This weekend I went to one of my favorite places in this whole entire universe: Kripalu.
I’ll spare you what would surely become a super long blog post about how Kripalu is magical and why, even if you never do yoga or are allergic to the idea of doing yoga — which I was for most of my life — you should go there right this second.
Let’s just leave it at the fact that after a dear friend brought me there in the most incredible act of kindness when I was in a tough spot, I’ve made a pilgrimage to Kripalu once a year. I savor every ounce of the experience when I go and it’s something I not only look forward to every year, but a beacon to which I hold on when life inside my heart gets overwhelming or just, you know, windy.
So here I was, driving up for my 48 hours of bliss this past Friday. Silent breakfasts, stunning views, great yoga classes, the most nourishing food, long walks to the lake through the morning fog, putting away my phone for two days… I was replaying these experiences in my mind as I drove to the beautiful Berkshires. I could taste them.
In all this leaning forward I was doing, I was also trying to ignore something: I was not feeling great, at all.
I caught a really nasty cold earlier in the week and while it was getting better, I was still feeling absolutely crap. My body was achy, I was exhausted, and my headache was only getting worse.
My first reaction to becoming more aware that I still felt like total crap was to launch into this endless loop of anxiety:
How could I be sick on this weekend, when I’m going to my favorite place?!??? The whole weekend would now be totally ruined, my whole amazing experience I wait for all year is going to suck, I’m going to regret even coming! Why did I have to be such an idiot and get sick now?!
If any of this is familiar, just nod. We’ve all been there. Something is not going the way we imagine it should — a dream vacation is plagued by hurricanes, a dream date is at a restaurant that has the worst service, a dream day you’d planned to catch up on all your to-dos brings a kid who is sick and needs to stay home from school — and it’s the most maddening horrible thing. Ever. Because how could the world dare not flow the way we envision it should and the way we need, at this very moment!
My usual schedule at Kripalu includes two yoga classes a day and while they offer gentle, intermediate, and vigorous flow classes, I usually opt for the vigorous ones. But by the time I checked into my room on Friday afternoon, I knew there was no way in the universe my body could handle a strong yoga class. I spent some time being angry and frustrated, and then did the only other thing to do:
I went to gentle yoga. For the first time ever.
And it was wonderful. Easy, introspective, slow. It even helped my achy body feel a little better.
I kinda loved it, a lot.
Afterwards, I couldn’t fathom taking one of my super long walks, so instead I went on a shorter, slower one, and discovered a little trail I’d never seen before. It led me to one of the most peaceful spots on the grounds of Kripalu I’ve ever seen and my entire walk was accompanied by this beautiful sound of a little brook, flowing right along the trail path.
There was a lesson in all of this but trust me, I was completely blind to it.
Until I got into bed that night and started to read a book by Ram Dass, whom I consider one of my teachers without having ever met him. In it, he talks about this idea of working with what we’ve got, whatever it is, good, bad, difficult, awesome, anything.
What if we changed our attitude from “Oh, this is bad, this is good, I like this, I don’t like this, I wish it were like this, I wish that…” to “OK, this is what’s coming at me right now, I’m going to work with it…”?
(If this sounds like a similar message to what I wrote about in my post about surrendering to the moment, it is. Hard to not listen when the universe is essentially screaming it at me at this point.)
So I made a decision. I literally said aloud (which of course was just kinda weird, since I was alone in my room): I’m just going to accept that I feel like crap and I’m going to work with it. This is what’s coming at me right now, yes, while I am in my dream Kripalu refuge, so I’m going to work with it.
For the next two days I skipped every vigorous yoga class, taking gentle flow ones instead. I went to two meditation workshops that I’d usually skip because I’d be on one of my long walks. I learned so much to help my own meditation practice, that’s still a baby and needs all the support it can get.
I skipped the Saturday night concert and instead got into bed at 7pm to read a really great book, cover to cover. I lingered longer in bed in the morning, taking a much shorter walk than I usually do — but because I was out later than usual I got to watch the fog rise from the lake. It was stunning.
I moved slower, I took more time at meals, I read more books, I wrote more in my journal.
My visit was so different from the ones I’d had previously. But I enjoyed every minute of it and I feel it was richer with learning and experience than before — from the different workshops I attended and from just allowing more time for thinking and writing than I would normally. I didn’t fully conquer the sicks but I was on my way. And my heart was as full as after ever visit to this magical place.
It’s not an easy lesson to learn — to work with what is coming at us without investing energy into wishing it were different, without getting annoyed or angry or frustrated. And I’ll tell you, I was in this mind space this weekend of “I don’t want to learn any lessons right now, let me just have a great weekend because I need a break!”
But if you can do it, it’s freaking liberating.
It takes away our fear of how we will deal if stuff doesn’t go our way because we stop labeling stuff as going our way or not — it’s all going our way, just in different ways. It builds this internal trust, this resilience that yeah, whatever comes, I’ll figure it out. It takes the fight out of “me vs. the universe”. And while it doesn’t remove feelings of frustration or annoyance – I was annoyed to be sick this weekend, for sure — it helps us waste less energy on them, and move the rest to a way more productive place.
No, I’m serious, actually try doing this the next time something is not the way you wish it were. Don’t throw up your arms and hide under the covers, but take that, whatever way it is coming at you, don’t fight it inside, and just work with it the best way you can.
It might not lead to bliss, but it will bring a ton less anxiety, stress, and yes, fear.