Maria Sirois

Stephen Cope

I attended The Heart of Kripalu weekend in the Berkshires last Friday through Sunday and was fortunate to have Sam Chase, Stephen Cope and Maria Sirois share their wisdom.

Kripalu has created a program called RISE that helps frontline employees reduce stress and increase mindfulness. The weekend introduced us to this ground-breaking work and included lectures by these esteemed experts as well as an interview with two frontline women who’ve gone through the training–one a police officer who confronts traumatic situations daily.

It’s hard to summarize the impact of her story, but what I remember most was her talking about sitting in her driveway after a day of work and not wanting to go inside to her family who could not possibly understand what she’d encountered. She detailed how the tools learned via RISE, that Kripalu is most known for, are helping her cope on a daily basis. There are an astronomical number of suicides in her profession, so being able to self-regulate through the breath, mindfulness and yoga has been life-changing for her and her colleagues.

Though I don’t experience front-line situations in my entrepreneurial business, I can easily feel stress when I’m alone at my computer and a password doesn’t work, an expected check doesn’t arrive, or I’m stuck in a phase of my memoir revisions (current situation). Having been a longtime Kripalu retreater, I use the skills I’ve learned there: Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow. In other words, mindfulness.

I had to use this method the Friday morning I was leaving for Massachusetts. I needed to get downtown early, and since I would be going directly from a meeting to the train station, I had my rolling carry-on suitcase with me at 6:30am as I pressed the button for the elevator. I’d hailed an Uber via my phone and checked to see how many more minutes away the car was. My heart started racing. My stomach tightened. I was feeling stressed that I might not make it to midtown in a timely way.

And then I caught myself. The urgency of the moment which had me in its grip created a signal I’ve grown accustomed to feeling and now to spotting. “Wait a second,” I said to myself. “This is not an emergency. You are a woman with a suitcase waiting for the elevator. Breathe. Relax.” By the time I’d taken a second deep breath, the anxiety had abated. I strolled out onto the sidewalk with my bag, checked my Uber app and saw that the car was 2 minutes away. I felt the nervousness subside. I noticed that this was a familiar pattern and gave myself a pat on the back for catching it before it escalated and I’d be taking it out on the driver.

“Human,” I thought to myself. “I’m just a human being having a feeling.”

All three speakers, the CEO of Kripalu – Barbara Vacarr – and all the other attendees and staff last weekend created an extraordinary experience that, true to its title, captured the heart of Kripalu.

 

 

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