What returns to me over and over again from my time at Naropa are the questions, the first being "why teach?" I now find myself in the position of teaching regularly. Again and again I ask myself this question, and the answer is just another question-"Why practice?" After all if I aim to teach something then how can I help anyone without understanding why I practice the very thing that I instruct? I had a hunch before Naropa that my mind and my body were more intertwined than either would ever readily admit. I was correct in my hunch, but had no idea how vast and subtle a subject I was about to get into. Oftentimes today I feel that I still don't have a clue how big the space of Yoga is, and this brings me to a third question that pleasantly persists-"what is Yoga?" I learned at Naropa to match questions with practice and practice with questions and feel myself as the process that happens throughout. I am happy to say that this keeps going on today. I currently teach Yoga for the City of Thornton, CO.
My time spent at Naropa and within the Yoga program was and still is the most important period in my life. It set a foundation for living that oriented me in a direction that is leading me not only to success in my career as a Yoga Teacher, Wellness Guide and Personal Trainer, but it also embedded in me the qualities of compassion, reflection, kindness, honesty, discipline, humor, vigilance, and more, that continue to grow and help me create the type of life that is aligned with the highest ideals of human existence. My experience at Naropa fuels my choices and desires, and balances my psyche when life becomes turbulent. The Yoga program in particular was so incredibly thorough and prioritized so intelligently that I was able to enter and thrive in the competitive teaching field of the Bay Area within months of graduation. Thorough Asana instruction accompanied by excellent Meditation, Theory, and Philosophy, along with ample opportunity for practice teaching experienced over the course of multiple years make Naropa's Yoga program unique and effective. Nataraja's leadership and presence is one that will never fail to guide those lucky students who stumble into his field towards their personal best. His depth of training and experience and his embodiment adds an indefinable authenticity and lineage to the program that lies at the heart of my personal success and confidence as a teacher. I would recommend the Naropa Yoga program with the highest possible certainty to anyone looking to become an instructor or simply to dive deeper to the essential wisdom of the tradition and art of Yoga.
As an interdisciplinary student, Nate Gilbert combined classes on Group Dynamics and Education with his Traditional Eastern Arts curriculum to form a degree of his own making. Graduating in 1999, he earned a black belt in Aikido in 2002 and continues to assist Naropa's primary Aikido instructor, Jude Blitz, as a teacher's assistant.
"I find that the supportive and contemplative atmosphere provided in Naropa Aikido classes offer a safe space with an intellectually engaging dimension not found in other training," he says. "It gave me an introduction to theory and concept, without which I would not have considered beginning a martial art."
Nate grew up in New Jersey and Maryland, where he studied theatre and attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. He attended a large state school in Maryland for two years, which was just long enough to see what he "did notwant from college."
"I was drawn to Naropa because of the focus on meditation and the alternative nature of the institution," he says. "I began at Naropa as an Early Childhood Education major and, to satisfy a contemplative practice requirement, decided to try Aikido. I was hooked. I took all the offered courses (Aikido I - IV) and began to train at Boulder Aikikai.
"Aikido is good for the ego--in the Buddhist sense. From the very beginning of my training at Naropa, I found Aikido practice profoundly challenging to my constricted, ego-centric tendencies. Aikido practice has a way of illuminating, in a very concrete way, how self-centered one can be, and how that gets in the way of genuine interaction with others. In my first semester, I was amazed to find how frustrated I was when I couldn't make people fall down like my teachers could--I couldn't 'get it right.' I came to see that frustration as a brilliant opportunity to notice my own experience and relax. In letting go and becoming more comfortable with myself in Aikido practice, I found myself more 'successful' outwardly."
Now enrolled as a graduate student in Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology, Nate plans to graduate with his master's degree in May 2008. His final paper is entitled "Crisis and Center; Aikido and the Contemplative Perspective in Emergency Psychiatry," which describes how his ten plus years of Aikido training and work with Naropa greatly inform his current work with Emergency Psychiatric Service at the Mental Health Center of Boulder.
In his future work as a psychotherapist, he has no doubt that his Aikido training and contemplative practice will greatly inform the way he interacts with clients. In his current work with Emergency Psychiatric Service, he regularly evaluates persons in crisis, and the openness he gains from his practice is invaluable to him when being of service to them.