Rodney Yee Says "Be Quiet": Q&A on Meditation

Instruction on how to shift from unconscious reactions to mindful responses

In his second book, Moving Toward Balance: 8 Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee, the author devotes one day's instruction in each chapter to meditation — a discipline he practices every day to offset the attention-draining demands of life today. Rodney talked to us recently about what he says is one of the most important skills a regular meditation practice can help you learn — and bring into challenging situations in your everyday life. 

Gaiam: You mention in Moving Toward Balance that you want to take "living in the present" a step further by asking "How are you responding in the present moment?" How does meditation help you respond appropriately?

Rodney: Really it's about relationships. Any relationship is deepened by responding to what's actually happening in the present moment. If we don't let our responses come up organically, then what we're doing is reacting to things that aren't happening. We already begin to calculate what the other person is going to say. If you really take the time to let something penetrate deeply before you try to respond, then there will be more genuine communication.

Be here now. Really listen. You'll begin to let go of knee-jerk reactions. There's a quietness. You might listen to your breath, heartbeat or a mantra. Or listen to anything — let it all in. This is what I've been doing lately. Through meditation, you allow yourself to get into places to listen to your whole body, and your listening ability gets more keen. Meditation is also a time for the mind to clear itself. The brain is like a blackboard, and it has to be erased before it can absorb new information. So a time to digest is really important. Sleep doesn't always work, because a lot of times you dream — that can actually give you more to think about. Without a clear mind, how can you listen? If you can't listen, how can you respond?

What is a typical example of how someone might be reacting instead of responding?

In a relationship with a spouse, someone might do something they've done a million times before. Maybe it's not the same. But your reaction is the same. You start reacting to things because the listener isn't listening anymore — you are assuming you know already. That image exists in your own head.

Here's another example: Let's say you have people you work with all the time, and you have a meeting once a week. Same cast of characters, same things happen in the meeting. You have this experience that repeats itself, and it's very easy to slip into that pattern. But today, you say, "I'm going to listen differently" … Meditation really allows you to do that. "I'm sitting down again today. Can I keep an open mind? Can I not get into my old patterns or habits? Can I take the responsibility to listen more deeply in everything I do?"

What about responding to something completely unexpected?

When you meditate, what you learn is the first Buddhist concept: Everything is impermanent. You start to realize, "I'm just pretending everything is the same, so I feel safe." What you learn in meditation is everything is changing. You just don't freak out anymore. Well, you do, but a lot less and a lot less frequently. My meditation begins to show me that my body is radically changing, and I can't control anything. Most of people's stress is based on control. Once people realize they don't have control, they let go of the result. You do your best and then you go to sleep at night.


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Sonia Gallagher
Sonia Gallagher's picture
User offline. Last seen 5 years 46 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 04/17/2009

I really like what you say about everything in life being impermanent. This is probably one of the biggest things I have learned to accept and am still working on accepting through my meditation practice. Once you fully understand and accept that things, people, and situations in life are all impermanent, it allows you to truly live without suffering. To not be attached to people, things, or circumstances and in that way understand that they are not "yours" and are not "forever". In this way, you truly learn to enjoy all the good moments in your life and to accept the bad ones without suffering as you know that they too will pass.

Meditation led me to change careers from being a lawyer to now online editor of My Meditation Garden.
It gave me the courage and understanding to do so and now I share this information with other stressed out professionals who are looking for ways to get to know themselves and become more spiritual.

In my opinion, following free guided meditations is the best way to start and continue a regular meditation practice.

Dorothy422's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 14 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 05/16/2010

I am trying Meditation since couple of weeks but not get any success to concentrate. I am performing Meditation early in the morning at the Garden nearby my house which is silent place.

I feel that I may not be following right process for getting good results on Meditation.
Suggestions are welcome..

Eric's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 13 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 05/16/2010

It took lots of time for me to get focused on Yoga and Meditation.

Even at one point of time I literally feel frustrated but still I manage to have patience and at last I got good results.

sweetemo22jd's picture
User offline. Last seen 5 years 24 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 03/03/2011

Like Rodney, I'm also one of the lucky ones who believe in the power of meditation. Working for the media industry, my work schedule is so busy that I easily stress out by the end of the day. Good thing a friend of mind suggested we go under meditation classes. At first, I was hesitant. But yeah...upon giving it a try, such a great feeling overwhelmed me. I can feel stress slowly leaving my body. This practice doesn't just prevent neuro disorders, but it's also one way of boosting a person's motivation and fitness. Aside from Yoga, there are a few other Meditation Techniques I've tried including Vipassana, Transcendental and Dynamic.

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