Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Being a Student

It’s been three weeks since I completed a nine day meditation retreat. On the last night someone asked how long we should meditate each day to continue the work we had started during the retreat. The answer came from a teacher who I had come to trust and admire during the course of the retreat. He said that rule of thumb was that in order to avoid the build up of “tensions” between now and the next retreat the figure was two hours a day. It was a silent retreat so we all took that in quietly. Mine was the silence of incomprehension.

Once I got back to family and work I made my first forays into home practice. Although I could not really wrap my mind around two hours I could not bring myself to rule it out either. The teachers at the retreat had been exceptional and it seemed foolhardy to think I knew better. I began with one hour and was happy to find out that I could now sit quietly and fairly comfortably for an hour. The training I had received was fresh on my mind and I found myself able to pick up where we had left off. The hour meditation period combined well with an hour Asana practice. I just needed to go to bed a little earlier and get up a little earlier for it not to interfere with the “rest of my life”. As the days turned into weeks I began to find opportunities for a second meditation period. By eliminating periods of emptiness in online or in front of the TV., I found that I had just enough time to meditate for an hour every day and meditate for two hours every other day.

This organizing/experimenting period went on for a couple of weeks and I am now in a pretty proactive routine. Having dealt with the logistics of my new life I began to feel it’s effects. There was the matter of the “tensions” at the time I really had no idea what my teacher was talking about. As my practice has settled into my life I began to observe the compulsivity with which I and everybody around me seeks to get the world to satisfy their demands. This compulsivity is a tension within us born from a disconnection from our true nature. What we have come to call normal is a profound alienation from the day to day moment to moment experience of our true nature. It is as though we have a vibrant sun within us that we no longer can feel because our mind is in perpetual agitation. Meditation and asana quiet the mind and train us to bring our attention inward. Initially we just get glimpses of the sun which we experience as peace and well being. Committed practice has the ability to invert “normal” perception so that we come to experience ourselves from the inside out rather than the outside in. We begin to be able to abide calmly in this profound sense of who we are. As we experience the difficulties of life, the wanting, the not wanting the self-centeredness, we are less likely to get lost in them because we have been slowly releasing our resistance to life as we have been getting to know who we are.

As I embark on my fourth week I have noticed an enthusiasm for life building within me.


Anonymous mroberts said...

By eliminating periods of emptiness in online or in front of the TV...

Just a little play on words: so you eliminated periods of emptiness to strive for emptiness? :-) (For instance, this book.)

Rolf, I've never had a conversation with you, but it seems like I've had dozens... I occasionally went to your Hours of Power in Boston (what, 5 years ago now), I've read your book 1.5 times and now I keep up with your blog. I've always been pleased and impressed with your honesty and perception -- keep up the fine work!

Me? I'm the guy in the corner of this picture in the Alps. Practice-wise, I've been stuck at 1-3 times per week for years. But my swimming has increased dramatically in the last year!

Oh, also, for anyone interested, there was an interesting editorial in the New York Times today on yoga and patents. I have read the author's book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. It's quite good, but certainly not all sunshine and flowers. Bombay is quite a crazy place.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rolf. Thank you so much for sharing your insights on meditation and finding time to do it. If I "squeeze" in just 15 minutes a day I can feel a tremendous difference in my outlook on life! Wow, 2 hours. What a profound idea. That would take some sacfifice but like you said it would only be of the stuff that I use to escape with any way---online surfing, TV, etc. On another subject I am going through deep sadness over not being able to go to Tulum with you in June. I will be with you in spirit.

Mark from Philly

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Kathleen Westbook said...

Thanks Rolf. Since our intensive, I have continued in my quest to find myself at the space between breathes. I am wanting to check out DrOZ yoga routine. I am looking for connection with my spouse. I sent DROZ this request:http://www.aryoga.com/Hello, I recently had an intensive with Rolf Gates. His book meditations on the mat has helped me grow significantly in how I live my life. I would like to hear you and Lisa have Rolf discuss the aspects of life that is too dificult to write about in his book on XM156. Marraige, change, and personal growth while raising kids, please. Thank you [from an "old" ER nurse. My friend who came to dinner tonight is married to a CV surgeon is reading The Doctors Wife.]

10:57 PM  

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