Hope is in the air these days - the weather has become sunny, and spring flowers are blooming. People enjoy their freedom from most of the restrictions that have governed our lives over the past year. A sense of relief and exuberance lingers in the busy streets and hovers in parks that are no longer deserted. Who would have thought that we could appreciate a visit to a restaurant so much or just meeting up for a coffee? Alas, we often only realise the value of something only once it is gone. Now we have a chance to do things differently: to value the company of friends and family, to appreciate the casual chat with a passing stranger - to revel in the simple things that make life beautiful.
The sudden loss of our social networks, close physical contact and those small gestures of affection that come with it left many people off-balance. A lot of our communication is actually non-verbal and comes so naturally to us that we hardly realise what we are doing. The quick, easy smile from a friend telling you not to worry about a blunder you just made is invisible behind a mask. The comforting hand on your shoulder from your elderly relative, arrested halfway through, left hanging in a gesture of helplessness.. it forced you to find new ways to connect, didn't it? And it was awkward at first for everyone. We had to listen more closely than ever before and put thoughts and feelings into words more elaborately. Expression is crucial when forging relationships of any kind, but it has many pitfalls, and misunderstandings happen quickly.
In Naad Yoga, we call it Gaviye, the art of expression, and together with Suniye, the skill of listening, it forms the bedrock of Sound Alchemy. In previous blogs, I have explored the importance of listening, and how it nurtures contemplation and personal development. Now, I would like to dive deeper into the role of Gaviye and why it is equally essential.
Our mental health and quality of life rely heavily on our ability to express ourselves and establish a sense of connection. Feeling seen, heard, and accepted by family, friends, and society is crucial for human beings because we desire relationships above everything else. But what if we feel that we have no voice? When we can't make ourselves heard, or the message we are putting out there never seems to reflect who we really are?
Everyone struggles with self-expression at least occasionally, and for many, it presents a constant challenge. Finding the right words and tone of voice for the situation you find yourself in is critical at work and among people you don't know very well. Your expression is a crucial part of the image you present to the world and affects how others see and treat you.
Because it impacts our social success or failure, we learn early on to modulate and shape our expression accordingly. It becomes an often unconscious habit, and even when we are among close friends or family, we maintain those filters and restraints.
This leads us to the question of whether or not we can actually know another person intimately. How much of our own true nature do we let shine through at any given time? What is real, and what is social adaptation? Can we ever experience true intimacy in a relationship?
Gaviye is not just about singing mantras; it relates to any form of vocal expression. Naad Yoga develops the natural voice and helps to create a deep understanding of our thoughts and emotions along the way. Our natural voice and its intentional use have a tremendous effect on our mental and emotional wellbeing. It impacts the way we relate to ourselves and the world around us.
When learning how to use the natural voice, a Naad Yogi knows to listen carefully and intently. By tuning into the sound of your own voice, you will gain valuable insights into the way you perceive and express yourself. Developing your awareness of your natural voice and expression means that you also become aware of filters and self-censure, of moments when you are no longer aligned with your true being. This gives you leverage because you can choose between social conditioning and being authentic, depending on the situation.
If you are talking to a superior at work or with a potential client, it makes sense to follow the social playbook and ensure a smooth, successful conversation. There is no point telling your boss exactly what you think of him or her - unless you are planning a change in careers, right?
But when you are at home with your family, you would want to drop the filters and be open and honest with your loved ones. Intimacy doesn't start when people take their clothes off; that is a common misconception. Intimacy begins with communication: when you can trust the other to approach you with an open heart, you can return that openness. There is no greater comfort than being able to fully be yourself without fear of judgement. Anything past that is just the icing on the cake.
It takes great courage to step out of the safety zone, to drop the mask and offer you raw thoughts and feelings up to another person. But it is possible, and if we start with baby steps, we can build up mutual trust and understanding while cultivating a state of neutrality within ourselves. This allows us to transcend judgement and embrace our own being and that of another.
Such a relationship can be the stepping stone to further spiritual development if we desire it. Once we have found true intimacy within ourselves, with our own mind and soul, and have learned to open ourselves fully to another, we can reach out further - to the Divine, the Creator itself. We are like a drop of water that has been flung into the air and then rejoins the ocean, becoming one with it.
For now, though, I invite you to start small. Observe yourself in those moments of closeness, how you express yourself and how you receive the words of your loved ones. See if there is room for an opening where a little more of yourself can emerge. Listen with your heart as much as with your ears, offer that safe space to those you care about.. and see where the journey takes you.