How to find stability and orientation in the current confusing, wild and dangerous situation of the world?
Gustavo Gitti is from São Paulo, Brazil. He is a certified TaKeTiNa Rhythm Teacher who helps the current LATAM TaKeTiNa Training Group to grow. He also is a Buddhism practitioner and the leader of the online community “O Lugar”, which is dedicated to meditation and daily practices.
We had a short but very deep talk, full of treasures to start putting into practice today. We went through the meditation practices of stability, wisdom and compassion, the space and stillness that opens up in rhythm training and the benefits of putting wisdom and compassion in action by practicing silent contemplation together with artistic expression.
“I think there is no possibility to find an island isolated from the insecurity. I think the way is to open more, more and more to this complexity of life and try to reach stability in courage when dealing with it…Security does not come from security, it comes from opening and stopping pushing the uncertainty away. Just open and say, “Yeah, it’s uncertain, let’s live with that.” This is the stability.“
– Gustavo Gitti
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Transcript of this Episode
Today we are starting a new series in which I will ask my guests five questions in twenty five minutes. That means, intense reflection, active engagement and hopefully, deep insights.
My first guest today is Gustavo Gitti from São Paulo, Brazil. He is actually the leader of the online community “O Lugar” which is dedicated to meditation. But Gustavo also is a certified TaKeTiNa Rhythm Teacher, and he helps the current TaKeTiNa Training Group to grow.
So with that, welcome Gustavo.
Thank you so much Reinhard for having me here. I have deep gratitude for all of your work and our relationship. I’m here as a student also. So thank you very much, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Wonderful! Let’s right go to the very first question and that is: what was your first direct experience with rhythm that you can remember?
What comes to my mind now is playing the drums using things from the kitchen basically. I was trying to get to the groove that I was listening in the music like rock and stuff like that when I was 10 years old. I’m remembering that I thought that the hit hat was played with the left foot. Because I didn’t see it. It was not a time with MTV. I didn’t see people playing the drums, so I imagined the drums and thought like “ah, they are doing the hit hat with the feet”, not with the hand here. And then I played a lot of things that were kind of wrong, but it was a way to mirror that in my body. I think that was my first experience with rhythm.
Then I got my drums and I remember also, looking to you, that one of my first really deep experiences of being in the groove, in the flow of rhythm, being really free, was during the first workshop that I did with you, a TaKeTiNa workshop. I was looking to your eyes, I was looking to the sky because there were some windows… I remember that clearly. I think we were doing a three over two (rhythm) with a caixixi (Brazilian rattle). You were like crazy that time and I remember really letting fall and a sense of the space around… So that was also something that touched me deep and I can remember until today.
So there was an inner landscape or inner state connected with your first rhythm experiences, right? Maybe you can describe a little closer, going back to the very first – I don’t know how far back you can remember – what was the feeling from child Gustavo when you came in contact with rhythm?
I felt alive, I think I felt connected to something that was beyond. I remember like really imagining another band or group playing, recording, and something that was reaching me. I felt really alive and part of the whole thing. I mean, I was not doing philosophy about that but I remember the feeling of getting… I mean like, “life has meaning.” I think that if you would have asked what the feeling was, it was like “Yeah, there is some purpose, I’m here for something.” And not being separated and depressed.
I was just in the school so it was a limited universe and through rhythm I felt that there was something bigger.
Wonderful! So it’s finding your purpose through rhythm in a way. Fantastic!
That leads to the second question. What has triggered your attraction to meditation and eventually also, as I know from you, to Buddhism?
I had a little bit of an intuition at the beginning. I remember I read Alan Watts’s book, “The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.” I think I was like 15 or 16 years old and that book touched me in a way, that I realized I was not who I thought I was. That was the message… “The taboo against knowing who you really are”, like you really are more than what you think you are or what you see when you’re looking in the mirror.
Then I suffered a lot of a kind of depression, isolation… I’ve spent two years not having sex, I was a virgin, and not having relationships, not kissing anyone. I was closed, a really closed being. I was more skinny, not really alive…I remember back then. And then I felt that I needed some deeper meaning. With this suffering and also connected with this intuition, this curiosity, the same year that I met you, I met my first meditation teacher. He’s a Brazilian teacher and that was my first contact with meditation and Buddhism.
One thing, just to stay with this first experience that you are bringing me to mind right now, the first thing that I remember of him is his stability. His name is Lama Padma Samten, and Samten in Tibetan means “meditation stability.” It was the first time; I had never seen someone like that before, really quiet, really still.
Is he a Tibetan or a Brazilian?
He’s a Brazilian but his Tibetan name is Samten, which means “meditation stability.” My first contact, more than anything that I could read in a book, was to see him really still. It’s like a statue but it’s alive. It’s astonishing to see someone so still without blinking, you know. Really still. Then I felt, “I want that.”
So you met this teacher… and what was your further path? How did you get into a regular practice of meditation or Buddhism?
Usually you go through it and you advance by listening to a lot of teachings. Buddhism is an oral tradition more than something that you read a lot. So I started to listen to teachings and going to small retreats, like two or three days retreats. When I was 18 years old I did my first 10 days retreat. Then I did more 10 days retreats and a two-months retreat. It’s not big; I have friends that did six months, one year, three years retreats. But two-months retreat was something that I could do in my schedule and then I progressed listening to teachings and I also met different teachers after this first teacher.
Gustavo, what’s a retreat? For our listeners who don’t know what a retreat is, how does it practically look like? If i’m in a retreat, what do I do?
The original meaning of the word “retreat” in Tibetan is “border.” So you just create a border between the place where you are practicing and the world. This border is just to reduce the distraction. You have a simple way of living during the retreat. Even if it’s just a three days retreat you can wake up early. Usually you don’t talk a lot, you stay silent. There are different kinds of retreats. Some are more silent were you don’t talk at all. On others you can talk a little bit and usually you can listen to teachings and practice, or you can just practice. If you do a silent retreat, you just practice. You wake up and practice about one hour and a half, then you take breakfast, then you have three hours of practice, you have lunch, then you rest a little bit and then three more hours of practice in sessions of 20-minutes or something like that. You make a break and then you start another session. Then you have also evening practices of about two or three hours and then you go to sleep. So it’s really a quiet contemplation. It’s not just sitting silent but you can also generate compassion, you can investigate and generate wisdom about impermanence and also non-duality.
So the practice means meditation, sitting meditation, or can it mean other things too? Let us know.
It can mean sitting meditation, it can mean mantra, it can mean a recitation or it can mean some contemplation in a way that you read something about, for example, impermanence, and then you reflect on your life or on the phenomena around you. It can also mean working with your relationships. For example, you feel the kindness of others getting into your life. Like you are the gathering of the kindness of others. For example you taught me a lot, then my family, my friends… So everybody’s supporting me and then you feel really this wish for everybody to be well and you generate love and compassion.
We have three kinds of practice in retreats: stability practice, like relaxation stability, then you have compassion, love and compassion practice, and wisdom practice. So basically you do these three types of practice and sometimes you use mantra in a wisdom or compassion practice to keep that view of reality.
Are they guided? Is someone suggesting like “now we’re going to do a reflection or wisdom, or we are sitting and be still”?
If there is a Lama Rōshi, a teacher in the place, in the room, in the center, it can be guided. Sometimes even when there is a Lama, he doesn’t guide. He just sits there. It’s kind of a guidance because he’s there. You know, as a teacher, just your presence it’s the teaching. And sometimes you can also listen to recorded teachings or, if you’re doing a silent solitary retreat, then it’s good to have no guided meditation, just the silence. Because then you can really see your mind, all the confusion… you can really see it.
This is the practice of meditation. My third question would be: what are the benefits for you if you’re practicing a drum or a percussion instrument?
In a way, both of these paths enrich each other. In my case, I met you when I was 18 years old; the same year I met my first meditation teacher. I wanted the silence but I also wanted the energy, the expression. In the Buddhist tradition that I follow we have this two things, non-dual. You have the stillness but you have… for example some of my teachers they are also artists. So you have the expression like the painting and music and poetry. It’s kind of the expression of this presence. So this presence is not still. I mean, you can have wisdom and compassion in action.
As a practitioner I try to practice the same quality when I’m practicing an instrument. Of course there are some moments where I just hit. Then nothing happens. But when it’s a good practice, it’s similar. In a way that I’m connected with the stillness and the space but at the same time I can express it. So it’s really nice because when you get into a groove it’s not that you lose the space or you lose the stillness. It’s like you’re opening more, you are kind of offering it or making it more visible, more tangible. So for me the practice of playing the drums is like that and also in a more mundane way, it’s an easy way to relax or to get this relief. Sometimes I just go there and start to play the frame drum or even take the berimbau. I’m inside a bubble of worry and seconds after or minutes after, I’m feeling the center and the sound of the berimbau. So the sound of my berimbau takes me out of the worry. For me that is a nice way to do it and if I do it with meditation, then I would need to sit and breath. Or don’t even sit…just breathing can also be a way to this relief.
We have practiced a lot together in the Teacher Training in Brazil but currently, as we know, we have a crazy situation in the world that is unprecedented in a way.
My fourth question to you, having experience in meditation, in compassion, in wisdom and all of that… what would your advice be to our listeners, of how someone can find stability and orientation in the current confusing, wild and dangerous situation of the world?
That’s the one million dollar question. Everybody has this question, it’s really beautiful.
If someone asks me as a friend and I can really suggest something, I would say for this person to forget about the attitude of pushing it away or trying to find an island of security in the midst of this craziness. I think there is no possibility to find this island isolated from the insecurity. I think the way is to open, to open more, more and more to this complexity of life and try to reach this stability in courage when dealing with it. For example, if you say to insecurities and uncertain times “yes, it’s uncertain times”, this is security. So security does not come from security, it comes from opening and stopping pushing it away, pushing the uncertainty away. Just open and say “yeah, it’s uncertain, let’s live with that.” This is the stability. So then this stability is also enriched by your compassion motivation. So if you try to think of yourself, “how can I get away from this”, then you will never get away from this. But if you say, “how can I help others?”, then some power comes. It’s like a mother or a father. Sometimes the mother is like weak and tired but then the child says “I want to eat”, right? So from the compassion comes the energy of “oh, yeah, I should do something.”
So I think we need to get our energy in these moments from the needs of others. “How can I be of benefit? What can I do?” And you always can help one person even by just talking. So, for example, I’m doing this with the motivation that someone may listen to it and then, yeah, gets some wisdom from it. Then my life gets meaning. So this is the source of stability, energy, meaning and wisdom. Because when you look to reality…okay it’s uncertain. How is it? It’s impermanent. How is it? Then you find the basis which is beyond impermanence. It changes because there is something that is alive changing the whole thing. So then you connect with this and this is not impermanent. And this is secure. So it opens also the wisdom. So for me the one attitude that I would recommend is not closing but opening more and more. As one Buddhist Teacher said to me, “if you are a practitioner from now on closing is not an option.” Then I say “yes, closing is not an option.” Sometimes I cannot do it, okay, but then I open myself even to this closing. You can always open, even when you close.
Thank you. I think this is a very hands-on-practice for everyone listening here. Very beautiful.
Last question. If you had all the resources you need, what event would you put together? May be musical or a gathering… what would you do?
The first thing that came to my mind now looking to you is that I would do a huge TaKeTiNa Workshop because I think that’s something that we need right now. It’s to be with the people alive together, we need to be alive together right now. So I think this is the most important protest and subversion and revolution right now. To be happy, alive and open.
If I had a lot of resources, I would open more cultural and meditation centers around the globe, for example. Because I think through art and through music we come back to our senses and especially in Brazil, we are suffering from anesthesia. Because we are not feeling, a lot of suffering comes and we don’t even feel it. So I would promote a lot of events related to TaKeTiNa and related to feeling, you know. Can be theater, can be dance, it can be music and also the inner world. How to go back to the simple feeling of being. Because this is the most basic thing that we forgot: The simple feeling of being alive. So I would just promote this all over the world and also work with education, like you do, training people to do this. Training people to make others alive, to enrich and to wake people up. I would do that if I had unlimited power. Yeah! I would begin now!
Okay Gustavo, I thank you so much for your time. I thank you so much for your wisdom actually – very practical things people can get out of this. And also thank you for being the first who is going with me through this five questions.
To our listeners… well if you liked it and if you want to suggest people, please do so. Leave a comment with your suggestion. Have a great time and keep on groowin’.
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