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One Dish at a Time

A Kripalu volunteer practices being in the moment.

I’ve never felt so serene and relaxed as I did the first time I came to Kripalu, for an R&R retreat. I felt at peace in a way I hadn’t for a very long time. While I was there, something pertaining to the Volunteer Program kept presenting itself each day. Near the end of my stay, I took an R&R workshop called The Path of the Warrior, and we talked about making hard decisions. When the teacher told us that he was the director of the Volunteer Program, that was it—I knew I was going to do this. I went home and resigned from the social-work job I’d had for 12 years, even before I knew I’d been accepted into the program.

I came here thinking that these few months were going to be a break between my old job and a new job. But once I got here, I realized I wasn’t here for a break from work—I was here for something much bigger. After one term volunteering in the Production Department, I signed up for a second and then a third term, both on the Dish Crew.

At the beginning of my second term, I made a big decision: to dismantle the personal operating system I’d been functioning with for so many years. It looked healthy from the outside, but it was all coping mechanisms—restrictions, habits, and routines I’d created to feel “safe,” “in control,” “worthy.” That’s all an illusion covering the pure, loving center we all have in us—the center I return to during meditation, the center I’m working very hard to live from, the center that is part of a much bigger equation.

Recently, I discovered a huge missing link: this moment, the now. I’m discovering so much about myself, and about living, within each moment. There are times when I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to be at Kripalu for all this time, feeling safe and held while I peel away the layers I’ve hidden beneath for years, surrounded by a loving community and the immense beauty of the area. Dish Crew is a deep learning experience—there’s nothing to do but be present as you work. Who knew what washing dishes could ignite!

I was so sure I was going to live a certain way for the rest of my life—and now here I am. I still can’t believe it sometimes. I can’t put into words everything that’s encompassed in this building on this hilltop. I used to run every day, but what I didn’t realize was that I was running from myself. Now I’m learning what it’s like when you stop running.

—Christina P., Kripalu Volunteer