The Art of Listening is by far one of the most personally valuable practices that Nia has given to me. I have always loved listening to music, and yet I bring no musical training to my Nia practice. Although my dance background is rather extensive, I am one of those people who doesn't always hear the beat. There, I said it! It is exactly this, which I may perceive as a deficit, that has allowed me the most beautiful relationship with listening to music, to doing my bars, and to the lifestyle of awareness that I desire to cultivate more and more deeply in this lifetime. In order for me to hear the beat, I have got to deeply listen!
To me, the most important skill to develop for receiving the healing benefits and power of sound is Attention. Big "A" Attention. Paying attention means that I do not always receive what I expect. The music isn't necessarily going to flow in the directions that I "think" it might. I am talking about listening to music in a way that increases my ability to pay attention, minimizes my tendency to bring expectation into my experience, which draws me out of the moment, from the truth of now, of what is really, truly going on, evidenced in the sounds, the stillnesses, the rise and fall, the detail of a signature instrument that I might have missed had I been wrapped up in weaving my own story about the music. Listening so that the musicians can fill me in on some quality, some pattern that shows up in their song and perhaps across the entire universe, that I would not know had I not shown up fully. That's what paying attention to music can do for me -- it can help me to be present -- and that is an absolute healing benefit.
Paying attention to music can shift my perspective, giving me access to something broader than my experience. When I am sad, or angry or other-wise freaking out, I can not do justice to the level of awareness and attention I want to place on the music unless I firmly, calmly, and loving tell that sad-angry-freak out situation: "Not now." My focus shifts from how I'm feeling, from what I perceive has been done to me, from my self-absorption, to a union with sound, energy vibration of instruments, presence with the timbre of the voice - and what that evokes, and it is suddenly no longer all about me. I am in someone else's art and I am receiving energy from their life force. I am me and I get a break from me. I am connected to something else. Connection is a most healing, soothing, poignant benefit to paying attention to music.
Paying attention to the music has highlighted other things that really ask for me to listen deeply. When my dog barks, how many times might I reactively tell him quiet down before I understand that he really has something important to tell me (a few years back - the furnace in the basement just beginning to smoulder)... When my emotions are getting in the way of really hearing what my four year old son has to say about his day...When too much on my to-do list draws me out of my senses, I can turn everything off and simply listen to the silence. A major healing benefit of cultivating Attention.