Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Our Kripalu Weekend




Wow, what a weekend we just had.

Even the drive north on small, wooded backroads into Massachusetts was special.  I had traversed those roads with Mama years ago when the kids were small, so it was wonderful to be up there again.  The landscape is lovely--spring green trees, rocky streams, bubbling water.  We stopped a few times to admire the woods and river, watching the fly fishermen at work.  It's my favorite kind of landscape; Gommie was mesmerized.

Kripalu is a retreat center nestled in the Berkshires not far from Tanglewood, the concert venue and summer home of the Boston Symphony.  And it is gorgeous!  It used to be the Shadowbrook estate, if I understand correctly--the remains of the stone gatehouse are visible up front (apparently, the foundation of the mansion is there, too, but I didn't go looking for it.)  The setting is miraculous--mountains (or hills--I'm a flatlander) with a lake nestled in the valley, expansive lawns, lots of trees, and so much sky.  Many times during the weekend, we would just sit on the terrace of the main Shadowbrook retreat center and admire the view.

The view from our room.
Being on retreat at Kripalu is a lot like college, or as Gommie said, camp for adults.  We had classes and meals and downtime in our little room (two twins, great view, awful water control in the shower.)  But there was no stress, no responsibility, no unpleasantness.  Even before we checked into our room in the Annex which overlooked the grounds and the lake in the distance, we enjoyed lunch in the big cafeteria.

View from the terrace.
Oh, the Kripalu food.  Ayurvedic in theory (which has 6 flavors and ideas about balance of warming and cooling foods), seasonal and sustainable, with vegetarian and vegan options.  Over the six meals, we had delicious fresh salads with this great House dressing, veggie burgers, Moroccan tomato soup, coconut carrot salad, spiced chicken tagine, Greek kale salad, sauteed rainbow chard, Indian chickpeas, roasted potatoes, warm lentil salad, roasted carrots with maple syrup, kale and more kale!, oatmeal, museli, granola, vegan brownies, soy masala chai, Moroccan mint iced tea, orange Rooiboos tea, and the list could go on (yes, I bought the little booklets of recipes in the shop but there are many here, too.)  Makes me hungry just typing that up.  Breakfast was eaten in silence, a way to begin the day mindfully.  We tried to take every meal in the room overlooking the mountains and lake, soaking in the beauty and the fresh air through the windows.

Entrance to the labyrinth
After eating and unloading our bags, we headed straight to the labyrinth.  I love labyrinths, as you know, but hadn't realized there was one at Kripalu and so I hadn't brought anything to leave at the center.  Still, we walked it that first afternoon and I was just filled with this amazing joy.  Each time I walk a labyrinth, I have different reactions.  Friday was brimming with joy.  Joy to be with Gommie all to myself.  Joy to be in beauty.  Joy to be studying Zentangle, which fills me with excitement.  Joy, joy, joy.  It was Gommie's first labyrinth so I went over the basic etiquette about quiet and stepping to the side when you pass another.  The walk certainly set the tone for the weekend.

Tile #1

That evening, we had our first Zentangle class.  We'd run into the founders, Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts and their daughters Molly and Martha on the terrace earlier and had a chance to say hi.  I can't really describe what it's like to take a class with them--their stories, their humor, their rapport with each other, all of their mantras and saying of encouragement.  Even though I'd taken a long seminar just a month ago, it was all fresh and interesting again.

As at the CZT seminar a month or so ago, we received lots of great items--not just pens and pencils, tortillons and tiles, but an "Anything is Possible One Stroke at a Time" bag and a brand new journal. The theme of the weekend was extending our Zentangle practice, mainly how to connect tangles to one another, "tangle to tangle." We did a pretty straightforward hollibaugh-pokeroot-crescent moon variation for the first tile.

After class, we soaked in the cool mountain air while the bright full moon blocked out most of the stars.  We were tired and went to bed soon after.

This was our full day of great food, wonderful classes, beautiful views, and lots of R&R.  Gommie even took a gentle yoga class while I took a long nap.  We also walked the labyrinth again and this time I had something to leave in the center--one of the Zentangle bookmarks and a little piece of metallic rainbow bismuth I picked up in the shop.  This walk for me was more about contentment.  And I realized why I walk labyrinths:  I walk labyrinths because there have been times when I couldn't.

Tile #2
Philosophical.  Gommie and I had a lot of personal and philosophical conversations, like we haven't had . . . since the kids were born, perhaps?  It was special and important.  It even carried over into our Zentangle class.  Gommie asked Maria Thomas what creativity was and why we were drawn to it; they had a discussion about how, for Maria, creativity was central to her personality and was about liking even needing to do things differently--she still goes outside borders, figuratively and literally!  They even took this conversation to the whole class later, talking about how creation is central to the human condition--it's how we express ourselves, how we contribute to the world, how we serve.  And they thanked Gommie for sparking this reflection.

My tile #3
Tile #4--this took 2 hours!
We did a lot more complicated tiles on Saturday--"high focus" which is code for advanced. There was tile #2 with a tripoli center and rixty weaving in and out of fracas; there was tile #3 with a huggins variation and a new tangle named peeld.  I hadn't seen some of the tangles and even Maria made an oops (on the number of orbs in the huggins variation in tile #3 and so had to squeeze one in sideways) and tried to start over until the group chanted "No mistakes!"  And Maria just worked with it and it was beautiful.  Tile #4, with its spiral of nzeppel bursting into mooka and pokeleaf, took two hours!  Gommie had been tangling on her own for a year; this was her first real class.  I'm sure it was all a little overwhelming, but she did a wonderful job following along and not getting frustrated when she didn't understand. I came away with some new techniques, my favorite being peeld, seen in tile #3 where the line just seems to peel away from the design.

That evening, we attended a special optional session where we tangled another treat, a pencil case.  Apparently, you can coat canvas with Mod Podge Fabric and tangle it to your heart's content with an Identi-pen and a gray Fabrico marker for shading.  It was fun and came out beautifully.  Gommie really likes the thicker pens we used and will probably stick with a Micron .08 instead of .01commonly used.

We ended the evening on the chilly terrace, where the moon glowed eerily through the increasing cloud cover.  Another beautiful mountain night.


Tile #5--this also took 2 hours
We were up early with the singing birds, putting our luggage in my car before breakfast.  Then we sat on the terrace until class, communing with the chipmunk that came looking for food.  We saw it every time we were outside.

Class was one Renaissance tile that took two hours to complete--with the crescent moon variation, the raspberry center, the squib petals, the perf orbs, the etching technique on the leaves, all the shading in graphite and white chalk.  But, oh the results!  And when we put everyone's tiles together in a class mosaic, the arches could be connected in circles or pathways.  Beautiful.  And a great way to end our Zentangle class.

And our visit.  We opted to skip lunch, which was still an hour away, in order to get home so Gommie could spend more time with the kiddos.  It was a little hard to leave the peace behind, but I know we took some of it with us.


Kripalu House Dressing
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup sunflower oil or grape seed oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
¼ cup tamari (natural soy sauce)
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sesame tahini
2 cloves garlic
½ tablespoon dry mustard powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon chili powder
pinch cayenne
½ cup water

Combine all ingredients and blend using a standard blender or immersion blender.

Kripalu Moroccan Mint Tea
Makes 6 cups

6½ cups water
½ cup fresh mint (stems and all), washed
2 tablespoons or 6 tea bags green tea
1 to 2 tablespoons sweetener of choice (organic sugar, agave, or honey)

Bring water to a boil. Turn off heat, add mint, and allow to steep for five minutes. Return to a boil, turn off heat, and add tea. Allow tea to steep no more than three minutes. (Green tea becomes bitter when steeped too long.) Remove tea and mint; sweeten to taste. Serve hot, or make iced tea by refrigerating until cold, or pouring cooled tea over ice.

Masala Chai
Makes about 4 cups.

2 tablespoons whole cardamom
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole stars of anise
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon slice fresh ginger
4 black tea bags
2 cups milk (or substitute soy milk)
2 cups water
1 to 3 tablespoons sweetener of choice

Combine all spices and tie them in a cheesecloth. Using a rolling pin or other heavy utensil, lightly pound the spices to crush them slightly. Place milk, water, and spices in the cheesecloth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Bring water back to a boil, turn off, and add black tea. Let steep for 5 minutes, then strain. Add sweetener of choice and stir to dissolve. Serve warm, or chill over ice for a cooling afternoon treat.

1 comment:

  1. Ineresting that you use Metric size pens, how many more centuries before the rest of the country accepts that Imperial sizes were good in their day but decimal is simpler and better?