by Tias Little
Posted on December 7, 2016
In my recent book Yoga of the Subtle Body, I devote a chapter to the wonder of the ear, the ear that is delicate, semi divine and is a portal that connects us to the vital prana. I like to imagine that the ears are high fidelity stethoscopes, attuned to any slight change in the nuance of the breath.
Here’s a good practice. Spend 20 minutes listening to nothing. Typically we listen for something or to something. But listening to silence is rarely done; yet for yogis it is the gateway to the subtle body. However, nothing is hard to hear. Our brains are so accustomed to making sense of what we hear, interpreting, filing away, comparing. Even if you listen to nothingness for 30 seconds….or 10 seconds…or 3 seconds….it allows your brain to hit the refresh button.
I have been a Talking Heads fan since their debut in the 70’s. I feel sorry for the millennial that missed David Byrne and the curious, questioning edge of his music. But the song Stop Making Sense, says it all. At least for a time, seated on the meditation cushion, we have to stop making sense and we do this by opening our ears wide. Listen so fine, so delicately, so intimately that “your ears burn”. Do you know this expression, “my ears are burning”? When listening becomes finely tuned there is simultaneously inward absorption and outward expansion of consciousness.
Like listening to a fine piece of music, this leads to a sense of delight that travels through every nerve and fiber of our being.
I remember as a seven year old the times when I would wake in the middle of a summertime night. At times I simply felt intimidated and fearful of the darkness and surrounding vastness. But I can distinctly recall other times when I would listen, my ear to the open window, far far into the night. I listened to the Big Nothingness, over the neighborhood houses, beyond the railway track and into the blackness of the distant hills. When sitting still, our ears should bloom. Bloom like water born flowers, for the inner ear is suspended in fluid. This bloom opens us to boundless space and boundless time.
Yoga is all really a training of the inner ear. Every time you do half moon pose or crow, you are balancing your inner ear. When you make the sound of Ujjayi breath, you commune with the flow of breath. The tiny bones and miniscule hairs of the ear provide us with a sense of exquisite internal equilibrium.