(In case you haven’t been following the series, I am honoring the 5-year anniversary of my Kripalu 200-hour yoga teacher training experience by transcribing my journal notes from my time there. The first post is here. Also, a disclaimer: The posts get significantly longer and more intense as the month progresses.)
Five years ago on this day, I am ready for the morning’s round robin sadhana. I actually planned something last night, staying up till 11:15 in Shadowbrook, developing a Warrior I vinyasa with prayer hands. I had planned a Warrior II thing as well, but I never had the time to teach it. But nonetheless, I got up “on deck” and followed C. I wore the headset for the first time! I think I went too slowly, but it felt good. I would have loved to have talked more through the posture, anatomy-wise, but the chime was waiting. Several people approached me afterward and said they loved my variations. 🙂 I know I’m not supposed to seek praise, but I am happy to receive these comments from my peers and not the authorities.
Our morning session got highly–HIGHLY!–emotional. We co-listened/reflective listened about our silent day, and some really deep thoughts were shared. A. said that the silence made him realize we are all animals–we don’t need language to connect, because we are all the same. S. brought up some great comments about not having to act–everyone is so inclined to react, to form opinions, to speak up, but sometimes it’s OK just to be. Just be. Just observe. So that was pretty intense, but then Megha brought up our celebration party, how after our last practice teach, a “dying process” would begin, culminating with our party. “One week from now, one week from this moment, will be the last time our group is together like we are now.”
We do the “Heart and Soul” exercise, which was beyond emotional. Picture 62 people intertwined and connected, breathing together as a single organism. At one point, L. was bent over her knees, and I supported her from behind, interlacing my arms around her torso and hugging her from the back. I rested my face on her back and just cried. My palms could feel her stomach rising and falling with breath, and my breath began to synchronize with hers. After a few rounds of Heart/Soul/Heart/Soul, we were invited to stay in place and move breath by breath–move an arm here, turn around there, and our static garden of grace began to swell with love and support, people reaching out and grasping and leaning and caressing. We gathered in a circle afterward to discuss the experience, and everyone was sobbing. Megha ruffled D.’s hair, and D. lost it, breaking down. Desperate for a hug myself, I took D. in my arms, myself in hers, and we cried together. I broke down too, a loud “breakdown” sob.
OK. Whew. Let’s move on. Onto relaxation techniques. However, the teachers put on “Amazing Grace” as the relaxation song, and then everyone was dropping like flies, like newborns in a hospital nursery, sobbing, tissues, hugs, tears. D., on her back, was a mess, and I ruffled her hair, trying to comfort. But then I broke down again, and Megha had to go around the room to distribute tissues. Luckily, Megha’s relaxation techniques were pretty good, and five minutes into the guiding I felt pretty calm. I went from quivering to collected, and then after about 15 minutes we got to guide each other in relaxation.
Jurian and Leila were teaching DansKinetics that afternoon, and although I usually keep my lunch break free, on a whim I decided to go. Not only did it feel good to support my two teachers, but M. was there, dancing for the first time ever. It felt great to see her and the other new DansKinetics people evolve in just 45 minutes. The joy in that hall was infectious and beautiful, and we were encouraged to make eye contact with the other people and spread the energy. Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” “Seasons of Love” (with scarves…aahhh, so beautiful), and “Unwritten,” twirling in the “rain.” I ended up sweating up a storm and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Jurian’s very sensual aahs and oohs. Her movements are exotic and graceful and mesmerizing and gorgeous. How attracted I am to movers and shakers!
Our afternoon program was about yoga and various conditions such as insomnia, obesity, depression, etc. It was very informative, but slow and tiring. We took a mid-session break, and it was absolutely delicious. Sun, breeze, air, oxygen! Very hard to go back indoors. M. called people who get emotional during yoga “wackadoodles,” and I announced that I, then, was indeed a wackadoodle.
When class gets out at 4 p.m., the lobby of Kripalu was a madhouse. Ugh–the weekend! Such intrusive energy, hustling, bustling, loudness, messiness, newness. Someone new is placed in our dorm room. There is new luggage, new stuff in the bunk above me. Reverse culture shock.
Afternoon sadhana is led by Roger–grueling, tiring, draining. SO MANY downdogs. Something is wrong with my head, because going into standing forward bend feels like my head is 25 pounds, full of pressure, like my eyeballs are going to fall out. I modified a lot, puppy instead of downdog.
“Do your own vinyasa to make your way down to your sitz bones,” Roger instructs. Says I: “Here’s my vinyasa…(plops butt onto ground).”
During shoulderstand, I develop an intense interest in my feet. My toes are spread wide, and I fan them from the inside out, outside in, and they look so cool against the purple lighting. Suddenly, I snapped into Devarshi’s “baby mode,” completely absorbed in my wiggling feet, my spread-out toes, my swaying, extended legs. Whee! I think I may have even smiled out of pure fascination.
But after a grueling workout, savasana was divine. I was in the front row, and it felt so peaceful being up there, right next to the towering Shiva, which always looks bigger at night, illuminated under the red and purples, the five candles, surrounded by bunches of flowers and our personal objects. As I lay there, I become overcome by emotion. It was perfect. Something to remember. Me in the front row, exhausted, M. at my right, L., completely passed out on my left, the dark room, deep hues of Shiva, the flickering candles that I could see dance through my closed eyes. I blinked several times, my glasses-less eyes seeing the statue and altar as a whimsical blur. Soft. Warm. Deep. Here. Now. Peace. You Are Where You’re Supposed To Be.
We sat up–I found myself still crying. A single tear escaped my left eye, and I sat there, trying to remember. What is your intention?, Roger asked. Pull your heart toward that intention. Remember. That was my intention: to remember. Remember this moment, this feeling of security and warmth. Remember the candles, the soft music, the single tear, the Shiva, the blanket around my legs, the faint smell of dirty feet, Roger’s voice, M. and her overly pointed toes, L. and his passed out body splayed all over the mat. Remember. Remember this moment like you remembered La Sagrada Familia in Spain, like you remembered hanging over the balcony in your Madrid hotel on election night, like you remembered the rooftop of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, like you remembered sitting on the deck of the Chinese cruise ship crying with the rain.
It will be sad to leave, but the memory will always be with me. Kripalu and this past month of Shiva, these people, Dorm 129, that crazy satsang with Mooji at the end of our hall, the outdated gym equipment, the cafeteria smell on our clothes, the silence of the Sun Room, the exhilaration of going outside, Angela Farmer floating through the halls (and me spying on her in her room from outside), the 24-hour tea access, the STARS!, the silent breakfasts, the poop and farting sounds in the bathroom, the “Oprah Winfrey” microphone being passed around the room, the cafeteria greeter guy with the short-term memory, the taco/pizza/brownie nights…it will all be remembered.
And, aside from the people, Kripalu is always here. It’s not like Santa’s village in the North Pole, which disappears after Christmas. It’s here, 5 hours away. It will never carry this same feeling, this feeling of evolution that I encountered, but it is here. For DansKinetics, for a workshop, for an R+R…whatever.
When I arrived here on October 22, the leaves were yellow and orange. I have photos to prove it! The mountains were a village of colors, and now, November 10, it has vanished, blown away. In one week, when we go on our separate ways, the land will be bare. Just like us, this tribe, here together, vibrant, thriving–it will end. The change of seasons parallels our experience. But the color will return in the spring. The same leaves won’t be here, but our lives will continue to glow and flourish, to become beautiful and whole and picturesque. The colors will return. Life isn’t ending; it’s just changing. New colors, new experiences will emerge.