

Having absolutely nothing to do with the condition of multiple personality disorder, you have three voices in your head. The receiver we have seems to be embedded deep within our ears, up and over the temporal bone to the recesses of our brain and on high speed reception from the output locations of the heart, various body parts, our "higher power," an assortment of guardian angels, and your mother's voice. But that old receiver is most definitely somewhere in the head portion of our body as opposed to being located in the left armpit. These voices are coming from origins of which are threefold (the trinity, again): your mind, your body, and your soul.

Our mind's voice tends to speak the most loudly, sometimes yelling (your mother's voice?). It represents the ego/personality. It never, ever shuts up. Our body's voice is usually a pleasant, smoothly cadenced indoor-voice, perhaps with a wee bit of an English or Canadian accent. We tend to hear it, but often treat it like a petulant child by reprimanding it, ignoring it, or putting it on a time out. For some odd reason, we also tend to act the bully and call it various rude named-adjectives like, "stupid knee," "crazy hip," or refer to it as "my ugly bunion." In contrast, our soul's voice shows up during moments of stillness, presenting itself with a whisper. This voice sometimes shows up with an Italian or French accent.

Before we explore this concept further, let's define the verbs listening and hearing. To hear something is a physiological construct pertaining to your ears and their contents, its function fluctuating based upon how much ear wax buildup is in there. It is one of our five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing. You hear an ambulance siren. You hear a door slam. You hear your partner talking to you about the grocery list which you are about to shop for. We all have the capacity to develop our sixth sense of extrasensory perception, but we have to first master the prior five.

Listening requires much more finesse. It is an art form involving presence, as in "a presence of mind." It begins with a state of awareness and attention referring exactly to what the great teacher Ram Dass famously and simply said: "Be here now." When you listen to the ambulance siren, you can tell from which direction it is coming, make any necessary adjustments to the placement of your vehicle or physical self, and maybe decide to throw a prayer or some mental fairy dust over it as it passes by. If you listen to a door slam, you will stop what you are doing, discern where the noise is coming from, and ascertain who is in the house or whether or not you perhaps have a ghost about. When you listen to your partner talking to you about the grocery list which you are about to shop for, you catch the nuanced word-detail of which KIND of yogurt he/she is asking you to buy, including what the alternative flavor she/he would like you to purchase should the first one be out of stock. As a listener, you are poised to capture the details.

We all have the potential to cultivate our listening skills if we understand that giving something or someone our attention is the difference between listening and hearing. It also boils down to an action of follow-through: are you going to act on or respond to what you hear either now or in the immediate future? If the answer is "yes," then you are listening. If no, then put down your phone and try again.

The Voice of the Mind

There is bad news here: A lifelong practice of meditation will not eradicate this internal voice completely. Yoga practice focuses on quieting it and harnessing it through constant breath awareness, mantra repetition, and the preferred attention of the body's and the soul's voices. We cultivate this skill through the practice of stillness while in pose. When the voice of the mind gets into negative and self-destructive areas, we stamp it down by playing a mental game of "whack-a-mole," making the effort to ignore it by utilizing the skills mentioned above. This voice, then, is not allowed to yell. No. It is not allowed to shame. Forget it. And if you can't sublimate this internal mind-voice for yourself, you will find it nearly impossible to control your external yelling or shaming voice while interacting with others.

Because the voice of our mind is our analytical and ego center, we have no problem hearing it. This makes sense - most of us like hearing ourselves talk. We like the sound of our own voice. We like being the center of attention. Since this "loudest voice in the room" readily gets our attention, we have to work harder to quiet it down. It irritatingly questions our physical and emotional actions. It reprimands you. ("I can't believe you just did that again.") It also praises you. ("Good job!") It shames you. ("Stop crying! People are looking at you!") It works out the math problems of life. It is almost exclusively responsible for writing much of the world's nonfiction. It recites poetry and prayer, remembers all sorts of information and forgets the rest. It will continue talking to you while your soul's voice or your body's voice breaks in for an important public service announcement. For example, while recently careening down a hill in the rain on a bus in Scotland, perilously close to the edge of a drop-off with no guardrail, and while reciting the Lord's Prayer (my mind's voice), my body's voice chimed in and simultaneously screamed, "AHHHHH...." in a declaration of concerned and self-protective defense. (I believe my soul's voice was silent in that moment simply because it knew I would survive the bus ride.) While we are awake and conscious, the mind's voice never stops talking to us. This is exactly why we need Yoga and meditation to achieve quality of life beyond internet, food, clothing and shelter. Fortunately, as the day progresses, the mind's voice does get a bit lazy. I cannot remember names, places or dates after six pm.

The Voice of the Body

This voice has an "indoor voice." It is not trying to fool you. It will not lie to you or walk on eggshells, have out-of-whack entitlement issues, be passive-aggressive or sugarcoat anything. Your body tells it like it is. Being the yoga educator that I am, the body is my first and foremost medium. During classes, I speak about it, cue it, and remind on this topic of the body's voices right along with breath awareness. It is imperative to our health and happiness that we continuously listen to our body and what it is telling us on that particular day or in that particular moment. If something is amiss, action is required.

This is one-on-one communication between body and mind. It is a communion. When you commune with something, you do not yell, call names, or belittle. Your body is your house - your home. It is where you live each and every day. Don't leave it messy or forget to take out the garbage. If a hole appears in your roof, you patch it up. If you break your arm, you get it reset and cast. You don't keep staring at the hole while it rains on your head, just like you wouldn't allow your arm to droop at your side broken, then try to function with just one arm.

The Voice of the Soul

Your soul's voice is the one we listen the least to. If it were the one we listened the most to, we would all be happy in the realms of doing what we love to do, being with the people we love and who love us back, and not busy having wars, plague and famine. Nonetheless, we all hear our soul's voice and are capable of listening to it. It tends to whisper and pick its well-timed moments. It likes to speak to you of dreams, desires, and right action. It will tell you where to find your happiness, who to listen to (and who not to), and where to go. It always alerts you to danger. Your body's voice holds hands with your soul's voice in this information transfer.

Being physically still is incredibly helpful to the listening process regarding the soul's voice. Optimal situations of quietude are: meditation, restorative yoga, and resting poses of some duration like Savasana, or while elevating legs in Viparita Karani. A beginner's time period of five minutes is all that is required to practice listening to this voice. Meditational movement like walking, running and swimming can also amplify the soul's voice.

These statements and concepts about our body's voices render the realization, then, that if they are all talking on some level to "you," then who or what the heck is "you?" If your mind's voice is yelling, talking to or praising "you," or your body's voice is talking to "you," or your soul's voice is talking to "you," then "you" are indeed separate from that yelling, talking, praising or calm indoor-voice. This separate state of being is called "the witness," or the "I" in psychology and in Yoga - which is "the Great Psychology." This witness is completely and utterly separate from the voices in your head. Some might say that the true "You," - the witness - is God. That it is your soul's voice. Yoga teaches us that you are not the body; you are not the mind. You are Satchidananda: Existence, Knowledge and Bliss Absolute. Let us try to find relief and comfort in that.

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