Posted by: Bruce Black | January 17, 2011

Listening Beneath the Silence

You never know from one day to the next where your Down Dog or Tree Pose will take you, or, for that matter, where the words in your journal will lead you.

On some mornings, I practice in silence, unfolding from pose to pose in a wordless sequence, curious about why my hamstrings feel tight or why my elbow is suddenly pinching or whether I’ll be able to hold my balance a few seconds longer in Tree Pose.

On other mornings, ideas begin to glimmer while I rest silently in Child’s Pose or upside down in Shoulderstand, and I try to listen closely without grasping or groping, just opening myself to the possibilities of silence.

Sometimes I can see ideas and thoughts as they emerge from the silence and can hear the faint sound of words– a hint of a vowel, the shadow of a consonant–waiting for me to take pen and paper before fully revealing themselves.

When I open my journal and begin to write, I never know in advance what words, if any, will emerge, but I can feel (on some level beyond listening) the words pressing against my skin, pushing at the tips of my fingers, searching for a way onto the page, for a doorway into the world.

Before and after I step onto my mat, I take a few moments with my journal open in my lap and my pen poised in my hand to listen in a way that is different from the way that I listen the rest of the day.

During those moments, I try to listen beneath the silence, to hear the words before they form sounds and syllables, to learn what I want, what I truly need, from my practice that day, from my life in the days ahead.

Do I need to learn to be more patient with myself and with others?

Do I need to learn to acknowledge gratitude more often for things that I take for granted?

Do I need to learn to listen without prejudging others, without criticizing myself for my thoughts or feelings, and simply accept who I am … in this moment?

Keeping a journal gives me a chance to think about these questions and to view these thoughts in a neutral light. No judgment. No criticism. Simply accepting whatever comes.

My journal helps me learn to notice these thoughts and to let them go, and then to welcome new thoughts and to release them, too.

Out of this process of listening, noticing, and writing, I’ve found myself writing about my life, yoga, and the writing process in ways that have led to new insights about these different aspects of my life.

The words in my journals have led me to this place, this moment. A sequence of asanas over the years has brought me here, to this blog, to these thoughts, even as I struggled on the mat and in my journal to trust the process, even when I wasn’t even sure there was a process.

Somehow–I’m still not completely sure how it happened–the words led to a book about my experience on the mat and how I learned to listen in each pose and in my journal to the words beneath the silence. The book is called Writing Yoga, and last week my editor at Rodmell Press told me it was on its way to the printer. Here’s a picture of the cover that she shared with me:

Writing Yoga
And here’s a link to Amazon, in case you’d like to learn more about the book:

It’s further evidence, I think, of how the universe listens and gives us what we need once we find the courage to put our dreams and aspirations into words, words that we first hear beneath the silence of our poses, our life.

Journal Practice:

What are your dreams? What are your aspirations? Are you able to detect clues as you unfold from one pose to the next on your mat? Can you begin to hear the words forming just beneath your skin? What is it you hear?

Write about the process of listening. Is it hard or easy for you? Does how you listen change from day to day, week to week? Do you hear your voice differently at different times of the day, depending on what you’re doing, such as shopping in the supermarket, walking to work, or unfolding in a new pose on your mat?

How do the poses help you listen? And how does writing in your journal–as another kind of pose–help you listen beneath the silence to what you truly need?


  1. As a yoga newbie, that’s one of the things I’m loving most about practice, is that I listen to my body. I probably haven’t paid this much attention to my body (in a non-critical way) since…ever, maybe!

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