Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer at Kripalu

Each term at Kripalu has a different feel, a different energy.

Fall has an active, energetic feel, moving into winter which has a really inward, contemplative focus, and on into spring which has an expansive, outward flowing energy. Summer though has a fun, relaxed style, and hence I've been doing some fun, relaxing things and my summer at Kripalu has been wonderful and also flown by.

I love going to the lake to swim or kayak or canoe...

or going into town to eat ice cream...

...going to cultural performances like Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival (hurray outside stage! - this picture sucks because you're not allowed to take pictures, so I had to be sly)

Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and host to many other talented musicians) is so close to Kripalu that I can in fact often hear the music through my open dorm room window, but I've also had the opportunity to attend some performances. My roommate and I even did the "classic tanglewood experience" of a pre-show picnic before a classical show. We saw Joshua Bell who is one of my favorite musicians and he put on a wonderful show.

Summer is also the best time for friends to visit and so I had my friend Peach (Dave) come visit and we had a wonderful time doing yoga, writing, reading poetry, singing, and laying in the grandmother tree

One of my favorite things about the summer semester has been the yoga philosophy discussion group that my friend River (the other half of Team Bake) and I started. Every week we read a chapter or two in The Inner Tradition of Yoga by Michael Stone and discuss how it applies to our live and our practice. It's been one of the most meaningful and rewarding parts of my volunteer experience. It's allowed me to go a lot deeper into my own practice and also form deeper connections with other volunteers.

If you're looking for a book on yoga philosophy and psychology, I can't recommend this one highly enough; it's beautifully written, highly practical and well-researched. Thanks to my stepmom Sally for finding it for me!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kripalu Time

Kripalu exists in a bit of a time warp.

If you've lived at Kripalu, you know what I mean, but for the rest of you, let me try to explain.

Being at Kripalu is a bit like being in a pressure cooker. The amount of things that happen, emotions you go through, experiences you engage in and things you learn in a 4-month volunteer stint could easily fill a year in "the real world".

It feels like so much gets packed into each day that it must have been more than a day. If someone goes away for the weekend, they're welcomed back as if they were gone for a week "Hey, good to see you! I feel like it's been forever! You missed so much!"

This is especially apparent in relationships; friendships formed feel like they've existed for years, and romantic relationships are thrust into deep realms on an accelerated timeline. When calculating how long a couple has been "together" it's not uncommon to say "well, it's been two months, so in Kripalu Time that's like half a year".

Part of it is living together, part of it is the intense focus on self-inquiry and awareness here and part of it is just the energy of the place.

It may seem like I'm saying time passes really slowly here, but paradoxically it feels like the opposite. I can hardly believe a year had passed since I first arrived. A few weeks ago, we had a lot of volunteers from the Jan-May term come back to visit. They came back and it felt like they had never left. In part I think that after sharing this intense experience, we have the kind of bond that can be picked up after any length of time without feeling like a moment has elapsed, but another part again is the subtle but pervasive energy of Kripalu... the time warp.

For me, even the time before Kripalu becomes less significant, so that differences in age don't separate members of the community as they might in other places. Not everyone would agree with me on this one, but it feels like Kripalutime levels the age gaps, as we're all just people working on our process and walking our paths. The lens of yoga allows us to see we're looking at the same things, perhaps from a different turn on the expanding spiral of life, but we're gazing in the same direction.

The Kripalu labyrinth is a wonderful place to lose track of time...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Road Trip: Philadelphia

A while back I needed a little space from Kripalu, and on a whim, my friend Slefy and I went to Philly to visit a friend who had been a volunteer and moved back home for the summer.

As soon as we were on the road, I felt a weight lift. Being at Kripalu and engaging in self-study is wonderful, but it can get a little heavy at times. Enter: the road trip.

We went all over as our tour guides (Jessie & Avi) showed us their city.

We went downtown and saw city hall and love park

hung out and read poetry at hipster coffeeshop Café Olé

visited Reading Terminal Market (and did a little first aid in the middle of it)

and viewed the city from Avi's rooftop terrace

Overall, a refreshing trip to a cool city. Success!

A Day Off in the Life of a Kripalu Volunteer

So I've taken you through A Day in the Life of a Volunteer at work, but how about days off?

There are plenty of things to do in and out of the building at Kripalu, as well as of course many road trips to go on including Boston, NYC, Philly, Canada, and even little sojourns into the cute towns surrounding Kripalu like Lenox & Stockbridge.

Lets start in the building: On any given day, there are several different levels of yoga classes at 6:30am, 12noon, and 4:15pm, sometimes even 5:15pm too, sometimes as many as 12 classes in a day from gentle to vigorous. In addition to yoga, there's yogadance, a big free-flowing dance party that is varyingly structured depending on who is teaching.

The best day to go is Saturday because there is live drumming!

There are also workshops throughout the day on various topics like chakras, nutrition, ayurveda, breathwork, and journaling.

In the evening there is always an event, Monday: drum circle, Tuesday: cooking demo, Wednesday: Kirtan (devotional singing), Thursday: movie, Friday: varies - sometimes dancing or Nia, Saturday: concert, and Sunday: meditation. There are also "samplers" which are mini-programs given by outside presenters who are teaching at Kripalu and want to give people a taste of what their weekend or week-long program is like. These can be lectures, experiences or performances.

The above activities are part of R&R (rest & relaxation) and are open to all Kripalu guests, staff and volunteers. In addition to that (are you starting to see why I don't call/e-mail back when I say I will? There's so much to do!) there is "the Flow" which is a schedule of events just for the volunteers and includes volunteer-led yoga classes, meditations, lectures, sports games, study/discussion groups, craft nights and anything else we can come up with as well as the mandatory volunteer events Community Sangha and Off the Mat.

Sangha is a gathering the community (two meeting for half the group each time) for activites that usually inlclude meditation and group sharing. Personal sharing about how we feel and what we're working on is a big part of being a volunteer at Kripalu and community sangha included classes on conscious communication, one of the cornerstones of Kripalu's community philosophy. Off the Mat is a weekly class about different aspects of yoga such as philosophy, psychology, as well as different breathing practices or physical postures taught by Kripalu teachers.

Okay, so that's just inside, once you venture outside (because why would you be inside when you could be outside?) there is the lake to swim or paddle in and the beautiful grounds and hiking trails to wander or meditate in.

Take that one step further and there are plenty of places to go outside the grounds...restaurants or bars (yes we still go out sometimes), concerts and cultural events, and of course road trips - but I'll save more on that for the next post.

Really, the most important aspect of being a Kripalu volunteer is the relationships that you form, so my favorite activity (and where a good bit of my time goes) is just sitting with friends in silence, or discussing life and yoga at one of the many beautiful spots on the property. For example, "the spot":