Photos from interview: Carl Kerridge
“The more you insist on improving who and what you are, the more you become master of your destiny.”
~ Rod Stryker
In the summer of 2006 I was coming out of a broken engagement, working in an unsatisfying career, my patterns and habits did all but suffocate and paralyze me on a regular basis and if I was getting really honest with myself – I probably drank more than I should. I was definitely poised and ready to transform my life – but I had been ready for a long, long time - I did not have the tools to face my fears. My weapons of choice were a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers and the t.v. Then, I took Rod Strykers’ Yoga of Fufillment course at Kripalu in Lenox, Massachusettes and it set the course for a different way of living… one where I could never turn back.
“If you have not chosen the desire that has created your life, you are living by a desire you have not chosen.” ~ Rod Stryker
Five years later, I had the opportunity to sit with founder of Para Yoga, Yogarupa Rod Stryker and talk with him about his book (released July 26th 2011) The Four Desires, a call to action to create a manual from the widely successfull Yoga of Fufillment course, which he still teaches internationally. The impact of this work, unlike just about any other process I have ever committed to, still lives with me on a daily basis. This article was written with support from my interview with Rod, the book and my notes from the workshop.
A small caravan of yogis headed through the winding caverns of the Colorado Rocky Mountains – bursting with summer green and purple, waters flowing and hearts open and ready to receive. We were headed to Rod Stryker’s home. With nervous anticipation to re-connect with my teachers, teacher – a Master. A Yogarupa. Somone whom when their name is spoken – an air of auspiciousness seems to dance into the room. Pulling up at his home in Carbondale, CO about 20 minutes north of Aspen - we meet in his home office, a barn located at the base of the propety. His “office” is a mixture of his Apple Mac and Mala Beads. One can get the sense that thousands of hours of practice have been done here. We sit on meditation cushions to conduct the interview and I place my copy of the book between us.
Jessica Durivage: As you know, I had the opportunity to take your workshop five years ago. I am excited to hear how will this book translate to people who have not been able to work with you directly?
Rod Stryker: My hope and intention in writing this is that you can open the book and access the process. It is very process driven. It includes a very thorough and step by step methodology around the process. All you need is the willingness to expand the scope of your life.
As effective as yoga is for the mind and the body, which is now being proven by clinical research, asana and physical practice is just a tiny piece of the larger scope of it. The other 90% of the larger yoga tradition is just as effective in transforming our lives. If someone is interested in that profound transformation, I don’t think it matters if they have ever done yoga.
JD: The book, and as I remember the workshop both are very yogic in foundation, process and language. There is a lot of Sanskrit in the book. Do you think this will be challenging for someone to work through if they are not familiar with the terms?
RS: It was always a balancing act with the Sanskrit. My reason for putting it in was to help committed yoga practitioners to understand there was a basis and foundation to what I am talking about. I use a deliberate methodology drawing from the yoga tradition to accomplish a fulfilled life. There are key parts that address that, that you will never get to in a yoga class. This is not “Rod Stryker’s version of material spiritualism,” but actually is very traditional if we know where to look and we know where to find it.
There is a perception of yoga based around “withdrawal from the world,” and the more we can pull out of the world, the more we can give up our needs and give up our desires so then the closer we are to the goal of yoga.
It is really quite pervasive, “Life is suffering and the basis of that suffering is desire.” It is that misunderstanding and narrow view of that is what yoga is that I wanted to break down. We all have desires.
Some desires can help us to grow, expand and channel the best of who we are into the world, and it’s part of your reason for being here. We all work to separate those desires from the ones that are not constructive. There really is a power and a profound movement in moving toward your spiritual destiny. That is part of my rational of using as much Sanskrit as I did – I have put it there to help you understand this comes from an ancient tradition, but the main thing is that this is a process.
JD: Speaking to the process, Rod… When I shared with some people in my community that I was coming to interview you they were like, “Oh he is the guy who made you write your eulogies.” (gotta read the book, folks…) People really thought that that was a really interesting concept. I remember when I was going through this process it really brought up a lot of intense feelings and emotions to the surface. As far as for support for this book are there going to be online community forums or study groups available?
RS: Yes. We are in the development stage for this right now. It is interesting how many of my students have stepped forward and said, “I want to teach this.” Study groups have been proposed with peer support to help you walk yourself through what is a rather profound approach to Self reflection and Self awareness. You can really make the case that the basis of this book is about Svadhyaya or Self study and Self examination. Like most things, the more momentum you have to accomplish something, because our own innate resistance and challenges and non-constructive ideas can stand in the very way of what we need, the more likely we are to succeed. So through online forums and group discussions we want to provide support to those who have made a commitment to this process.
JD: How do you weave the (Himalayan) tradition and the lineage into this book?
RS: I began to teach the material that would become this book less than 3 months after I met Panditji (Pandit Rajmani Tigunait), my teacher. There was nothing in terms of actual information he gave me, there was just that meeting and it awoke something in me. I am having trouble finding the right words to describe it. It was clear that it was a catalyst to aliven something that had been inside of me and it was a question that I had long been asking.
I was finding that you could practice very profound yoga methodologies – as I had been practicing for many years with my other teachers – but still not be Self-Actualized. There was still a gap between fully expressing yourself in the world, finding fulfillment in all aspects of life and doing your yoga practice. It was a question that was living with me.
How do I bridge the gap between these two things?
The outline for this, 12 years later, is in the book. I would tell you that this book is an amalgam between The Art of Joyful Living by Swami Rama and The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. What was so intriguing about (The Artist Way) was that it was a process. About 7 years ago I read The Art of Joyful Living. Here was Swami Rama, a man with very few equals in the world in terms of his knowledge base, his articulation and the depth of his experience. And yet, he writes a book which is so straight forward all about life. No esoteric concepts. He just dives into the idea, “Why are people not thriving?” And then it was informed by The Artist Way in “How do I engage people in this process to move them there?”
Swami Rama with a group of students.
In terms if it’s relationship to the Himalyan Tradition, it is truly informed by an idea that runs through tradition. On the one hand we can look at it (the Himalayan Tradition) and see it as a great resource of knowledge about The Science of Life, Spirit, Fulfillment, Peace… At the same time, this unique lineage distills it into its most refined and direct teaching. All those teachings can be defined as, “How do you live fearlessly?”, “How do you live joyfully?” And, every human being is searching for that. The power of interfacing with the tradition was to really experience that distillation. My life has been so inculcated by the wisdom of the tradition so where ever possible, I am quoting them directly. What they have given me is so part of me, it is just woven into the tapestry of the book. It is the whole book. It is just that embrace of life – and to live joyfully that is at the heart of all spiritual traditions.
Rod Stryker and I at his home in Carbondale, CO
As a traditional “review” of this text – I am a living and breathing product of the work and would be excited and estatic if everyone found the willingness to commit to any personal process they found that worked for them. This process, was extrememly effective in the short and long term in my life. The book is an amazing source and reference designed to guide one through the process of moving deeper into oneself to discover what it is that we really want.
I would highly recommend getting the accompanying cd’s with the practices in the book described and taught by Rod, himself. I would also recommend staying close to the Para Yoga Community for support and guidance through your own process. I believe, as I sit here with the book by my side, that I am truly holding what will become a classic text. I recommed this book for teachers, teachers who train teachers, students, and anyone on the path looking to “let the wisdom and love in their heart show you who you really are, and then let it guide you.” (from The Four Desires, by Rod Stryker)
For more information on how to order the book and the accompanying cd’s please visit www.rodstryker.com. For more information on the Para Yoga Community, workshops, classes and training please visit www.parayoga.com. For more information on the Himalyan Institute and the Himalayan Yoga Tradition go to www.himalayaninstitute.org. Join Rods Facebook Page and Para Yoga’s Facebook Page. On Twitter – @parayogatweets and Youtube.
Rod will also join the Where is My Guru Show on Friday, August 19th from 11am-12:00pm EST and will be available to answer any questions you have about the book and/or the process.
Every Friday at 11 am EST. Join us!
Call in: 877-500-ZEUS (9387)
Listen in: 917-388-4642