This episode is a special one because it was recorded live as part of Sober Week! This morning myself and Rolf Gates, Author of Meditations from the Mat, conducted a live interview with members of The Mindful Life Practice and Sober Girls Yoga live in the audience. In this interview, Rolf shares about his story with sobriety, recovery, yoga, and then we took several audience questions for Rolf.
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Alex: Hi friend this is Alex McRobbs founder of the Mindful Life Practice and you're listening to the Sober Yoga Girl podcast. I'm a Canadian who moved across the world to the Middle East at age 23 and I never went back. I got sober in 2019 and I now live full-time in Bali, Indonesia. I've made it my mission to help other women around the world stop drinking, start yoga and change their lives through my online sober girls yoga Community. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling, let me show you how.
Alex: All right, wonderful. Good morning everyone or eve I guess. It's evening for majority of people in this call it's morning for me um in Bali and I'm so happy that so many of you are here joining us. We have lots of old faces, lots of new faces and this is a really really special call because it is a live. It's the second time we're doing this a live podcast interview with a live audience but we also have my teacher and the author one of my favorite books here um Rolf Gates to share a little bit about his journey and his story and and answer any questions for all of you about sobriety and yoga and all things related. So welcome Rolf. How are you today?
Rolf: Uh I'm great. Thanks um and I'm I'm pretty excited uh to be able to see the work that you're doing in the world and just watching you kind of grow into this beautiful path of service. It's really fun.
Alex: Oh thank you so much. It's so wild you know. I was thinking about it last night when we were I was just thinking about this call and how when I met Rolf um I was actually just at my 100 day sober mark. I think I met him on my 100 days sober and it's pretty wild because you know in those early stages of sobriety you just have no idea where you're going and where your life is going to lead you and the path is going to take you and it's like really cool to now be here three years later doing this this call.
Rolf: Yeah, well um good for you.
Rolf: Good job so.
Alex: I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit and give us a bit of context into your um kind of like your sober yoga journey? i know we've done an interview already together on the podcast which i'm sure a lot of people have heard but some people might have not heard it as well so you could just kind of give a little context into your story for us?
Rolf: Yeah, I mean um I yeah I don't want to get too s like I want to kind of get into the second half on this one. I think we went pretty far into the the drunkalog I guess. Um yeah, so I I I was uh I got and I ended up in an orphanage. My mom put me in orphanage and I was 10 days old and I spent my first years in an orphanage and then I was adopted into a family that had some significant, um both my parents were highly traumatized you know. Products of the 30s and 40s right? The, the depression in the world war. Um so, it was just, I had a lot of trauma you know and um they say. I'm working with a um the mother of a child who um spent his first eight years in an orphanage in africa and now he's a teenager in the united states and what she says about him and I think this is true for almost all of us on this call. Is that you could drop him off in Tokyo and he'd do okay. You just drop him off by himself he could be okay and so on the one hand all that trauma is making it hard for him to negotiate being a teenager and have a family on the other hand he's a survivor. And so I kind of knew that about myself. That on the one hand I didn't really know how to live but I really knew how to survive and I. I think that there's a there's that knowledge that yeah you could drop me off in Tokyo tomorrow and I'd be fine. Um and so, a lot of my um using life was taking advantage of that you know? Like in sports I remember walking around, um I was at states my senior year and I went out I went out before the tournament started and I walked around and I knew that I wanted it more than anyone else there and so it didn't really matter what was going to happen. I just, I had that deep craving that addicts have for something better, you know? Um, and then I went in the military and I did super hard training and I and I succeeded because I had that craving that Alex have for something better um and um and when a time when it got time for me to get sober I found it you know and I think I kind of want to start there in terms of um uh what I I was. I got sober in may uh 1990 and I spent the you know kind of June and July in rehab. I went to rehab sober. Which is kind of to me, it's always kind of funny I didn't know at the time but it was kind of very bad form. I was like two weeks sober when I went to rehab. Everyone else is like, everyone else like had a big you know binge the night before and kind of rolled in with a hangover and I actually was two weeks sober when I went to rehab. So, I, I may be I may, I may be kind of a um a global phenomenon. Like how many people were two weeks sober when they went? I didn't even do drinking right you know.
Rolf: I I didn't even do sobriety, I didn't even do rehab right and so I went to rehab two weeks sober and um um and I I was beginning to find something but it was in the the spiritual friendship and spiritual community of my rehab. I was there for six weeks that I found what I've been looking for in all the different situations you know and there's a way that it's a perilous journey being active because like you'd walk through anything to get to what you're looking for. There's kind of nothing an addict won't do to get to what they're looking for and unfortunately we kind of walk down a lot of blind alleys. Like the last thing I was doing when I was active was I I really felt like I thought that advanced special forces training was going to make me okay and it didn't and so then I knew that going to combat was going to make me okay, right? This is like the the the the the dead ends that addicts go down in search of like what they're looking for and if you told me you know what you're looking for isn't combat it's actually sobriety I would have never believed you, you know? I would never believe you right um and some of us die on the way to sobriety and some of us survived. My sister died, my best friend died and I survived and it's in and and one of the first things I heard getting sober was like it's a free gift and it's an unmerited gift and that made a lot of sense to me. I didn't merit my sobriety more than my bro, my best friend or my sister and my other sister. I have two sisters. My other sister's still out there. She's like 58 years old and still using. Can you imagine how hard her life has been? She's had you know, just she's had a lot of challenges to say the least, right? Um and so the fact that she's still out there and I'm not and we grew up together it's like that's an unmerited gift as well. Um, but once I got sober I I found what I was looking for you know. It's in the kind of um the decency between two people in recovery. Um, if I can't I mean that was like I I remember being about two months sober, I'm getting back from rehab and I'm going to these meetings in Germany. Um, and this couple who were reuters journalists and that really impressed me. I'm like wow, you know. I'm like 26 years old and these are Reuters journalists and after a meeting they took me and you know it's like central Germany. It's really gorgeous. They kind of drove me around um and spent and spent the afternoon with me and told me about their lives and at some point the husband said, um, you never have to drink again and I heard him and I'd heard that phrase before but on that particular afternoon I remember thinking like, it's just a scary thing to be told when you're new that you never have to drink again. You're like yeah, but you know this is that's a that could that could really blow up my face and and this time when he kind of he said it as a friend and a mentor to me, even though we hardly knew each other he, they were they like spent the afternoon with me and then they were like he kind of delivered this, you know like, you know this did not drink again and um I remember like yeah yeah. That's definitely true. It may not happen for me but that's what's here. That's what's here in in the space that we create for one another. That's the opportunity that's the invitation you know, and so I kind of found I was looking for in um in spiritual community. Like my father was a minister. I didn't really find what I was looking for in religion but I found what I was looking for in spiritual friendship, you know? I think this is, you know, when I said I it's cool to see the work that Alex is doing in the world, she's offering spiritual friendship generously, you know. As it comes down to that like what I think what is Alex up to, she's like she's she's off she's like has this huge heart, this huge smile and she's offering spiritual friendship and guess what it freaking works. It matters and it works. It's like what do you need in life? It's like a smile like hers and a heart like her is to kind of share the journey with you, you know? It's kind of like what you need, you know and i found that. I'm like, Oh My God, this is what I'm looking for apparently. It's not combat. Like this, so if you learn one thing from me tonight, it's just like we're not looking for combat we're looking for friendship. Sometimes we get confused. Sometimes we get confused about what we're, what will make us happy, you know? Um, but what I was, what I was looking for in combat was a sense of self-respect and um the respect of others and I knew that I knew that if I had self-respect I would be able to garner respect. I just didn't know how to get there, you know and that's, that's another free gift of spiritual friendship and it's a free gift of recovery. Um so I kind of want to leave. Let Alex ask a question from there but like that's um that's that's the take off for tonight. Is just we were looking for love in all the wrong places right and and and then we found the the right place, it's like I've been listening to Jack Cornfield's podcast on meditation called The Heart Wisdom Podcast. He talks about pointing in the right direction, you know and I love that phrase because it's like you know when you're playing the right direction and for my active years I knew I wasn't playing the right direction. I had no idea how to point in the right direction and and and not using for one day was how I could point in the right direction.
Alex: Thank you so much for sharing that and I love that reference to um spiritual friendship. I, I think it was it might have been you that shared this quote that the buddha was asked um oh no I can't even remember what it was. Uh what's the most important maybe it was what's the most important thing in in the spiritual practice? And it was spiritual friendship was was the answer and I think that just shows the the importance and the relevance of community in our lives which we all know which is why you know we're all here because we we rise when we're like supported by others. So, so tell me about Rolf. What other, I think we talked in the last episode about how yoga came into your life and and supported you through your journey. Um, what were like the main tools and practices that you used in your sobriety?
Rolf: Okay well um, you know I mean I I I, was an adamant 12-step goer my first like 10 years I was kind of like a meeting a day guy. Um, and I was living in Harvard Square which was like perfect. I had like just the right meetings, it had just, it's not everything I was looking for. Like I had like the the community so we were going different meetings every day but it was the same people kind of thing and I had this like this sangha this community that um I really just held me as I kind of did. I mean it's super hard, it was super hard for me you know. Alex is a young person as well like being 26 27 years old sober is like I was just, they didn't know how to live you know. Um, and so I had to go through the growing pains of like figuring out how to pay my bills and have roommates and and like get the right kind of job. It took me about five years to figure out what I want to do with for work. Um, I almost ended up a restaurant manager that would have been a very bad decision, you know? Nothing wrong with restaurant management, I'm just saying it wasn't my calling um and um um so so the meetings kind of held me for those first five years in particular when I I was really not able to do much and and it was really okay to be able to kind of sit down in a meeting and and that was as good as it that that was my skill set. It's being able to physically get to the meeting and sit down. Um and that's all that life required of me was to be able to physically get there, sit down and then whatever I heard that day try to apply it to my life and then go to the next one and that was like fine, you know? That worked great um, there of course I learned about Matt. Like the 11 step was meditation. So, about 18 months into it I started trying to meditate and and that worked great. Um, and then um, there was this young woman who was a flute player and a yoga teacher and I'm like, wow she's special. So, that's how yoga got into my you're like like there's a lot of different like you know tales I can tell about like but the first time I ever like paid attention to yoga was because this I'm like, she's wonderful. She had like three months sobriety so she so nothing much came of that but she was wonderful. Um and so that made me open to yoga, right? I became open to yoga and u and then I ended up with my future wife and she went to Kerpalo. Um and in Kripalu's yoga center in Massachusetts and I ended up taking my first classes there and so I think that um the first 10 years of my recovery like the first five years were just meeting every day to get that support from other silver people and then um once I really started to do poses. Um, I was hooked immediately. I went to my first class and I was walking to breakfast the whole thing's in one big building and my whole body was different. Um, and I had so like, I think of trauma now it's it's the things everyone talks about in um recovery. Recoveries that you don't feel comfortable in your own skin. You're like three drinks shy of comfortable. Uh, that doesn't really go anywhere when you stop using. It's still there because it's kind of a mental and emotional stance that you've, you've got stuck in like. I, I listened to a talk recently about yoga and trauma and this person described trauma as being stuck in a state you know you get stuck in these states meaning something happens and we get stuck in that state and so I was walking to breakfast and the state that I had been stuck in now I had been stuck in something my whole life. My parents were stuck in something right my my mother was a white coed and my dad was an African uh exchange student and they were stuck in like the racial confusion of the United States. Like he was stuck in his tribal stuff like he invited my mom back to be his first wife back to africa and see my mom from from Albany, New York was like I don't want to go to Africa to be your first wife, right? So there's like they were stuck and uh yeah she had up, she had a point, you know? Um and so they were they were very stuck in some stuff and then my community growing up in Boston in the 70s a lot of stuckness there. Um, and so all that stuff it wasn't just like my life but the lives of those who come before me was in my connective tissue and as you come to understand what poses are doing poses are taking that stuckness in your connective tissue and allowing it to open and release what it's holding on to and I was so stuck. That I actually had scoliosis when I started doing yoga and about three years into it, my it was gone. It was just like my body was like ah and as I started doing the poses. My body went into mountain pose and it's never come back and so walking there I got relief from the the um the tension of unresolved trauma and your in your mind and your heart and your body I had my first taste of relief I've been meditating before. Then but it wasn't until you brought the prasca practice into my body um that I started to be like wow and I couldn't. I couldn't go back after that. Once you've felt the freedom that the poses give you from being in those stock places it's like you just don't want anything else. Um, so that was like 95 to like 205 I was like the posture guy. The same way I was like the meetings guy, I became the posture guy. I I um, I taught postures, I became a yoga teacher in 97. I taught poshes of course um what happened is yoga got popular and then yoga became like athletic and intense. Um, and so that's I wouldn't call it re-traumatizing but I do think that um you kind of want to know what you're trying to accomplish and I think we kind of lost our way a little bit. Um when, when you got popular I think the example of of when you're taking a pose skillfully, you're doing so without an ounce of extra effort. Um this is the kind of non-harming commitment that you make and um that I think is similar like the first step in a 12-step program. Like like like choosing to to let go of the drink is committing to non-harming. You, they don't say it that but you're really on a path of non-harming. You've chosen a path of awakening and you've chosen a path of non-harming and there's a way that when you're doing poses without, with extra effort you kind of lose your once again you're not really pointing the right direction and so um I could only go so far in the like athletic yoga scene without finding the course correction. I found in meditation and so my daughter was born in 2003 and I was like I need a new resource, it's like it's like being um um being kind of single. My wife and I were single together. Kind of thing like she'd have her job at my job then we'd meet you know at night and like like watch movies and he need to take out you know and it was that was like our marriage, right? And then we have a baby and things get a lot more complicated, you know? Um, and I needed a new resource and and and I started to go on meditation retreats and really develop a um a serious meditation practice and that's been like my last 15 years. So, now I'm the meditation guy. I was the meeting guy and then I was a posture guy and now I'm the meditation guy. Now I do all of it. Now I do all three together. So um, those are my, those I would say those are my three primary resources but you got to give it a way to keep it so when I was a, a meetings guy I became an addictions counselor. When I was a posture guy I became a yoga teacher and when I became a meditation guy, I became a meditation teacher. So, I've always taught what I was learning and so I think that's a very important um uh ingredient to this is that yeah if you're like three months sober don't worry about it. If you're even three years sober maybe don't worry about it, just kind of let the let the process come to you. Um, but giving back what you're teaching back, what you're learning is I think part of learning.
Alex: Yeah, thanks for sharing that and I think that lines up with this theme that just keeps coming into my world right now. Is this idea of like the relevance and importance of service in sobriety and um sharing and giving back and and playing a row. Yeah, Cathy says Seva. Um, which is service in Sanskrit exactly um yeah. So, the the save of practice and and the practice of sharing and giving back and um I know it has helped me stay committed to my varieties, knowing that I have to show up to hold space or I've made a commitment to be there for someone so yeah. Thanks for sharing that.
Alex: And tell me about um, kind of the the offerings that you have now? I know you have your online uh yoga scene classes, which I love by the way. Because I remember back back when I was first getting sober, I was like searching for yoga that I could do online with Rolf because Rolf was in California and I was in Abu Dhabi and there was like one YouTube video that I've seen like a message.
Rolf: Oh yeah,
Alex: And and now.
Rolf: You're probably the person that's probably why I have that many views you were just taking class.
Alex: It's all me early days sobriety and and that's the beauty of nail the the world with um Covid and that's all having to go online is that Rolf now has like lots of online Zoom classes and his own online studio but I was wondering if you could share like what, what other work do you do right now in yoga and?
Rolf: Yeah, I mean I want, let me uh I'll I'll be happy to talk. How are we doing for time because I don't want to i'll like?
Alex: We're about halfway through.
Rolf: Okay good um, I do want to talk about like what it's like now because that was kind of like my like okay what happened? What it's like? And and I do think that um that there's like a kind of like okay so you put 32 years together like what did that look like? It's like well I had I had these three practices that were kind of you know deal breakers if I didn't have the, if I didn't have the meetings and the yoga and the meditation. I I wouldn't be able to kind of keep my stuff together. I think you know and they were like, I needed spiritual practice to stay on you know can in in yeah stay point in the right direction. Um uh, I think that I should say that today, it's just as important as it was in year one to kind of do what I can like we have we have what we're, I think what you discover in recovery is that you have these like these bone deep aspirations this heart and tension for your life and and the heartbreak of using is that you can't you can't put out forth an effort that's respectful of your aspirations. It's impossible you have your aspirations but you can't kind of follow through follow through is just not like an activating word um and and one of the first gifts of sobriety is you start to be able to follow through. It's like gee, if I want to get to work tomorrow I just have to go to bed and wake up and go oh my God fallacy was a lot. If now if I've been drinking all night, I may or may not get to work but in sobriety you go to bed you wake up you have a little breakfast and you go to work and all of a sudden you've cracked the code on follow. So, you've hacked follows through, right? And that's like massive and um and the phrase that I I use people today is that you want to put forth an effort that feels respectful of your aspirations and so I want to close this part by talking about those two qualities. One, is to um to be sensitive to your aspirations, you'll sit in meetings or at a you know at a place like this or you watch a movie and there'll be something that really jumps out at you and pay close attention the things that make you cry, the things that that stir your heart though. That's like to me life kind of winks at you and reminds you of your heart's desire. Of your true aspirations in life um and it's kind of our job to to care. I, I'm astonished by how many people go through life wishing they could do this and wishing they could do that but not kind of um, caring about themselves enough to say I'm just gonna do this. Like I remember being um in my mid-40s and I'd lived in cold places my whole life and I was just like, I've gotta spend at least one year without winter you know before I die. I want to have, I just want to know what it's like and I moved to California. I've been here 15 years but it was like, I'm not.. this is an aspiration of mine and it was not an easy thing. I had like when we moved to California, my daughter was five, my son was two, I was like, I was on a yoga teacher salary it wasn't a simple matter but I put forth the effort that was um respectful of my heart's desire, of my aspiration and so there's that kind of big picture. Like guys, do it like whatever you're like, cool thing you want to do. Don't wait. Just go ahead and do it, you know? Like, that's like come on, do do the cool thing that you that you think would be that that like this is it this is the time. So, priority is the time to like go do the cool things you know and I definitely have done the cool the things that I wanted to do. I don't have like a bucket list really. Okay, I have one thing. I want to go to the the division one national tournament. I haven't been yet. Every year there's a national tournament for college and wrestling in the United States and I haven't been. Okay so, I have something on my bucket list and I want to go. Um but yeah, live your bucket list like this year. Why not? Why wait, right? Um the other thing I think this is what Alex represents it's like she's kind of got sober it's like I'm gonna like do the stuff I wanna do, you know? I wanna I wanna do the cool things you know um and she's out there giving us all the thumbs up. Like don't do those cool things. They're cool you know. Um, and so respect your aspirations and kind of put forth the effort in the big picture. But also in the the um the day-to-day like my sobriety lives in my my day-to-day. It's the amount of sleep I get, it's like respecting myself enough to sleep right, to eat right, to exercise you know to work out in a way that's smart and and moderate. I've done a lot of it as you can imagine as a recovering person. I've done in moderate exercise that that only harms yourself like not a harming exercise is a great idea. Um you know, show up in your friendships in a way that that uh put forth the effort in your friendships. That is respectful of your aspirations. Put forth, it's like all the little all the little forms of love in your life. Like I've been a dog, I've had dogs all my life. It's like loving my dogs well is part of my sober aspirations, my wife, my kids, my neighbors you know and then of course my community. Alex is a part of my community, if she asked me to do something I might like make an effort to do it and so there's this, there's this opportunity that we have to kind of connect to our hearts intention to our true aspirations and then work towards them and and and and live each day with that kind of gratification of being like, I may not be there yet but I'm I'm putting forth the effort and I'm heading, I'm heading in that direction, you know? And, and to me that was the the permission I was given by getting sober was like, I don't, it's not really about getting somewhere. It's about pointing in the right direction and moving in a way that feels respectful of myself. Yeah, it's one day at a time. There you go.
Alex: Amazing, um all right. I'm going to open it up now. I want to know if anyone who's listening in has any questions for um for Rolf, you have a hand up from Carolyn. Carolyn the midnight uh midnight in the UK, go for it.
Carolyn: Yeah, it's it's uh 2 a.m um.
Carolyn: I just wanted to ask the question because I've had like 40 years of my life drinking uh suppressing you know the trauma hiding from it running from it and um so two years well like 20 months ago I got sober and um I absolutely think it's the greatest gift ever and um and I've just this year and I'm going to be 60s soon. I discovered yoga and I'm thinking like, I suppose there's a little anxiety in me in terms of, Oh My God you know, um there's life to be lived right and I've left it till now and so I just want to do it all but then you know that's not integrating it into who I am. If that makes any sense. It's kind of this, this level of excitement about being sober and also coupled with the fact that I you know I I am in the Autumn of my life. So, I suppose my questions around like, what advice would you give to someone that's come into sobriety so late and come into yoga so late and is seeing the benefits of it so like?
Rolf: Um well, I think first of all congratulations and welcome, right? Um yes Warren Zevon was dying um and he was on David Letterman and David Letterman was a friend of his and so David Letterman was, it's an emotional interaction and he asked Warren Zevon like what would you tell people about living you know in this moment of your life and what Warren Zevon said was um enjoy your sandwich, you know? That life is lived in the sandwich that you're eating. Life is lived in the the spring walk that you're doing with your dog it's like um life is lived here Jack Cornfield said that we want me to kind of roll up the past and roll up the future and all of the past and all the future can be resolved in this moment. Just kind of roll it up and put it right here and so um give the the present your full undivided attention and I do think that what Jack Cornfield is implying is that whatever you were meant to do in this lifetime, you can do it in this in this moment if there's if if you want to open the doors to you know if you want to relieve the suffering of countless others, you can probably do it in this in-breath in this out breath if you want to experience you know the the joys of nature or the joys of friendship and connection all of that can be done today in this breath and it can't be done anywhere else. We can't do it in the past and we can't do in the future. We can so like just use the um whatever anxieties are that you have as like to help you resolve to live today. Like I lost myself, I lost my sister and I lost my best friend to this disease and I've used that loss to put resolve into how I show up for the people who are in my life. Does that make sense?
Carolyn: Yeah, 100% I lost my father or my brother to this disease. So I'm very very grateful and that there's such wisdom in what you've just said. There such wisdom.
Rolf: Yeah, thank you. All right, welcome.
Alex: Thanks Carolyn. Um, I see Perry's hand up as well. Perry you want to ask?
Perry: Yes um, hi Rolf. Nice to meet you.
Perry: Hi um, I'm so glad to see that there's a nice group of 50 plus people here tonight. My um, self included and when you were talking about um the stuckness with yoga poses that was the first thing that came to mind because I've only been doing yoga for a few years but I do get frustrated and feel like what what why am I like is it too late also in that same theme am I am I going to be able to get some of these things unstuck is this, you know? Um do I need to be doing yoga like 12 hours a day, you know what I mean? Um because I can feel it in certain places and I don't want to get discouraged and I know it's really never too late, but how does that physically work?
Rolf: Um, I think we have to trust the process. Um, I was in meditation today. There are five afflictions in mindfulness. So, there's wanting and not wanting and these take us off our game like crate craving and aversion. There's anxiety and there's also that kind of sloth and torpor, right? But the hardest of them is doubt. I've I've I've actually made a lot of progress in my meditation practice. It's astonishing but it actually, it's like if you practice to get better at things you know and um and so now my meditation practice is very deep and I was in this experience of um there's a phrase that not only are we kind of living through God, God is living through us and so one of the things I do in meditation is I, I become conscious of the fact that God is seeing the world through each of us and and it helps me because I become kind of it helps me to to let myself get small, you know? Uh myself of center just get small because I'm allowing God to see through me and that may not work for you but it really works for me. This idea that like that I can kind of feel um God seeing the world through like if God sees the world through you, how do you want to be in that moment, right? And so I'm having this deep connection to the present and what was revealed to me was that it's just is that I still have doubt that I can connect to the present and that I can heal and that doubt is what's holding me back from the present. I'm fully aware of like wanting and not wanting. I don't do anxiety that much, I kind of do a sloth and torpor anxiety can also be restlessness trying to like do three things at once instead of one thing at a time, right? That can be anxiety. That's that's restlessness but I didn't really see doubt and sure enough, there it was and so I think for both of the last two hands that went up, one of the things that kicks our butt is doubting ourselves and our capacity to be happy and it's that's really the question. The question isn't like, can I do this or that it's more like can I be happy? Do I believe that I can be happy? And for me at least as I tried to rest in the present moment, there it was the the subtle energy that's kind of holding me apart was that was that's that that long entrenched belief that maybe I can't be happy or maybe I can't accomplish my goals and that keeps us apart from our goals but but what getting quiet and what getting still does is it lets us feel these subtle energies and not so subtle energies and see our volition see our agency that we can let that stuff go like like without the contemplative practice that energy is going to be. Like there everything you do. Am I wrong on this? Like everything you do, there's a subtle energy of like like we have to kind of feel our relationship to ourselves and feel both our kind of shadow right that doubt because like why wouldn't we have a little doubt and we've made a few mistakes, you know? I don't know, I have you know um there could be a little doubt about the our efficacy in life but then um what we're seeking is is hiding in plain sight in front of us and we're kind of holding ourselves subtly apart from it and what our practice is doing is allowing us to let go and connect you know and so I would I would um I would kind of look at that like look at looking at looking at the doubt that that you just mentioned as just, what's holding you apart from what you're seeking? All right, there's a bunch of hands.
Alex: I think um is Rick next. Chef Prof Rick.
Chef Prof Rick: Hi yeah, sorry that's my funky uh screen name in my sober communities.
Alex: Love it.
Chef Prof Rick: I'm actually, I'm a Chef and a Prof. So uh, I'm so excited. Uh, so I've been doing yoga for you know eight to ten years and I've been sober a little over three years now and uh and I've loved your book especially the books especially daily reflections and so I was in my yoga class a couple years ago, ago and my my teacher Allen, he always said things that sounded familiar to me from when I was in the rooms of AA uh and where I started and uh like uh you know got him our own understanding and stuff and I like going you know where did you get some of that language, he goes oh I learned that from my teacher Rolf. I'm not going what he Rolf was your teacher, omg I was like so blown away. Uh, he's just moved on but from our town but uh I I loved that guy. I loved his spirit so much. A really cool guy but uh yeah so I appreciate you teaching him and so many other people and so many other people of color men of color that I know that you've taught and I think that's a really incredible um thing. So, my question for you, so I've been doing yoga for 10 years, I've been sober three years. It's the the um the balancing steps are a lot easier now than they were. That was a joke but uh but I really, it's always guided me in lots of ways. What I think is really and I'm really fascinated with with with the sobriety and the changes in sobriety now I am a historian so I'm actually really interested in how this has changed through time uh and I'm uh I'm involved in like five different groups I started in AA but I I've, I've been, I'm in all kinds of different groups. Recovery, Dharma, all kinds of things. I've done so, but what do you think about the changes in recovery systems and opportunities in the last you know generation? It's just or even less maybe 20 years it seems like it's really been on fire, we've got one right here really um so do you have any thoughts about that because it used to just be one game in town really right?
Rolf: Yeah, I mean I think that it's a little bit um what they started I mean the phrase back in the day was uh all you need to start a meeting is a resentment and a cup of a pot of coffee, right? It's like another way to think about it is if you don't like what you hear in a meeting say it yourself.
Chef Prof Rick: Yeah.
Rolf: And so that was why when I started training teachers, I didn't really like the teacher training world back in when I, back when I started. Like it seemed like people were making a lot of money by kind of not training people that well and so I just kind of stood apart from it for a while and then I realized if you don't like what you see here in a meeting say it yourself and so what I think has happened, what you're saying speaking to it is that a lot of people got some inspiration at this meeting or that meeting and then they that gave them the inspiration to to say it themselves, right? And I think we're evolving, I think we're a very resourceful uh species and so I think there's a tremendous amount for me like the 12-step thing worked great and then the yoga thing worked great and the meditation thing worked great and now I do like something that's like entirely didn't exist when I started, right? And I think that there's a lot of people, uh Nikki Myers is a friend of mine. She started why 12 sr it would be an example Tommy Rosen is a friend of mine with a Recovery 2.0. Alex is a friend of mine, right? And you see these people who just had they've gained insight from their sobriety into how um how we can help each other and they have the first they have the gift to be able to facilitate that help and I think that's just like you said it's just proliferating you know and the thing to do what I tell yoga teachers is when you're in my training, when someone comes back and says hey this is what's up I'm like you give them two thumbs up you know and so I don't care like me and they're like hey I want to help uh people with strokes or hey I want to help people who are in homeless shelters, you're like that's cool. You're going to succeed with that you know, it's like you are going to succeed with that and if someone is like founding us a sobriety uh effort and helping people with it, our job is to give them two thumbs up. That makes sense?
Chef Prof Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Rolf: And so I mean I I I just think what's exciting uh also Rick is that what, you're seeing wait till you, wait till 10 20 years from now.
Chef Prof Rick: Yeah yeah yeah.
Rolf: You mean it's going to be ridiculous.
Chef Prof Rick: Yeah, I I just add on, I think it's really different from women in the last 20 years and and the other groups that I, are part of are heavily female and that tells me something about, about the changes that are happening including the work that Alex does, but yeah anyway..
Rolf: Thank you. Yeah, nice to meet you Rick.
Alex: Thanks so much Rick. Um okay, I'm gonna invite Yasir. You have a question, Yasir.
Yasir: Hello, hi Rolf. How are you?
Yasir: I'm a big fan and your brought me into yoga actually and so i appreciate that. So, I have a question, well first I want to know your experience being a man in yoga and what advice you have for men to do more yoga?
Rolf: Um, I don't know. I mean, I was an athlete and I kind of went after it like an athlete. Like once I, once I yeah, I always had trained myself so it really wasn't that um it wasn't that hard. I wanted, I wanted what yoga had to offer and so I chased it you know and I don't know. Like, like for instance I was a person of color and it wasn't a lot of people of color. I didn't really care, you know? I had trauma and and the yoga wasn't trauma-informed that I didn't really care. It was like, I could kind of take care of myself and go get what I wanted by showing up to class and by getting trained, you know? Um so, I had a little bit of blinders on, if that makes sense. I think, I'm not sure exactly if there's a difficulty that you're, that you're having as a man in yoga but I feel like um I went to yoga, I didn't go to yoga to um necessarily to make friends or to fit in. I went to yoga because it was changing my life. Um, and then of course I found that the people were great, you know? They really are, you know? Um, but that's not why I went. I went there because of the practice and I also I I really was touched by the the um the intention of the teachers, I have to say. That my teachers weren't perfect but there was a kindness and to their invitation, hey try this, you know? I, I trusted and um appreciated my teachers and they were people from back in the day so their classes were like, four people in a closet somewhere, you know? In a college town. It wasn't like it is now. Um but they, they'd learn enough about yoga to say, hey come and try this you know and I really appreciated them for that. Um, did that answer your question at all? I'm not sure.
Yasir: Yes, yes. Yeah and my experience is pretty much the same, you know? It's great, I love it.
Rolf: Yeah, you know and then and then we you know the more of us that are there the more I think, I think like you said, like Rick said about women in these other recovery circles. I just think, it's kind of nice you know to show up and have people like yourself there, you know? And um and feel welcome in that way and I'm glad women are doing that for themselves in these other spaces, you know? Because it's a lot. One thing about 12 step is that there's like the Bill W kind of male presentation alcoholic and I think there's a ton of women especially nowadays who are like stopping drinking. Who don't track to the like Bill Wilson bottoming out narrative. Um and they're all reporting that not drinking is huge for them you know and it's cool to have to have that perspective validated. All right, I think we got um Julie and I see Julie.
Alex: Yeah, hi Julie. I haven't seen Julie in a while. She was on my
Julie: Hi, Okay one sec. Hi, Oh My God. Hi, I did not think I'd be called.
Rolf: Hi Julie.
Julie: Oh My God. It's so good to be here. Um, I was gonna say my name is Julian, I'm an alcoholic. I'm just used to saying that. Um, hi Rolf. Uh, Alex, I can't even uh it's so great to be here. Uh now I lost my question. I was just messaging Cathy saying can I ask anything. Uh, because I came in a little bit late. Um I guess my question is Rolf to you um is, how did you deal with resentments? Because I'm holding on to one for two years now and I can't seem to get over it. I have a sponsor and uh whatever this 12-step I know it's not all about this 12-step program or whatever um but I am I am in one? And how did you like deal with your resentments? And also um getting into yoga like, i already heard that but um I haven't done yoga since mexico to be honest. Um so, just like I'm feeling depressed basically and I I want to know, how to like, how you got over like resentments and felt like peace within yourself? If that makes sense.
Rolf: I mean, I do think that you've got to kind of um you know, I had a lot of for step one you have to be really patient, you know? Um with yourself, um and kind of enjoy the fact of your physical sobriety. Like that has to be a big deal to you because the other stuff happens slowly. Um and so I had to be kind of like, I had to be in a certain amount of pain and confusion for you know a fair number of years because I wasn't able to do the interview. There's a phrase called external mindfulness and internal mindfulness and and and the idea is that um the buddha described what we're doing as a cooling process right when we're fully active. We're like a hot potato and um and initially you just go to cooling places. Like this call kind of is cooling for us we all kind of cool down a little bit, you know? Maybe the right friendships, the right job, the right living situation and so you find these external cooling circumstances until you can start to internally cool. You start to have some resources to cool yourself internally and for me it was about a good 10 years where my skill set was about external cooling. I'd go to these nice places and I'd cool down a little bit but I really didn't want to manage my inner life and it wasn't until I, I started to meditate and it is the 11th step. I mean these, these people knew about it. Um, that I could sit with a feeling and then sort myself out. Um, a very old text says that a human life is like a tangle. You've got to kind of sit with something for a while to be able to untangle it and be like like a little things like maybe I'm okay with having this feeling and it not being resolved maybe maybe that's maybe that's part of the it's like I don't have to be different, you know? My life doesn't have to be different, I can, I can or maybe I can change my mind. One of the things I did in meditation was learn how to forgive myself and when I could forgive myself, I could forgive other people until I could forgive myself. I can't forgive anybody else and so that's like that's like down the road stuff. I for a long time it was just important for me to know where the cooling spaces were and to go there, to respect myself enough to bring you know, bring the body and the bible follow. It's like go to the places that that make you feel safe, that make you feel hopeful, you know? That like do the external mindfulness stuff until it's like you're ready to do the internal mindfulness stuff and have faith in yourself in the process. I'd also say have faith in life, I was talking to this woman who's just like, I don't know if I should quit my pot yet and I was like, right? But you're having a relationship to life and life is like, what? I'm not good enough without you, you need pot? For being in a relationship with me, you know? And, and it helped her because she was just like, yeah why would I, why would I diss life like that. The only way that I can be in a relationship with life is with pot? What if someone told you that, right? I was like, give life a chance, you know? And so having a little faith in life and then you know, you'll get the we always get what we need, you know? One day at a time. I should go to Cathy, right?
Julie: Thank you so much.
Rolf: Thanks for coming Julie.
Julie: Thank you for being here.