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November 13, 2022

What 24 Hours in Kripalu Taught Me about Life.

 

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It was a truly spectacular morning—sun shining, temperature in the low 80s, low humidity, gentle breeze wafting through the trees.

One of those days that stands out in your mind because it was just so perfect.

I was getting ready to go on a hike at Kripalu, a beautiful yoga retreat center in the Berkshires. I started my day with a sunrise yoga class and a delicious breakfast.

“Life is good,” I thought to myself.

Our small group gathered at the foot of the hiking path and enjoyed a few stretches and a brief meditation before we set off.

I was so excited, looking forward to lots of movement and breaking a sweat.

The silent portion of the hike began and we quietly walked single file into the woods. It quickly became apparent that Kripalu’s definition of “hike” was not aligned with my own.

Yes, we were in the woods.

Yes, there was a path.

Yes, the guide had a backpack.

And still, this was more like a stroll you would take through a new town after a too big dinner. Walking slowly, exploring, taking in the sights, no rush.

In hindsight, this makes complete sense, but it was drastically different from my vision.

I was here for movement!

Fast paced action!

River crossings!

Steep inclines!

Cuts and scrapes from all the outdoorsy, rugged activity!

So there I was, inching my way through the forest behind a sweet older woman named Jane.

Jane was lovely…and also the slowest walker I’ve ever encountered. I could feel the tension building up in my body. Jaw tightening, fists clenching, shoulders crunching, mind racing.

Oh. My. Lord.

What is going on here?

Is this what it’s going to be like the whole time?

It’s almost not possible to walk this slowly.

Move. Your. Legs. Faster. Jane.

I should have done something else. I’m not going to be able to walk behind this woman the whole time.

Is it possible to pass her without being rude?

Breathe…you can walk a little slower for one day.

But still, will we ever start moving faster?

Maybe I can get in front of her if we stop and then start again.

I should have gone alone, but then I would get lost in the woods and no one would ever hear from me again.

Breathe.

How much longer will this be?

Breathe and look around; this is actually really beautiful.

But I just wish…

And on it went.

This dance of frustration with the slower pace, punctuated by moments of real presence and appreciation for the opportunity to be out in the woods on a beautiful Wednesday morning.

And I watched my mind switch between this desire to go go go, and then reminding myself to breathe, allow, and soften my incessant need to change this experience. To make it different, to alter it, instead of enjoying it as it is.

The more I let go of the way I thought this hike should be (we always suffer when we struggle against what is), the more I was able to enjoy it. Then I could recognize the real beauty there.

There were birds singing and beautiful flowers and cool, swirly tree trunks and dots of sun peeking through the tree canopy—things I never would have noticed if I was doing my usual NYC-style race walking.

Breathe.

Slow down.

It’s okay to just be. To not always be rushing and doing.

It’s the reminder we need the most in our hectic, over-scheduled, non-stop days.

So, in the end, the big lesson I learned was:

Slowing down is hard as f*ck—and also so worth it.

So much of our days are spent being busy—accomplishing, creating, responding, getting from here to there as quickly as possible.

But there is so much value in slowing down. We talk about it in yoga all the time.

Slow down, there’s no rush.

Take your time.

Listen to your body.

Breathe.

Be present.

Turns out it’s a lot easier to do it in a yoga class than it is to do it in the real world. But that’s why we keep coming back, keep practicing and studying these things that help us soften and relax.

We practice when we don’t necessarily need it (like in a yoga class) so that it’s more easily available to us when we do (like when you’re stuck in traffic, when the kids are driving you crazy, or if you’re like me, when you’re on a hike in the Berkshires).

Five or 10 years ago, I would have walked away from this experience with a different takeaway. Specifically, I am never going on a hike in Kripalu again.

How cool to now see it from a different perspective. And end up enjoying (and truly appreciating) what once would have ruined my day.

So, the question for you is: where are you rushing in your own life?

And then, more importantly, where and how, can you slow down?

Identify one single thing you can do today to slow down. Write it on a sticky note, place it where you’ll see it, and then actually do it.

Notice what happens.

~

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