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!

 

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Chickpea Miso Seafood Soup

This winter has been one of major changes for me.   I presented 4 workshops in January and feel that I am officially over (it’s so last year) my fear of talking in front of groups.  I started a women’s wellness group and we are having so much fun and learning a lot as well!  Now I’m planning for more groups, for men and women, families and teens.  I’m looking forward to my presentation at Miss Halls School Health Fair at the end of February.  I will get to talk about what a health coach does, offer the students scholarships to The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and invite them to join me for my upcoming class series!

I have also done a lot of work on myself this past month.  In preparation for the Inner Quest Intensive at Kripalu I met in Great Barrington with Naturopath (and all around AMAZING lady) Pam Youngquist weekly for 4 weeks.  We did some talk therapy; some energy work and she gave me some thought provoking topics to journal on as well as some new techniques to help me heal on an emotional level from the Candida.  No matter what illness or imbalance you are trying to recover from, be it weight loss or chronic fatigue, you have to look at everything, from food to negative thought patterns, in order to really move forward.

Kripalu Yoga Center and grounds in Lenox MA

And after my weekend long Inner Quest Intensive I feel like I moved forward in my life, at about 90.  The IQI as described to me by others who have been through the program is that it’s like ‘several years of therapy in one weekend.’  There’s a lot to this program but that sums it up nicely.  It was a tough weekend and yes, it was totally worth it.  If you are interested in getting involved with Kripalu and live in the Berkshires, check out The Berkshire Kripalu Community!  You can apply for a membership which allows you to take Kriplau yoga at a discount as well as apply for scholarships to Kripalu programs.  You can also apply directly to Kriplau, a non-profit educational organization, for a scholarship to any one of their programs, which is how I was able to afford the Inner Quest Intensive.  Thank you generous Kriplau sponsors!!

During the IQI program we ate very simple, light foods.  There was usually miso or vegetable broth at each meal.  I was easing back into my normal diet (basically Kripalu food plus spices and garlic and hot sauce!) and so Dana made us miso soup with seafood for dinner.  Perfect.  This is the recipe he used as a guide for his soup.  Dana, of course, didn’t measure anything which means you’ve got a lot of leeway here with the amounts, use what you’ve got, improv the rest!

Someone took a nice picture of their version of Seafood Miso Soup, looks good enough to eat!

Seafood Miso Soup

  • 4 quarter-size pieces fresh ginger
  • 1 strip kombu kelp*, about 1/4 oz.
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced and rinsed well
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-in. matchsticks
  • 1 1/2 pounds black cod or Pacific halibut, cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
  • 3/4 pound medium sea scallops (15 to 16 per lb.)
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.), peeled, tails left on if you like
  • 1/2 cup shiro (sweet white) miso (we used chickpea miso)
  • 1/2 cup lager (preferably Longboard, optional, Dana left the beer out for ours)
  • Lemon zest/wedges (optional, but highly recommended!)
  • Thinly sliced shiso leaf (optional)

You can find kombu, a large seaweed sold dried, and bonito flakes with the Asian ingredients at well-stocked supermarkets and at natural-foods or Japanese markets. Find shiso, an aromatic herb, at Japanese markets and some farmers’ markets.

Preparation

  1. Bring 4 cups water, the ginger, and kombu to a boil in a large, wide pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 4 minutes. Turn off heat, sprinkle in bonito flakes, and let sit 3 minutes (flakes will sink)
  2. Add leek and carrots. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Add black cod and scallops; simmer 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes more.
  3. Whisk miso with lager or water in a small bowl. Remove stew from heat and carefully stir in miso mixture. Serve with lemon zest/wedges  and shiso for topping if you like.

Sunset
OCTOBER 2011