They have been some really interesting comments about what we take from yoga, especially the stillness and quiet. For me, savasana is the hardest pose and pranayama the hardest practice--it's so hard to shut those voices up! Well, apparently this is a very popular topic--the challenge of silence--and this guy's publicist is working overtime to promote his new book about it...
At least I think this is the guy I was listening to--I know, shameful lack of citation--on NPR the other day. George Prochnik was discussing In Pursuit of Silence, and was making some interesting observations about humans and their need for constant noise. He noted that pretty much every other animal on the planet tries to keep quiet, either to avoid being eaten or to avoid being detected while sneaking up on the former in hopes of eating. Just about the only exception is noise in service of reproduction...
What is it with us humans--top of the food chain, with no predators? big brains in need of constant stimulation? not enough attention as children? too much attention from parents and not enough from the rest of the world? scared of being alone? too many listening devices?
I do okay with quiet (which technically includes the hum of a dehumidifier, the gurgle of the fish tank, occasional scolding from a vocal cat), which is such a relief when I'm the only one at home. But, unless I have the voice of a teacher in my ear, I have a hard time concentrating on my yoga practice without music. I really have trouble meditating. Prochnik suggests controlled background noise can have a focusing effect for kids with ADHD, but I see it working for many of my students and, certainly, for me.
Which makes me a little wistful. I try to cultivate quiet calm, when I can (background noise that I control...with two little boys, yeah, right!). I'd like to think that I'm part of a group that can forgo constant external stimulus, but maybe I'm not (or just barely).
Or maybe quiet has always been hard. Maybe there's a reason yoga was originally restricted to the Brahmin caste; it was thought the average householder couldn't handle it. Maybe it's always been noisy, it's just the kinds (and volume) of noises has changed. Humans have always been the "look at me" animal on the planet...and, for the most part, aren't worried about being lunch.
Something to think about--when you're not trying to not think.
(Overheard at the Milwaukee zoo, "Hey sweetheart, get a load of this...")