The Call to Be
By Rolf Gates
As a result of an addiction to alcohol and the intense suffering I experienced during my early years I seem to have been born to ask the question: What happens when we cant make it work any longer, when we are at the end of life as we knew it but life keeps happening anyway? Who are we when the music stops and there is no chair for us? How is it that people can come to accept the unacceptable, live on, and find happiness and fulfillment not in spite of their hardships but inspired by them? What I have found is that loss creates space. It cannot be argued that the loss of a loved one “is for the good”, or that the intense hardship experienced during illness, or financial difficulty “is all good”. The losses we grieve are real. It is the truth of our losses that creates the space for an awakening. We no longer have something that was there and our attention shifts from what is to what is not. There is a stillness, an absence of the need to move or do anything accept feel deeply the emptiness of an unforeseen self existing in an unforeseen world. For a moment in time we can say “I do not know” and for a moment in time that is all there is to do. All that is left is to stop and experience what happens when we stop.
Erich Schiffmann, wrote ‘Yoga is moving into stillness to experience the truth of who we are.’ These glimpses of the truth are precious and it takes an underlying faith in life itself to be able to let the power of these experiences be true for us. Again and again I have seen people who have had great cause to learn fear demonstrate the courage to choose life. This is the ultimate courage, the courage to believe in life in the face of life’s greatest betrayals and the ultimate courage delivers the ultimate prize a felt sense that is both who we are and who we might become. The choice to affirm the light in the midst of darkness creates the light. Something shifts, we take one more step, then another, and another, then one day we wake to find that a path, a purpose has begun to reveal itself.
My first year of sobriety was all about my own experience. Each day was a new revelation. After my one-year anniversary, there was a pause: What now? I continued to go to meetings and participate. As the days passed I began to watch new people come in. A tall woman named Susan, then Kathleen, Arthur, Anne, and Scott, within a few months I was going to meetings as much to watch the miracle of their recovery as to experience my own. A new path had begun to reveal itself. Our darkness enables us to recognize the light, to feel its power, to know that the call of it is why we were born. This is not a call whose form can be discerned. It is not a call to do something it is a call to be something.
Which brings me to my understanding of what we can accomplish with the Yoga Service Conference. Each of us has been called to be of service. This is a difficult undertaking for anyone but by learning from each other and drawing strength from each other we can accomplish together what might not have been possible on our own. I look forward to seeing you there.
~ Rolf Gates will be a presenter at the 4th Annual Yoga Service Conference at the Omega Institute, May 14-17, 2015. He is the author of the acclaimed book on yogic philosophy, Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, and is one of the leading voices of modern yoga. Rolf conducts Vinyasa Intensives and 200/500 Teacher Trainings throughout the US and abroad. A former social worker and US Airborne Ranger who has practiced meditation for the last twenty years, Rolf brings his eclectic background to his practice and his teachings. Born in Manhattan, Rolf Gates grew up in the Boston area as an avid marathon runner, long distance cyclist and champion wrestler. As the descendant of six generations of ministers, he gained an understanding of service and dedication at a very early age.