Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say. –Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist
There’s a part of The Alchemist where Santiago begs his heart to never stop speaking to him. He promises (if memory serves) to always listen. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about listening. I’ve been wondering how much we miss when we’re so plugged in that we don’t hear the sounds of the city around us, or when we don’t hear what the people we care about are actually saying to us, or when we forget that our bodies can communicate with us very, very effectively without using anything that necessarily resembles language. And I’ve been wondering what would happen if we just listened. Not even asking questions and waiting for a response, but just…listened.
As a dancer, someone who, by definition, is a professional mover, you would probably guess that I am very good at listening to my body—being aware of its quirks, what makes it look and feel good, how to imitate or create movement without needing to actually see what it looks like. You would be correct. But imagine, if you will, a roomful of us students of movement being given the task to stand as still as possible, in silence, with our eyes closed until further notice. After an interminably long time (okay, it was ten minutes, as we later found out) we were allowed to move again with the simple directive, “Move however your body wants to right now.”
Blind, silent stillness. This task, set in my improvisation class this past semester, only left one thing for me to do, short of panicking. I told my body, “Don’t stop talking to me. Whatever happens, I’m here, and I’m listening.” It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I am a firm believer that our bodies understand things that we cannot quite express with our language-driven brains, so I allowed myself to (mentally) step back and just breathe.
I thought I understood how to listen to my body before then, but it was an entirely new world that opened up within my own skin. The experience I had dancing in that state of mind is something for which I do not have words.
We’re two weeks into 2015. Two weeks into a new year, and whatever resolutions that we have (or have not) made to greet it. Maybe those are going swimmingly; maybe not. Whatever the case, I’d like to offer you, dear reader, an additional challenge. Listen. Whether it’s to your heart or your friends, your body or the sounds of your morning commute, is up to you. You’d be surprised how easy it is, once you get past the difficult task of admitting that you might not already do so as well or as much as you could.