Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Healing Touch Level 1, Burlington, and Sivananda Yoga Ranch Visit

It has been quite an adventure over the past four days. I left Thursday afternoon for Tarrytown, NY to visit with a friend and break up the trip to Burlington, VT. Friday morning, I set off for Burlington while listening to Deepak Chopra's Buddha: The Enlightenment on CD. The trip flew by, especially when I reached the tranquil state of Vermont. There were cows, goats, beautiful black birds with red streaks on their wings, and I even saw a mare cuddling with her foal at one of the many farms along the way. I love that Vermont does not allow billboards.

My dear friend in Burlington lives on Lake Champlain. The mountains surrounding the city add to its awe inspiring beauty. To top it all off, there is a bustling pedestrian mall in the city center that is filled with shops, restaurants and street performers. Needless to say, we had a wonderful time and ate delicious food!

Friday evening was the first of three Healing Touch level 1 class sessions I would take that weekend. The students were mostly women, half of them nurses, from the age of 20 and up. To begin, we sat in a circle of wooden chairs surrounding a chakra circle, which was filled with symbols and candles representing each of the seven chakras. Our teacher, Kathleen, started the class with introductions and after a guided meditation, we jumped right into the energy work.

Kathleen and her helper demonstrated each technique before we paired up and practiced on each other. The other students were from diverse backgrounds, but we all found common ground in our desire to learn about the healing arts and our positive and open minds. It is amazing how quickly you bond with people in a situation where you are connecting with them through positive energy and physical touch (although physical touch is optional and all techniques can be done without it). We were also constantly sharing our feelings and experiences with the class. Everyone listened and respected each other at all times, which created a comforting and encouraging atmosphere. By the end of the three days, I was ready to practice the Level 1 techniques on my friends and family and incorporate the principles into my life. I can't believe there are four more levels!

The most difficult aspect of the class was trusting my own experiences. At first, I would feel something, for example another student's energy field, and immediately question myself. It is still difficult to explain my experiences to anyone who was not in the class or is not involved with energy work. My left brain keeps saying, "are you crazy?". But as the weekend progressed, I discovered first hand that energy work reduces physical, emotional, and mental stress.

It was sad to leave Burlington on Monday, but I knew that I had taken a big step in my personal and professional development through my visit. Deepak Chopra kept me company on the way home as he read the rest of Buddha: The Enlightment on CD. The question of "what's next?" gnawed at me and I kept having to re-listened to Chopra each time my mind got stuck on this question.

Yoga and the Healing Arts are my main focus at the moment. Baltimore Yoga Village is fantastic, but I want to experience and live yoga daily and intensively for a period of time, as I've discussed earlier in regards to visiting an ashram. Sivinanda Yoga Ranch and Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health are top on my list of possibilities.

As I approached Saratoga Springs, I realized that I was not too far from Sivanada Yoga Ranch. I pulled off at the Saratoga exit and stopped at the nearest gas station to buy a map. Woodboure, NY was about 30 miles away, so I found my route in my new Atlas and took off for Sivananda. The drive itself was enough reason for the detour. It was exhilarating to explore this unknown territory on a whim. There is nothing like following your gut to stimulate and awaken your mind to the limitless possibilities of life.

Budd Road was a bit difficult to find, but after a few wrong turns, I was on my way up a steep hill to the ranch. I pulled up a dusty road to find a small parking lot next to a greenhouse and a large vegetable garden. It was so silent outside the car that I carefully closed my door to avoid making any noise. Walking up to the registration office, I looked around to see blue open skies filled with gigantic white clouds in every direction. Inside the main office, a staff member gave me a map and sent me off to explore on my own. I walked through the middle of the grounds up a large hill to one of the temples. On my way I saw: a large old house converted into a dormitory, outdoor yoga studios hosting one-on-one yoga training and meditations, students sitting in big wooden chairs overlooking the rolling hills, a large indoor yoga studio, an outdoor eating area, and tents scattered on the hill past the dorms.

As I reached the shrine at the top of the hill, I waited for some sort of feeling that would tell me that this was the place for me. It wasn't that I got a bad feeling, it was just that I didn't feel drawn to stay. I wanted to know that "yes" this was the place for me to study yoga intensively. After walking through the grounds a bit more, I left Sivananda and headed home. Although I don't think that Sivananda is the place for me right now, I would like to revisit this possibility in the future. I could tell after my short visit that for someone in the right frame of mind and place in life, the experience would be life-altering.

After mulling over the situation and bouncing ideas off my Burlington friend over the phone, I decided to give Kripalu a call. This morning, I received the reassurance I needed to move forward and register for one of Kripalu's week-long programs. Speaking with the Teacher Training Director sealed the deal. Caroline spoke about the philosophy of Kripalu and it connected with something inside me immediately. Kripalu describes their philosophy below:

"While grounded in yoga, it is important to understand that Kripalu does not espouse a narrow or sectarian mindset. According to the Kripalu tradition, yoga is an honest and unfettered inquiry into all practices, philosophies, techniques, and approaches that produce thriving for individuals, families, communities, societies, and the planet. This “non-denominational yoga” includes perennial wisdom gleaned from all the world’s religions and spiritual traditions, together with the amazing knowledge gained from science, psychology, and contemporary researchers. It also includes healing techniques drawn from traditional, allopathic, and complementary/ alternative medicine that help individuals heal and return to high levels of functioning.

As an institution, Kripalu is dedicated to yoga as a rigorous, non-dogmatic, and non-sectarian inquiry into the core issues of life. This kind of truth-based inquiry inevitably frees us from fears, fantasies, and distortions and produces positive ways of being that generate beneficial results. To support rigorous inquiry and dialogue, Kripalu operates in accord with a set of core values that includes: a commitment to authenticity, radical self-trust, the courage to fully express one’s self, and unconditional positive regard for others. Embracing these and other values is a proven way to move toward the state of integrated functioning where what you think, feel, say, and do are aligned and in synch." (http://www.kripalu.org/pdfs/mission_history.pdf)

I am visiting Kripalu in July to participate in their "Build Your Yoga Practice" program. I am also very interested in their teacher training program and studying Aryurveda, but I'll make that decision after completing the week-long program. Registering for the class filled me with excitement. There is a lot more to write about, but I'm still tired from the long weekend. Time for bed.

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