Listening in Japanese

I recently returned from Japan where I taught a four week yoga teacher training to Japanese students. In case you’re wondering, I don’t speak Japanese; so needless to say, communication was a challenge!

But still, at the end of the training we understood each other more deeply than when we began.  During our final closing circle we all marveled at the bond that was uniquely formed through support, encouragement and trust.

I listened to each student share her experience of the four weeks- the highs, the lows, and the transformations. Though I didn’t understand the words, I could feel each students’ heart-open and full and completely present.  

In the end, I was glad that I didn’t speak Japanese.  If I did, I might not have learned:

that sometimes we just have to listen, even if we don’t understand;

that listening is a full-body experience;

that practicing yoga is practicing listening;

that a smile and a shrug of the shoulders can mean, “I don’t understand a word you are saying, but I appreciate you and I am listening”;

that laughter is a great unifier;

that looking someone in the eyes is one of the most courageous gifts we can offer;

that a hand on the heart and silence on the lips means,“I thank you deeply-more than words can say”.

I am so grateful for each student, my translators and every stranger I encountered in Japan.  Thank you for being my teachers.