This interview with Rose Taylor Goldfield is the last of a 3 part series.
(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 focused on the body. We 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, we tapped into the energy in Buddhist Yoga as practiced by Rose. The meditative experience of the physical practices and the theory behind the “how to” instruction. What feelings and realities do we uncover while practicing the forms and how do we join with them authentically and in the moment?
In Part 3, below we enjoy the heart of practice as Rose tells us stories from her life, work and study with her teacher Khenpo Rinpoche and her husband Ari Goldfield.
The Interview, Part 3:
TINA: You say in the book that you were with your mother at the time you met your “Heart Teacher” as well as your “Heart Companion”….Can you tell us more about this?
ROSE: Yes. My mother is also a Buddhist practitioner and people ask me, “Who was Buddhist first, your mom or you?” She started meditating and studying Buddhism before I was born. We’ve been to many Buddhist programs and retreats together over the years and once we even lived in a tent together for 3 months on retreat in the Rocky Mountains.
In 2002, I was studying at Naropa University in Colorado and during the summer break I went to stay at my mother’s in Cornwall, England. The Shambhala center in London was hosting Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche and I was asked to be “head of the household,” to help host him.
I asked my mother, “Why don’t you come, too?” So, we both went and helped host Khenpo Rinpoche and Ari Goldfield (his translator and secretary who traveled everywhere with him) in this big beautiful house with a garden in London. It turned out to be a very special weekend for both of us. She’s my mother but also my spiritual friend and we’ve shared a lot together in the Buddhadharma. We’ve experienced a lot of depth and profundity in our relationship.
TINA: That’s so lovely. And, so then you met your “Heart Companion,” your husband Ari……
ROSE: Yes. Ari was Khenpo Rinpoche’s translator and secretary for about 13 years. They went around the world 8 times. Khenpo Rinpoche would teach in Tibetan and Ari would translate. So, I’m there with my mother, and in walks this “dynamic duo,” the older Tibetan Master and this young, fresh-faced American guy. And I’d heard of them previously through many Dharma friends.
TINA: And Ari, did he also grow up Buddhist?
ROSE: No, he went to Harvard and then Harvard Law School, and he met a Taiwanese student there who introduced him to meditation. So, Ari was initially on a very different track, but he had a longing for a spiritual life. While at Harvard, he went to Taiwan and studied with his friend’s teacher who told him, “You should go to Nepal and you’ll find your teacher there.” He was working for a firm in Silicon Valley at the time.
TINA: What kind of work was he doing?
ROSE: He worked in law…for six months, he calls it his “short and unillustrious career.” He did go to Nepal and met Khenpo Rinpoche there. He studied Sanskrit and Tibetan and became Khenpo Rinpoche’s translator.
TINA: And then you lived with, studied with and worked for your teacher Khenpo Rinpoche?
ROSE: Yes, I was very fortunate. When I met KR I had already been studying Tibetan and had done a lot of Buddhist study and practice, so our relationship went onto a fast track. He sent me on different individual retreats, and had me translate Tibetan texts and work with some of his other translators who helped train me. Then he sent me to his nunneries in Bhutan and Nepal to teach his nuns. In 2007, he was unwell and stopped traveling and moved to Seattle. I flew with him to Seattle from Asia and lived with him and Ari, and his Tibetan attendant Tsepak Dorje. We looked after him and were with him on a daily basis in semi-retreat, it was a very intimate situation.
ROSE: I’d studied a lot with a few other teachers but I really wanted to have a personal relationship with my teacher, where he or she knew me and would guide me in my life. Khenpo Rinpoche and I had that kind of connection. And also there was a bit of “be careful what you wish for” because it was an intense relationship: he was involved in every area of my life, inquiring and suggesting things. It wasn’t easy but I really appreciated that.
At the first talk I attended by KR, he entered the room, and everyone stood up, which is regular practice in the Tibetan tradition. He stepped up onto the teaching throne, which was about 4 feet high, but he didn’t sit down, he just continued to stand and gave the talk standing. It created a very strange atmosphere in the room over the 2 hours of the talk. People were having quite strong reactions. “What’s he doing?” “What’s happening?” Some people were getting prickly, because they wanted to sit down.
And Khenpo Rinpoche was aware of this. At one point he said, “If you’re tired, then you stand on one leg” and lifted his leg balancing on one leg. You could see the attendants on either side of him getting nervous in case he fell. And then he said, “And when this leg gets tired, then you balance on the other leg” and he hopped to the other leg! He was having fun with us, but also really pushing us. It was an interesting experience that caught my imagination. I thought, “There’s something going on here….” I was definitely intrigued.
TINA: And you say about living with him….that “his world was a crazy, joyful, unsettling, dreamlike world….”
ROSE: (laughing) Yep. So, you’ve already begun to feel a little bit of what I mean from the previous story. It was definitely a situation in which you expect the unexpected. It’s also like having a child: just when you think you understand them and you know their patterns, they change it up. He’s unconventional—free of the sort of limitations many of us put on ourselves.
For example, he came to visit us in Cornwall and we went on a beautiful cliff walk. Khenpo Rinpoche composed this spontaneous song about the beauty of the place that he made as an offering to the Buddhas. Ari translated it and KR asked me to put it to a melody and sing it and dance all the way back to the car park. There were a lot of tourists eating their ice creams on a hot summers day and the path wasn’t very wide so we were quite close together. I began singing and dancing my way through them.
There I was, merrily going along my way and then I turned around and realized Ari and Rinpoche had paused along the path much further back and were standing there talking….and I realized I was alone in this crowd, which felt very different. Then I wondered, “Okay…..what do I do now? Keep going or stop and wait for them?”
And this was his way of testing your understanding of reality, and what limitations you put on yourself. You know, we want to play small and not stand out and risk being ridiculous. In one way it is a very ordinary situation that he makes extraordinary by asking something unusual of you. Then you just watch where your mind goes with that and if you have difficulty, what is the cause of that? ……..And there was no sense of these situations being contrived, as if he had this intention, “You must do this to learn.” It is just who he is. This is what I meant by the description of him as “unsettling.” For him, it was just like “this is what we do.” In our lineage there’s lots of singing and dancing.
TINA: So, just to round off this series of interviews and bring it into the present with another story…Is there a story about how you and Ari came to establish Wisdom Sun, teach here in San Francisco and live in the house where you teach….. ?
ROSE: In 2009, Khenpo Rinpoche returned to Nepal to live in his nunnery there. Ari and I accompanied him back and stayed there a while. We could continue the work Rinpoche trained us in pretty much anywhere. And after many years traveling, we were both returning home to a familiar culture, and to be based in one place rather than continually traveling. We picked San Francisco for several reasons. Ari was born here and has family here, and we have some very good friends in the Bay Area—and the weather is great. We established Wisdom Sun in 2011 and it really reflects a homecoming on many different levels.
Wisdom Sun is really about bringing Buddhist meditation teachings home to our own culture; to our daily life; home to our own mind, body, and heart. We have a lovely intimate community here, where we get to work with people in an ongoing way, just as our teacher worked with us.
Our gatherings are described as Dharma LABs: there’s an experimental quality to our work. The community is on this journey of exploration together for each of us to discover what works for us as individuals and as community members in terms of our personal growth and transformation.
LAB also stands for love, awareness, and body. We feel these are the key ingredients to all the work we do. Love is a heart of acceptance and warmth—towards ourselves as well as others. Awareness has the qualities of clarity, precision, and spaciousness, so that we can know ourselves better and better, and do not feel overwhelmed by our experiences. And the body is important in grounding or manifesting all our experience. It’s where things get real. We always want to come back to the felt experience of the body, and there’s so much wisdom there.
We conduct these LABs using various meditation methods, philosophical trainings and understandings, and movement meditation practices. We also work with many of our students in individual sessions. Ari and I find that a highly rewarding part of our work, as we witness people gaining insight and growing. That’s a real honor.
This concludes this 3 part series of interviews with Rose. I’m so grateful to her for sharing her life and work with me and with the new audience growing around the MFNM blog. I hope you have enjoyed reading these interviews as well. Let us know. Share your ideas and questions in the comments section below this post.
Read Part 1 of this interview, to learn more about Tibetan Buddhist Yoga and how it’s practiced.
Read Part 2 of this interview, to learn more about the meditative side of Tibetan Buddhist Yoga.
View a 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