I want to be very clear about something. I love mindfulness. I love finding out about my inner stuff. I’m open to everything. However, I have also found, turning my city girl off and my spiritual girl on takes a great deal more work than I had anticipated.
I was invited to spend a weekend at Kripalu, an amazing health and yoga retreat in Stockbridge. The facility is a former Jesuit seminary and it bills itself as North American’s largest residential facility for holistic health and education. It’s a place you can go to further your studies, become a yoga practitioner, delve into self discovery, take a class with one of your favorite author, or just chill. I did the last two. And it was magical. Seriously, there aren’t enough words to say how wonderful this spiritual oasis is.
I’m a big believer that it’s not the journey, it’s the destination, so, as I was making my way up to the Berkshires I found the most amazing place. It’s called Retro Pop Shop and it’s pretty much the coolest place I’ve ever seen. It’s jammed top to bottom with old signs, lunchboxes, vintage Pyrex (just like mom used to use), strange dolls, street lights, and soda machines. It’s run by a wonderful gentleman who will show you anything you wish to see and will barter til you’re happy. I left with a black velvet Elvis print. I couldn’t have been happier.
Next stop… serenity. Kripalu is nestled in the Berkshire mountains just past Tanglewood. As soon as you make the turn into the property, you are already at ease.
It’s a big place, but seems very intimate if that makes any sense. I believe over 600 people can be there at any given time, but you never would have known that. I stayed in the Annex, which is new to Kripalu and opened in 2009. It is a totally green building, designed by local Cambridge architect Peter Rose, which incorporated wood salvaged from the Hurricane Katrina tidal surge. It’s magnificent. I walked into my room and was at the same time pleased and horrified. It is a beautifully sparse room, all the more to keep you focused on your studies/relaxing/yoga, but it has… no TV. Yes, I know a TV really doesn’t play into “things to look for in your weekend of relaxation” but the fact that it WASN’T there just messed with my head. I didn’t shake that for at least 12 hours.
While you are at Kripalu, you are given your itinerary upon check in. You can get as busy or as quiet as you like. My days were pretty packed. Along with a yoga class (I am so bad at yoga) and a meditation class (I really tried), I took a class given by Martha Beck which focused on her book Tracking Your One Magical Life. I’ll not go into all the detail as I am still processing everything I learned, but I would HIGHLY recommend reading it. Using her words you will learn to “drop the ‘tameness’ of socialization that holds you back from living freely and authentically”. I get daily quotes from her in my email, and this one came up today, and it could not be more perfect…
What anxiety teaches us: Useless things cause suffering. There’s nothing you do in anxiety that you could not do better in calm. Anxiety itself, not the world, is your enemy. This is why God made horse tranquilizers.
I took advantage of my open time by exploring the grounds. I just had so much of my “real” world buzzing about my head and lots of new things to noodle on from the seminar, and just needed to stop spinning. So I headed down the hill to the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth is just what it sounds like..squirrelly little paths that circle between trees. In the middle of the Labyrinth is an altar where people have left notes about themselves, about the Earth around them, and how we are all very beautiful people. I don’t know if I’m supposed to leave something or not, so I keep moving. As I go through the Labyrinth I find my attention remains with the people in The Labyrinth with me, how much I wish they weren’t there and I could be alone. However, they are there, so I must navigate around them. I find myself thinking as though I’m a car on the highway, planning three moves ahead so I can scoot around this one and avoid this couple taking too long. It is at this point that I realized -I’m doing the Labyrinth wrong. So, I take a moment to breathe and to focus not on the people, but on the trees, and how on each tree has spider has made a web on it and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. That one is more different than the next and THIS is when I realized THIS is why you come here. I can feel my heart beat, my breathing slows, and I realize that I can shake off this world if only for a moment…
Next I headed to the Kripalu beach. I was virtually alone and I was able to just sit. My mind finally cleared and I just listened to nature around me, the water slowly lapping, the squirrels searching for nuts, and felt the sun on my face. It was EVERYTHING. And I finally felt like I understood why I was here.
More people were coming in groups. So I took this is my cue to leave. And here is where the wheels fell off. I took the walk back to the Annex slowly, enjoying the scenery and saying hello’s to my fellow Kripaluers. I was very proud of what I’ve done – I felt mindful! I felt at one with myself. I felt present. And then as soon as I started to walk away my mind went to wandering back to an argument I had with my boyfriend 2 weeks ago, so I tried to shake that off and move forward. To look at the trees. To hear the birds sing. I made it to the lobby and hit the button for the elevator. It’s a slow one. And just like that, all my stupid city behaviors came back and I called the elevator a Mother F*****. Much to the dismay of the older woman in Birkenstocks who walked up behind me.
I think next time I go I need a full week. And I need to offer an apology to that nice lady. And the elevator. Namaste.