How conversations move us
Introducing the Stillpoints Podcast
By Scott Johnson
To launch the new Stillpoints podcast, Scott shares how yoga comes alive through deep interactions between people over many years…
“Sound is dynamic. Speech is dynamic — it is action. To act is to take power, to have power, to be powerful. Mutual communication between speakers and listeners is a powerful act. The power of each speaker is amplified, augmented, by the entrainment of the listeners. The strength of a community is amplified, augmented by its mutual entrainment in speech.
This is why utterance is magic. Words do have power. Names have power. Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.”
– Ursula K. Le Guin
(Taken lovingly from this piece by Maria Popova on her incomparable blog Brain Pickings)
It’s near the end of her third ever yoga practice and I ask Jenny* if she’d like to finish by sitting quietly before taking rest. She agrees it feels a good thing to do. I guide her into a comfortable seated position and then offer her just these words:
“Notice and feel your breath. Be with what arises.”
I watch as her face softens. It noticeably relaxes. Yet this belies something deeper. A soft furrow appears on her brow as if a tender memory has arisen that she is observing.
“Just listen,” I offer.
She is still gently smiling but her forehead is subtly changing, going between tension and softening as if something deep is being processed. Her exhalation begins to merge with a soft letting go of her body. I watch, making sure she is safe. Soft tears come. I ask her to place her hand gently on her brow so she can get in touch with where she is perhaps feeling tension. What is here? She smiles more, as if she is getting to know a part of herself that has been lost for a while.
“Be with what’s here. Keep noticing these moments that come and go.”
She sits with it a little more then lies down and settles, taking rest.
I have always loved deep human interaction. I love to know what moves someone. What’s moved someone to make the decisions they make in the way that life has evolved for them. You see, the way we connect to life is so deeply intimate and tied to the way our lives have evolved and played out so far.
My role as a yoga teacher is to listen. It always has been. To listen and to see how the practice of yoga that has impacted my life so much can impact someone else’s. To listen and then hopefully offer something in response that lands in a way that makes sense. Interestingly, in my previous life, when I worked on building sites as an electrician in my 20s and 30s, I loved to work with the people no one else got on with. To see why they saw the world the way they did.
How we listen is an art
To be able to stay mindful and deeply listen to someone else is an art in itself, and to be able to listen to others we have to be able to honestly listen to ourselves first. But, we are not so much listening with our ears. The ability to hold space for someone else and cultivate the use of our wider sense perceptions is to deconstruct how we are sensing ourselves in a fuller way. When we practice ourselves we are listening fully with our body and noticing how all communication lands and impacts. When we become still we actually feel the residue in each moment of the countless words, responses and reactions we have had in our lifetime.
I have met so many people over the years in my work as a yoga teacher. I have always tried to listen to each person I have met. In ten years I can’t remember how many times I have been moved by those I have interacted with. All these relationships have been deeply meaningful and I hold them dear. They help me to continue to cultivate the relationships that are to come, with the many people I have yet to meet.
Celebrating 10 years in people
I have wondered for a while how I would celebrate ten years of Stillpoint. Nothing felt like it could really do it justice, especially as it continues quietly each morning. How do you celebrate something that has deep meaning for many people? Stillpoint has always been a place you can find in yourself. It is there to point back at the Stillpoint in you, to show you that there is always a place of peace you can find in yourself. Wherever you are.
After Ozge passed away at the beginning of 2012 I realised the preciousness of life. That in those three hours first thing in the morning we were holding space for people to just take some time to be with themselves. To be with their own lives. That hopefully they will leave a little more enriched by meeting themselves first, at the beginning of the day.
Stillpoint has been about the people. It’s always been about the people. The people who have come each morning, the people who have shared their knowledge with us, the people who taught with us, who’ve been moved with us.
So, I am celebrating ten years by sharing the people with you.
The Stillpoints Podcast
Sharing the people I’ve met and interacted with during the time I’ve been practicing (since 2002) and teaching, and ultimately sharing at SYL, will be a way for you to get the gist of what Stillpoint represents for me. For us who have shared mornings and time together here over the years. Some of you know me, some of you don’t, but I so want to share with you some of the voices that have moved me over the past ten years and beyond. I would never be who I am without them. Being able to share the way I do is built on all of them. I have learned from them all and will continue to do so.
So, the podcast will be about them. Some of the names and voices you’ll know, some of them you won’t. Some of them will be renowned teachers, some of them will be practitioners who’ve come to SYL in the past. All have a story to tell about how contemplative practice has moved them in some way.
The contemplative life
The contemplative life offers us a way to be able to navigate challenges. Those of us who have a practice, whether yoga, meditation or something else, know that it helps us to meet our life, as it arises. Helps us to make choices that meet the way we then enquire and navigate back. But contemplative practices are also not pretty. They challenge us by asking us to be with the very things that we find difficult in our lives. When we stop and drop in to our moment to moment experience we meet whatever arises. This can be so hard. It can be boring, inane, frustrating. It can create real and actual fear in us. Many things can stop us from going there. Yet, for change to happen, go there we must… Cultivating a kind, compassionate way of seeing ourselves is intrinsic to this path. If we stay with this challenge, in this way, we are able to navigate these things.
The Stillpoints Podcast talks to this. To how personal contemplative life lands in our culture. That even though we all practice, how it plays out for us is so, so different. Stillpoint Yoga London is located in London Bridge. We have always been a stillpoint in the city, a place to come and find personal solace in the madness of the urban jungle.
To live this human life is to live a story. To live many, many stories. What contemplative practice also offers us is the ability to be with these stories, to understand how they are playing out in our lives, and then create patterns that create new stories. The very awareness that we are human, that we exist at all, should stop us in our tracks. I see, I hear, I taste, I touch, I feel. How I interact with that, if I am lucky enough, should be to again and again marvel at the ability to cultivate that awareness.
Giving people our faces, time and thoughts is one of the most powerful things we can do. The podcast will share with you people who have been moved deeply by practice. People whose stories are meaningful.
Stories will always continue. Jenny’s story at the beginning of this article is just one cog in the turning of her life. That we continue to listen to each other as we navigate this is deeply important and personally profound.
I hope you enjoy the conversations I navigate in the podcast. All are a deep part of the fabric of who I am.
* Names have been changed for privacy purposes.