I recently returned from Kripalu’s Inner Quest Intensive program. The best way I can describe this program is to say it was a deeply real, profound, and incredibly human experience.
This is likely to be a long post, but please bare with me…it’s SO worth it. Imagine if you were trying to write about one of the most profound experiences of your life. It’s not easy to cram it into a couple paragraphs.
I’ll do my best to capture the essence of my experience – sparing you the details while trying not to leave anything important out.
So here goes…
What brought me to Kripalu?
Going to Kripalu was a major stepping-stone in my spiritual journey.
For the majority of my life, I’ve been caught between drifting, exploring, and clinging to different beliefs. I’ve taken classes, scoured religious texts, and poured over ancient writings to explore religion, philosophy, and the wisdom of the ages.
Desperately, I’ve been looking everywhere “out there” trying to make sense of this world. I went so far as to get a degree in Physics, attempting to get at the source of the way the world works. Then I went on to Psychology, trying to understand how the human mind works.
I was searching all over trying to find meaning, purpose, and happiness.
If I could just read enough books or blogs, I thought I might somehow find the answers I was searching for. I kept thinking, someone, somewhere has to have figured it out.
If I could just connect all the dots, something would be revealed to me. I would suddenly understand.
Somewhere in the midst of all this searching, I stumbled into the ancient practices of yoga and meditation. These practices teach that the answers are “in here” rather than “out there.” They are already in me.
Finally, I began to discover something spiritual that exists outside of a defined religion.
So, I set out to explore these practices more deeply. I needed a way to explore my inner self.
I attended yoga and meditation classes, and of course, I read yoga and meditation books. I even practiced at home. Somehow, I still wasn’t finding what I was looking for.
Kripalu was another piece of that puzzle. I needed a break from my everyday life in order to get in touch with my inner self. I needed to put myself in a place where I could cut myself off from the rest of the world for a little while.
When I read the Inner Quest Intensive description, it was as if something reached deep inside and pulled at my heart. It called to me. I immediately knew this was something I needed to do.
I couldn’t possibly explain or describe everything that happened this weekend. For starters, it would probably sound just plain nuts. But nuts as it was, it just plain worked.
Here’s my best attempt to describe the essence of my experience. Here’s what I found at Kripalu.
Beauty of nature. For starters, the drive across New York and into Massachusetts was absolutely incredible. I found myself staring and smiling around every turn. The hills rolled across the landscape, dotted with the fading green of summer trees and the bright oranges, reds, and yellows of autumn. Rivers snaked across the valleys and lakes sparkled in the sun. From Kripalu’s campus on top of a hill, you can see straight down to one such lake, surrounded by the same rolling hills and gumdrop-colored trees. If’s that’s not the scenery for refreshing and renewal, I don’t know what is.
Connections. More than just the beautiful landscape, this weekend was filled with deeply profound connections – to others, to ideas, and to the very universe itself. I learned how to connect with others from the inside, not the outside. At our very core, we are all very much the same. We all came into the world pure and innocent, but we were each shaped by our different experiences. This weekend, I looked past the outer shell of differences, of likes and dislikes, of behaviors and appearances. I was able to connect with that inner place, the sameness in each of us.
Gifts of listening and being heard. We practiced a unique form of interacting, where there was one speaker and one listener, and tremendous benefits on both sides. As the speaker, I experienced someone fully listening, not judging or commenting. They became a mirror for me, showing me exactly what I needed to see. As the listener, I was relieved of the pressure of needing to say the right thing. I was allowed to let the story and words seep into me, being fully there for my partner. Through these exercises, I found my judgments being torn down one by one.
Trust in the Universe. When we first arrived, we were told that the universe had selected each one of us to be there, and over and over again, we were told that we would be provided with the perfect partner. Sure enough, I got the partner I needed over and over again. I found myself letting go and putting my trust in the universe. I allowed my life to unfold one moment at a time.
Sense of timelessness. With no watches or clocks to be seen, I discovered a place of stillness, of complete openness to whatever comes next. I went with the flow, relinquishing control and allowing myself to be guided. For once, I was truly present….living in the moment.
Mindfulness. Outside of our partner work and group discussions, we were committed to social silence. Walking, eating, sitting, breathing – they all became ways to become observant and aware. What was I putting into my body? How was I carrying myself? What was the quality of my breath? I noticed how each of these was affecting me. I started getting glimpses of my inner self.
Rhythm and dancing. Have you ever been able to just let your body feel the rhythm, to let go and let your body move itself? Have you every done that in a small room filled with 35 other people? Me too….when I was four. I finally found that place of wild abandon once again. It felt like getting in touch with my primal roots, so real and natural, the way my body was meant to move. I checked my ego at the door and let my body do the rest.
Yoga and meditation. Like me, human beings throughout history have felt a desire to connect to something greater, to find a sense of purpose, meaning, and belonging, and to find happiness. For centuries, many have found the answers in yoga, in the “union” or “yoking” between the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is a pathway deep into our inner selves, into the very essence of our existence. Each day, I found myself guided a little further down that path.
Release of energy blocks. In Yogic tradition, prana is the energy and life force that fills us, and samskara are the energy blocks that get trapped inside us when we suppress our feelings. Those feelings don’t disappear – they get trapped inside and block our energy. However, the same feelings that created the blocks can also remove them. By allowing those waves of feelings to rush over us again, and riding them out, we rid our bodies of samskara and allow prana to flow. And believe me, there was plenty of surfing going on this weekend!
The power of breathing. Throughout this adventure, we were constantly instructed to “take a good breath in, and let it out with a sigh.” I believe this practice alone has the power to change my life. Through the breath, we bring in prana, our energy, our life-force. It’s always there for us to tap into– this flowing source of energy – all we have to do to reconnect is draw our attention to the breath. It can slow us down or speed us up. It’s the doorway to being in the moment.
Profound discoveries. Throughout the program, I was continuously discovering and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. I explored, reconnected with my inner child, went with the flow, heeded the inner call, stood on sacred ground, and walked in the wisdom of so many who have come before me. I fought a tremendous inner battle that reminded me of a song I loved when I was little – One Tin Soldier. This weekend, I left the valley and went to live on the mountain. (If you don’t know what I mean, watch the video here.)
Release. Not too long before coming to Kripalu, it was suggested to me that I stop reading for a while. At the time, the idea seemed ludicrous. Stop reading?? I’d go crazy! I felt like I had this insatiable hunger for knowledge, this maddening thirst for answers. After all these intense experiences, after my inner battle, after all my perfect partners, I felt like I could finally let go. I could just stop looking. I’m not saying that I’ll quit learning or seeking wisdom. I’m saying I can quit the crazy obsession with finding answers. I can be open to life giving me the experiences I need. I can be.
Integration. This weekend wasn’t just about experiencing. It was about having experiences and letting them really soak in. After an intense session, we would lie down with pillows and blankets, just like in kindergarten, allowing what we learned to settle and work its way through us. Likewise, after each meal, we were given time to journal…another way of making sense out of experiences and allowing them to really become a part of us.
Kripalu, the incredible people I met, the experiences we shared, and the wisdom I gained, truly became a part of me.
As we were getting ready to leave Kripalu, we spent some time discussing ways to integrate ourselves back into our everyday lives. We were urged not to go out and preach. Instead, they encouraged us to embody what we learned.
Let the light shine through you.
But be specific about it. Channel the light through specific habits. Take small actionable steps to integrate this experience back into everyday life.
A few specific ways to embody what I learned:
- Spend time connecting with nature.
- Explore the journey of yoga.
- Attend yoga class twice a week.
- Practice sun salutations every morning.
- Incorporate meditation into my daily routine.
- Breathe deeply.
- Take a bubble bath.
- Get a massage.
- Let my body move to the music.
- Schedule dates with myself to do something I enjoy.
- Check in with at least one friend or family member every week.
- Write in my journal.
- Participate in kirtan once a month.
- Take walks during lunch sometimes.
- Have quiet time before bed.
- Limit my twitter and facebook time.
- Remember there are so many incredible resources out there. I’m never going to see them all.
- Read a book, blog, etc. and give myself the time to really let it soak in.
- Really and truly listen.
The Inner Quest Intensive Metta Prayer
May we be healthy.
May we be happy.
May we ride the
waves of our lives.
May we live in peace
no matter what
we are given.
A message to my fellow IQIers
Thank you for telling me all of that. I’ve heard you.
I’ve seen you.
Your intentions live in my heart.
Jai bhagwan, love, and shimmers to all of you!
During those final hours, not everyone got a chance to share. What’s your backstory, the essence of your experience, and what are you taking away? Please feel free to share all or part of that, or whatever you feel called to share. Even if you did share your story, we’d love to hear it again! Was there anything else you wanted to say?
To all of the other Wisdom Seekers
Have you had a profound life experience?
What parts of my experience ring true for you?
What aspects are calling out to you?
Please share your thoughts!