We Are Because We Belong
Says Desmond Tutu
This is a memory from many yesterdays-ago.
I was living in an ashram, Our Ashram, Our Kripalu.
Every morning this summer, I wake early, a slice in time before the dawn.
I sleep with my bathing suit on, to ease, to quicken my waking,
so eager am I for this new day.
Perhaps this is true?
Is that memory accurate?
Do accuracy and memory need to meet?
Sleeping in clothes during girl scout camp was a sound strategy, both keeping me warm and making entry into the new day quicker—not a moment to be wasted, in so rich and fantastic a world.
Parallels between my beloved girl scout camp and my beloved ashram abound!
Back to my memory:
Bathing suit on, now shorts and sweatshirt, dirty, bent-back sneakers, I hurry downstairs, open the heavy door, and breathe in the majesty, the never-ending glory of our Kripalu view. With dawn just breaking, I scurry, half-jogging, down the hill, skipping, running, racing with myself, racing against myself, racing against the dawn, to arrive at the water’s edge.
Crossing over the little road, onto the path, even more excited now for the water’s approach.
Almost sprinting, internal leaping, making my way.
And there, the lake!
Today a thick, heavy mist covers the water,
Turning pink now with the dawn.
It is glorious—
I wade into it, this magic water,
Enveloped into, become one with the pink mist.
The water, warmer than the air, comforts me, welcomes me.
I release myself into its arms, covered now in pink mist.
Water, sky, legs, arms—all pink.
Ecstatic, I swim outward, into the arms of the lake.
Blissed out, I marvel at the oneness, the pink-wholeness of the moment.
It is delicious, seductive, glorious a swim.
Swimming in pink, one with all.
Blissed out and stronger than now, oh, so much stronger, twenty-five-years-younger-stronger, I swim on.
Stroke, stroke, stroke.
Until… I realize after a time, with a quiet, creeping awareness in my belly, that I feel turned around.
I feel directionally unclear.
I stop swimming, poke my head out of the water, and attempt to orient myself.
Am I heading toward the Tanglewood beach, to my left?
Or am I facing the center of the lake?
Perhaps I am swimming to my right?
I realize, with a pang in my belly, I do not know.
I do not know where I am in relationship to the shoreline.
My breath catches.
I cannot see the tree-line, which daily serves as my most reliable compass.
Today there is no compass.
I feel a numbing fear creep and worm its way into my belly.
I do not know the direction.
I do not know my way back to shore.
Frantically I turned to the right, sure this is the way.
Stroke, stroke, stroke.
Head up, to assess.
No, this way, I think, adjusting.
Stroke, stroke, stroke,
Head up, to assess.
Less of a clue.
I am not clear how long I do not know the way.
I pride myself on knowing the way.
I am not clear how I manage to somehow realign.
I pride myself on being able to realign.
Not this morning.
This morning, I am lost, lost in Lake Mahkeenac.
The voice of my existential terror increases its volume:
I cannot find my way back.
When will they notice I am gone?
How will they ever find my body?
I think of my community, my ashram family, women and men,
Committed to serving, to growing, to learning.
I love us so much.
I am them, finally, at home.
I do not want them to be gone from me.
I do not want to lose them.
The thought of it brings a surge of energy into my heart.
Is it twenty minutes?
Is it twelve minutes?
In that moment, that moment of thinking and feeling my community, I do not know how, even in the moment, I do not know how—but there, the tree-line emerges, creeping into vision from behind the dense fog, no longer pink, no longer so seductive.
A rush of energy surges through me.
Now! I recognize the shore-line, I swim with whatever strength I have not fearfully frittered away.
Arms tired, legs dragging, I push on toward the now-gloriously revealing-itself-shore-line.
The rocky bottom finally emerges beneath my feet—never so happy to have my soles been to meet these little rocks.
Never so relieved have I been to have my soul return to the soul group up the hill,
The soul group that was My Ashram.
That was My Kripalu.
That always will be My Ashram.
That always will be
I did not die that day.
I did not drown.
I got born.
And I continue to get born, through the light and the love of the Kripalu community.
The community, the connection, the bonds developed between us in the ashram literally created the work that changed our lives and the lives of you, our guests, over the decades.
The Kripalu ashram will always been the rooted earth of the great Kripalu Experiment, in whatever form it inhabits.
To belong somewhere.
To be on somebody’s roster,
Desmund Tutu tells us:
My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.
We belong in a bundle of life.
A person is a person through other persons.
This is so reminiscent of Swami Kripalu teaching about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the whole world is one family, such a relevant reminder now.
Here is a short and lovely clip of Bishop Tutu:
If ever there were a time to acknowledge the family around us;
Stranger and neighbor,
Friend and enemy,
Same and different—
The whole world
As solstice descends, as summer officially opens her arms to us, be safe—be well.
Let’s continue to learn and grow—with radical acceptance of what is—with the right use of will.
May we continue to be
Exactly who we are.
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