You guys, I’m so happy to see you check in here. And especially today, as I’ m sharing with you a new feature here on my site, the Expert Interviews! In these posts I´ll be sharing with you drops of wisdom and contextualise the stories of seasoned practitioners and experts in the field of applied yoga and wisdom teachings.
First out is my dearest teacher Janice, which I was so grateful to receive teachings from in the training I did in Spirit Rock over the course of two years. I appreciated her approach so much, that I invited her to develop the Yogi Facilitator Leadership Training with me, so that more of you can experience her teachings.
Expert Interview: Janice Gates
1 What does yoga/ wisdom teachings mean to you?
For me, these teachings mean that even amidst the messiness of my own life, I can find freedom, peace and joy. They point to profound truths that are also incredibly practical: everything changes and when we fight against that reality, we suffer. It seems obvious – happiness and sadness come and go like the weather – but nobody really likes to talk about the fact that we will eventually lose everything and everyone we love. Yet, remembering this truth keeps me awake to the preciousness of life and all of the beings in it. It keeps my heart wide open to the bittersweet experience of being human and connected to others in that humanness.
2 How has this changed, evolved since you started?
I struggled a lot with the concept of our ‘true nature’ when I started. In all spiritual traditions, we are ultimately taught to connect with something deeper within ourselves and/or something greater than ourselves. But what does that really mean? I think this is a very personal journey. When the rug gets pulled out from under us, when the bad news comes – the diagnosis, the divorce, a death – what can we let go into? What do we take refuge in? This gets complicated by the fact that many people have religious associations that may or may no longer feel true for them and that words and concepts in general are so limiting in this area – our ‘Buddha nature,’ the ‘divine within,’ our ‘deathless nature,’ our ‘true Self’…Words, teachings and teachers can only point to it, yet knowing it deeply in our own being is a direct, personal and deeply embodied human experience. I try to never impose concepts about this onto others, but allow them to find it for themselves.
3 When and how did you start with yoga?
I actually entered into yoga through the doorway of meditation, during a 10-day silent Vipassana retreat in Thailand thirty years ago – getting up at 4am, eating what looked like weeds for breakfast, my back aching from all the sitting, mind movies on overdrive – overall, I was miserable! I was spending most of the meditation sessions planning my escape. Then, on the third afternoon, a woman offered a simple guided yoga practice in between the sitting sessions – sun salutations, movement, breathing, nothing fancy. When I returned to sitting afterwards, my experience was completely different – I actually felt present in my body – I was no longer caught in the repetitive mental stories or experiencing my physical discomfort as an obstacle to meditation…I could actually feel the aliveness of the sensations – tingling, aching, throbbing – all coming and going like waves, I could feel the warmth of my breath flowing in, flowing out. It was amazing. Everything constantly changing, like a river, nothing to hold onto! I got a taste of that freedom and knew in that moment, that yoga/embodied practice and meditation needed to go together – at least for me.
4 What is your profession?
I teach yoga, mindfulness, meditation and yoga therapy.
5 How do you apply yoga in your work? What do you offer, and to whom?
I currently teach trainings integrating yoga therapy and mindfulness for health care professionals and interested yoga/meditation practitioners and teachers. I like the depth that retreat settings support, so I lead several yoga and meditation retreats each year and include retreats as much as possible in trainings that I offer – including the Yogi Facilitator Training I am co-leading with Kristin beginning in November. The container of social silence with interactive training sessions is a potent combination for integrating the teachings. I also mentor people who are sharing these practices with others in a wide range of settings, from clinical environments to the business world, I have a private practice where I work with people one on one and I teach at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California.
6 What is one advice you’d like to give?
Stay open! Whatever is going on in your life, turn towards it with great curiosity and openness…even if you don’t like it, it is part of this human journey and if you can open to it you will find there is a richness, a depth and dimensionality to even the most difficult experiences.
7 Where will you be teaching, or speaking next?
I will be in Europe in November at Mandali Retreat Center teaching the Yogi Facilitator Training.
8 Where can we find you online?
Thank you Janice for taking the time to shed some more light over your expertise!
And to you, dear reader – Enjoy!