How Kripalu’s Core Values Can Guide Us Through Challenging Times

April 1, 2020

To those of us touched by the Kripalu teachings—

To those of us blessed enough to have experienced the gentle strength of a few Kripalu days—

To those of us who walk this Kripalu path together, whether we know it or not:

We are equipped and we are able.

The teachings we have been given, the lifestyle we have experienced, the compassion we have shared, are exactly what we need to find our way through this wild time of upheaval and re-creation.

Just as it happened in 1995, when the guru fell most spectacularly from grace and the ashram paradigm as we knew it blew apart, Kripalu’s core values—integrity, presence, inquiry, service, compassion, and practice—guide us forward today. 

Presence

To be right here, right now.

This, for me, is the kindest and most helpful of values. When I am able to stay in this moment, to tether myself back from my racing mind scanning the news and trying to outline a new world that doesn’t exist, in the moment, in the presence of this moment, I am safe, I am protected, I am connected.

We are safe.  We are protected.  We are connected.

Right here, right now, no matter what happens.

The future thinking, the figuring it out, literally takes us away from the solution, the return.  

Utilizing whatever tether works for you—breath, mantra, sound, music—keep coming back to the moment. No matter how far away you travel, no matter how long you are gone, whenever you notice the galloping mind, with ultimate compassion, breathe back, come back, return to the moment.

Walking with prayer is my practice. Moving my body and repeating mantra, affirmation, prayer is my doorway back. This carried me through in 1995, when life had no form I could understand. I can remember walking down Kripalu’s East Drive, each step a prayer. Today it brings me solace, as we walk through the unknown, separate yet so profoundly connected to one another.  

Compassion

Let’s remember that the word “Kripalu” means compassion, in its verb form: to be compassionate. How kind can we be to ourselves?  How relaxed can we be with our family members, our children, our friends? Everybody gets to do this their own way.

How can I welcome my fear, honor it as an appropriate response, yet choose to not dwell within it? 

Self-Observation Without Judgment, Swami Kripalu's core teaching, gives us access to nonjudgmental compassion. By allowing the fear, by befriending it, without judging it, we are able to lean away from it and return back to the moment; we literally change our brain—creating, again and again, a pathway to relaxed compassion.

What can you do for yourself today that is compassionate?

Today, unlike in 1995 in the ashram, I have an awesome bathtub. Taking nightly baths with delicious, non-smelly bath bombs really comforts me. What about you?

Inquiry

During my ashram days, in the 1990s, I puzzled and pondered that core teaching of Self-Observation Without Judgment. I certainly knew how to monitor myself; I surely knew how to judge myself, mostly coming up short.  

I wanted to land in the “lap of the Lord” … I just didn’t realize I was already there.

I worked so hard at being mindful, at being spiritual, at improving my practices. Surely, if I meditated more, if I did more intensive yoga, then I would be a worthy spiritual seeker.

I was missing the doorway, walking right by the entrance to transformation, the doorway of Inquiry.

To notice myself in this moment, to bless myself as I am, and from that moment of presence, from that moment of nonjudgment, to then lean in the direction of growth, this is the offering, the gift from the man we called Bapuji.

Radical nonjudgment is the silent and motionless engine of Inquiry. To witness, to gather the mindful data, to appreciate the brilliant strategies of old behavior that probably kept us moving forward, to realize that those behaviors aren’t relevant, aren’t skillful or helpful now—and to realize, from the practice of Inquiry, that we can change our brain, our body, and our behavior.

We can change.

We are changing.

Through nonjudgmental Inquiry, transformation occurs.

These pandemic days are both long and short, filled with busyness … and emptied and hollow. Each moment is a shinny mirror into ourselves. 

Here I am, 2:35 am, checking the news, choosing that terror over the potential solace of my meditation app. Of course, I reach for the news. Of course, I want to intensify the intensity. That adrenaline demands more of itself.

And, as I appreciate and honor that frightened little kid inside of me, I am able to shift away from the news and open my meditation app.

I deserve the bedtime story that will be read to me.

Through the lens of Inquiry, what are you noticing about yourself? Who do you choose to be in this—even in this?

Integrity

In the ashram, I learned about Swami Kripalu’s teachings on thought, speech, and conduct. I was encouraged to practice bringing into alignment what I think, what I say, and how I behave. It is a never-ending process, of course, that must be supported, breath after breath, by nonjudgment. And yet, it offers such a North Star to right living.

Practicing the yamas—the restraints from aggressive and defensive behavior that harm others and keep us separate—and the niyamas—the cultivating virtues that help us to live harmoniously—we lived together with unifying purpose.

These values worked for me back then. I never felt at home anywhere as I did with my Kripalu “brothers and sisters,” in this family of choice. As I began considering Kripalu Yoga through the lens of Integrity, and considering my skillfulness in thought, speech, and action, I began to change.

Of course, other elements were alive beneath the surface of the Kripalu community, as we know today. With any family system, that which is denied, that which is pushed out of consciousness, that which is pushed out of integrity, will inevitably explode. And explode it did, in 1995, when the guru, Amrit Desai, fell from grace so publicly.

And today, how might Integrity support us? In this moment, where dishonesty and greed blur human connection, where personal and political motives seem to overshadow truth and compassion, it is imperative that we bring to ourselves and to each other the unity of our thought, speech, and conduct.

Perhaps Integrity has never been so needed as it is now, on this glorious earth of ours. 

Service

To be useful. To be helpful. To live into connection with others, in this time of forced and essential physical separation. To be part of the solution.

Reaching out to friends, calling folks I have not heard from in years, blessing people from my car as I drive past, offering a deep hello to the person walking six feet away—this  is the time to bless each other. To serve the healing, the wellness, of the other. Life is asking us to do it in undefined ways, ways we must create.

How can you be part of the solution, with kindness and presence? Perhaps offering loving-kindness to others, seeing family members wrapped in light, offering prayers.

Who do you choose to be in this?

I choose to serve. As a Kripalu teacher, of course I do.  As a human being, alive at this unprecedented moment, I choose to be there for you.

Practice

We don’t have to get any of these strategies “right.”  There is no right. We get to practice, to show up with kind compassion as best we can. Practice to me means noticing the fear, without making it wrong, befriending it and releasing it.

In 1995, the Kripalu world fell apart. We held the posture, we found our way. We practiced living from breath to breath. It worked. We outlived the chaos and a new world emerged.

And now, here in 2020, we have a chance to practice.

Practice to me means getting into bed by 10:00, releasing my steel grip on the remote control.

Practice to me means taking my PJs off in the morning.

Practice to me means reaching out to friends, to family, blessing and loving us all.

Practice to me means praying for the wellness of us all, praying for the healing of our glorious planet.

Practice to me means letting go of the outcome.

Letting go of the outcome.

Letting go of the outcome.

Letting go of the outcome.

And now we practice.

Aruni Nan Futuronsky is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, life coach, and Legacy Faculty member for Kripalu R&R and Kripalu programs.

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