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Kripalu Guest Stories: Lee D.

Lee D.

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I’m a minister, and a couple of years ago I was serving a congregation that was going through a lot of trauma. As a result, I was internalizing too much stress. I was clenching my jaw, and I was in pain. My dentist told me I’d better learn to meditate. I said, “But I teach meditation!”

I’d known about Kripalu for 30 years. Finally, I went. It was for David Harp’s program that combines harmonica playing and mindfulness. It looked like fun, and I figured it would be a good substitute for clenching my teeth. The first night, he got us all up on the microphone doing solos. I’m not a music person so I would never have done that, but he made it comfortable. At night, we had music jams, adding to the harmonicas with hand drums and a keyboard. It shocked me that something as simple as blowing on a harmonica could bring me the peace and healing I needed. It helped me stay in the present moment, using the breath, just like meditation.

What also surprised me was that I didn’t do any yoga classes while I was at Kripalu that first time. Yet seeing the discipline with which people approached yoga there, I went home and started my own practice. I took it slowly, just 15 minutes a day at first, but two years later, I’ve taken more classes and I’ve sustained my practice.

As a minister, I’m never just a member of the congregation. So being in a spiritual place where I’m not a leader and I’m just a member of the group is important to me. I can be in community for a week and it’s safe and transformative. It’s an environment where I can take risks, push my boundaries, and have people who will help me extend myself but not push me too far. They’re there to witness and support the process.

What I love about Kripalu is whether my primary reason for going is personal or professional, the two always overlap. Kripalu lets me try new things—and if you try something new in one area of your life, you’re more open in other areas of your life, too.

—Lee D., Unitarian Universalist minister, Kansas City, Missouri