It is funny how an absence from doing something makes you THINK so much about doing it! This happened to me during the last 2 weeks when I was absent from this space. I kept thinking about things I wanted to write and share here! What prompted my absence was a trip to the Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts. My oldest friend (in terms of years of friendship and not chronological age!) travelled to the Kripalu Center for a 3 days workshop called “The Power of Loving Heart: Loving Kindness Meditation and Devotional Chanting”. The workshop was led by Sharon Salzberg and Krishna Das. I won’t do them the injustice of trying to describe who they are and what they do, but I urge you to check out their websites. They are both amazing, inspirational people and the weekend was calming, energizing, and rejuvenating all at the same time.
I have so much I want to share about the weekend, which I suspect will prompt many more posts. But for today I wanted to share one particular story. One of the meditation exercises we did was to think about all of the people who were our benefactors. That is, all of the people who made it possible for us to spend time in a beautiful place in the Berkshire Mountains, doing yoga, meditating, and eating delicious food.
Well, I am the mother of 3 small children, with a pretty busy job on top of it. There were so many people who made it possible for me to attend the workshop: most importantly, my husband. But also, our nanny, my children, all of the teachers I had who helped me become a doctor (because this stuff requires money, which I have because of my good job!), my parents for raising me to have an open heart and mind, and on and on.
But what I thought about most (apologies to my amazing husband) was how I came to know about the Kripalu Center and loving-kindness meditation at all. That journey began in Montreal, when I was 30 years old and pregnant with my first child – over 7 years ago!!! I suffered from sciatic pain very early in that pregnancy and my doctor referred me to a pregnancy yoga teacher who changed my life. I will call her Autumn. It is true that she changed my life. No, she didn’t cure my sciatic pain, that eventually went away on its own. But meeting her sent me down the path which I walk today (with many, many diversions, breaks, and detours along the way). After I had Micah, I continued going to Autumn’s regular yoga classes, which were extremely challenging for a woman who was just postpartum. What kept me coming back, though, was not the physical exercise. It was the way Autumn invited everyone to draw inward to themselves and develop a practice that was true to them and not related to what was going around us. I remember a life-changing thought occurred to me when she was leading a forward bend series and said “breathe right where you are, who cares how close your head is to your knees? Will life really change if your head touches your knees?” I almost laughed out loud! She was so right! It was a wonderful thing just to have shown up for the class, who cares what your body can “accomplish”! This thought was so liberating and it led me to fall in love with Autumn’s style of yoga, Kripalu Yoga.
I hadn’t realized it at the time, but Autumn was introducing me to the concept of “mindfulness”. Fast forward to when Micah was 18 months old. Residency was just finished, Tim and I had both passed our Royal College exams (a major feat as it is the final exam you sit for, at the end of 5 years of residency and we had both written them when Micah was only 9 months old) and we were working and living in Montreal. Life should have been perfect, right? One child, 2 jobs, no exam, an amazing city. Well…For some reason I felt like I was missing it. And furthermore, I felt like conflicts I had in the outer world, with my extended family, with my colleagues, were affecting my behaviour at home. For example, I would have an argument with someone and then be so angry I would be cranky with Tim and impatient with Micah.
I realized that something had to change. And that something was me. I finally realized that the people around me may or may not change, but I could change how I thought about them and how I reacted to situations. I vowed to start a year of self-discovery which entailed some private lessons with Autumn, reading a lot of books on mindfulness and happiness, and trying hard to truly be present with my family.
Five years later, I continue on this path which has led me to have so much more joy and peace in my life. I have faltered recently, and fallen into some old habits. Our busy lives have led me to fall away from yoga, from meditating, and indeed practicing mindfulness. But my return to Kripalu is changing that (hopefully) and I am so grateful to all who helped me get there.
Thank you, thank you.