My daughter’s in bed, earlier than normal and without the usual tantrum episode that accompanies bed time. The tightness in my chest has not yet release anxiety’s grip and my breath is thwarted by the anticipated stress of this time of night. I can feel a slight tension pervading my whole body as some level of me braces for a standoff with my mini-tyrant roommate. But she is sleeping, and as I start to believe that, I can feel certain liveliness tingling inside me from the rest of the day’s events. My legs ache a little from work in the yard, and my eyes are beginning to feel heavy. My body is squished gratefully into the large cushions of my couch and just now my breath deepens and jaw releases.
This is the story my body tells tonight.
My mind, should I let it, would tell an entirely different story. It might take my tight chest and tell me about how hard it is to be a parent, how I must have messed up somewhere to create a bedtime nightmare and that my recent marital break up has “ruined” my child. It might begin to speak of how terribly hard done by I am to be working tirelessly alone on my spring clean up. It might take the liveliness in my cells and tell me to do more work, spend it practically, get shit done instead of just feeling it, tasting life’s nectar as it spirals through my muscles soft and subtle like only prana can. It might take the release of my jaw and deepened breath and grip it, wishing that all moments could be this way! Then anticipating, and already lamenting, some time in the future when it won’t be.
And my body’s story is drowned by the obnoxious rant of the monkey in my head.
But the essence of any story is to be told – and to be heard. And yet, our body is almost entirely silenced until it screams at us in the form of disease and mental illness. It will be heard, but you won’t like the mutated fairytale it tells after years of being gagged by the egoic mind.
Yoga creates the pages on which the story of the body is written. Word by word, asana by asana, the story of our life is felt. Experiences written in our muscles, our nerves and our cells are liberated into consciousness and each practice constitutes a chapter in the book of our lives. Volume by volume we hear a story that is not one of concept or judgement but of the ebb and flow of the life within. I lengthen into my downward dog and feel the tension of a long day of parenting in my shoulders, I open into a back bend and bump against the ache of hurt in my heart from the actions of a friend. No words, just sensations, no labels, just the raw form living showing itself in posture. And I listen with my awareness – my undivided attention is the audience to which the prose is spoken.
Of course it’s not easy sometimes – listening to and bearing the story of pain, or even experiencing and containing the voracious life within. Yoga and other attention training traditions help us to adjust to the experience of the body’s story slowly, helping us to develop an ear for listening and a capacity for holding the epic tale of our lives.