A note from Carl:
Several years ago, when Erin and I were visiting Boulder, CO, we dropped in for a sit in the beautiful shrine room on the top floor of the Shambhala Center. At that time, the shrine room was left open all day so people could come in and meditate. The room was vast with high ceilings and open space covering the entire top floor. It was filled with inspiring shrines, thangkhas and statues, and it hummed with the sacredness of all the practice and transmission that had occurred in that space over the last decades.
On this particular day, there was a different quality of humming in the room, and it was coming from a man who was meditating in front of us. He was in his 30’s, very athletic, and he held his posture of mediation with heroic effort. It was just the three of us sitting in the room. Erin and I have both cultivated some somatic empathy, so we can sense what it might feel like in another’s body – and it literally hurt to sit near him. The strain in how he pulled his shoulders back, the intense rigidity of the mudra he held, the force and confinement of his breathing, the tension in his spine….He was the hardest working meditator we had ever seen.
I think of Hafiz:Just sit there right now
Don’t do a thing
For your separation from God,
Is the hardest work
That gentleman has been a great teacher for me over the years, as I recognize this pattern in myself and those around me.
How often does my effort and striving keep me hovering a step away from my life? The efforts to be a good meditator, a good father, a good to-do list completer, a good human….The hardest work in the world.
I appreciate the understanding that comes from Feldenkrais work – how clear it is that our will often masks our lack of competence, our lack of confidence. Or as the wonderful line from yoga teacher, Donna Fahri, illustrates, “Force and frustration begins where skilfullness ends.”
Of course, our life is challenging, and always requires work and effort. Yet the ability to pause and ask myself, “Is there any way I could do this with less effort and more pleasure and satisfaction?” is one of the most valuable teachings I’ve come across in life.
The simple ways are hardest to see
because they are so close. Like seeing
your palms while digging in the earth.
Or seeing your eyes while looking
at the moon. Or seeing the
truth when utterly afraid.
We think what we need is
so far away. Yet its as close
as ocean to a fish.
It’s all so simple. And so hard.
As listening without hope of reward,
the way mountains listen to the sun.
Or holding nothing back, the way rivers can’t stop
flowing to the sea.
Simple as snow on the tongue
of a child. Yes, God appears
Along with being a great teacher on right effort, that hard working meditator in Boulder was a powerful early influence that gave rise to “The Art of Sitting,” the series of lessons Erin and I have developed to bring more ease, alignment, and embodied presence into the sitting posture of meditation. After several years of teaching in live classes to meditators on retreat, we are delighted to serve up this home study program that opens today for registration! Class begins May 15. We hope you’ll read more about it below!
Carl and Erin
Friends, we have been dreaming about sharing this course with you for years!
We are so excited that today we can finally share it with you.
We hope you’ll read about it and consider joining us for this one-of-a-kind class which we’ve put our whole hearts into.
We’ve been teaching these lessons live to meditators for years, and are thrilled we can now bring them to you in the comfort of your own home.
The Art of Sitting
A Six Week Home Study Experience
With Carl Rabke and Erin Geesaman Rabke
Starts May 15, 2017
Are you a meditator who would love to sit with more comfort and natural alignment and less struggle and strain?
Are you someone who’s drawn to begin practicing meditation?
Are you someone who wants to deepen an existing meditation practice?
Are you someone who would love to experience your body as an ally to your mindfulness practice rather than an obstacle?
Have we got something good for you!
For many of us who take up the practice of meditation, the physical aspect of the sitting posture can be one of the most challenging elements of the practice. The sore knees, the aching shoulders, the feet falling asleep, the aching back– most often these are just taken as a “given” of sitting practice. For those of us who stick with a practice over a longer period of time, we often just get used to those pains and learn to find as much peace as we can with our discomfort. We are rarely taught that our sitting can become more and more comfortable, easy, natural, aligned, and free.
Whatever the tradition, when people take up a sitting practice, there is often some basic instruction on posture. These instructions vary in details, but essentially we are invited to sit upright with the spine relaxed and long and the breath free, but what is often missing is the how. How do I have a long, relaxed spine without holding myself upright? How do I allow my breath to move when I have so much tension in my back and hips and neck? How do I prevent my head from coming forward or my shoulders from becoming rigid?
When we sit, whether meditating or just sitting at the desk, many of us try to accomplish the posture though our will. We force ourselves to uprightness and we maintain stillness through a heroic endurance of discomfort and pain. When that gets tiring (as it inevitably will) we might collapse into a slouch. When that gets uncomfortable (as it inevitably will) we push ourselves back to forced uprightness. When we are willing ourselves into stillness and uprightness it is very challenging to relax into the posture, rest our minds, ease our breath, and settle naturally into our practice.
Often, when we teach this somatic work at mediation retreats, long-time meditators will come up to us, surprised and delighted by how much their sitting has changed and ask,
“Why didn’t I hear this 30 years ago when I started sitting?!“
The Feldenkrais and Embodied Life based movement lessons we work with in the Art of Sitting help to re-awaken the capacity that we had to sit with uncontrived ease as children. Young children are never trying hard to be aligned or upright. They have not disconnected from their embodied intelligence, and so they naturally, spontaneously organize themselves with the support of their bones, free to move, free to breathe. We still have this capacity as adults, but it takes some intentional somatic remembering.
We won’t pretend that after doing these lessons you’ll never have aches and pains on the cushion again. As any long-time meditator knows, your body, your state, and your experience are always changing. However, we do know without a doubt that these lessons can make sitting much easier. We know that these lessons can help you develop a new relationship with your body as an ally to your practice, rather than an obstacle. This kind of learning can give you a well-stocked toolbox of somatic resources which you can turn to anytime you want to refresh your uncontrived, upright posture.
Many meditative traditions refer to your “natural mind” or the “natural state.”
What if the posture of mediation could feel have the feeling ? You sitting in your most natural, uncontrived body? We share the view of other teachers of embodied mediation like Russell Delman, Tara Brach, Reggie Ray, Will Johnson, and Suzuki Roshi, that the posture is not something that just supports the the practice of meditation, but the posture is none other than the practice itself. When we are fully inhabiting the posture, we are fully inhabiting our mediation and the expanse of being.The lessons we share in this series help to bring alignment and ease to sitting, but they also support a larger shift, both on and off the cushion; that of learning to more fully inhabit our bodies.
We find ourselves living in a culture that is extraordinarily disembodied. We tend to be very in our heads and for the most part, pretty disconnected from much of what is happening below our neck – unless, of course, it hurts. We are often “lost in thought.” When we shift our relationship with our bodies and our movement, we change our relationship to thought and to life itself. We arrive here, in this body, in this moment, on this spot, available to life. The power of this shift cannot be overestimated. We return to our embodied wholeness.
What is it?
A 6-week course to introduce you to the art of sitting with more ease, natural alignment, and embodied presence.
It’s a powerful collection of Feldenkrais-based movement lessons, inspiring talks, “quickies” – short guided practices you can use to refresh your learning anytime, plus writings and inspiring poems to support deepening your learning through many channels. We’ll host two live calls where you can ask questions and share your experiences. It’s all housed on a user-friendly online class platform where you can watch, read, listen, and interact with other participants, all in your own time.
In a word? It’s sublime.When
Class begins Monday, May 15th and runs for 6 weeks.
The great thing is that all lessons are recorded and posted to our online classroom where you’ll have access for years. So if you travel or miss a week, or want to repeat a lesson, no worries, you can come back to them anytime you like. We’ll post lessons throughout the week and you can work with them at your own pace and in your own timing. You can also download audio lessons to one of your devices and listen to them whenever and wherever you like.
You can participate in the class from the comfort of your own home, or anywhere you have a good internet connection that will allow you to stream video and audio.You’ll also need a comfortable spot on the ground (a carpet, a blanket, or a non-sticky mat will be useful) and on occasion we’ll be doing lessons in a chair. If you practice sitting meditation on a cushion or a bench, it’d be great to have that nearby so you can check in and notice changes in your sitting before and after the lessons. Class content will be provided in audio, video, and written format.
If you have an interest in making your sitting more comfortable, whether for meditation, for centering prayer, for computing, or for sitting and talking to your friends, this class is for you. You don’t need to have experience in meditation, nor do you need to be part of any particular tradition. We recommend you bring a sense of curiosity, a willingness to learn, a sense of humor, and enough courage to begin bravely befriending your body.
The cost for the course is $200. We’re thrilled that for every course registration that comes in, we will donate 25% ($50) to the Tsoknyi Nepal Nuns. We are so happy to give back to the Tibetan tradition from which we’ve received so much benefit, in a way that will support a generation of girls who have few opportunities to escape the cycle of poverty in Nepal and Tibet. They will have the powerful gift of not only a traditional Buddhist education, but a high-quality Western education as well. You can watch a video about TNN here and learn more here. Tsoknyi Rinpoche has been one of our teachers for more than 20 years, and is one of the few feminist Tibetan Buddhist teachers we know. We wanted to make the cost of the course less that you’d pay for a weekend retreat, but with the hopes that you reap profound benefit for years to come.
When your body becomes an ally to your practice rather than an obstacle, everything changes for the better.
Our Crystal Clear Cancellation & Refund Policy
When you sign up for one of our courses, workshops, classes or retreats, we think of it as being like buying a ticket to a concert or an event. You reserve a spot which is then unavailable to others. As such, all of your retreat, workshop, and course payments are non-refundable. This is the kind of warm-hearted tough-love policy that invites you to have a wholehearted YES about the commitments you make and to respect our time, your time, and that of other people who wish to work with us.
We invite you to be clear, to sign up for experiences you really want to be present for, and then to show up! We love it when you show up. Magic happens.
We also know from experience how easy it is to decide, “Nahhh, I don’t really feel like it now.” Or to mismanage your schedule. Or decide that you’re too busy these days and you’d rather stay home. As with a concert or event, if that’s what you decide, no problem. It’s your choice. You miss out on the experience. You also don’t get a refund or a credit. Same is true for our offerings.
To wholehearted Yesses and embodied respect!
(Special thanks to Susan Hyatt whose clarity inspired this policy.)