In the mid-twentieth century, more than 50,000 whales were killed per year by commercial whalers. That is until biologist Roger Payne began to study and humanize them in the 1960's, igniting a social movement.
Payne went to Bermuda, where whales passed on their migratory routes. There, he met sound engineer and military researcher Frank Watlington. Watlington had been trying to record dynamite explosions. Without knowing it, he captured the songs of whales in the background.
Payne spent the next two years of his life doing everything in his power to put these archaic and evocative songs in front of people. After years of activism, sharing whale calls, and community protest, the International Whaling Commission instituted a ban on deep-sea whaling.*
This incredible story offers insight into our relationships with ourselves, too.
The more we know something -- our body, for instance, the less likely we are to abuse it. This holds true with knowing others, as well. It is difficult to hate up close.
Over the 20 years I've been teaching yoga, my own relationship with the practice has evolved tremendously. An eager student in my early twenties, I put myself through all kinds of rigorous trainings, classes, and practices hoping to deepen my practice and perhaps find myself.
These days, I have a more intimate relationship with restorative yoga, the form of yoga our world most needs to counteract the aggressive undercurrent of productivity many of us live by.
Yin and restorative types of yoga are what I call "Listening Yogas." They are the cooler, more feminine, intuitive types of practice. Listening yoga takes us deep within. It is not about attaining, gaining, or even exercising. It is about depth of knowing. It is about softening ourselves, and seeing our own truths.
I believe that dreams come in whispers.
Dreams do not shout at you to come and rip them out of the sky. The are the light breezes on your skin, the gentle tickle of the spirit, the quiet self-knowing that comes when you are alone, in a room, with a candle. Or on a silent hike under the stars.
They are not born in groups, they do not encumber your daily to do's. They are light, etherial, and just beyond the surface. They do not insist upon your recognition.
But if you're lucky, they coax you into humble quietude for your own good. It is from this disciplined listening that you might hear them, catch sight of the dream fireflies that surround you, though you so regularly miss them.
Living a life of dream-following is only for those who dare to tread in both the material and the immaterial world.
This is why quiet practices -- listening yogas, meditation, energy work, Tai Chi, solo hikes under stars, humming and calm, deep breaths, are tools that transform our understanding of ourselves. Because within them, you can hear what lies just beyond your senses that's been waiting for you.
When we do these sorts of gentle listening practices, we are less likely to act harshly towards ourselves. Yoga in the West has been made into an opportunity to exercise and strengthen. What a gross underrepresentation. Yoga was never meant to be purely external or physical.
The way to know ourselves, to hear dream whispers, is to at first, become quiet. Nothing more.
It takes courage and a soft grip to hear dreams and further, to live them. It takes 100% responsibility for every last bit of our lives. Even and especially the hard parts.
In my upcoming DREAM Retreat this October in Baja, we will deepen into this work. Instead of forcing our agendas, or schedules, or ideas onto the experience of retreat, we will listen deeply to see what waits beneath the surface. It is my honor to guide an entire retreat with Listening Yogas. It is my honor to welcome men to this retreat, too.
No matter where you are in your inner world, remember that just beneath the surface, down where to whale sounds reverberate, sit your dreams. Get quiet and allow yourself to hear them.
TRY THIS!: I like to play whale songs during Shavasana for my classes. Try playing some during your next meditation, journal session, or walk.
*Recordings That Made Waves: https://www.npr.org/2014/12/26/373303726/recordings-that-made-waves-the-songs-that-saved-the-whales