This interview is the first of a 3 part series.
This first part shines 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. The “Dancing Warrior” stance she’s demonstrating is explored in greater detail below.
This book will help enlighten even the earliest explorations of physical yoga and meditation. It’s also great for teachers, or anyone who takes on the challenge of talking about the practical and psychological as one. The integration of breath, movement and mind is so natural and clear in Rose’s explanation.
I interviewed Rose in her home, looking out upon 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.
In Part 1 below we look at the practical side of the exercises and get to know Rose a little better as a person.
Tina: So tell us about the Tibetan Yoga exercises in your book, beginning with the traditional name and what it means.
Rose: The name we use is lujong. Lu means body and jong means training, so it’s just like the English word “exercise.” From the Tibetan side it can mean all sorts of physical movement. I learned this particular form of lujong from my teacher, the Tibetan master, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. He is a teacher within the Karma Kaygu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and within that lineage there’s an advanced yogic practice called the 6 Yogas of Naropa that includes a physical movement practice. Khenpo Rinpoche went through all these trainings and is also skilled in traditional Tibet yogic exercises.
When asked “where do these practices came from?” Khenpo Rinpoche said, “the Dharmadhatu,” which is the base that everything comes from and everything dissolves back into, the true reality that underpins everything.
Tina: And you call your particular way with these Lujong practices “Wisdom Body Lujong?”
Rose: Yes. With Wisdom Body Lujong the emphasis is on feeling what your experience is, what it feels like as you perform the exercise. And “exercise” feels like the wrong word, as well. It’s really a full practice: a practice with a body. So the movement is important but it’s not about trying to mirror or mimic a movement you’ve seen someone else do, but rather finding the essence of this particular practice. What feeling or experience is it trying to evoke in the practitioner? What is it helping us connect with? How do I personally do that? What’s my manifestation of this exercise?
Wisdom Body Lujong meets the practitioner: there’s a melding into rather than trying to enforce something on one’s body and contort my body to fit a form that I’m seeing on someone else.
Tina: The movement and other kinds of action in these practices really stirs the imagination and sense of delight. One example is “The Dancing Warrior Laughing at Appearances.” My first attempt at this one involved breaking up into full laughter after a few rounds. Can you tell us what this practice is and what it means?
Rose: (laughs)….Trungpa Rinpoche has this great term, “The Cosmic Joke….” The idea here is that we make our lives very heavy by our mental constraints that we drag around with us. This exercise is helping us drop that burden, lighten up and connect with the incredible strength that comes from that. There’s an invitation to just play with this phenomenal world and to play IN it.
To practice the exercise, you stand in a very earthy grounded way, and use the sounds of laughter—ha ha hee hee—as a kind of mantra. Your legs are spread widely a little less than a leg’s length, feeling the rooting down from the navel area. The feet and toes are spreading wide and down into the earth. Both knees are bent so there’s a sense of connecting with the ground and letting the earth meet and hold you.
It’s interesting….this exercise has 2 qualities: the warrior and laughter….and how they work together. Can you be strong enough to be cheerful and laugh? Having a sense of humor gives us strength and conversely it takes strength to have a sense of humor. We often practice this outdoors in the open air on retreat, for example, in a group. To have everybody together in a beautiful place, echoing ha ha hee hee…there’s a lot of strength in that. And humor!
Tina: Another practice in the book is “Threatening Mudra” which involves only the hands. Tell us more about this, beginning with a brief definition of the word “mudra.”
Rose: The hands are making a certain gesture that seals in a particular energy or meaning, physically.
In the “threatening mudra” we hold the middle finger and ring finger curled in under the thumb and the index finger and baby finger are straightening. (See photo)
In Buddhist yoga, each finger has a different meaning: the qualities of the 5 elements—earth, water, fire, wind, and space—are held in the 5 fingers. The middle finger is associated with purification and the ring finger with power.
So when you use this mudra it has the sense of doing something with purity and power, with potency. There’s a lot of clarity in our action. It’s undiluted by confusion. If we just sit here and hold the mudra, we can feel that it is strong and definite.
Tina: Now for 3 questions I ask everyone I interview. They’re meant to help us get to know the person being interviewed, beyond their work identity and outside the interview framework.
What never fails to make you smile?
Rose: I don’t like to admit this but I am a sucker for some of these silly videos- babies and kittens. Every now and then, there’ll be a good one. And now having a 4-month-old creates a lot of opportunities for smiles because he changes so quickly. Like when he starts laughing. Something will crack him up and you never know what it’s going to be over. It’s often over the oddest things. And he hasn’t mastered a proper laugh yet, so his laugh turns into anything, it might be a cough or crying, and then he’ll switch back. He’s just trying it all on for size. It’s really delightful…so at the moment, this is what comes to mind, though of course lots of things make me smile.
Tina: What breaks your heart?
Rose: Again, in a similar area….the idea of his natural separation from me as he grows….. Oli Bob (Oliver Robert) was born here at home and the first time we were in separate rooms…that was a bit of a heartbreaker for me because we had been so close, then, after his birth, he was outside me, and then the first time we were in separate rooms I realized that this was going to be a steady progression of separation. Someday he’d be in a separate building and then go to college….
So that’s an interesting one. The sense of separation and loss, even as a potential. You can see this so well with a baby, but it’s true for everyone we know, each moment is unique and it will never come again. It’s so poignant and precious, and makes me feel how important it is to really connect with one another.
Tina: If you could speak to everyone in the world at once, and everyone, despite all barriers such as language and geography, would not only understand you, but be influenced by your words, what would you say?
Rose: This is a possibility as a Buddhist aspiration practice. Our interconnection…a great practice to just pause and think that thought and send it to people.
I love this question. It’s a humbling question.
I would like to offer something that would be helpful, yet it’s an odd standpoint to come at people with, “I have something that will help YOU.” I believe in peoples’ innate wisdom and kindness, and also that we all need each other. So I would like to encourage for myself and for others, the sense that “I’m complete, I have my own answers and I can reach out to others and they may help me unearth them.”
Since birthing our baby, I realized that historically, I hadn’t reached out as much as I could’ve. But in this process my husband and I have become very close with other new families and I’ve learned in this process that it’s such a wonderful thing to do, to be in exchange with others, to be supporting and supported in community. So in a pith expression I’d say to the world, “We’re basically good and let’s connect.”
Tina: That’s it for Part 1. Thanks, Rose.
This concludes Part 1 of this 3 part series. We hope you’ll return in a week for Part 2. Scroll down to fill a form to be notified when Part 2 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. In Part 2, we’ll go deeper. Focusing on the meditative side of these practices that illuminates the movement and grounds the mind in the body.
Part 2 will appear in about a week. If you want us to let know when its posted, fill your email below and you’ll receive a reminder to your inbox.