So this weekend, the entire east coast endured Hurricane Irene. She was definitely a ferocious and spunky lil’ thing, and New York (state, as well as just city) was thick in the mayhem of preparations for the worst. Definitely better to be over prepared, than under prepared, my mom used to say (Go mom).
I narrowly escaped by heading upstate to Heathen Hill Retreat center and farm, with 8 other valiant yoga devotees and those desiring a weekend out of the city. What a weekend we chose! Preparing up there as well for Irene to blast through included candlelit yoga, filling buckets of water in the bathrooms for when the power goes out, and making sure everyone had flashlights. We were kinda prepared for no power since there’s no wi-fi on the premises, but alas, we survived. Call me crazy, but I was loving the adventure and it sorta reminded me of camp. Camp with a hot tub, plenty of wine, and the coolest counselor (Susan “Lip” Orem, you win hands down), and all your favorite bunk mates.
I love going on retreat as a student; the escape from daily life, being a student of yoga for two classes a day, time to relax, really meditate, read…but as the teacher of a retreat, I love it in a different way. I’m ‘on-call’ (happily I must add) for stuff that arises when you willingly step outside of your comfort zone and agree to live for a limited time with relative strangers, usually with only one thing in common: a love of yoga. This common thread goes a long way, and usually becomes the key to what I’ve seen form as life-long friendships. Again and again, I see connections made on retreats that are so bonding, so real, filled with such laughter that even if they don’t last, they open hearts and mind to such a degree that a revelation appears. That revelation over and over again is that life is good and we’re supposed to enjoy it. Together. We forge the bonds of friendship through this yoga, and choose to walk it together for as long as we do. It’s the teaching that I come back to again and again for myself, and one that puts a salve on old wounds in me about feeling alone, or being unworthy of connection with others. If anyone else gets that kind of salve, that kind of up-liftment or ease in their heart from being on a yoga retreat with me and making new friends, then I’ve done my job well.
Kula is a sanskrit word that translates to mean ‘body’, as in ‘collection’ or ‘structure’ and it refers to a particular kind of community where the connection runs a little deeper than just sangha, which translates simply to ‘community’. Kula are those you are simpatico with, and with whom you share a common belief or value system. The meaning of kula has more to do with the liberty inherent to choose who you bond with to form a woven ‘structure’ of support. We choose who to bond with, who to trust, who to count as ally, and then conversely, who to be a strong structure for. In my nearly 10 years of teaching, what’s become most important to me is creating kula, as well as being in kula. To somehow be the connecting point for others to find each other is truly one of the greatest joys of my job. Certification in 2005 felt like I took a vow to uphold particular principles of living, and one of them was to honor the Kula and what it stands for. One principle of kula is that no one really gets kicked out. You’re free to come into the community and play, offer your talents, gifts, quirks, wit, voice and opinion, just as free as you are to leave when it no longer serves you.
We welcomed Irene into the kula this weekend, and she forged us together.