This past weekend I treated myself to a retreat at Kripalu, which is a center out in the Berkshires of Massachusetts that promotes health and well-being through the lens of yoga. One of my favorite yoga teachers trained at Kripalu, and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about the place, so when a particularly appealing workshop showed up on the schedule, I decided to spring for a trip. It was the first time I’ve ever taken myself on a vacation that didn’t focus on visiting friends or family, and it was an immensely rewarding experience.
For one thing, the environment is absolutely gorgeous. A grin popped onto my face as soon as I hopped off the bus at the Lenox town hall, even before the shuttle van transported me to the Kripalu campus, which consists of simple buildings nestled among meadows and an orchard and woodlands and a lakefront with a mountainous backdrop. I arrived with a couple hours to spare, so after claiming a bunk in the dorm where I’d be sleeping, I set out to explore.
A short walk later, after I discovered, marveled at, and then waded through a meadow to hug an especially beautiful tree,
it was time to find my way back to home base and get ready for afternoon yoga, have dinner, and start the program I’d signed up for.
The next 40+ hours went by in a blur of workshop sessions, yoga classes, whirlpool visits, and the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten, all of which kept me comfortably indoors until Sunday afternoon, when my scheduled events had ended and I yet again had some time to explore my surroundings.
I decided to go hiking.
And by “hiking” I mean “walking around trying not to get lost.” I am not super great with following maps, and have little to no experience finding trails. Nonetheless it was a beautiful afternoon and I wasn’t going to waste it indoors. So off I went, and before long I was stuck.
Turns out the bold lines on the map do not necessarily correlate with reality. Sometimes, sure. For example, later in the afternoon I embarked on a second journey and knew exactly where I was supposed to turn.
But where I became stuck, there was no such immediate clarity. I had started off walking alongside the road, figuring that path was reliable enough, but after a while I suspected I had missed the turnoff where a hiking trail supposedly began. Sure enough, when I squinted into the foliage on my left, I noticed a pedestrian walkway of packed mud and trudged up to meet it. At that point I knew I was on the right track. But before long I again sensed I had traveled too far without seeing a turnoff. I consulted my map, turned it around a few times, and decided, yes, this was about the place I should be seeing a new trail. But I didn’t see anything of the sort.
I saw a tangle of grass and leaves that led nowhere. And yet, if I could trust my instincts or my map at all, it was the spot where a new path should appear. And really, if I squinted hard enough, maybe there was a path in there somewhere.
At any rate, I knew the direction I’d been moving in was no longer right, and there really wasn’t anywhere else to turn, so, onward and upward. I set off through the grass, pretending I could tell where it was taking me.
A minute or two later, I looked to my left and laughed.
Sure, it was awfully narrow, but a path was indeed present. No doubt about it, there is always somewhere to go, even if figuring out the way involves uncertainty.
There is so much more I could say about Kripalu–about the top-notch, self-focused yoga instruction; about the easy sense of community forged by hundreds of strangers with a shared interest in peace and growth; about the wholesome, savory, so-good-I-can’t-believe-it’s-healthy array of food.
But all of those things are still in the Berkshires, whereas what matters most is what I took home in my heart: the spark of triumphant delight that shot through my body upon realizing I can forever find my way. Nature will nurture me no matter what, and its loving energy is an absolute constant in an ever-changing world.