Seva and Inner Quest Intensive Cancelled After 30 Years at Kripalu Yoga Center

Last week a friend and former Kripalu volunteer informed me that the Volunteer Program at Kripalu, called Seva, had been eliminated. A search turned up nothing more than this grammatically incorrect sentence on the Kripalu website: “We recognize and honor, respect, and thank all of those who devoted their time in selfless service to Kripalu and its mission over the last 30 years.” Above which it states they are no longer accepting applications. Then I learned that the Inner Quest Intensive, Kripalu’s longest running, signature program, was also canceled. There are many reasons why I feel this change as a huge loss, not just personally, but for our community as well. Most importantly, without the opportunity to volunteer, Kripalu is now unwelcoming to those who can’t a afford a $100 day pass, let alone a program. This cuts Kripalu off from part of its community and makes it seem like just another exclusive yoga resort. I implore the Kripalu Board of Trustees to reconsider this decision.

I love Kripalu. I have referred to the place as my spiritual home and count myself lucky to live so close that I can pop over for dinner on a Wednesday with my BKC membership! Years ago I received a scholarship to attend the Inner Quest Intensive (IQI), which is, as the name suggests, really intense. It was the most challenging and useful program of self-development I have ever taken and holy wow did it change my life. Until recently, it was the longest running, most significant program Kripalu has offered. To many of us former volunteers and co-workers, ending all volunteer opportunities and the IQI as well, looks like the last of what began as an ashram has been discarded and the transformation is complete: The Kripalu campus has become a world-class yoga retreat for those who can afford such luxuries. Without Seva, which is the counterpoint to luxury, there’s no longer a community in residence dedicated to walking the talk and living the yoga. One sentiment echoed by many: Kripalu has no prana left. Shakti has left the sanctuary. This is a profound and palpable loss. I am writing this to ask the board of directors to bring these foundational programs back! And, if not, then what will they do in place of these programs, to keep Kripalu accessible to everyone?

The Volunteer Program is what made Kripalu, a non-profit, and its community unique. Seva means service. For the past 30 years anyone could apply to this free exchange program, acceptance was based on merit. Every volunteer made a commitment of time and service to Kripalu and in return received room and board and a place in the yoga centered Seva program. Seva is what made Kripalu yoga open to everyone. Folks came from all over the globe, including right here in Berkshire county, to experience the reciprocal gift of living yoga and serving their community.

So why would Kripalu end two of its longest running programs? Programs that had an incredibly profound effect on those who participated in them. Here’s what I learned when I talked with some former volunteers and Kripalu employees, past and present, about Seva: in the past few years there has been a suicide, a sexual assault and too many calls to the cops. There have been too many people joining the Seva program looking for a free ride or a way to escape. I was shocked and saddened by this. What a shame. And what place would want death, assault and the local cops associated with it?

Seva is a privilege and it seems like too many folks signed up to take advantage. Too many people came with the attitude of what can Kripalu do for me, instead of how can I serve? This kind of abuse is clearly unacceptable. Seva volunteers should be setting an example for the rest of community. There must be a way to change what wasn’t working in order to preserve the heart of this program for the rest of us. Why not invest in turning Seva into an optimal version of itself, something to be proud of again? There was a time, in the not too distant past, when the Seva program was in balance and making a contribution to the entire Kripalu community.

What kind of message does it send to eliminate something because it’s not working like it used to? Isn’t Seva the kind of program an institution like Kripalu needs to remain grounded and connected to its mission, its roots and its community? Seva is for everyone! Service is an integral part of yoga, as any student will tell you. Bring the volunteer program back so that Kripalu can continue to be a space for so many people to have life changing experiences doing Seva. Please don’t let a few troubled participants and a few poor decisions take Seva away from everyone. Kripalu has so much to offer– how can we keep it that way?

It seems the recent past has not been a bright one for the Volunteer Program. Perhaps now is the time to share our stories about how Seva and/or the Inner Quest Intensive has had a profound positive effect on our lives. Let’s share our love of these two core Kripalu programs with the members of the Kripalu Board of Trustees, asking them to reconsider. In the very least, I think the community needs an explanation of what must have been a very difficult decision. Even if we can not convince the Kripalu Board members to reinstate the Volunteer Program, at least we can give it the commemorative ending it deserves.

If you feel inclined to share your experience, please mail a separate copy to one or all of the following people at the address below:

  • David Lipsius, Chief Executive Officer
  • Denise Barack, Director of Program Development
  • Erin Peck, Senior Vice President of People, Culture, and Programs
  • Members of the Board of Trustees

c/o Kripalu Center
PO Box 309
Stockbridge, MA 01262

And share here as well!

 

Guest Post: A Food Co-op in Pittsfield?!

Renaldo Del Gallo wrote the following article,“Exploring a Pittsfield Coop”, published this past Saturday in the Berkshire Eagle.  The first organizational meeting for the Pittsfield Food Co-op is tomorrow, Wednesday May 30th 6:30 pm at the Unitarian Church, 175 Wendell Ave, Pittsfield.  Please join us!

“Just off Main Street in Great Barrington is a funky grocery store with all types of organics, a great healthy bulk food section, whole foods where processed foods would be found in other stores, a produce section with a local focus bursting out in a rainbow of hues, sustainable seafood that does not endanger the ecosystem, grass-fed beef and free range chicken. It is peopled with younger dreadlock-donned granola-types and aging hippies who seem so damn happy to be there. It’s cool. It’s the “Berkshire Co-op Market.”

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration — there are a fair amount of soccer moms and regular folks, too, but you catch the drift. As soon as you walk in the store you say to yourself, “This place is sweet.” 
A cooperative, or “co-op” for short, has been defined as “a business owned by the people it serves,” although you don’t need to be a member to buy at the Berkshire Co-op as you would at BJ’s. Nor do you need to be a member to shop at Wild Oats Market, a co-op in Williamstown that focuses on local producers. But if you live in Pittsfield, you are out of luck. There is no food co-op here.

Dana St. Pierre, Daniel Esko and Amy Huebner plan to change all that. An organizational meeting has been set for Wednesday, May 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Church located at 175 Wendell Ave. in Pittsfield. The public is invited. According to Daniel Esko, “We need to see what sort of support there is out there for the general idea of a food co-op in Pittsfield, get people who are interested together in a room, and get a core group organized to move forward.”
I asked the trio, “How is a co-op different from a regular grocery store?” A food co-op looks like other businesses since it sells products just like any other grocery store, but differs behind the scenes. Unlike a BJ’s where being a “member” is really a fee to get in the front door, a co-op is actually owned by its members. The co-op exists solely to serve the needs of its members.  Unlike traditional corporations with traditional stockholders, the members are local members of the community that use the co-op. The governance is a democratic one, and co-op members elect their own board.
Co-ops distribute “surplus revenues” (profits really, or income above cost and reinvestment) in a highly unusual way. Rather than it going to shareholders based upon “shares” owned, profits are redistributed to members based on their use of the cooperative. Therefore, they are called “patronage dividends,” as opposed to the typical stockholder dividend, because the return is based upon how much business the member has done with the cooperative. 
A traditional corporation owned by non-local shareholders almost always results in a profit-driven purpose. Because owners are not local, the profits are usually spent outside the community. Sure, traditional corporations can be socially conscious, but mission number one is always profit and is their raison d’être.
To be sure, a co-op is a business just like the traditional corporation. It often has a corporate structure and has a corporate existence on file with the secretary of the commonwealth, or the local equivalent in whatever state it is located. The co-op must be economically sustainable like any other business if it hopes to be around. And it is a business — not a club or an association.

But the raison d’être of a co-op is to serve the needs and values of its members, not monetary profit. Since meeting the needs of its members is the sole purpose of the co-op, greater social goals and the benefit to the local community are placed ahead of profits.

According to Esko, “This translates into a commitment to operating an environmentally sustainable business, [and] purchasing goods and services from local farms, producers and contractors.” This also means “strengthening the community through donations, event sponsorship, education and outreach among others.”
In the end, notes Esko, “a Pittsfield co-op will be whatever its membership wants it to be.” The bottom line is that “a food co-op does not exist to make anyone wealthy, but exists to serve the needs of its owners/members.”

Dana St. Pierre notes that co-ops often engage in “things that are not necessarily profitable and therefore not much a part of a for-profit business; things like organizing community gardens, farmer’s markets, and all sorts of educational opportunities.”

Rachel Estrada, who works at the Berkshire Co-op, says, “Cooperatives are not only places that provide organic healthy food, they are also a strong heartbeat within a community.” She believes co-ops “bring people together who share similar interests, building bridges and creating community.”
For more information, go to facebook.com/PittsfieldFoodCo-op

Rinaldo Del Gallo is an occasional Eagle contributor.

Camp Food and Travel Pictures: Cape Hatteras N.C.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, only 4 more hours to go!

Last week Dana drove us over 600 miles from the Berkshires to Frisco, NC on Cape Hatteras and back again, whew!   Our little ’84 Jetta was packed with camping equipment and of course, lots of food!  The state forest camp grounds were beautiful and totally worth the long drive to get there.  We camped for the first part of our trip and then moved a few miles down the road to a house on the beach that we shared with friends, what an awesome vacation!

The view of the Atlantic from our camp site in Frisco, NC

First I want to share my favorite way to enjoy avocados, with some tamari, wasabi and a spoon….

Chipolte, salt and lime on the left and my tamari and wasabi half on the right.

All you need is a spoon, and maybe someone to share the other half with : – )

Dana’s camp stove, which he took bike touring with him over a decade ago, decided it was time to retire when we tried to use it our first morning.  So we had to rely on the charcoal grill at our site.  Good thing we brought our cast iron pan!

Chopped cabbage, sauerkraut, bacon and eggs; everything you need for a hearty seaside breakfast.

I cooked the bacon first, then sauteed the cabbage, pushed everything to the side and fried the eggs in the rest of the bacon fat. Flax crackers and sun tea on the side. Eating directly out of the skillet means no dishes to do, we are on vacation after all!

One night for dinner we grilled asparagus and then cooked sausages and kale with mushrooms and onions in the skillet. Dinner is served.

Best beach house dinner: fresh fried mahi mahi fish tacos (‘slaw and corn tortillas not pictured) and sashimi tuna with bacon tacos. Gotta give Bill credit for the bacon and sashimi combo and the picture too!  I used romaine lettuce leaves to make my tacos, wicked good guys, you gotta try it!

Fire Cider: New Site, New Store, New Events!

Our Fire Cider all dressed up and ready for YOU!

Today is a big day for Fire Cider, we have our new website up, thanks very much to Brian Huebner of a FineExample.com.  On our new site you can order Fire Cider and yes, the shipping is free to US addresses, thanks to priority mail and the USPS.   We are getting ready for two festivals: this weekend we will be at the Hancock Shaker Village Country Fair in the Farmer’s Market tent.  Dana and I will have plenty of Fire Cider for sale or sample along with custom tee shirts from A Fine Example, herbal tinctures and more!

Next weekend we will be at the Berkshire Botanical Garden Harvest Festival.  We will have Fire Cider for sale as well as a little preview of our homemade holiday gifts that we make exclusively for Alchemy Initiative’s Handmade Holiday Festival in December!

I’ve got to go set up our tent at the Shaker Village, and drop off two kegs of home-brew for our friend’s birthday bash tomorrow.  See you around the ‘shire!

Shire City Herbals loves the Berkshires!

Exciting Updates on Farming and Fire Cider

Dana and I met Jen Morse at the Handmade Holiday Festival last December.  She asked me about our Fire Cider and what our plans were.  It wasn’t long before we were talking about our farm dream and our search for affordable land in Berkshire County.  Jen immediately invited us to come out to the farm she and her husband own; a family horse farm that goes back several generations called Green Meads Farm.

The fence is finished, time to start planning the garden.

During our first visit to their farm, Jen and Jeff offered us some space in their garden, they were planning on expanding it anyway.  This is what I love about native Berkshireites, their generosity and understanding of real community.  We helped them put up the new fencing and as soon as that project was done we started in on the planting.  Well, first there was the weeding and raking and the laying out of beds and the manure hauling, shoveling and distributing and then the planting.  It was all very gratifying work that will eventually reward us with delicious healthy food.

Jen's chickens enjoying the leftover grain from Dana's last batch of homebrew.

Then there’s the old farm down the road.  Jeff mentioned one day in early spring that his neighbor was looking to sell his family farm and told us to stop by on our way back to Pittsfield.  We did, and now, two months later we are watching our first commercial crops coming up in one of their fields.  Dana and I are also in the process of working out a rent to own deal with the current owners.  We may be farm owners, with the help of our friends and family, as soon as this fall, so very exciting!

Last week Fire Cider was approved by the state health inspector and is officially a legal and safe product (but we already knew that!), ready for stores as soon as our newest batch matures.  We have two 55 gallon drums of organic apple cider vinegar and a pending order for a ton of produce from Albert’s Organics. We will be making an appearance at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival Saturday June 25th in North Adams, so come out and see us at the open air market. We’ll be handing out free samples and selling bottles of Fire Cider!

This Post Has An Attitude!

This winter is my second back in the Berkshires and this time I’m continuing my daily run through the season, in spite of the weather.  I have more appropriate gear; my carbide studded Icebug running shoes, for example.  But what’s more important than my fancy shoes and wool layers?  My attitude.  It’s really the one thing that has changed the most and it’s made a huge difference.  I realized that my negative attitude about running in the cold winter months was the only thing holding me back from enjoying something I love.  So, here are my tips on how we let negative thoughts hold us back and what to do to break the cycle and start making things happen!

Run club on Thanksgiving, showing off our silly running layers!

First, examine your thought patterns.  Do you typically shoot yourself down when it comes to new ideas and challenges?  When we were getting snow storm after snow storm in January I had to fight myself to get out the door for a run.  I was telling myself, you can’t run today, look at all that snow! What I found, when I slowed down enough to think about what I was telling myself was that the only thing holding me back from getting out there and doing something I love, was me.

Next, ask yourself this: Is it true?  Is it true that you can’t start your own small business?  Is it true you can’t lose weight, write that novel or run in the snow?  Many times the answers is no and realizing this can open up doors that were previously closed due to negative thinking.  What force is not allowing me to pull on my running tights and lace up my shoes?  A thought in my head; it’s too much of a challenge so I shouldn’t bother to try.  Our minds are powerful agents in constructing the reality we inhabit.  Start thinking in the positive and you’ll start living in a more positive reality.  I stopped accepting what I was telling myself and instead started accepting the challenge.  It is really snowy outside and it will be more difficult to get through my run.  I know I will feel so much better about myself for meeting this challenge and overcoming it.

Write down the thoughts that hold you back.  Writing, and I’m not just saying this because I love to write, is a great way to turn your ideas into something more tangible.  Look at what you write down and ask yourself what can I do to meet this challenge?  My friend Lizzy calls these steps action items, things you can do, like purchasing the right gear or setting time aside to work on that passion project that will help you reach your goal.

Motivation is the next step and you’ll need to get your biggest supporters involved.  Maybe your brother, best friend, business partner or co-worker, whoever it is that you can share your goal with and ask them help you stay on track.  For me it’s a fellow runner who frequently runs by my house and posts on Facebook about her running experiences.  It’s such great motivation to see her out there and read about how great it was.  It’s hard to say can’t when someone I know is saying ‘CAN’ loud and clear.  Especially when that someone is me!

Easy Italian Style Kale

 

Three different types of Kale, all of them delicious and nutritious!

Three different types of Kale, all of them delicious and nutritious!

 

I wrote the following recipe for my friend Jonathan.  He is thirteen and has taken an interest in eating well and trying out new foods.  He had never eaten kale before but when I told him he could season it to taste like some of his other favorite Italian foods he was willing to try it!  Kale can be grown all year-long in the Berkshires and it can be prepared so many ways.  I have a great Kale Chips recipe on my blog and there are literally hundreds of recipes on the web.  This hearty green makes an excellent addition to any diet.

Easy Italian Style Kale

Makes 2 generous portions in about 20 minutes.

Ingredients: all organic, all the time!

1 bunch kale, any kind will do! Ribs removed and ripped into pieces.

2 cloves garlic, minced or even better, use a garlic press and press directly into the pan when it’s time to add the garlic.

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more if necessary

½ medium onion, sliced into half moons

1 Tablespoon capers

5 – 7 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thin

1 Teaspoon each fennel and oregano

Sprinkling of hot pepper flakes

Splash of Balsamic

Salt, if necessary, to taste

The Procedure:

In a cast iron skillet heat the oil over medium heat and add the pepper flakes and fennel.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes.

Add the onion, capers and sun-dried tomatoes.  Cook until the onion is clear and wilted.

Add the garlic, stir to incorporate and then add the kale and the oregano.  Mix well so that the kale cooks evenly.  When the kale is wilted but still has a bit of bright green to it, add a splash or two of balsamic.

Taste, adjust for flavor.  Add more capers or herbs, more hot pepper and garlic or nothing at all!

Remove from heat and eat.

When I want to turn this side dish into a meal I will separately cook up some hot Italian pork sausage from Holiday Farm in Dalton, slice it and add it to the kale just before serving.  French lentils also work really well with this kale dish for a hearty vegan option or in addition to the sausage.

 

Cooked kale, ready to eat!

Cooked kale, ready to eat!

 

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