Wednesday, January 21, 2009
for my students at Kripalu, January 2009
I arrived at Kripalu in a snowstorm. My driver met me with a hug, a bottle of water, and a fruit bar. My luggage showed up, although it was wet from sitting in a blizzard on the tarmac in Chicago. My driver, like many of the hearty northeasterners I met last week, was undeterred by the weather. You just do what you do.
I met my class for the first time last Sunday evening. They came from everywhere. They were open and willing and brave, brave, brave. One wanted to love again. One wanted to start writing again. One wanted to find her voice. All wanted to show up and do the hard work of writing and healing.
Authentic truth without judgment is always clean. It may sting, but it doesn't wound. Truth without judgment heals. Learning to listen to yourself without judgment is the first step. My class stepped up. I taught them to shake. They stood, breathed (3 parts - belly, chest, collarbone) and began to shake. They shook for five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. They shook fiercely and they shook gently. They stomped the floor. They laughed. They turned inward as they shook things loose, and then they wrote and on the buoy of breath returned from their journeys. They could leave the sadness, the traumas, the wounds because they inhaled fully and exhaled fully. We worked on complete exhales. Let it all go. All of it. When you can breathe fully, you can live fully. They wrote with startling clarity of wounds of decades ago and wounds of last week. They wrote of hopes, memories, and connections. They just wrote, and they wrote real because they had moved into their cells. We shook it out. Ate mindfully. Slowly. Wrote some more. Shook it out. Stretched. Wrote some more. Day after day after day.
They lightened. They found voices and stories and feelings. Not because of me. Because of them. Because of their bodies and their movement and their breathing. Because they learned to look inside for their teacher, not outside themselves. Because they embraced sacred listening.
Kripalu provided a container. Three organic meals a day. Yoga three times a day. Kirtan, drumming, dancing in the evenings. Indescribable views of the Berkshires. Kripalu provided a foundation for them to push up against, arms to hold them, and doors to let them go. Kripalu is alive, and my wish for my students is that they don't return to their "regular" lives. We come to places like Kripalu to remember what it is like to live authentically. We come to remember what it is like to listen with compassion to our inner voices. We come to detach from the noises and distractions. We come to remember what it feels like to be light. It's not an either/or choice. Retreat or real life. Take the embodiment of the retreat into your lives. There is no separation but that which you create. Stay with the breath. Laugh often. Listen within first. When you trust yourselves, you will no longer have doubts about the next step to take.
I left Kripalu in bright sunlight and -5 degrees. When I arrived nine hours later in Phoenix, it was 75 degrees at midnight. I made it back home to Prescott the following afternoon. It's been warm and sunny. No swirling snow or ice crystals in the air. My students are, as all my students are, a part of my body now, a part of my story.
Remember the verse from the Tao we talked about all week:
When the guest comes, make hot tea.
When the guest leaves, throw it out.
And this, from yesterday's breathtaking (or breath filling) inaugural poem by Elizabeth Alexander:
We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.
May your words always build bridges and connections, and may you continue to walk and write with balance and breath.