April 3, 2003
Snow began falling sideways just as I arrived in Massachusetts. Just like James Taylor sings, the Berkshires were dreamlike, mountainous silhouettes in the whiteness. The drive took 23 hours not counting lunches and made to seem longer by a grinding run side-by-side with semis on the rainy Pennsylvania turnpike.
Arriving at Kripalu was a relief. It's near Stockbridge, also mentioned in "Sweet Baby James." It's a quaint town founded in 1739 and still has some grand houses that look almost that old. You would love them.
Kripalu sits on 300 magnificent mountain acres overlooking a large lake. Shadowbrook, the former summer home of a turpentine magnate and at some point of Andrew Carnegie, was the centerpiece until it burned down midway through the 20th century. Then the Jesuits bought the property and built the four-story seminary Kripalu eventually bought from them.
It is named for the founder's guru, a man who practiced yoga 10 hours a day and didn't speak for 18 years.
The least I could do was arise at 5:30 each morning for yoga. I'm sure that amazes you. When I lived in New Orleans I used to go to sleep at 5:30 in the morning, and that habit has been difficult to shed. The days at Kripalu were rich with experience: Yoga twice a day, two sessions of classes, and organic vegetarian meals. Breakfast is silent, perhaps as a sign of respect for the guru. Food seems to have more taste when the other senses aren't engaged in distractions -- even a tofu omelet.
More programs involving drums and dancing were held at night, but I read and usually was asleep by 9 p.m., like a child too tired to stay awake.
Cell phones aren't allowed at Kripalu. Neither are laptop computers. Another rule discourages pursuing romantic or sexual relationships while at Kripalu because it is meant to be a sacred and safe place for all. "No one wants to get hit on while they're here," the newcomer orientation leader explained.
Both you and she will be relieved to know I was hit on by not even one yogini.
Kripalu is its own world. We heard nothing of the war during those three days. We did say a group prayer for President Bush. At 11 a.m. EST Tuesday, people from all over the world were praying for the president. The idea came from a man who asked children who have shown psychic abilities for their views about the war. The children told him opposing the president wasn't going to do any good. They think he is scared, like a child gets scared. True or not, these children know that love is the antidote for fear.
There was something childlike about being at Kripalu. All my needs were taken care of. I and the 200 other guests had only to eat, sleep and do exactly what all of us on Earth are here to do: learn more about who we are.
At the end of the first morning yoga session I attended, the teacher recited a different prayer:
"Why are you waiting to begin your life? Do you think the world must care and come soliciting? Listen to the knocking at the door of your own heart. It is only faint because you have not answered. ..."
Open the door, the prayer concludes, and "you will be swept by the full and magnificent tides of your own longing. That no one else can give you. That no one else can claim."
In the greater sense, we're all still children, baby Buddhas. I can't wait to get home to play with you.
Sam Blackwell is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.