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Saturday, August 30, 2008

an ode to summer's end (part I of III): krip-ahh-lu

summer camps were over, i was newly single, and it was the perfect opportunity for what i like to refer to as the "self-indulgent-get-back-to-me" vacation. i booked three nights & four days at kripalu, a yoga retreat mecca in the berkshires. i planned to overlap with my old peace corps buddy amanda, and i also planned to meet up with julie at the end of her own "self-indulgent-get-back-to-me (her)" bike trip vacation. we both left on our respective retreats on monday morning -- she on her bicycle, and i in her prius (for better gas mileage). we were to meet on thursday afternoon at the end of her miles, and at the end of my ohms. a typical day at kripalu looks something like this:

6:30 am: yoga (something i planned to do every am, however my comfy bed kept me from executing any early morning sun salutations).

8:00 am: a delicious and healthy breakfast (silent in the morning to "ease into your day mindfully," unless you choose to eat outside, which we did). the food at kripalu is amazing -- all natural, whole foods, whole grains, totally organic & local. no coffee (i survived). the guest guide has this suggestion about how to make the most of one's dining experience:

"many people take advantage of their stay at kripalu to experiment with portion sizes and eating slowly and mindfully -- natural ways to eat less."

the only problem was that there was such a variety of food options, i had to try just a little bit of everything. i didn't mean to. i served myself a nice bowl of steaming oatmeal, added some dried wild blueberries and drizzled some fresh vermont maple syrup, and figured i'd be satiated. but further down the line was granola, dried fruit, and organic fat free soy yogurt. i had to have a little serving of that too. oh, and then there was the bowl of bananas, and the fresh nectarines, and the whole grain toast with that cool do-it-yourself conveyor belt toaster and all-natural peanutbutter... i was not, however, tempted to serve myself up a bowl of miso soup. miso soup for breakfast, you ask? i wondered too. miso is fermented soybean and it helps get your digestive juices flowing, easing you out of your fast, as do the aromatic herbs and spices that were available for sprinkling. not a fan of soup for breakfast? you can always whip yourself up a fresh batch of ginger juice... oh the things i learned at kripalu.10 am: hiking, biking, kayaking, lectures, workshops, relaxing, digesting, the beach, or whatever else you would like to do. amanda and i hiked every morning. we found our way through the apple orchard, past the wild flowers, to monk's pond & the burbank trail overlook, and we even managed to get lost. but life is about the journey, not the destination.12:00 pm: yoga. yoginis have their choice of gentle, moderate, or vigorous yoga sessions. always up for the challenge, amanda and i tried our hand at vigorous and were not disappointed in instructor ray crist, who encouraged us to get in tune with our inner jaguar, though reminded us that we were perfect just the way we are. ray, a shaman, a yogi, a reiki healer, dad, and quantum physicist, soon became our new hero. amanda bought his CD, we went to his class every day, sometimes twice, we passed him in the hall, and then whispered and giggled about how much we loved him, i went to his lecture on chakras and shamanism. (did i mention that kripalu is like sleep-away camp for adults? perhaps it was the fresh air that allowed that giddiness, silliness, happiness, and freedom to seep out of us like we were kids again).1:00 pm: lunch. more amazing food selections. but no dessert. at kripalu they are serious about healthy living and eating.
2:00 pm: anything your heart desires. my heart usually desired a nap, some conversation, a walk, and some reading. oh, and perusing the gift shop. other, more materially-endowed hearts desired massages, oil treatments, and ayurvedic wonders, but not for this tightly-budgeted yogini.4:30 pm: more yoga.

6:30 pm: more food. one night there was dessert -- vegan carob peanutbutter bars, so, not really sweet or melt-on-your mouth good, but it was dessert.

7:30: lecture or workshop or whatever you like. amanda and i went to a drumming workshop and played the djembes. the next night we showed up too early for a whole foods cooking demonstration and chatted our dread-locked chef up about love and marriage. we asked him what the recipe for success was (he'd been married 8 years). he told us that you always have to look at life as half full, that you had to have patience, and that, most importantly, you have to love yourself first before you can love someone else. he assured us that the capacity to love comes from within you first and advised that likewise, if a person didn't love themselves, it would be hard for a person to love them back. he compared relationships to a compost pile -- that juicy, not always so pleasant dirt would most definitely be turned up on you and your significant other, and you had to persevere through the unpleasantness to make the relationship richer. after the compost talk, we were definitely ready to eat the amazing pad thai he created. from chef aidan, i also learned that though everyone thinks yogurt and fruit is a good combo, it's actually not. the digestive enzymes that are produced to breakdown yogurt actually counteract the digestive enzymes that are produced to breakdown the fruit, so it takes twice as long to digest, or something like that. also: beans don't make you gassy -- chili, with beans, meat, cheese, & sour cream (multiple proteins) make you gassy. stop mixing your proteins people. i could go on and on about how eating local, in-season foods help prepare you for the coming season in terms of allergies and cold and sickness prevention. i could talk a little bit about a macrobiotic diet and the ayurvedic diet. but i won't. because i only caught the surface. fascinating. over my head. but fascinating.

7:30 pm continued: the last night i went to aforementioned lecture about chakras and shamanism. i could go on and on about that and even draw diagrams about the 7 chakras and their colors and how they align with your spine and nervous system, and how your chakras can get dirty and scarred and how you might need to visit a shaman to get them cleaned, or you can just do yoga. but i won't go on and on, because some of that stuff is fluffy stuff to me and a little too out there. but ray is also a quantum physicist and he witnessed a peruvian shaman perform some miracles, and though he didn't come right out and say it, there were potentially hallucinogenic herbs involved.

10 pm: spa time. amanda had heard that spreading honey all over yourself while in the sauna helped moisturize the skin as well as promote detoxification. we pilfered some honey from the dining hall and snuck it into the sauna, where "clothing is optional." women of all shapes and sizes were walking around in their birthday suits, just as naturally and normally as they would have in a shopping mall. i've been in locker rooms before, i don't know why this surprised me. after a week of reflection, i understand that what was different about this situation was how comfortable all the women were in their own skin and around each other, with no comparison or beauty contest of who was thinner or fatter, lumpier or smoother. the self-acceptance and centered calmness was almost palpable in the steam. conversation with naked strangers flowed and honey was shared. i'm not sure, but i think amanda and i may have been nicknamed "the honey girls." the next day we ran into one of the women with whom we'd shared a naked steam (at first i didn't recognize her with clothes on) and she put her arm out to us and exclaimed, "soft honey skin, girls." i worry that now there might be a sign in the dining hall and the sauna room reading "please do not take honey into the sauna."

(oh, and i can't forget to mention the incredibly beautiful tattoos -- trees, mountains, spirals, ohm symbols, sanskrit. i think the men wish they could be flies on the sauna walls too...)

11:00 pm: turning on of the cell phone, just to check to see if julie had safely camped for the night. final conversation with amanda. one night we went into the chapel to lay around on yoga bolsters and stare up at the vaulted ceiling. a woman walked in and asked if we minded if she played the piano. our conversation was accompanied by the gentle chords of pachelbel's canon. that's the thing about kripalu: things fall into place, a room is empty if you need it to be empty, chairs facing the mountains open up just as you are ready to sit down, the conversation you are having is exactly the one you need to be having, and the person you just met is exactly who you needed to encounter.

11:30 pm: deep sleep in a surprisingly comfortable and non-squeaky bunk bed, with non-snoring dorm mates (because we had to fill out a survey about our nocturnal noises), and a non-slamming, non-creaking door. shavasana, the resting pose, has never felt so sweet.
last day: by thursday morning julie's butt had had it (i wish i could show pictures of her bruises, but doubt she would appreciate that). i back-tracked 40 miles west to pick her up and we were off for part II (of III) of our vacation. as soon as i was on the road, kripalu was a distant memory of bliss, peace, and calm. only to be revisited in my yoga practice and in the quiet moments of my day.


Mr. Benchly said...

This place looks amazing; the perfect pit stop on your journey. And I especially like picture #10.

Lesh said...

WOW. What a journey! I'm so glad you took the time to do something good for yourself. Get your batteries charged back up to full Suz capacity!

Jess said...

The naked honey bathing sounds fun- a little freer sounding than I felt in the Japanese baths I think! Nice to know that I can clean my shakra without having to travel to visit a shaman. My shakra felt squeaky clean after my 1st Bikram session on Thursday! Sounds like you got enough of a spiritual rejuvenation to keep you going through to spring!