Today I participated in a day-long retreat led by Rolf Gates, a yoga teacher and author. He came to UMass Amherst and led a beautiful yoga and meditation experience for the community.

Lots of takeaways. What an interesting time for me, right now. I get to learn all of this about myself. I get to figure out how I can be myself, how I can relax and be where I am. It's true that this can be frustrating, but it's also full of curiosity and learning. The truth is that we are never a finished product: the perfect image that we strive for will never be. We are constantly unfolding and changing – works in process. So we might as well find joy in the process.


  1. The tiger: high exertion, tension, force. The sloth: laziness, tiredness. Between these two, there is the swan. Which glides with the strength of the tiger but the calm of the sloth. What a beautiful way of illustrating nonresistance. There's no where you have to force yourself to go, it is all here. Relax where you are. If you're tired, then be tired. If you're angry, be angry. Being where you are allows things to move in the body and the mind, and soon your experience will naturally change. The more you resist what you are, the more you are treating it like a concept rather than the dynamic process that it is, which leads to it being even more sticky. I think this is especially important when you feel down. Sure, it is easy to be where you are when you're feeling great. But when you're feeling anxious or hurt or sad, being where you are is the last place you want to be. But avoiding the pain only really prolongs it. Avoiding the fact that you are avoiding the pain prolongs the pain as well. Rejection proliferates itself. Acceptance and presence cuts through the layers – it is like ripples in water, if you reach your hand into the water to calm the ripples, you'll just disturb the water even more. The water – the mind, settles on its own.
  2. You decide what you want to do. In yoga, there are many different poses, almost all of which I am ignorant of. Today was a great first exposure to yoga, and I'm excited to practice it more, and incorporate it into my daily life. But anyways, I think yoga is great because your body is adopting all of these positions. And it is on you to decide how you want your body to move. There is no right or wrong, it is totally dependent on your experience and your sense of "knowing". Knowing what feels right – and that is the only right there is. I think that this is also true for all of the actions we take. It's very important to cultivate the self-awareness of how our actions make us feel in order to make skillful actions. This relates to the fundamental nature of cause and effect – we take an action and notice its effect on our mind and body, and adjust accordingly based on what we know. Yoga is the practice of cultivating that sense of knowing in relation to our actions. Sort of all over the place, but I think this is really cool stuff!
  3. On a similar note, I want to work on my honesty. I have said this for so long but it's so true and important! Meditation helps me get insight into what I know to be true moment to moment. The sensations, thoughts, memories, and awareness that permeates it all. From this sense of knowing comes skillful action, which is in line with your values and comes from presence. I think that being "you", being comfortable with yourself and at rest is greatly benefitted from this sort of presence of mind. I also think that it is really important to validate your feelings and thoughts with your actions. If there is a disconnect between what you are feeling and thinking and what you are doing, then you feel separated from yourself in a way. You feel out of place, because you're not validating yourself in the ways you should be. In my relationships with my friends and in new relationships, I hope to cultivate a sense of honesty, in which my actions reflect the thoughts and feelings I am having. For instance, if a friend does something to make me feel uncomfortable, I'm going to try to just say what I feel: "that made me uncomfortable, don't say that." If I want to be friends with someone or I'm interested in someone, I might as well just say it. Playing games is fun but not in relationships. Respect yourself. You can't control how other people react. If being yourself makes people not want to hangout with you then that is the best way to surround yourself with people that you will actually get along with long-term.

Great day. Going to take the time to slow down now and go to bed at a reasonable hour.


Mind Straw #16 - October Twenty Eight, 2023