Listening sometimes means hearing a lot of noise. New practitioners of meditation can attest to this. Sit down, turn your attention inwardly and the sound of a million disparate voices, songs and static fill your awareness.
What happens when we are not fully rooted in our bodies, but free floating in our thinking minds? It can be an uncomfortable scenario that I'll illustrate with metaphors to share what I mean. Imagine your thinking mind is just like a balloon - then, imagine the balloon being blown around in a sky full of thunderstorms - not that great of a picture! Imagine the thinking mind as a balloon getting caught in a hurricane, or frozen in a snowstorm either way, it's not easy to stay afloat, or not be damaged, nor is it easy to have any kind of ground to land on. It's completely unsafe and harrowing to be a like a (thinking mind) balloon in these situations, imagine the stress and fatigue!
Here's what I have come to know as a fairly universal contemporary problem - many of us are a bit too tough on ourselves. We criticize our looks, our thoughts and emotions, our progress on the spiritual path, our practice quantity and quality. And, the fact is, that it's not helpful!
Our breath is a most nuanced and intimate guide to our psyches, and following its behavior is a revealing and direct path to understanding our deepest selves. Observing our own breath or observing someone else’s is a window to the subtle body and the most subtle of habits.
Over the past 33 years my practice has changed, re-arranged, been fallow and fruitful - but one constant theme has been mindfulness of the body. By returning my mind to the home of my body I've navigated tumultuous mental storms and a myriad of emotional events. The yogis of long ago utilized asana as an anchor in their life’s storms as well - to reduce their suffering, to control their minds.