What is Vertical Time Yoga?
Posted 14-Sept: 2012
by Bill Scheffel
Southern live oak, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Beginning in 2001, I began to have a series of "inner" experiences - dreams, "messages" and insights - that began to change the direction of my life. These experiences occurred in a confluence of "outer" ones: my relationship splitting apart; my son growing up and leaving home; various freelance work endeavors coming to an end. In these fallings apart I sold my house, downsized into a trailer and had money to travel, which I did an extensive amount of, primarily to Cambodia and later to Turkey, destinations that changed my life as much a becoming a parent or writer once had. Throughout this time I increased my commitment to meditation and writing... and to continuing to be receptive to inner experience (or guidance from the dralas). From the very beginning - eleven years ago - I had the distinct sense I needed to bring something forth but I had little idea what it was or would be, usually not even the foggiest.
To make many long stories short, in February of this year (and following a time of many inner experiences over the course of the previous three weeks), on the last day of the month - the 29th - I suddenly and unexpectedly paid $500 to initiate a U.S. trademark application for the phrase Vertical Time yoga; I made a decision and commitment to something I still had little notion of. February 29th became the birthday of Vertical Time yoga - a date that won't occur again for four years. A definition was required by the trademark application: I wrote this at the time, the seed of what has unfolded since, though also before:
Teaching and personal instruction in body postures and mindfulness practices designed to bring physical, vocal and spiritual alignment, health and strength.
Background and sources of Vertical Time yoga
I. Meditation. I began the path of meditation, the study of Buddhism and the Shambhala path of warriorship in 1976, when I became a student of Chögyam Trungpa. In 1980, I began to teach Shambhala Training programs (eventually all of the levels, including three Warrior Assembly) and continued doing so for the next twenty-nine years, including fourteen years in which I designed and taught an introduction to meditation class at Naropa University, Shambhala Meditation Practicum. The Shambhala teachings (see Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa) have been touchstone, primary path and my deepest heart-connection with my teacher. It is in the "Shambhala" sense of offering a non-denominational and in fact secular contribution - not bound to any one religious or philosophical doctrine - that motivates offering Vertical Time yoga - practices that are, above all, based on meditation.
II. Inhabiting the Body. Our body, like the earth itself, is an undiscovered and unexplored homeland. Though we may "know" a lot about our body (or the physical world) scientifically and culturally speaking - even spiritually speaking - this is typically a mental knowing that has little to do with inhabiting the body,or fully aligning with our emotions and emotional potential. This mental knowing works in collaboration with our "pain" or "wound" body, a process nearly invisible to us and deeply rooted in the developmental traumas and resulting contractions that make up our habitual patterns - patterns perpetually reinforced through our mental knowing.
These are lessons I (and many of those I know who have also been long-term meditation practitioners) - have come to acknowledge, in fact admit: it takes a great deal of practice and commitment to begin to listen to our own body. It takes a great deal of practice and commitment to allow ourselves to make friends with our body (our body is not resisting the process, we are). It takes a great deal of practice and commitment to surrender to our body as teacher, as wisdom principle, as drala.
It is typically pain that brings us to our knees... and into our body. On the physical leverl, I have had lower back pain since my late twenties; it was the beginning of a long string of blessings that my back went out when out I was twenty-eight and I was brought into more consciousness of anger, physical misalignment and my body in general. Over the following thirty years my back got better and got worse, as I worked with it and journeyed deeper into the causes of my lower back pain - occasionally so acute I could only sit in a chair for an hour a day and had to read and take my meals standing up. Over these thirty years I encountered healers and methodologies that included: meditation, yoga, qigong, chiropractics, polarity therapy, cranial-sacral work, Rolfing, the Feldenkrais method and others - each a great help, a blessing and a discovery that seemed to come at just the right time.
At times, I've received both good and bad advice from the same practitioner, only pointing out that the journey of healing and inhabiting the body is one's own. Perhaps outer advice - or the application of any system - must be in a mixture of 25% method and 75% one's own awareness. I suggest the various postures of Vertical Time yoga - most of them are done standing - be approached in this same way.
I am most indebted to Chögyam Trungpa for his teachings on meditation and inhabiting the body; they are a constant in my life and unfolding each day anew, continually alive. Many other Tibetan teachers - and especially Tsoknyi Rinpoche, with whom I studied for seven years- have brought teachings, methods and insights of incalculable value into my life.
I'd like to site the work of two student's of Chögyam Trungpa whose friendship and body methods of working with the body have been invaluable to me, and who also form a foundation for Vertical Time Yoga. The first is Dr. Reggie Ray who has pioneered a series of (primarily) lying down meditation practices and an approach to meditation he refers to as "meditating with the body." Between 2002 and 2005, I attended many of Reggie's week-long retreats - and on one occasion co-taught with him. I have shared his series of lying down meditations with many people, and I have met countless people who have benefitted from his work - the majority have never met Reggie, but thanks to CDs and the internet have been able to listen to Reggie's guided meditation. I would encourage anyone who is the least bit drawn to visit Dharma Ocean and listen to Reggie's work firsthand. I might not have thought of referring to standing as "meditation" were it not for Reggie's work, not to mention the ground Reggie established in new approaches to meditation and possibilities of guided meditation.
The other student is also my close friend, Tom Pathe. Tom trained with Ida Rolf, founder of Rolfing (her teaching stream is also referred to as Structural Integration) and has been a practitioner of the craft ever since. Through his even longer commitment to Tibetan Buddhist practice, and to a number of earth-based or shamanic disciplines, Tom has made a profound journey of exploring, contacting, inhabiting and understanding the body and it's unlimited dimensions, the work he derived from the journey he calls "self-rolfing," a way that makes rolfing available to anyone, anywhere. The best introduction to Tom's work - and to Vertical Time yoga for that matter - is to let Tom speak for himself (you may have seen this video interview I recorded in 2010). A video interview with Tom Pathe.
NEXT WEEK: What is Vertical Time Yoga, Part II.
Bill practicing Vertical Time yoga in Durham, North Carolina.