From the moment I step on my mat, there’s an instinctive pull to close my eyes, take a deep breath and tune in. Whether this is intuitive or not, teachers often start the practice with the intention of cultivating more awareness for how the mind and the body are presenting themselves. Actively listening to the possible tension, sensations, discomfort or emotions that may arise when we give ourselves the space to notice them.
Whether it’s through āsana, meditation or prānāyāma, these practices all help to maintain my mind-body connection, always leaving a state of mental clarity and sense of calm. Something I think we can (and need to) do with this state of equanimity, is use it for good. I’m sure you can relate, that after a practice I certainly have more patience and a calmer mindset to listen to my friends, family, colleagues or whoever I connect with.
Offering support comes easier when we take the time to recharge for ourselves, and can help us become aware of and connect to our community and their needs. As we learn about the challenging injustices that have occurred throughout history and the oppression that continues to happen across the world, yoga provides us with the tools to show up and take note of our role in it all. Embodying these practices means leaning into the discomfort of social injustice and taking mindful action, noticing the pain in others, and deciding how to respond with sensitivity and compassion.
As NAIDOC week commences 4th July – 11th July, it’s an important week to listen more deeply and openly about the lived experiences of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. With the theme this year being ‘Heal Country’ there is an emphasis on seeking greater protection for their lands, waters, sacred sites and cultural heritage from being exploited, desecrated and destroyed.
A concept I have learnt about recently which I thought would be useful for other non-Indigenous Australians to learn about is Dadirri – the value of Deep Listening. I was introduced to this concept from yoga teachers Jem Stone, a Bunjalung woman and Eve White a Wiradjuri woman, at the Ngungwulah cultural awareness training. This training makes relevant connections to Indigneous Australian spiritual gifts to those of yogic teachings and how yoga teachers and the yoga community can take action in acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture, Community and Country,
What is Dadirri?
Dadirri (da-did-ee) is a term gifted to Australian’s by Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, a Ngangikurungkurr Aboriginal elder from Nauiyu, Daly River. Dadirri is similar to the yogic practice of meditation, emphasising conscious observation, yet also encourages that listening to our intuition also means listening to our natural world. It allows space to witness and be included in the natural and cyclical processes of life. Cultivating our understanding of how we are not removed from, but a part of nature’s cycles is important in the process of connecting to the Earth. Non-Indigenous Australian’s are (hopefully) becoming more aware of the sacred and unique connection that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have to Country. How important Country is for the livelihood, strength and continuation of this land’s ancestral spirit.
Miriam Rose eloquently discloses the “Aboriginal way” of learning to listen, and that living good and useful lives was reliant on learning through listening, watching, waiting and then acting. I also love the point she makes “My people are not threatened by silence. They are completely at home in it”. Something we can learn from in today’s society, where we are inundated with stimulation and distraction. Silence offers us a chance to listen and reflect. The birthplace for where change can occur.
Miriam Rose was named Senior Australian of the Year (2021) in recognition of her outstanding service and contribution to the Northern Territory, acknowledging her leadership in the field of Aboriginal education and visual arts. Ngangikurungkurr can be translated to ‘deep water sounds’ or ‘sounds of the deep’, which gives meaning to the word Dadirri. Miriam Rose’s reflection and introduction to the word Dadirri is full of insight and wisdom into developing a deeper connection to ourselves, our community and the land we live on.
To reflect on Dadirri during NAIDOC week is a beautiful connection to the theme this year which is Heal Country. In a Ted Talk about Dadirri by professor Judy Atkinson, she shares important takeaways for the way we can support and respect the diverse lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through listening, saying we should “listen with reciprocal relationship to try to understand”. Miriam Rose articulated so beautifully, how practicing Dadirri can support non-Indigenous Australians to have understanding and empathy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as they continue to connect with their historically disrupted cultural expression and way of life. She states “We hope that the people of Australia will wait. Not so much waiting for us – to catch up – but waiting with us, as we find our pace in this world”.
As a new yoga teacher, one of the things I started to realise as I began deepening my knowledge of yoga, was how much I don’t know. That even when you start doing the training’s and the courses, you just delve into a rabbit hole of endless knowledge and interpretations, beginning to realise we are always the student. In this context of learning about Indigenous Australian spiritual teachings and the suffering White-Australia have imposed on their livelihood, we are forever the student. And I want to bring this perspective to listening and beginning to understand the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We will always be listening, always learning and always committed to building a community that honours the voices of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. It was and always will be, Aboriginal land.
– Emily Pont
Words from Miriam Rose on how to practice Dadirri – “Focus on something specific, such as a bird, a blade of grass, a clump of soil, cracked earth, a flower, bush or leaf, a cloud in the sky or a body of water, whatever you can see. Just let something find you be it a leaf, the sound of a bird, the feel of the breeze, the light on a tree trunk. No need to try. Just wait a while and let something find you, let it spend time with you. Lie on the weather, the grass, some place. Get to know that little place and let it get to know you – your warmth, feel your pulse, hear your heartbeat, know your breathing, your spirit. Just relax and be there, enjoying the time together. Simply be aware of your focus, allowing yourself to be still and silent, to listen.”
Watch: A short teaser film about Dadirri – A Gift To The Nation:
Read: Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Bauman’s written expression of Dadirri:
Sign: Uluru Statement from the Heart:
Educate yourself further about the Traditional Custodians of the land you live and work on:
Other organisations to think about donating to: