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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 67 PHILLIP MOFFITT: One of the things that has been of con- cern to me is that teachers get a little bit of exposure to one of the traditions and then they bring it into the other without really understanding it. That was part of Spirit Rock’s mo- tivation in offering, with the Kripalu Center, a mindfulness meditation program for yoga teachers. We know by word of mouth that a lot of yoga teachers are doing short mindful- ness meditation periods at the end of their yoga classes, and they are using the language of mindfulness in teaching asana. They may have learned mindfulness practice on a retreat or something, but have not really had any instruction or anyone helping them incorporate it into their yoga teaching. Our idea was to offer the traditions side by side, making the overlaps clear but not mushing the two together. ANNE CUSHMAN: The Spirit Rock program was designed to offer to the hatha yoga community an opportunity to go deeply into the meditation dimensions of yoga practice in a way that’s not normally taught in your average yoga class, or even in your average yoga teacher training. The program offers in-depth training in meditation practice for people coming from the yoga world, and it offers the Buddhist community an opportu- nity to explore more deeply all of the sophisticated practices of hatha yoga as a support for meditation practice. The program consists of three ten-day retreats over the course of a year and a half, led by teachers from the different schools of the hatha yoga tradition and from the Buddhist tradition. All of the yoga teachers are experienced in Buddhist meditation and all of the meditation teachers have some experience with hatha yoga. In between the retreats, there’s a comprehensive curriculum of reading and practice to develop a solid home practice that in- tegrates asana, pranayama, and meditation, while continuing to deepen the practitioner’s understanding of the philosophy and history of the two traditions. SHAMBHALA SUN: Where do you think this exchange be- tween yoga and Buddhism is going to end up? Is it going to be a significant development in Western spirituality or just a fad? PHILLIP MOFFITT: If we look at the history over the last 2,500 years, there’s never an end. It always loops around! At the great Indian university of Nalanda, the scholars were there and the practitioners were there. It all gets meshed together in various ways and it’s always changing. So I don’t have some big vision of how the meeting of Buddhism and yoga is supposed to be or how it’s going to turn out. To me, taking people deeper and with more clarity is the goal, and then we just let it evolve. ANNE CUSHMAN: I’ll go out on a limb and predict that there are going to be more and more Buddhist retreats that incorporate hatha yoga as a significant part of the practice. I think that’s going to happen everywhere in the Buddhist world because these techniques are so powerful in terms of supporting Buddhist meditation practices. RICHARD FREEMAN: I don’t think there’s going to be a single synthesis arising in which all of the yoga schools and all of the Buddhist schools understand their essential interpenetration and become one big, monolithic, happy family. But I have a feel- ing that communication is really opening up, and that people are no longer afraid to consider other traditions, to consider that maybe other schools have a least a couple of good points to make. This more open attitude is going to generate a lot more practice and insight, because in the past people have not wanted to even look at a book from another tradition. But the world is getting smaller as we communicate more and more, and we may find that what we think are fundamental differences aren’t that solid and important. I think there’s going to be a lot of life com- ing out of this exchange. ♦