When I went to the Moving into Stillness retreat with Erich Schiffmann and friends I watched Erich like a hawk. This is common to anyone who teaches me. Over time I’ve learned that your teachers are everyone. What I like, what I dislike and what I aspire to be are contained in those around me and if you look closely your teachers are never further than a glance away.

My reason for watching Erich is I won’t have a huge time around him. What I’m looking for isn’t truth, least not from Erich so much as listening to a friend on the path who’s exploring to share insight. It’s not just teacher to student or peer to peer as much as he’s been doing this awhile, he’s charted the path more during his years…watch him.

While engaging our group in a talk he discussed meditation. All of yoga for Erich goes back to this. Hatha yoga is designed to get one ready to meditate. I’ve only just started practicing sitting meditation after working on my posture for years. As Erich discussed meditation he said, “there’s just something about it.”

The hawk like precision I had made me say, “Aha!” internally. Even he, after all these years recognizes it’s ineffable. Krishnamurti, Iyengar and now Erich all putting their hand on their forehead and going how can you describe the indescribable? Everyone attempts to, what other language is there? We use symbols to communicate and share but in the end it’s your path and no one else’s. Teaching is good but it will never communicate experience itself.

“There’s just something about it.” That small glimmer of light within his talk put me at ease. It feels good to have community that is as perplexed, confused, happy and in awe of what we’re working with. We’re alive. We’re focused and trying to gain more insight in how to lead healthier, better and more integrated lives. Yoga and meditation are good medicine, not just for your body but for your soul.

MIS retreat

Long ago I became excited due to there being a gathering at Bharsana Dham. This gathering was of friends and students of Erich Schiffmann. The gig didn’t go through, plans were scrapped due to logistics and I kept track of the Moving into Stillness forums for when they might return.

The time finally came this past weekend and I was excited to go meet someone whose work I admire and who has become a role model of sorts for me. Being in a largely female yoga community means I don’t have as many male teachers to inspire me or emulate. My practice is largely isolated and I was tickled to arrive in Camp Allen to discover other yoga teachers from Austin whom I’d never met.

Being largely solitary my joke became saying, “Krishnamawho?” It was nice to discuss my interests and have others understand. Discussions about Krishnamacharya, Iyengar and the American yoga community flowed off of lips easily and I relished a chance to have other perspectives on a practice we’ve all grown to love. All those I spoke with were warm, welcoming and had a sense of family I find inspiring. Not even I felt like an outsider.

Erich, I admit, was intimidating to me. This isn’t so much due to him as due to my notions of yoga teachers and having admiration for his work. He walked into the studio, gave a few people hugs and walked over slowly and without saying a word gave me a large welcoming hug. I was almost taken aback and realized I’ve chosen the right line of work. Years ago I had an afternoon spent with people who became my friends for the day. At its end I gave a man a large hug and was told later by my then girlfriend that he’d been very uncomfortable with this. Working as a bodyworker means my sense of physical intimacy with people is often more intimate than some may be comfortable with. It’s just a hug, a symbol of affection for another person and I decided that if someone wasn’t comfortable with my hugging them then well, that was simply something we’d all have to work out. In this instance with Erich I felt home. After our embrace I said, “I’m Robert, I live in Austin.” His reply was a simple head nod, “Oh yeah, nice to meet you.” Nice to meet you, post hug, I shouldn’t feel so amazed but hey if you’re in my line of work you notice physical contact.

Through the event which was a very informal hangout I found everyone calm, relaxing and open. Being that most of us have read and absorbed Erich’s book Moving Into Stillness I felt we were mostly all on the same page. I was treated very well and receptively and I’d like to thank those in attendance for being so warm and open to this curmudgeon of a yoga teacher. You give me hope for yoga community.

Erich has always come across as down to earth in his book and videos and I found his presence in person to be no different. There was no air about him, no sense of exhaltation and certainly no sense of supremacy. I sat down for lunch, Erich took a seat next to me and over conversation he told me he’d watched some of my videos on youtube and that, “they were good.” This was enough for me to feel guffawed. I’m sure I kept it internal but to me it was akin to getting a letter from Iyengar where he wanted to talk yoga with me.

Later in discussions I presumed why Erich would compliment my work. He seems to be almost as tech savvy as I am, which is to say he’s run the camera, editing software and knows what it’s like to pour your heart and soul into a youtube video. He said he could tell the videos were “heartfelt” and that was enough of an encouragement for me. Having someone I admire in the yoga community tell me my videos were good felt like a small blessing.

During the event I felt no lack of humanity among those in attendance including Erich. There was no air, no condescension. I’d like to thank Erich and the community for welcoming me with open arms. I hope I can create the same open space in my classes and studio that you presented to me this weekend.