Amanda: I’ve loved learning from you over the years. You were one of the first national teachers that supported us and I’m really grateful. You always seem to have a sense of calm about you, even when I jumped at you once at Wanderlust with a horse-mask on and wouldn’t let go of your leg. How in the hell do you maintain that?
Rod: Oh, the reason I appear so “incredibly calm” is because you’re such a kinetic frenzy of activity, I’m calm compared to you! Seriously, it’s simply embodying yoga. The centerpiece of yoga is that whatever we’re experiencing, whatever may be happening around us, should never completely overshadow awareness, the presence of the timeless witness.
Yoga practice is all about connecting us to it. This witness, the part of us that is always at rest, the very thing we experience in the depths of relaxation, in the heart of meditation. If you’re right that I manage to maintain a sense of calm, even around you, then it’s a sign my practice is working!
I’m told that I had something of those qualities (the calm observer) even when I was young. I seem to have come into this life that way. The truth is my mind is just like everyone else’s. Yoga has helped and continues to help me find a joyous calm. Consistently.
Amanda: What’s something you do at home in Colorado that grounds you? There is a reason I’m laughing out loud right now. The fact is everything grounds me at home in Colorado. Everything. I’ve told this story before, but I get a kick out of it each time I acknowledge it and it speaks directly to your question.
Rod: I may be known as this ever-calm Yogic presence, one who meditates for hours on end everyday; I’ve studied with true masters, immersed myself in the deepest and most sublime teachings, which then I do my best to transmit to the various audiences and many students who I have the privilege of teaching. When I teach, whether it’s a room of a hundred or several hundred or more, presumably everyone is listening, taking in, more or less, everything I say. When I’m teaching people listen. At least it seems this way because when I am teaching asana, for instance and I tell people, “exhale and fold forward, everyone does it. Hundred and hundreds of people respond to my every word… and then I come home, which I share with four children, two of whom are teenagers. And there, no one listens to me or hardly listens. It’s a stark (and grounding) contrast. At home, I’m just “daddy”. Being healthy, vital and vigorous children, their job is to be themselves and thus discover boundaries. Their intent is very different from the people I teach. This means I need to remind them to brush their teeth, sometimes several times in a single night. Thus, every day, even the dinner table with the four of them and Gina, my amazing wife, is a constant of being grounded in material reality.
Also, living in the country works its magic on me. With incredible views of the mountains from our backyard, my closest neighbor (and my mailbox) is nearly half a mile away. There’s snow to clear, wood to chop, fires to build and exquisite air to breathe and silence. Stillness and stillness. In every way, my home life is incredibly elemental. I live close to the earth and to all the elements––despite our internet connection and our other modern conveniences––natures surrounds us. I spend a lot of time chopping wood and caring water.
In the end, my desire to be a loving and attentive father and husband and to always touch nature are the things that ground me, along with an absolute clear sense that, above all else, I am a human being, one who is always in the process of learning.
Amanda: Any advice for men?
Here’s my list: If you want to be happy, make peace with sacrifice. If a man is going to become fully himself––and this is not something that happens automatically, just because you arrive at a particular age––he’s going to have give up some things in the process. This is why I call it sacrifice; be it drugs, infidelity, childishness, lying, your fears of intimacy, violence––none of these things contribute to you being a man. At the heart of true manhood is becoming consistently stable, honorable, one whom others can always count on. Become an unwavering presence. Be a man in relationship to others. Learn how to not feel threatened. Give up the desire to run, to hide; make it no longer an option to quietly exit with out being accountable. Show up, fully, totally.
In short, grow up, but understand that this is not the equivalent of making a bunch of money. If you wish to become this kind of man, this type of presence, you will need to make friends with the idea of giving more love than you are expecting to receive.
Find one or two things to become really serious about, so that you can grow into having some weight, some significance in this world––at the same time, be light. Never take yourself too seriously.
I am almost done. Just accept the fact that women are closer to enlightenment than you are and they always will be. A woman who is balanced will always be a much more significant force in this world that a man who is balanced. Stop being threatened by women in general. See what you can do to elevate womankind without expecting anything in return. Then, if you can figure out how to help keep even one of them truly happy, you’ve accomplished a great thing in your life.
In short, take responsibility for discovering your true internal and eternal source of power, stay connected to it, and then serve. That’s it. Simple. Done. Oh yeah, be kind.
The challenge is that for most men until they embody these ideals they will sound like a load of crap, but once you start to grow into it, you’ll find your self being led into something great.
Amanda: What are your biggest passions?
Rod: Practically anything related to the ocean: surfing, sailing, swimming in it. Hearing it. Watching it. Music––anything with a really good beat. Dancing. Photography, I love provocative images and how they tell stories we otherwise might miss.
I am passionate for soul-searching-truth telling. Parenting, holding one of my child’s hands; it doesn’t matter if it’s one of my younger or older ones. Travel, art. Fire, whether it be a ceremonial fire or a campfire. A star filled night sky. Good company, being around people who are living their life well, but feel no inclination to boast about it. And finally, the process of uncovering the self––self-realization. Whether trying to master the outer world or the inner worlds: it’s all about self-realization. Oh yeah, I love fountain pens.
Amanda: What’s something we probably don’t know about you?
Rod: I have an excellent French accent. My vocabulary and conjugation are not so hot, so when I speak French in France, I always get this curious look, that more or less says, “how could you speak so poorly, yet with such a good accent?” I credit three years of French private school from the ages of 10 and 13.
Amanda: What’s one of the hardest things you’ve been through? What helped get you through it?
Rod: I’ve had two experiences that truly brought me to my knees. The first was divorce and becoming a single father to 14-month-old twin boys. The second was my two youngest children in ICU and my daughter coming very close to death when they were four months old. The latter is just too hard to talk about and in the end what it took to get through it, was Grace, something pretty hard, if not impossible, to describe or define.
So, I’ll address getting through divorce and becoming a single father. Really two things got me through that. One was an absolute commitment to do whatever I had to do, sidestepping all the challenges by committing to serving the best interests of my sons. As hard as that was, making that commitment, living it, in time became it’s own reward. Despite the loneliness, the difficulties, and the challenges I was fortified by sensing that in the very process of serving and nurturing them, we were all somehow being nurtured and served. The second thing that got me (and us) through it was, no surprise, practice. I managed to squeeze it in despite all of the diaper changing, cooking, teaching and physical exhaustion. I managed to make it a priority and fit it in. My life, and perhaps all of our lives, depended on it.
Amanda: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?
Rod: You asked me something similar a few years ago and I said something pithy: “Stop your noise. Get silent. Share love.” I still stand by that, but as I look at the world now I would want to say this: Perception is not more important than Truth. We seem to have lost our way on that: perception is now more important than truth. At the heart of this is that fewer and fewer of us seem interested in thinking for ourselves or even willing to take the time to try. Instead of helping us evolve, the information age has led us to become more tribal and more intellectually lazy than ever. Critical thinking, not to mention reading and deep contemplation have become exceptional. After all, why bother taking time to reflect when you can so easily tune in to what the group you identify yourself as being a part of is constantly posting and and broadcasting, thus telling you what to think, what to do and what to say.
Wake up to the voice of your conscience. Look deep in your own heart to discover the only true philosophy––the only one that links us all and is the core of intelligence and wisdom. So, I say this: Serve Truth––the one waiting in your heart to be known––not other’s perception of it.