Rolf Gates, the author of the acclaimed book on yogic philosophy Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, is one of the leading voices of contemporary yoga in the West. Rolf conducts vinyasa intensives and 200- and 500-hour teacher trainings throughout the United States and abroad. A former U.S. Airborne Ranger and a social worker trained in the field of addiction, Rolf has practiced meditation for the last 20 years. He is the cofounder of the Yoga + Recovery Conference at the Esalen Institute, has brought his course Yoga and Functional Stretching to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Tri-County Summit on Sustainability, and is currently working with the U.S. military on sustainable care for troops and their families.
1440: Can you share with us a few simple steps to starting a daily or regular meditation practice?
- A couple of guided meditation programs would certainly help. You can hear the techniques over and over again and they provide a structure so that all you have to do is sit down and hit play. I made a program like this with Sounds True which came out this month. Jack Kornfield and Adyashanti both have great programs with Sounds True as well.
- Find a time of day that works, then do what you can to put some days together in a row.
The more often you meditate, the easier it gets.
- Go to meditation workshops. This gives you experience, training, and momentum.
1440: What are some of the challenges that led you to yoga and meditation? Do you think other people encounter similar challenges?
Rolf Gates: I got sober in a twelve-step program which taught me that we can take proactive steps to improve your quality of life. This made me both open to a practice like yoga or meditation and aware of the need for them. Mostly, they were a way for me to handle the stresses of living outside of my comfort zone and a way to reflect and respond rather than to react.
1440: How can someone use their practice throughout the day to move through life’s obstacles and stresses?
The entire point of these practices is to prepare us to move through life’s challenges.
They allow us to create an inner climate of calm clarity which allows us to respond to situations in a way that is congruent with our values and priorities.
1440: U.S. Airborne Ranger to yoga and meditation teacher is an unusual path that must offer some unique viewpoints. Can you talk about your view from that vantage point? Also, do you see a trend of military members, law enforcement officers, athletes, and folks from other professions utilizing yoga and meditation?
The military taught me how to learn, how to be a part of a team, and awakened in me a desire to be of service. These experiences have been invaluable throughout my adult life and, in particular, have served me as a student and teacher of yoga.
I believe there is enormous potential whenever traditional paths of service are supported by the practices and teachings of yoga. This is certainly true in the communities you mentioned. Due to the efforts of many people, we are beginning to see this potential realized.
1440: You’ve written very eloquently about the death of your sister, saying: “In that moment, I began living sober. Living sober has meant remaining steadfast in the belief that our lives have a purpose, a destiny.” What is your purpose, your destiny?
I believe I have the same purpose any human being has: to grow in wisdom and compassion while bringing these qualities of being into each step I take.
My destiny is being formed by those steps.