Winding Down

by Jasmine Astra-elle Grace
I have recently returned from a trip to Kripalu for an Art and Yoga Teacher Training Course with Kundalini master Hari Karin Kaur Khalsa. Kripalu is located in the Berkshire Hills of upstate NY. My trip was a perfect getaway and the first time, in a longtime, I had spent a significant length of time by myself, for myself. People had told me how wonderful Kripalu was and the recommendations were accurate.

My first day was a precursor for a life changing experience. On my arrival I was still wound up a little from preparing to leave home and work for 7 days. As I am sure many of you know, you have to work double time to leave town; a worthwhile necessity to allow time for personal and professional growth. You simply have to make the time to work on yourself. Often when you do you are rewarded in ways that can shift your understanding, experiences, and relationships, and how you interact with yourself and the world around you. It seems the ancient philosophers had the answers years ago:

 He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.- Lao Tzu

I was at Kripalu, taking time to study yoga and art, two of my great loves that always lead to a greater connection to the Self. Whenever I visit a new place I have a tradition of scoping out my environment. Going for a run is a perfect way to do this. So I put on my running shoes, tied my fluorescent yellow laces and ran all over the property. Along the path I discovered a “walking” meditation maze. I stopped mid-run and gazed at the entrance. The space felt spiritual and energetically grounding – I went in and I “ran” the “walking” maze. As I ran past the reeds, grass, bushes and other fall vegetation I decided to take each step, each stride, mindfully while still keeping speed and honoring the purpose of the maze. I began to think how ironic it was that I was running a walking maze and how that may be a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. I kept running and with each stride and breath of cool air in and out I felt more alive. I kept the mindfulness. Is it OK to run through life as long as there is an element of mindfulness? Is this possible or must we be still to find mindfulness? I returned focus to the stride and the breath. I kept running all the way to the center; then I turned around and ran all the way back. I allowed the walking maze to act as a winding down, a letting go and an opening to the experiences that lay ahead. The perfect way to start my adventure!

When I got out of the maze I sat on the bench, facing the lake and watched the sunset as fat geese honked goodnight. A couple of rabbits hopped by to say “hello” to me – call me silly but I believe animals always have a message to tell us.

Someone had told me about the Kripalu bunnies and here they were. I looked up their meaning in my Medicine Cards (1988) by Sams and Carson (p. 157):

“It could also indicate the need to stop and take a rest. It will always indicate a time when you need to re- evaluate the process you are undergoing, and to rid yourself of any negative feelings, barriers, or duress. Simply put, you cannot have your influence felt until you rearrange your way of seeing the present set of circumstances.

There is always a way out of any situation, because the Universal Force does move on. It is the way in which you handle problems that allows you to succeed. Take a hint from Rabbit. Burrow into a safe space to nurture yourself and release your fears until it is time again to move into the pasture, clear of prowlers who want a piece of your juicy energy.”                                                                          

Hmmn .. interesting! I was at Kripalu to rest and reevaluate – it all felt so universally supported. Not to mention that it was a new moon week. I felt ready to do the spiritual work, the internal work, to learn more about myself, to release old patterns, and create space to find clarity to make the right choices. And so began my adventure. It was the first of many on the seven day experience at Kripalu. Needless to say I didn’t feel the urge to run the maze again – but I did walk it a few times!

Photography: Jasmine Grace’s iPhone