In today's stressed-out world, where it seems we're always out of time, there's one thing — meditation — that can calm it down, imbue you with optimism and seemingly give you more time.
That's the message of Rose Taylor Goldfield and her husband, Ari Goldfield, authors and meditation teachers from San Francisco who will teach a class called "Grounded Spaciousness: Integrating Buddhist Wisdom Into Daily Life," Friday through Sunday, Nov. 4-6, at Kagyu Sukha Choling Center in Ashland. It's open to persons of any faith and costs $100 for the weekend.
"People think they don't have time for what they want, including meditation, but the gifts meditation have to offer include a sense of having more time. The sense is that time expands and you feel more at ease in it," says Rose, a teacher of Buddhist philosophy, yogic exercise, dance and the Tibetan language.
The popular concept of meditation is that you close your eyes, try to make your thoughts go away and maybe chant a mantra from India, while incense burns — and you get peace, says Ari. But it's actually quite different — and easier.
"If you meditate like that, your peace will be unstable and will only last while you're doing the meditation," he notes. "What Buddha taught is that, if we want to solve our problems, we have to know our self, what we think and feel, and we come to that through experiential awareness. The more that grows, the more connected we feel with true peace and joy that is durable in life's tumult."
The ability to meditate is not esoteric or limited to people in some particular religious group, but is natural and is already inside us, says Rose.
"We can improve and focus that ability using methods that manifest those natural muscles of the mind," she says.
How do you do it?
It's like playing the piano, says Ari. "It can be done many different ways and on different levels. The first is to slow the mind and give it a stable object of attention, such as watching the breath go in and out, then we get deeper access to what we think and feel. It then can expand to much deeper inner and outer awareness."
The mind presents a busy flow of thoughts, and many people think the object of meditation is to somehow suppress or escape that flow, but Rose emphasizes the mind is "not bad or negative, and we don't want to ignore it ... and develop ignorance."
Before people start meditating, they often don't notice the "freeway" of the mind, she adds, but in meditation, you do notice it.
"You develop non-judgmental awareness of it," says Ari, noting that, with meditation, we get beyond "the problem of thinking this is good and that (mind) is bad. We develop equanimity and acceptance of mind, whether it's buzzing or at peace."
Western society places great emphasis on busy-ness, mental activity and achievement, valuing the head over the body, so that, Rose joked, "We think of our body as something that carries our head from meeting to meeting."
To remedy this and have "an integrated life," the couple teach people to meditate not just on what the mind is doing but also what the body is saying and its messages about emotions, sexuality, hunger, breathing and such.
As we develop our meditation, they say, we find our functioning improving in all areas — work, relationships, self-esteem.
We are taught to base our self-worth on achievements, and we all have a "taskmaster in our heads," so meditation, says Ari, promotes independent self-valuing by focusing on "the one whom that voice is yelling at."
In the area of loving relationships, the increased groundedness, self-knowledge and self-acceptance that follow from meditation allow expansion of "the natural ability we have for close personal relationships and compassion for everyone," says Rose.
"When I'm calm, relaxed and happy, it's natural support for being more open with others."
As we gain knowledge of our deepest self, says Ari, "its goodness does not depend on outer inputs, and things become easier. This core part of the self is really beautiful, and that's what gives relationships their strength."
In a world full of chaos and challenges, says Rose, "the most generous thing we can do is sit down and work with our selves and our own minds. It creates a good starting place to work with any difficulties in our community and world."
Does meditation lead to "enlightenment?"
Ari laughs at the question and replies, "Meditation is about being more human and having love for humanity and its insight, joy, neuroses and confusion. It's such a rich, beautiful life if you appreciate yourself and others. That's good enough."
Rose practiced in the Shambala lineage under Khenpo Rinpoche and became teacher to his nuns in Bhutan and Nepal. She has a master's degree from Naropa University in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies. Ari was Khenpo Rinpoche's translator and secretary. The couple recently established Wisdom Sun, a study and practice community. They are contributing authors of "Freeing the Body, Freeing the Mind: Writings on the Connections Between Yoga and Buddhism."
Class information can be seen at www.kscashland.org/SPECIAL_EVENTS/specialevents_intro.html.
The couple's site is www.wisdomsun.org.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com.