EP17 Rolf Gates – The living Buddha
“In our fear we believe that we must make things happen; in our practice we learn to let things happen.” Rolf Gates
In this episode Rolf and I talk about meditation, transitioning from Army Ranger to Yoga Instructor, AA, family and living a happy/fulfilling life. Rolf has become a close friend of mine over the years and someone who was one of my original yoga instructors, taught me how to meditate and guided me to some major life decisions (moving to a new town, committing to take a spiritual practice to the next level). You’re going to love this episode.
- Talking about how he is trying to be present and moment-oriented [4:22]
- Rolf shares how he decided to pledge allegiance to the United States of America by attending Ranger School [7:55]
- Determining factor of team work while in Ranger School and how this taught him the simple choice of quitting or not quitting [10:00]
- What caused Rolf to finally decide to leave military life due to his addiction to alcohol and his disconnect of experiences [15:30]
- The start of getting sober [16:06]
- May 21st, 1990, Rolf began his 12-Step Program when he wasn’t feeling well and he began to pray [17:55]
- People thought he was crazy to be 2 weeks sober and then head to rehab [18:55]
- Shares how through prayer and getting on his knees that he no longer needed a drink, just as he had seen in Norman Rockwell paintings [19:30]
- Shares about an upcoming event, Yoga Recovery Conference in May right around Memorial Day weekend [22:28]
- New Year’s Eve weekend, Ida Jo (singer/songwriter) will be apart of an event from 11-12pm meditating [23:22]
- Rolf shares something he is currently working on with his yoga and institute trainings which is focused around intention setting [24:23]
- Transitioning life from Ranger School, to 12-Step, AA and finally into yoga [25:31]
- Shares how meditation is one of the ways one can get well from addiction and is a powerful tool [28:20]
- Meditation is a loose term and its’ meaning is left to the person based on their spiritual tradition. [28:50]
- Talks about Vipassana and insight meditation and their meaning [31:19]
- Explains what happens with meditation practice [37:35]
- Keith and Rolf talk about Keith’s meditation experience and the use of an insight timer [39:43]
- Insight Connect feature to have “friends” keeping you accountable of your meditation practices [41:19]
- The “Why of Meditation” [43:49]
- First foundation of mindfulness is meditation on the body and meditation on the breath [47:52]
- For the beginner and meditation [49:21]
- Explains what it means to be moving backing in from thinking to feeling [50:12]
- Rolf’s morning ritual [53:10]
- Shares about getting away from it all [54:38]
- How Rolf makes his “passive income” [56:48]
- Rolf believes that “intension organizes its own fulfillment” [1:00:00]
- This idea of you sitting with yourself and you watching how your habits of wanting and not wanting itself are driving you into unskilled full choices and behaviors [1:02:36]
You’re listening to The Business of Life podcast. Practical advice for creating the life you love to live. Here’s your host, Keith Callahan.
KC: Welcome to The Business of Life Episode number 17. You guys are in for a treat today and I was really looking forward to this interview myself on a personal level. So, today we have on Rolf Gates and Rolf Gates is someone who really had a big impact on my life. He was one of the first Yoga instructors that I ever went to over probably about 15 years ago now. He was also the man credited with teaching me how to meditate like in my initial introduction to meditation. He has authored the book of Meditations from the Mat. He’s also someone I worked with. I had one-on-one calls with him, probably about 7 or 8 of them. When I was making some major decisions in my life, decisions as to where we were going to live, taking my spiritual path to the next level and, yeah, just really helped me when I was looking for some alignment with where I was going in my life. As far as his actual bio, he’s the author of the acclaimed book, again, Meditations from the Mat. His wife has 2 books. She has one that’s out and one that’s coming out. So, the one that’s out is Goodnight Yoga and I believe the one that’s coming out is Good Morning Yoga. Rolf also has a second book that is coming out, Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, Mindfulness and Compassion. I’m personally really excited about that book. His first one I’ve read cover to cover many times. Actually, I have about 10 books that I keep in my office. They’re like my 10 go to books, 10 books that I read over and over again and Rolf’s book, Meditations from the Mat is one of them so I’m looking forward to the next one. He also conducts Vinyasa intensives, 200 and 500-hour teacher trainings throughout the U.S. and abroad. He’s a former social worker and U.S. Airborne Ranger who’s practiced meditation for the last 20 years. He brings his eclectic background to his practice and his teachings. Born in Manhattan, he grew up in the Boston area. He’s a avid marathon runner, long distance cyclist and champion wrestler. As a descendant of 6 generations of ministers, he gained an understanding of service and a dedication at a very early age. So, that’s the introduction. Then, he has tons and tons of places, magazines, etc. where he’s been a speaker, TV shows he’s been on and, you know, he just really is the living Buddha. So, I won’t ramble on anymore and I’ll go ahead and introduce you to Rolf Gates. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.
INTERVIEW WITH ROLF GATES
KC: Alright, so I’m excited to introduce today’s guest, Rolf Gates. Rolf, welcome to the show.
RG: Thank you, Keith. Great to be here.
KC: Alright, so prior to this piece right here and you jumping on, I gave the formal introduction of who Rolf is but I wanted to really jump right in and if we could go back to who is Rolf Gates and then really touching in a little bit on the experience with the Rangers and then going in, leaving the Rangers, I don’t know if that’s the correct wording. I don’t know if you ever leave but transitioning from the full-time as a ranger to being a full-time yoga instructor.
RG: Okay, yeah, well I think that, you know now I’m getting a little [inaudible – 04:21], Keith. I’m 51 and so now we’re talking about what choices I was making in the ‘80s. So, I have to kind of, I’m trying these days to be a little more present and moment-oriented. But, yeah, I think that, you know, the aspirations that I have in my life, today were probably forming in high school and college. You know, sports were a place where there was a process where you could be dedicated. There was virtues to be cultivated and I really like the kind of, the sacred nature of athletics, you know, my sport was wrestling in particular, although I love football as well. I just love the ceremony and the ritual, like you prepare yourself for something and you show up and you get what you get and I love the finality of walking on the mat and, you know, either getting your hand raised or not and you don’t get to control that, you don’t get to finesse it. It’s like you show up, you prepare, you show up and then what happens, happens, you know and it was something miraculous to me about a process so kind of pure as a sport. And so, that I think was the first thing that really stirred me and stirred my heart and I saw in the military something analogous professionally. I feel like people don’t really understand today how the kind of ‘70s mindset around career, you know. Today, it’s like, yeah, look on every rock and there’s someone who’s like a sophomore, you know, kind of like your career or my career. It’s like you insult me, people who kind of dream up something and go live it whereas I grew up at a time where, yeah, you could be a lawyer or a doctor, you know, or a plumber, you know. And so, the military offered a lot the questing nature that sports offered. I saw within the military a similar ethos, you know, of preparation, you know, of training, of well, finding abilities and so I was inspired and I didn’t really want my life to be like I wasn’t like a, I didn’t really want to do the 9 to 5 thing. I wasn’t like, “Oh yeah, I’m not going to go to get in a car and go into a cubicle, get back in the car and go home kind of thing.” And, the military offered me a much more romantic, you know, from my perspective, you know, life where I was going to be traveling and stuff and at that time I didn’t have any, I had zero ethical misgivings about, you know, the military or, you know, war conquest. That sort of thing just didn’t bother me, you know, I won’t, I can’t speak for my 17-year old self really but in the world that I was in these things were normal. I was watching John Wayne movies, you know, in the world that I was in it was normal. Even the anti-heroes, I remember like a movie of that time, kind of like the merging new man was like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, you know. And, even those guys were out like, you know, shooting people up and that was just like cool, normal stuff, you know. And so, that piece of the military, I didn’t have any, I didn’t really blink. I also felt that “Look, I really believed in kind of, you know, nationalism and kind of sticking up for your side.” And, I now have much more kind of global world view where I don’t really see people from another country as belonging to another team. We’re on the same team now.
RG: You know, but as a kid, you know, the world is huge and America was a massive concept and I was going to pledge allegiance to the United States of America and that was going to be the end of it, you know. And so, I just saw the military as kind of a virtuous path, a path of virtue and a path of adventure and the moment I went down that route, I just kept going to the hardest thing I could find and went to Airborne School and at Airborne School I saw this postcard of Ranger School and Ranger School is the, I guess the penultimate infantry training school in the U.S. Army. There’re analogous trainings in the Navy now. The Air Force even has a Special Forces branch and stuff, obviously the marines. But, the Ranger School itself, even when I went to Ranger School, we had Special Forces from Germany and Canada and elsewhere and we had Special Forces from the Marines, the Air Force, the Navy Special Forces, all those guys went through Ranger School because it’s really the best school for basic, small unit infantry operations.
KC: Yeah. Can I interject? I’ve got a few questions. One question here because I think it’s going to transition into the yoga piece. When you were going through Ranger School and there were other people going through it, what was the determining factor, because I know it wasn’t fitness for the people that actually made it?
RG: I think there’s a couple, I’ll give you 2 things. One is teamwork. I was in squad that was not doing teamwork very well at all and things we’re kind of falling off, you know, falling apart. And, I got injured and when I came back from the hospital, I got put in another squad and we work as a team and kind of went through with flying colors, you know.
KC: Got it.
RG: There’s a position in Ranger School which is called the Squad Leader position and it’s the only position where you are in a graded position for 24 hours. So, that’s the hardest position to have because it’s the longest and it’s a 24-hour period where you’re under scrutiny for 24 hours and the level of communication that you’re responsible for to the rest of the people following you is unbelievably specific. And so, they could just ask anyone of your troops at any point in the 24 hours, like, you know, ‘what are you supposed to be carrying’, ‘what’s your mission’, you know, ‘what happens if things go wrong. If your folks don’t have the answer to that question, you fail. And so, it’s a virtually impossible task to pass on your own. The only way the squad leader passes is if the rest of the squad decides this guy is going to pass and we got a hundred percent. Like, I joined that squad and to 3 different phases so that’s 3 quarters of Ranger School I was with them and we got 100% Squad Leader goals the whole time because we just worked as a team. And so, that’s like a huge thing that I can say that, you know, we were far more powerful as a team than as a bunch of individuals. Then, the other piece is just when I got hurt it wasn’t that bad, you know, I just lost a toe nail but I had to go to the hospital. There’s a lot of infection stuff and so I had like a 48-hour break and I had a change to think about what I was a part of, you know, and it was a lot going on and a very intense experience. It’s 24 hours a day, very in the woods running around with an 80 pound pack, a lot of stuff happening. I got to pull back and I got to realize “I’m going to do this thing. I’m actually going to graduate from Ranger School and I’m going to graduate from Ranger School because I’m not going to quit.” And, I knew that that was the deal. I knew that I had learned something very valuable, like at that age I was 23 and at that age the big things were like Harvard Business School, you know, or someone who’d go to medical school and I realized that Ranger School and the like, the people who get through the big thing of my time, being a 23-year old I saw, I was looking at a mirror, I hadn’t been in a bathroom for 4 weeks and they let me shower before I went to the hospital so I was like seeing myself in the mirror the first time in 4 weeks and I had a 6-pack for I think the only time in my life. The way I got a 6-pack is I lose 20 pounds and I carry a 80-pound pack uphill for 4 weeks and now I’ve got a 6-pack. So, I’m looking at the only 6-pack I ever had and I’m realizing “I’m going to do this because I know how to do this and how to do this is to never quit.” And so, that was like I had a moment of clarity and I came back. I got the right squad fortunately and what was being asked of me is that I not quit. I just keep moving forward no matter how tired I am and how defeated I am. No matter how bad things have gotten. You know, I could be behind the 8-ball in terms of my grades and stuff and I’d be in a very dark place in terms of getting out of Ranger School but I need but I need to keep moving forward and that was the lesson.
KC: Really was that simple, huh, just the simple choice of quitting or not quitting.
RG: Just keep moving forward, you know. And then, yeah, I think a few guys didn’t make it because they just couldn’t do the academic piece. I mean it’s like Ranger School, you’re supposed to learn stuff, you know, and a few guys, I mean it was the ‘80s so I think learning styles weren’t really, you know, I’m sure these guys could’ve been supported to learn with the content but they had learning deficits of some sort, learning challenges and I just didn’t have that. So, I was able to pick up the academic piece very easily.
RG: So, that [inaudible – 13:54] the question. So now, I was able to learn and apply what was being taught and I just needed to not quit.
KC: So then, you’re in the Rangers and at some point, how long were you in for?
RG: My time at Ranger School was part of a 4-year obligation as an Infantry Officer. I went into Ranger School during my first year on active duty as an Infantry Officer. And then, I took that training and I went into an infantry unit in Germany. I was stationed in Ray Barracks in Friedberg, Germany after my time. And so, I was with just a straight infantry battalion from in the 3rd Army Division.
KC: And, did you at this time, did you think you were going to be a career Military man?
RG: I did for a little while because I really enjoyed the training part. I like, you know, I enjoyed. I didn’t really like just being garrisoned somewhere and, you know, that’s not. The experience nowadays is of constant deployments but in the ‘80s you just got sacked, you got plopped somewhere for 3 years and did a lot of like, you know, training but there wasn’t really anything much being asked of you besides that and it wasn’t what I had kind of signed up for. But, I also think in defensive, that lifestyle, I was an active alcoholic. And so, you know, I was not in a position, I was not an accurate reporter of what was available to [inaudible – 15:25] lieutenant in the army at that time. And so, between my, you know, my active addiction and the disconnect between I was experiencing in training and what I was experiencing in garrison, there was about a year where I really thought about leaving and eventually I decided to leave.
KC: Yeah. With the because there’s a big piece there, the drinking and eventually, you’re what, like 20 years sober now or more?
RG: Yeah, 25.
KC: Wow. That’s amazing.
KC: So, there was a big, that happening in your life and then, I believe you also went to, you went to school out in the Smith area right or Holy…?
RG: Yeah, so I got sober in the army. My last year in the army, tragically I had a soldier get hit by a train and I escorted the body back to his family and I kind of bore witness to that. He was 19 years old. And, I came back from that experience, I went in to my commander and said, “Hey, I have a problem drinking and I want to get sober.” It was like that was, it was a horrific experience and I was someone who had no resources for it, you know. I had a girlfriend but she lived, you know, an hour away. And so, I experienced that person’s death and then the weeks around it completely alone, like utterly alone. And so, I just realized I’ve had enough, you know, and I went and I talked to my commander and eventually my unit sent me to rehab. And so, I got sober during my last year in the army. And so, my last 6 months in the army were sober and I had a totally different, it was really a different deal.
KC: Was the experience for you, did you ever have any relapse or anything in the beginning or was it…?
RG: No, I got sober and stayed sober. What happened is that they sent me to counseling and stuff and before long I was on the phone to a guy who was 10 years sober and he brought me to a meeting and…
KC: When you say meeting, like AA meeting?
RG: Yeah. He brought me to a meeting and I got their text, the big book and I brought it home and a couple of weeks later, to make the long story short, I read it and I prayed. And so, on May 21st 1990, I woke up. It was a Monday morning, [inaudible – 17:52] and the 12 Step Program, just got sober on Monday. And so, Monday morning I woke up and I did not feel good and they call it the terrorist. I had the terrorist. And, in the 12-step process, you pray. Prayer is, you know, one of the primary tools. And so, I asked a higher power that to this day I don’t have any definition of, I just asked my higher power to take the pain away, you know, and this is actually a story that is very common in the 12-step meetings I had. It’s called The Desire was Lifted. And so, I prayed and almost like simultaneously the desire was lifted and I haven’t had the desire to drink since that morning. I went to meetings and I went and I’ve sought out, you know, yoga and meditation because I still had myself to deal with but I was never dealing with due, you know, as far as I can tell due to the grace of my higher power I never had to contend with the desire to drink. I contend with life on life’s terms is a whole ‘nother story.
RG: So, when I went to rehab, I was 2 weeks sober.
RG: And, which everyone thought was just totally weird, you know. One’s supposed to get wasted before they go to rehab. So, I was kind of like that guy. Like, they gave out chips and like we’re there for 2 weeks and I got a [free day/inaudible – 19:11] and everyone was like “What is wrong with you?”
KC: Yeah. It’s kind of like if you’re going to go on a diet, right? You eat as much food as you can the day before the diet starts.
RG: [Inaudible – 19:20] your the last 2 weeks before rehab sober? But, I’d had the spiritual conversion or whatever they talk about where I no longer have any interest in drinking from that moment, from that prayer I basically prayed on my knees because I’ve seen like the Norman Rockwell paintings. I didn’t know anything about prayer but in the paintings all people are on their knees so I prayed on my knees and as I’m getting up from my knees, I knew “Oh everything’s going to be okay.” Like, that was, you know, there was no white lights, no voice in the cloud but as I’m getting off my knees I’m like “Oh, it’s going to be okay.” And, that was it. Like, I literally spent the rest of that day not needing to drink. I spent a couple of days just in like the bliss of liberation and a friend of mine who was a drinking buddy was like “Hey man, that’s great that you’re 2 days sober. My uncle is 20 years sober and he’s still goes to meetings. Why don’t you go to a meeting?” I’m like, “Mike, why didn’t you tell me this like 2 years ago?” But yeah, he was the impetus for my first 12-step meeting sober, you know, I went on my own and at that night and so I was sober and going to meetings for about 10, 12 days when I got to rehab. And then, when I came back, you know, my first spiritual home and my first spiritual practice with 12-step meetings and that was perfect for me because when I came out of the army I just hit the ground running and I went to a meeting a day in Boston for about my first 5, 10 years home, you know, I had a place to go. It was like, it was killer because, you know, when you’re in the army people talk about the army as being this great preparation for life and it is but there’s a huge disconnect between military life and civilian life. So, when I came back it was like I had been, you know, on another planet for 4 years and now I’m back in the United States looking for a job and that could have been a very difficult process but for me, I just went through that process going to meetings every night. And, I immediately met a bunch of people who cared about my well-being and I met friends and they just had this whole interesting world that I was a part of from Jump Street. And, to this day, you know, I think a lot of what, you know, yogis people really respond to me well because I have this passion and enthusiasm for what we are all doing together and I learned that passion and enthusiasm that first year back from the military. I mean I came back I was a stranger in a strange land and the people of 12 Step Program just picked me up and brushed me off and sent me off to go have a great life and this is like what we can do together, you know, what we can do together just is so exciting to me too this day.
KC: So, sort of 2 things I want to jump into. But, real quick, while we’re on this, at Kripalu this year, you’re doing something there for New Year’s right?
RG: Right, yeah.
KC: And, is that the Yoga and Recovery?
RG: No, I started, me and Nikki Myers started a Yoga Recovery Conference about 7 years ago and we do that in the fall at Esalen on the West Coast and in the spring at Kripalu. So, we’ll be there in May for the Yoga Recovery Conference and that starts I think the Monday of Memorial Day weekend. It goes through the 5 days. And so, we’ll bring a bunch of teachers. It’s a huge thing. It sells out every year and you get, it gets a 120 sober people do yoga in one room and it’s pretty fun. So, that happens in the fall and in the spring. When I’m doing it in New Year’s, so this will be a straight yoga and meditation weekend.
KC: Okay, cool. So, for everybody listening too, we’ll have links for all of this in the show notes for everything that’s mentioned.
RG: Oh, for the New Year’s too, I’m sorry to interrupt but for the New Year’s too we’ve got Ida Jo, the singer songwriter, will be live with me for the whole weekend. For those of you who are remembering, I had her last time I did the New Year’s Eve weekend. What we do for New Year’s Eve night from 11 to 12 is the meditation and then Ida Jo sings us into the New Year and so, yeah, it’s a pretty cool weekend.
KC: Well, I’m hoping that I can attend this year. I’ve been looking at that. I was on your website probably about a month ago and I saw that and we’re also having our fourth baby mid-January so it’s kind of, it is close enough that I could go and if I had someone here with my wife helping out, I could be there and leave if I needed to be because with the mid-January due date for our fourth baby I could definitely be around that time.
RG: Yeah, yeah. Ida Jo plays the violin and then we have another woman coming who’s a concert violinist and so you got 2 women playing violins and I’m on the harmonium. It’s a pretty awesome sound and Ida Jo’s is a singer so it’s a pretty deep thing and what we’ll be doing, the process we’ll go through I think you’ll really like, around intention setting. Yeah, I’ve been working on something that I do with my yoga trainings, my institute trainings, around intention setting that I’m really liking. I did it with my kids this year for the school year and so it’s a cool process, but yeah.
KC: Alright, well, I have, Rolf and I are on video too so I have this list of questions but real quick, I just want to take a couple of minutes to transition now from Army Ranger going through the 12 Step Program and the meetings with AA and then how did you eventually find your way into the yoga studio and then when you started teaching.
RG: The army made me very teachable. They’re like superb, I think, taking people and teaching them how to learn. What’s interesting is you learn how to learn, you also learn how to teach. So, they have that dual purpose in our society in a way that I don’t think people really recognize is that there’s just quite millions of people who learn how to pay attention, how to listen and how to be successful. I mean you think about the military is constantly training people so people are constantly being educated and I think a lot of people, you think about how our public school system is right now. My kids are in it and I see a large percent of the folks even in the good school system not getting a lot of personal attention around how to learn and what the military does is they take whoever basically shows up and teaches them how to learn and puts them through school after school after school. And then, turns that same person around and teaches them how to teach. And, that’s how information is passed on institutionally in the military. It’s such an amazing teaching and learning culture. And so, I left the military as someone who is, I think, very skilled at learning, at being new somewhere, paying attention to the teacher, learning what the teacher had to say. Of course, the military gets you that way through extreme consequences but there will be extreme consequences if we don’t hear this thing, you know. So, I really learned how to listen. So, I had military training and then the 12 Step Program is basically an educational institution as well. It teaches the nature of the disease and the nature of the solution and they offer you how to get well, you know, they give you a pathway to get well. And so, you got to imagine, the military had put me for that exact situation. How do you learn what the problem is? How do you learn what the situation is? How do you get busy? And so, I was just on it, you know, from Jump Street. Alcohol had done its job because it impressed upon me that I wanted nothing to do with an alcoholic death. Like, I had true fear of an alcoholic death, like true fear. And so, I knew I didn’t want any part of that and I knew I had no idea how to live without alcohol and so, you know, I was like a very kind of avid learner of what 12 Step Programs had to offer me and one of the things they offered me was the 11 Steps specifically states that you seek through prayer and meditation. And so, meditation is an accepted, long before [inaudible – 28:05], you know, now [inaudible – 28:07] is kind of a popular word in many circles. Long before that was the case, meditation was an accepted practice. So, I’m talking 1991.
KC: It was accepted or it wasn’t?
RG: It was. You know, the 11 Steps specifically cites meditation as one of the ways that you get well from addiction, which the research now is overwhelmingly conclusive that that is in fact the case, that meditation is a very powerful tool for people recovering from addiction and trauma which pretty much everyone who’s recovering from addiction is also recovering from trauma.
KC: Can I dig in a little bit there? What specific type of meditation? When you mentioned meditation it’s very broad term.
RG: I think that they said, you know, “I’ll give 12 Step Programs their due.” They didn’t cite a specific form. They said, “Sought through prayer and meditation.” That’s exactly in the local wording and I think it’s left up to the individual depending on their spiritual tradition. So, you could do a, you know, I mean you think about one of the beauties of the 12 Step Program is they’re incredibly inclusive. And so, you’re in a room, you’ve got, you know, if there’s 20 people in the room, there’re 20 different spiritual traditions in the room and they’re saying drop on your support network. Drop on your lineage, your history, your belief system and find a meditation practice. Being in the Harvard Square you think about like the Insight Meditation Society that’s in Barre, Massachusetts and the Spirit Rock Community that’s in California and the work of Jon Kabat Zinn, all those guys were, like Jack Kornfield came back from his training in Thailand and got his PhD at Harvard. And so, I think there’s a direct correlation between Jack Kornfield’s on the arc of his life and the amount of insight meditations available for someone like me in 1991 in Cambridge. And so, for us it was like the Buddhist Vipassana meditation technique was pretty much what was cultivated, at least the people I knew. There’s also an institute, an Indian institute in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts that’s like, you know, an hour and twenty minutes from where I was from Harvard Square, where you could do a free 10-day, it’s still there, you know. It’s a free 10-day meditation retreat. And so, my community, I could look at, you know, I’m like 3 months, 6 months sober and I would look at someone with 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and they’re all going to Barre, Massachusetts to meditate or to go into Shelburne Falls to meditate and it was an accepted practice that you both go and study meditation but you also have a home practice. It wasn’t a stretch. You got to figure that if you’re recovering from alcoholism and you’ve got PTSB, you need as much soothing and settling as you can find.
KC: Yup. So, a couple of questions on that, just real quick if you’re willing to define for the listeners. I know that a lot of people are seeking a meditation practice that maybe they haven’t started one but can you talk just a little bit about Vipassana and insight meditation and what that means?
RG: Yeah. I mean I’m, you know, full disclosure I am now I’m very happy to say a visiting teacher at Spirit Rock and so, in Marin County. So, that’s like a specific form of meditation. And so, I’m going to have that bias. I’m strongly suggesting that if you’re looking for a meditation, just assume that the meditation you find has a certain synchronicity to it and do that. And then, if later you want to jump ship and do a different tradition go for it. What was made available to me was there’re 3 basic traditions in Buddhism. My tradition is the Forest Thai tradition because Jack Kornfield studied in the forest in Thailand with his teacher, Ajahn Chah, which is pretty cool. If you think about the Forest Thai tradition that’s like 3,000 years old, okay, the Theravadan tradition and Jack Kornfield did Forest Thai meditation practice. And then, just like they were doing it a thousand years ago or 2,000 years or 3,000 years ago, took that tradition, brought it to Cambridge, brought to Barre, Massachusetts and eventually brought to California along with a bunch of other folks who had the same experience. And, to this day, my teachers are going to Thailand to study as well. So, that’s my tradition. That’s where I come from in terms of the type of training I’ve had. In terms of what that means is there’re 4 basic foundations of mindfulness in the Buddhist meditation technique that I was taught. The first foundation is you’re mindful of the body, the breath and the moment. And so, the idea is this that we have habitual fears and desires and habitual sense of self that our mind drifts into, you know, regularly. And so, if watch the mind, it all has those 3 basic flavors: what I want, what I don’t want and , you know, what’s up with me, you know, and how am I in this situation. Like, did my aunt treat me well? Did I treat her well? And so, it’s like, what you want, what you don’t want and what’s up with me are the 3 basic channels and the premise of Vipassana meditation is we’re kind of caught in these loops and they’re not the full picture of who we are and to get the full picture, we need to start by getting really grounded. And so, there’s a lot of grounding in the opening stages of the practice and that’s by the first foundation is meditation in the body, meditation in the breath, meditation in the moment. And, I also want to put a plug, if you’ve been doing yoga practice, what I tell yoga people is that’s the meditation in the body and the breath. It’s what you’re doing on your mat. It’s not you shouldn’t stop your practice there, there’re 3 other levels, you know. But, basically, the next 3 foundations are meditations on thoughts, meditations on feelings, meditations on, literally states on mind but there’s this progressive study of how we’re being in the moment, physically, you know, energetically, emotionally and mentally and that study is combined with a cultivation of compassion and kindness, equanimity and sympathetic joy, the willingness to be happy for others. And so, there’s kind of a heart practice and there’s a mindfulness practice that I’ve been, you know, now practicing since, you know, I got back from the army. And, like when I think of the things that have helped me in my life, I think 12 Step Program have helped my life. I think yoga practices have helped my life and I think, you know, insight meditation practice has helped me in my life.
KC: I want to share a little bit of a personal story because it’s so relevant here. So, you and I talked, I think it was about 3 years ago. Yeah, it was about 3 years ago that I had reached out to you and we had done some work together, some one-on-one calls and one of the pieces that I was sort of dealing with at that point was that I had, I was very good at being disciplined with the physical and I could plow through anything and I could and it served me well. I got a lot of things done in my life. It was good. It allowed me to be successful in a lot of endeavors. And then, when you and I were talking, one of the things that I looked at was this piece of really I could go, go, go, go but settling into the moment was a hard thing for me and that was one of the pieces we worked at and it was really the start of my meditation practice and it’s been 3 years and where it, prior to that it was a very physical meditation practice. So, I had to be physical in order to not be caught up in my mind and then really what I realized or what I did over the last 3 years was I got into and I don’t know the correct word for this but I got very good at being able to quiet my mind. In order to do that I had to focus on some type of anchor, I was preparing for Sundance this year, the third year of Sundance and I realized that, it was kind of a scary thing when I realized this, but I realized that when it got really hard, I actually disassociated. So, I would in and the way I actually disassociated, as I would visualize like that I had to keep going by what I was doing was saving my family. Like, I would just focus in so intensely on like every step, every breath is to literally save my family and that’s how I got through it. But then, this year as I was preparing for it, so I do a lot of prayer, a lot of meditation and preparing and I got to the point that I was really clear and I was like ‘Wow’, like now it’s time to go to the next level that I can actually be in all the discomfort. So, I can quiet my mind enough to now open up to all the things that I’ve been hiding from if that makes sense.
RG: What you’re saying, I think, is what happens with meditation practice. Initially, our impulse is to control, you know, either get something, get away from something, you know, repackage what’s happening, your case it’s like repackage it as like, you know, I’m saving my family but we attempt to keep ourselves safe through different forms of control. And, I think what meditation does is as the practice deepens you start to encounter like “Wow, how much of my life am I missing?” through the effort of controlling the outcome, controlling the moment, controlling the outcome, controlling, controlling, controlling and then your practice starts to be that softening around the impulse to control, that letting go. You’re not letting go of your intention or your values. You’re not letting go of your awareness, you’re fully engaged in the moment but you’re doing so having renounced control, you know. One of the Buddhist 3 primary intentions was renunciation and it’s a little bit hard to, I had to practice my way into understanding what that meant. But, one way to think about renunciation is you’re renouncing control. Like, the way I’m going to be happy in a situation is I’m going to control the outcome and you’re renouncing that thought, you know, I can be happy in this moment through just being in this moment. I don’t need to exert this extra effort. And then, you open up all these doors of what would it be like to be here without the effort of control, you know. And so, that’s what, it’s really cool because now you’re stepping up to this experience. The word flirting doesn’t really capture it but flirting with this notion of like “Can I be in this moment without the effort of control? Can I be fully present for this without ‘what happens next’?” You know what I’m saying?
KC: Yeah, yeah.
RG: Like, Keith, it opens that door to real intimacy, you know, being truly intimate with what’s happening now without, you know, and the phrase that Jack Kornfield uses is ‘resting with an open heart and an open mind’. See, wiling to know what is true here now. And so, yeah, sounds like your meditation practice is come along nicely.
KC: It is, it is. It’s funny, one other thing that you had mentioned and it’s so funny how human beings work. You had mentioned the insight timer, which again we’ll plug a little link for that, but what an amazing tool that you hold yourself accountable to this little, like I had set in my mind prior to that I was going to meditate for 30 days straight and I would always fall off and then I did it with the insight timer and would get to like Day 8 or 9 and I knew if I went 1 or 2 more days I would get a little star, right? So, but it’s weird how that works like how we keep going for something like that.
RG: Yeah, I mean it’s been huge for me because there’s something tangible and as strange as it is, the little goal star they give you for those extra 2 days. So yeah, it’s an app. It’s 4.99. It’s called Insight Timer. I’ll do the plug for you. And, I recommend it to anyone who wants to up their game in terms of consistency because the little stars work. I also friend people or invite people to friend me. And so, I’ve got, I think there’s like 30 people, certainly, Keith, you should friend, send a, shoot, I didn’t know you were on Insight.
KC: I don’t know if we’re on the same one, are on the? The one I have is free or maybe it was free when I started.
RG: Well, there’s an Insight Connect feature on mine so that I can have friends. And then, what happens is every time you meditate all your friends know you’re meditating.
KC: Yeah. So, it’s even peer pressure.
RG: Yeah. You’re not meditating. All your friends know you’re not meditating. And so, that’s like a little extra, you know, but when you get stars and stuff, people shoot you letters like “Hey”, you know, and I make that recommendation to people on my retreats that, you know, I now integrate meditation in everything I do and I do it in a way that, you know, so if you go out in the yoga and surfing retreat I’m doing in Costa Rica in December, we’ll meditate 3 times a day for 7 days. It’s not a full on retreat but 3 sits a day actually gains a lot of momentum for people. Those sits are optional but 80% of people show up for them. And so, what I tell them to do is to get the app when they go home and then friend me. And, I can’t tell you how many people, I’ve got 30 people, it’s probably 75% of them are all yoga and surfing retreat graduates. And so, I’m seeing these people from all over the country and, you know, these people it’s like, you know, you can’t do yoga and surfing every, a couple of people do it every year but a lot of them are able to do with the 1 year and I haven’t seen them in a couple of years but we’re still friends on Insight Timer and I’m still watching their stars accumulate, you know, and it’s just a great, it’s a great feeling to watch someone else get the habit of meditation in their life.
KC: So, a lot of our listeners are, they’re the Type A type personalities and a lot of people have, they’ve really tried meditation or what they feel is trying meditation and they get frustrated because they’ll sit for 2 or 3 minutes or 5 minutes and they’ll actually feel worse when they first start so I was wondering what your thoughts are on 2 things. One of the things that I recommend is, so for example, there’s one woman we started with she would actually color. She would sit down and color because she couldn’t sit there and her mind wouldn’t quiet enough just focusing on any of the mantras. And then, when she started coloring it really, it was sort of her doorway in or, you know, yoga’s also another one. Do you think that some people need a doorway like that before they get into a Vipassana practice or is that still part of a Vipassana practice?
RG: Well, I’m going to say 2 things, one is what people are experiencing in that 5 to 10 minute range when they first sit down is the ‘why of meditation’. The reason we need to meditate and this is I think something that, it’s an understanding to grow into is that first of all we’re all basically the same. Like, there’s a lot of like emphasis in our culture on how different we all are. But, we all pretty much are playing the same hand, dealing with the same issues and certainly when it comes to the habit of the human mind to move it’s a shared experience. And so, what happens when people sit down is what happens to everyone who sits down is they realize that their mind never stops moving and it’s kind of exhausting. And, it’s they haven’t really tried to do. You know, it’s like trying to learn a different language, you know, at 40 because you’ve never tried your whole life and now you’re trying to do something and it’s pretty challenging. You need a lot of passion to kind of overcome a hurdle like that. But, that momentum that they’re experiencing and the discomfort they’re experiencing around it is what causes human suffering. And so, they are getting an unbelievably accurate fix on what is the problem when they’re sitting for that 5 or 10 minutes and they’re like “This is really stressful.” It’s like, yeah, it’s really stressful like this all the time actually.
RG: It’s just that instead of dealing with it you go to the refrigerator or you get on the phone or, you know, you go for a run but this thing is going on all the time. What’s happening to that 5 or 10 minutes, meditation doesn’t invent that. We’re contending with it constantly and I was talking to a woman recently about it. And so, I really encourage the listeners to hear what I’m saying in terms of that thing that happens to the new meditator between 5 and 10 minutes when it just seems harder and their mind is spinning, that’s why there’s meditation. It’s kind of like not drinking for addicts, you know, because there’s addiction. And so, what you do is you don’t do your addiction. That’s how you get well. And, meditation is for humanity because humanity is used to moving its mind but it doesn’t have a sense of its mind in stillness. And, I can say wholeheartedly, completely or equivocally that we need to cultivate a relationship to our mind in movement and relationship to our mind in stillness and to know both. And, to me the more full and the more positive relationship, the relationship that’s going to truly like create wisdom and positive solutions in your life is the relationship that you get to your mind and stillness. It’s like you haven’t really understood what your mind is until you’ve experienced it in stillness, you know. Your mind in movement, it’s a little bit like there’s the behavior and there’s the person and you think about any person’s behavior, how many snap shots of the person? There’s us at the frat part when we were 19, that’s not the person, that’s the behavior, right? But, you know, if there’s me in traffic, you know, being a jerk, that a behavior. It’s not the person. And, the mind moving is the behavior, it’s not the mind and we are confusing the behavior with what the nature of a specific pattern behavior. Like, you get someone with their family at thanksgiving, that’s not the person, that’s the condition set or behavior in response to a situation. And so, we really got a gap. We have a very, initially a very small sense of what the mind is. The mind is a partner in our life like our life partner and we want to have a relationship with our mind the way we have a relationship with our spouse, you know. It’s like this is a big deal. We got to be working with this thing for a long time, you know, and so we don’t want to like give up on our relationship to our mind and if we’re not really cultivating that relationship then we’re just going to be playing out the patterns that the mind subconsciously developed from our parents and our culture and our time. So, we’ll think we’re making choices but a lot of our choices are being made for us and we already know that.
RG: So, that’s the first thing. The second thing is ‘is there a simple behavior’ and I absolutely, I think that any kind of like a Tai Chi, Chi Gung, yoga Asana before you sit, “Is this going to help you?” But, when you do the movement, so whether it’s Tai Chi, Chi Gung or yoga Asana, yoga poses, what you’re doing is you’re consciously integrating the breath and the movement. So, as you inhale the arms go up and as you exhale the arms go down. And so, remember the first foundation of mindfulness is meditation on the body and meditation on the breath. And so, you just, as you inhale the arms go up, as you exhale the arms go down and you just stay in. So, what I do with my kids too is so we’re doing the arms up and down but when we’re in the pose, it’s like the pose isn’t too hard. It is not too soft. It’s just right. We do goldilocks in the pose. And so, you’re just spending the…
KC: I like that analogy.
RG: Yeah, not too hard, not to soft, just right. You know, not too hot, not too cold, just right in the pose, right? And, where is the mind there? The mind is right in the body and the breath when you find that goldilocks pose. If you do that for 10, 15 minutes then things will have settled enough that when you sit you’ll feel a momentum from the practice. And then, when, you know, that wears off, the mind will start moving again and then you’ll have a little bit of practice to do.
KC: So now, for the beginner, when they sit, what are they doing?
RG: The phrase that I use for people is moving from thinking to feeling. And so, you got to feel into the body and into the breath and kind of into the stillness around you then your mind is going to move. So, you make it a breath of like present moment awareness and your mind moves. And then, you just keep bringing it back. You just keep bringing it back. I wrote an arti-, I did a listing on Facebook yesterday about how if you’re surfing, you don’t get to sit on one spot because there’s wind and current. And so, you’re constantly readjusting your board to be in the right spot. Being in the right spot is a constant readjustment. And so, as a surfer, you just kind of go. You’re not like, “God damn it, why is the water moving me all over the place?” It’s just, you just move yourself back and move yourself back and move yourself back because that’s otherwise you don’t catch the wave.
KC: So, what are we, in meditation, what are we moving back to?
RG: So, you’re moving back into the body, you’re moving from thinking to feeling, from thinking to feeling. You feel into the body. You feel into the breath. You feel into the moment. And, by the way, you’re progressively letting go. The phrase is ‘to rest in the felt experience of the body and the breath’’, to rest in the felt experience. This is moving from thinking to feeling, to rest in the felt experience of the body and the breath. So, you rest there and what will happen, then you’re like “Oh, this is kind of nice. I’m doing it.” Then, a second later your mind will move away, just like my orb will float off, “”I’m here. No, I’m not. I can move back.” And then, you notice the minds move and you’re developing kind of patience, acceptance, you know, compassion for your busy mind and you bring yourself back to the body and the breath and you rest in the felt experience of the body and the breath, like “Hey, I’m doing it again.” Maybe I’m enlightened and then the next second your mind moves, you know, and this is what practice is and they’ll be these little openings where for 3 or 4 or 5 breaths everything gets still and quiet and beautiful . And then, there’ll be this other moment where for, you know, 10 minutes you’re thinking about something, you forgot all about meditation. But, you just have to be patient and the research is it’s through the roof that that practice I’m describing is creating, Harvard just did a study where you are immeasurably enhancing the studies of the mind are about paying attention and about emotional integration, so that’s mindfulness and compassion. And so, you’re doing that with the “My mind wanders and I bring it back, my mind wanders and I bring it back practice. It’s not like there’s some other practice that someone else is doing. You are participating in what everyone’s participating in which is you get to the present moment, you feel it, you enjoy it, “Oops, there she goes.” Your mind wanders. You bring it back. You feel it. You enjoy it. Oops, there she goes. And, you’d be willing to do it. You know, what happens is if you do it 15 minutes, you know. Then, eventually you can do it for 20. You know, I do it now for an hour a day. I sit for an hour in the morning and, you know, initially a half hour is difficult. And now, an hour is easy, comparatively speaking, you know. You’ll get better is what I’m saying. I’m still doing what you’re doing with 5-minute meditation which is “I’m here. It’s good. My mind wanders. I bring it back. But now, I can do it for an hour.” You know, you kind of strengthen that muscle.
KC: I want to jump over to the, you had mentioned the morning and that’s always one of my questions. What does your morning look like from the like second that you wake up and open your eyes, do you have a morning ritual?
RG: You know what, I really don’t. I just did a, I read an article where the person you interviewed recently, Greg Amundson has a morning thing. That sounds pretty cool, [inaudible – 53:05]. I wake up and then my kids are there, you know.
KC: Same with me.
RG: Fortunately, they’re just old enough that they can do yoga with me now. And so, pretty much, 3 to 5 days a week, we wake up and we do a half hour of yoga as a family. But, my practice doesn’t start until school starts for the most part. You know we’ll do the yoga, finish an hour of like having breakfast and getting their stuff ready to go to school. I drop the kids off from school. Once my kids are dropped off at school then I get my practice time.
RG: There’s this fantasy of getting up at 5 before the kids wake up and meditating and stuff. But, it’s so way easier for me to drop the kids off and then have my practice. Those folks that work from 9 to 5, I think if I was in that situation I’d just be going to bed at 9 o’clock. You know, I wouldn’t be [inaudible – 53:55] homeland. I wouldn’t be doing, you know, whatever, True Detective. I’d be going to bed at 9 and getting up at 4 or 5 because my practice is that important to me. But, since I don’t work during the day most part, it’s more practical for me to practice after my kids are in school.
KC: Yup. What about winding down at night?
RG: You know, I was thinking about it, I was inside the Hull on the South shore.
KC: Hull, Massachusetts, right?
RG: Yeah, and I was with my extended family. So, there’s, you know, probably 30 of us and everyone was really excited because they’re getting away from it all. And, I realized, I’ve gotten away from it all. Like, I don’t have to get away from it all. I already have. And so, my…
KC: Meaning like your life is away from it all?
RG: Yeah, my life in Santa Cruz is a pretty, it’s a day of practice, you know, I spend some time and exercise whether it’s, you know, like a CrossFit type thing I do with Greg or it’s a surfing thing or it’s a yoga thing and I spend some time with friends and spend some time with my kids and spend some time with my work and I think the long term effect of your practice is that your day is nourishing. So, I don’t have a lot of de-stressing, I have no de-stressing to do at the end of my day, truth be told. When I was in the cities, New York and Boston and running studios, what I think is superb is to go right from work to yoga practice. I think that was like one of the reasons why yoga’s so popular in the United States. You know, that’s what I did initially when I was working 9 to 5. I would just go to my AA meeting because there wasn’t yoga at that time, you know. And so, I go right from work to my AA meeting so that when I came home I’d also already had that de-stress and that processing. I think that definitely the best outcomes I’ve seen in American yoga is the people for the 9 to 5 set, is the people who either do yoga from like 7 to 8 in the morning before work, that’s like awesome or they do it right after. But, you’re potentially losing a lot of time in the transition if you like go home and get set and then you go to yoga class at like 7:30. I think that the best case scenario is you come out of yoga class at like , you know, 6:30, 7:00 at night and then you go home. You have your dinner and you’ve already had that grounding and centering from your class.
RG: That’s what I recommend.
KC: And so, I want to touch on 2 other really important pieces that you created in your life. The first one is the transition that you made consciously or unconsciously into creating passive income within your business which allows you to have that freedom that you talked about. So, I was wondering if you could just touch on that like what it’s meant for you and if it was a conscious creation in your business.
RG: Well, yeah, what happened to me, I think in 2003 I had a friend named Steven, who runs Café Breton in Costa Rica and he’s still my friend, you know, great family. And so, he runs a big coffee consign in Costa Rica and his wife runs a beautiful school and Steve took me to his coffee company. And so, it’s his factory in Costa Rica and I watched Steve truck in there with his backpack on and I’m like. “Oh, that went only in businesses.” You know, it’s like I thought, at that point I’d owned a studio for 5 years, I thought I’d owned a business. But like, my business basically didn’t happen without me working, you know, watched Steve kind of cruise around happily with his little backpack on while his company was doing the work for him and I’m like “Oh, so you can setup your business in a way that the business is doing the work. You’re not doing the work. Like, owning a business isn’t having to do all the work.” And so, I had that insight and I just basically aimed my life in that direction. I have to say that for me, it never became a true aim of mind to disassociate myself entirely from the process of my work because I love teaching and teaching is good for me. It’s good for me to spend time with people, to be of service, to be, you know, in the mix with people, to be actively engaged in other peoples’ lives it’s very healthy for me. And so, my business I think will never not have that component. But, from 2003 to now, I’ve had this idea more of equity. So, it’s not so much passive revenue as instead of getting like a hundred bucks an hour, getting a thousand bucks an hour so that I have to do less hours. There is significant, I think now I don’t know the exact figure, but say, 30% of our income is entirely passive at this point as a family, as a business. But then, a lot of that other 70% is me making 1, 2, $3,000, you know, an hour as opposed to $100 an hour so that my hour’s much more efficient when I am working. Like, if I go somewhere for the weekend when I’m working, so I can work 6 or 9 days a month and make more than I made working all month as a studio owner. Does that make sense?
KC: Yeah, it makes total sense. I kind of got you on the tail end of that too where I got to work with you one on one with calls for, I don’t know if it was a hundred or a hundred and something an hour. Yeah, it makes total sense and it sort of leads into the second question I had a long with that was, you’ve really created your life so you don’t do anything, I don’t want to say you don’t do anything that you don’t want to but you really don’t put yourself in situations that you don’t want to be in. And, you know, I’ve really noticed that and I remember you mentioning that to me and it’s something that I’ve really worked towards in my life.
RG: I also want to say that that efficiency in my time and now I’m on the road 6 to 9 days a month and what that efficiency in my time has done is been an act of kindness to myself and an act of kindness to my family, you know, and to my friends. But really, to myself and to my family and also to my dreams, you know, I mean my dreams aren’t just about work. And so, I’ve reached that level of efficiency in terms of how I use my time through just being honest about what I really want in life. I think we just have to be honest with ourselves and really look. I think the data point that I’ve been sober 25 years is great and it means I’ve got 25 years to look at like, and to be honest with myself about what is working for me and what’s not. I’ve spent big buckets of time in commitments that weren’t really honoring me or honoring my intention or like the rewards versus, you know, so I would do this work to help these people and that great but I wasn’t being respected or paid well for it and I’ve had to like, 25 years is a lot of time to examine how you’re rolling, you know. And so, this wasn’t overnight. I believe that intention organizes its own fulfillment. That’s a Deepak Chopra quote. And so, I…
KC: Say that one more time.
RG: Intention organizes its own fulfillment. As I direct my attention and my intention somewhere in my life, invariably I start living in that direction, you know. And so, I want to surf and so there’s plenty of time for me to surf in my life. I want to meditate, there’s plenty of time for me to meditate in my life. I want to be with my kids, there’s plenty of time for me to be with my kids. I want to be and work in a certain way and I have that kind of work in my life, the kind of work I want to have and that doesn’t make me special because to me this demonstrates the power of intention. But, we have to be honest with ourselves first about the results we’re getting in a choice that we’re making and really look and examine, you know, “How is my choice making working for me?” You know, “How are my attachments and how are my c-dependencies and how are my confusions and my grandiosities working for me?” You know, we have to be super honest with ourselves about the results we’re getting and for me that honesty has not been a virtue, it’s been consequences I get. If I’m not honest to myself, things hurt, you know. And so, like 25 years of like trial and error has gotten me a more efficient lifestyle.
KC: Yeah and it sort of comes back full circle to the meditation practice as well, revealing those things to you.
RG: Right, you sit with yourself and you watch how your habits of wanting and not wanting itself are driving you into kind of unskilled full choices and behaviors. I want to share with you guys the image that is driving my practice these days. It’s the image of the Buddhist sitting under his tree and he’s like on his path to awakening and he asks himself, “Why does my heart not leap at the idea of renunciation?” Which I think for our purposes we’ll say, “Why does not my heart not leap that the idea of letting go?” And then, he answers his own question and says “Because, I have not yet examined the question ‘What makes me happy? Does getting what I want make me happy? Or, does letting go make me happy?’” Now, life isn’t that binary. But, it’s been very helpful for me start looking at everything that I’m grasping at in my life. Everything I think I want or I don’t want and asking myself the question of “In this situation, what will make me happy? Will getting what I want make me happy or will letting go make me happy?” More to the point, will cultivating the ability to let go make me happier in the long run? The ability to let go, to stand still and tall and strong in my life but from a place of surrender, is that going to make me happier or is just getting what I want right now going to make me happy? And, living into that question, why does my heart not leap? You know, it’s because we haven’t really seen what letting go has to offer us. And so, I want to share that in terms of this is where my practice is and as I do that the kind of unskillful habits if grasping, I think are diminishing in my life.
KC: Wow, that’s sort of a, just thinking through that or probably not thinking through it too much but just, you know, taking that in it really is a moment to moment analyzing if that’s the right word of what we’re doing versus just being on autopilot and going through the motions.
RG: Correct. That would be mindfulness and compassion.
KC: I want to, before we finish up here, I want to jump over and we’ll put a link up to your website and any of the courses that we mentioned, we’ll put direct links to those. So, my introduction to you was I’d gone and taken 1 yoga class with you originally at Taylor and Philip’s original studio in Newton, Massachusetts. But, where I really got to know you, sort of a one-sided thing was through your book, Meditations on the Mat, and really got to, I was joking around, I was looking at the book and I was like “Do I really want to share with people how I originally used this?” But, I’m going to it. It’s got very short chapters so it makes a beautiful bathroom book. You know, you could sit down do a chapter or 2.
RG: Yeah, it’s perfect. You hop on in there you’ve got a moment of enlightenment.
KC: But, you have Meditations from the Mat. You have a new book coming out that I’m really excited about. And then, like I said earlier to the listeners, we’re on video. We have in our house my kids’ favorite book here, the Goodnight Yoga, which your wife wrote. So, I was wondering if you could just sort of give us a brief overview of each one because I know for our listeners, they all, you know, starting with a book is a great place for someone to just take the relationship, you know, we’re here listening and heard a little bit that we liked and to really take that relationship, take that learning a little bit deeper.
RG: Well, thanks Keith. Yeah, well, Meditations from the Mat is a book that I wrote for people who are starting out on your yoga mat and just kind of like a, I felt at the time I was watching Yoga Asana being adopted and the yoga pose is being adopted in the Unites States and I felt the need to be a guide for people in terms of, you know, how do I take this physical practice and integrate the metaphysical practices of yoga? And so, that’s what that book is for. And so, as you’re doing your first, you know, and some people have used it for years but really it was 4 people in the first several years of yoga as they’re starting to fall in love with it during that kind of, you know, honeymoon phase is like “How do I like, you know, take the physical practice and combine it with the metaphysical practice, with the teachings of yoga?” And so, that’s what the Meditations from the Mat book is. Now, I’ve written a book which is coming out December 8, you know, with Random House that is the same book but it’s for meditation. And so, if you look at the cover of the Meditations from the Mat book, we’ve got a mat and this book is called Meditations on Intention and Being. You’ve heard the word intention a lot in this call. And, there’s a picture of a cushion instead of a picture of a mat and it’s meant to offer people the same support as they kind of adopt meditation as a practice. The title for Meditations on Intention and Being is that that’s really the balance. Remember how we talked about the mind in movement and the mind in stillness, you know. And so, there’s a volitional aspect to life where you’re choosing, you’re envisioning, you’re setting intentions but there’s also that what Keith was talking about earlier in the call which is the ability to be still. And so, you’re balancing kind of the ability to choose and to act and to be, you know, yourself in the world with this receiving quality. It’s being in this [inaudible – 01:08:38], being in this moment. But, you’re also cultivating clear seeing who your choosing and a visionary kind of approach to life and so both and I feel as though the meditation cushion gives you a perfect place to develop that balance of intention and being and that’s what that book is for. And so, I think you’ll have as much fun with that as people have been with Meditations from the Mat.
KC: So, with that one, Rolf, is that available for preorder yet?
RG: It’s on preorder for Amazon, yes it is and we’re getting some good, you know some good traction there. So, that’s exciting. If you go and look at the cover, I think the cover is pretty eloquent. So, I think it’s going to suck you in. So, it’s like a puppy, you know, don’t go to look at puppies. No one goes and looks at puppies, right? It’s the same thing. If you go to that page, you see that cover, you’re to probably preorder it. So, the good thing is I think it’s like 12.95 or something on Prime. The pricing at Amazon’s really reasonable. The other thing, my wife has put together a book called Goodnight Yoga which is sequence of poses that kind of settled children before bedtime. I guess Keith is having fun with, Keith, you want to say a word about that?
KC: What my kids love about it, they love the pictures and they’ve actually, so I have 5 year old, a 3 year old and a 1 year old and it’s done 2 things. So, first of all when kids look at, like for me when I look at it I get to sort of look at it through kids’ eyes, reading the book with them and the graphics are beautiful in it. But, what’s happened is my kids, my 3 year old and 5 year old in particular, now the 1 year old follows. They’ve actually started doing the poses and it’s not like we didn’t read it with them saying, “Okay, now we’re on this page. We’re going to do this pose.” But, the way that your wife put it together really just subtly, you know, each time they got to the point and we actually haven’t, we haven’t looked at it in about a month, they were in a habit of doing a little bit more each time. And then, trying out and then kind of figured out that it was poses on their own. So yeah, we’ve really enjoyed it and along the same lines I’ve also setting this up with you and then when we were doing work together I’ve never met your wife, Miriam, like face to face but got to, you know, kind of work with her a bit and she’s just an amazingly sweet woman and always so nice and pleasant to work with.
RG: Yeah, that’s been my experience. So, that’s the Goodnight book. She also, I think, and on available on viewers is Good morning Yoga.
RG: So, she’s got a book. Yeah, so that’s her next book. It’ll come out in March next year. And so, there’s like a practice you can do with your children as they get ready for bed and you know bedtime is always a little challenging for people. And so, that was a, you know, kind of boring from the experience of being a parent, you know, we have a 9 year old and a 12 year old now and it’s still actually a little [inaudible – 01:11:51] but not as [inaudible – 01:11:53] but there’s a certain amount of, you know, “Go to bed now.” And so, there’s a ritual around going to bed and then we’re actually having a lot of success just doing a morning yoga practice with our children because they have to do a lot, you know it’s a long day for them and the yoga practice that we’re doing with them is a way for us to be a family, you know, first thing in the morning and to also to, what we’re liking about, you know, I’ll only speak for myself anyways. It really demonstrates my care and concern for my daughter in particular. She’s 12 and she’s in 7th grade. She’s starting in a new school and I’m getting up at 6 waking her up and saying, “Okay, honey, we’re going to do yoga to get you ready for your day.” It’s just as kids make that turning into the tween scene and stuff, there’s something about demonstrating our support for them that I think gets, it’s tricky, you know, you’re hanging into adolescence and all this and finding ways to demonstrate that you’re, that child is a part of your team. And so, the yoga practice and so Good Morning Yoga is supposed to, the idea is to help families kind of have that team moment first thing in the morning.
KC: Yeah, I think that, just you know, adding into that. One of the crucial pieces that I learned probably 10 years ago with our spiritual path and I follow a Native American spiritual path. They always talk about good beginnings and good endings. So, the most important part of every ceremony is good beginnings and good endings and I think that, you know, these 2 books are perfect. It really is that beginning of the day and the ending of the day and if you get those right, the day will pretty much take care of itself.
RG: Absolutely. I think the last thing I want to say is I will be on a book tour. And so, where I’ve been doing trainings for the last 7 years, those are usually like, you know, I’ll be somewhere for a year but it’s just for the people in the training. I’m now doing, I’m committed to I think 2016 and 17 going to 34 different locations around the country doing workshops that are open to the public. And so, if you want to see if I’m going to be in your area anytime in the next couple of years, just got to RolfGates.com and I have my national schedule posted and then updated, you know, so keep an eye on that. Also, get on our mailing list and we let people know regionally when we’re coming to an area and you can also just e-mail us at email@example.com if you have any questions.
KC: Awesome. Well, I appreciate it so much Rolf. I know you’re busy and really appreciate your time and as I was finishing up, wrapping up, I got my little notes here. There’s one woman who before we jumped on I posted up that I was going to be speaking with you and if anybody had any questions and Victoria, one of my good friends, she actually had a really good question. She was like, “I have a question I’ve always wanted to know with Rolf.” And, her question was simple, it was “When are you happiest? Like, what are you doing when you’re happiest?”
RG: There’re 2 answers to that question, there’s a professional and this is the personal. Last night, I was, so my daughter’s, the kids read now at bed as opposed to being read to. And so, then so we switch, one night I’ll be with my daughter, next night I’ll be with my son. So, last night I was with my daughter and she’s like reading Fahrenheit 451. You know, she’s like a middle schooler now. And so, she’s reading and what I do is I don’t do anything. I just lie next to her quietly. Reading together is nice but recently I’ve just been lying quietly and kind of just appreciating her and I think right now I’m happiest just feeling how much I love my children and just what a miracle it is to have my children in my life. I’m just, I didn’t tell my daughter this last night because I tell her this kind of thing all the time. But, last night I was like, I’ve never been so happy in my life as I am having my daughter in my life. Like, last I was like this is as happy, I know for a fact I’ve never been happier than I am in this moment. And so, for me right now my life it’s the joy I’m taking in my children, just of who they are and just having a relationship with them is my happiest without question. The other thing that is really beautiful is I have just been in the process of leading yoga classes and trainings long enough that now it just feels like I’m not leading a class, I’m part of an orchestra. I don’t feel as if I’m leading separate from the class anymore. I feel like I’m like a violin at an orchestra. We’re all in this together and we’re all playing together and I get to be a part of the orchestra. So, when I teach, I mean that’s one of the reasons why I don’t have a lot of stress in my life, I’m not carrying this like sense of responsibility. I’m just one of the violin, I’m a violin player of a large orchestra and I just love the we-ness, the togetherness about what we can accomplish together. And so, whenever I teach I have that. It feels like coming home to me. It feels like that first year in AA, you know, when I came back from the army, that’s how teaching yoga feels to me now. It’s like I just feel like I’m part of my, I’m with my tribe. I’m honoring and doing my thing. It’s just the good stuff, you know. So, it’s relationship with connection. The answer to her question is when I feel connected to other human beings is when I’m happiest.
KC: Awesome. Well, thank you so much Rolf and on a personal note and a personal level, thank you for everything that you’ve done for me and my life and appreciate you taking the time out today.
RG: Keith, great to see you again. I hope to see you in New Year’s, that’ll be so awesome.
KC: I hope you enjoyed that recording as much as I did. I order to get the show notes for this episode just got to over to KeithCallahan.com/episode17. You can also just go to KeithCallahan.com and then search around under the podcast, pretty self-explanatory. One of the other things that I wanted to just mention, one of the things that I do with this podcast is a passion of mine and I want to be able to continue to get it out to as many people as possible and help out as many people as possible. So, I do this for you guys. I love doing it and one of the things you can do to help me out is to rate and review the podcast. If you want to rate and review it, it is a really easy procedure. So, just go to your podcast app on your iPhone. If you have an android, I honestly don’t know how to do it on android so ask your android friends. But, within your podcast app, just click on the search button and then type in The Business of Life Podcast. And then, you’ll see a pop up, click on it and then when it pops up right in the middle there’s a button where you can click on review and then another one that says ‘write a review’. So, if you’re willing, I’d love it if you could just swing over there, help us out and what it does is it helps me to know how we’re doing with everything and it also helps with our ratings. So, it helps to push the podcast up there so more people can find it and more people can listen. Alright, guy, have a beautiful, beautiful day and we’ll talk to you on the next episode.
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