This interview with Rose Taylor Goldfield is the second of a 3 part series on “Training the Wisdom Body”.
(I interviewed Rose in her home, looking out a large window at the San Francisco cityscape on a sunny early-Springtime day. We talked about her Buddhist background, her teachers, this special type of Tibetan Buddhist exercise, the ideas grounding it and the “Wisdom Sun” community she co-directs with her husband Ari….)
The first interview shined light on Meditative Movement as taught by Rose Taylor-Goldfield in her brilliant book “Training the Wisdom Body: Buddhist Yogic Exercise.” (That’s Rose above in the cover photo. ) We looked at the practical side of the exercises and with the last 3 questions, got to know Rose a little better as a person.
In Part 2 below, we sink into the meaning behind the physical practices and the theory behind the “how to” instruction. The feelings and realities we uncover while practicing the forms and what it means to join with them authentically and in the moment.
The Interview, Part 2:
Tina: I want to try to avoid getting too academic here, because what we’re about to discuss really is the beauty of the practice…the meditative life that keeps the movement from being just empty form. So here goes….Can you help us laypeople out with understanding the link between “Buddhism” and “Yoga” in language and history?
Rose: In Tibetan, the word for Buddhist is nangpa sangjehpa. Nangpa means “insider” in the sense of one who turns inward to examine her own mind as a practice. You can see how the term Buddhist from this definition could be applied to many things. In this context, “yoga” isn’t referring to a separate tradition. It’s actually a translation of the Tibetan word naljor, which is used to translate the Sanskrit word yoga. It means to “join with reality,” seeing what’s actually there, being in accord with reality instead of covering it over with our own ideas and beliefs.
Tina: So then, in a nutshell, what differentiates “Buddhist Yoga from “Non-Buddhist Yoga?”
Rose: There are certainly particular qualities that make a practice Buddhist. Traditionally, we’re taught three characteristics. The first is renunciation: to give up looking for happiness externally and to turn inward to find peace. The second is compassion: having a warm, caring feeling towards all beings. Third is the view of reality, understanding what is real.
Now you can say, “Well, there’s a lot of practices that have these three things that don’t call themselves Buddhist,” and that’s totally fine. But if a practice calls itself ”Buddhist,” it should probably have these 3 qualities.
This view is actually very liberating in some ways. If we wash our dishes with these attitudes of renunciation, compassion and an understanding of reality, then that’s Buddhist practice. On the other hand, if we do the most advanced deity practice without these 3 aspects, then perhaps that’s not really practicing Buddhism.
Tina: In the book, you write about the idea of “joining with Naturalness” during practice….What is “Naturalness” from a Tibetan standpoint?
Rose: This is a huge topic but a big part is that we often behave in a way that isn’t in accord with the reality of ourselves or the world. This kind of misunderstanding creates a friction between reality and our behavior. They rub up against one another, and that friction is uncomfortable. So naturalness is the way things ARE. Our relationship with reality is usually in flux. Sometimes we’re more mistaken than others: particular situations or people can be difficult for us and this calls our attention. “Hmm, maybe this is a place to get interested and examine what is going on.”
Often, we limit ourselves and our world, we put these definitions on ourselves and believe “this is who I am.” I’m good at this, I’m not good at that. I’m this kind of person, this is my job, I have this kind of relationship with this person. All these stories I tell about myself: stories that might have been true in an instance or a few instances but can I really say they define the ineffable experiential being that I am?
We do this instead of feeling into the reality or the naturalness of any given point in time to say, “who am I right now?” We collect all these ideas about ourselves and drag them from one moment to the next and it gets very heavy. The naturalness quality is that we are continually changing and we have much more potential and resources than we think.
And then there’s how we understand our connection to others and the environment. In a very basic sense the naturalness here is that we are not separate in the way we often think of ourselves. We’re intimately connected beyond any sense of duality.
Tina: “Beyond any sense of duality”…hmmm…as if the body isn’t really separate or in opposition to mind, though we can experience it that way, which is an experience of ourselves as a duality….and what we know of as body and mind are very much together in the “subtle body.” Yet, we separate each one out to make sense of them as parts of a non-dual whole being. How do you see the differences between body, mind, subtle body?
Rose: The experiential quality is what is most important here. Not so much how we define them, but how we experience these 3 different aspects.
There’s a way of experiencing one’s body that is just sort of prosaic. I know I’m here in this chair, and can feel it, and I can be seen sitting in it. I have a sense of the measurements of my body, the colors of my eyes and hair and so forth: it’s quite definite. That’s the physical body.
Then there is mind, consciousness. We can’t see it, but we know it’s there through our experience of it. We can’t measure it because it has no color or form.
Then there’s the experience of the subtle body, which is a feeling that isn’t constrained to the actual size of the gross physical body. For example, sometimes the subtle body feels much bigger, than the physical body’s actual size and weight. It can feel heavier or lighter, with valleys and bright mountaintops. In daily life we’re often required to attune more to the coarser experience of the physical body and mind. Buddhist Yoga really encourages us to pause in as many situations as possible throughout the day, and ask, “what does the subtle body have to say about this situation?” There’s a lot of important information in the experience of the subtle, feeling body—the wisdom body.
Tina: That’s it for Part 2. Thanks again, Rose.
Rose: You’re welcome. I hope this portion helps people enjoy the practices on a deeper level and maybe even find some insight in the experience that can be applied to everyday life.
This concludes Part 2 of this 3 part series. We hope you’ll return in a week or so for Part 3. Scroll down to fill a form to be notified when Part 3 goes live.
View this practice video of Rose demonstrating The Tibetan Mind-Body Reboot.
Rose Taylor Goldfield
Rose Taylor Goldfield is a second-generation Buddhist teacher in the Karma Kagyü lineage, with the blessing of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa and her teacher Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. She teaches Buddhist meditation, philosophy, yogic exercise and dance, and classical Tibetan language.
About Wisdom Sun
Rose and her husband, Ari Goldfield, run the Wisdom Sun Buddhist community based in San Francisco. They emphasize bringing Buddhist meditation teachings home: Home to our own culture and locale; home to our daily life; home to our mind, body, and heart. By doing so, we learn to live fully and fearlessly, with joy, humor, and love. We begin to genuinely connect with who we are as individuals, and strengthen and enrich our relationships with others.
We develop a clarity and depth of awareness—wisdom—imbued with warmth—like the light of the sun.
Buy Rose’s book Training the Wisdom Body
Thanks so much to Rose for this interview. Stay tuned for Part 3…
Part 3 is the heart of the interview. Like warming ourselves by a fire listening to Rose tell stories about her teachers, travels, growing up Buddhist and being with her mother who is her spiritual friend at the moment she met her “heart teacher” and “heart companion.”
Part 3 will appear in about a week. If you want us to let know when it’s posted, fill your email below and you’ll receive a reminder to your inbox.