I am at a narrative healing retreat at The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, seated on a meditation cushion, in the aptly named Elm View Room, looking out the window at elms, and onto the hills of the Berkshires beyond, when I receive the following writing prompt:
What got you here?
I immediately fantasize about writing a listicle, 42 Reasons I am at Kripalu but Sleeping At The Marriott Courtyard, and having it published by McSweeney’s. In this fantasy, my listicle would be the most poignant listicle they ever published. It would simultaneously win most-funny and most-vulnerable listicle of 2019 — since funny and vulnerable make such nice bedfellows. I would win at listicles. I would make it into a listicle of the best listicles.
In my fantasies I tend to do everything hoping to win even when there is no winning. Perhaps that is why in real life I often give everything my all. I always want to bring my A-game. It is an exhausting way to be, and it runs counter to why I am at a writing retreat at Kripalu.
So instead of writing a winning listicle, I have kept it simple, and wrote a short essay conveying the most underwhelming of truths. I am here at Kripalu, an ashram turned wellness center, shelling out big bucks and struggling with ayurvedic-induced digestive issues, because I am desperately seeking boredom.
Really. I am here to be bored. This is not exactly how I explained this trip to my family. I told them I was coming to Kripalu in search of “time and space,” which has a good ring to it and also happens to be true. I am seeking enough time and space to be bored.
I have mixed feelings about Kripalu, about yoga, and about all the organized structure we are given to catch a glimpse of our free and wild spirit. There are so many activities here to help us find stillness so we can then be our authentic selves. I find all of the options and all of the doing of things very overwhelming. When we are overwhelmed, our ability to see anything clearly, is diminished into nil. I want to see, feel, and embody my free and wild spirit. And so, I don’t consult the listings on the program wall during our free time. I think I may be the only person who comes to Kripalu, a yoga retreat, and never takes a yoga class. Instead I elect to sit at the picnic tables or on the lawn out front and I happily give myself only two choices. I can sit around and chat with folks or I can sit around and not chat with folks.
I never sit around at home. I am always doing. At home there are not even in-between times. My in-between times are consumed by the pulsating stimulus of New York City. I am here for the in-between times. The times in between meditation and writing and hikes and paddleboard yoga and ecstatic dance are the times that I may get to know my free and wild spirit. So I make the in-between times bigger by opting out of as much as I find enjoyable to opt out of.
It takes a lot of metabolic energy to participate in Kripalu’s “Rest & Relaxation” programs. Metabolic energy is the energy that drives life and my life is in overdrive. I want to use that energy to integrate all the work I do when I am not here. So when I am here I stop, I sit on the sprawling front lawn, and I metabolize joyously and peacefully. The boredom comes easily and is welcomed. The boredom means I have found the space I need and crave. It does not mean I am doing nothing. I am doing everything I need. I am not defending my senses from an onslaught of stimulus. I am not working the edges of my mind and body. But I am doing so much. I am giving myself the space I need. The space to sit in nature and metabolize all that I do everyday that I am not here. That’s what got me here. Space to metabolize. I measure that space is units of potential boredom. As an aside, I think I may be winning at metabolizing.
Don’t get me wrong — I am happy for those that are happy with all of the options. And I do, occasionally, partake in some of the activities. But options and activities are not what got me here. What got me here was the allure of free time. I believe it is during our free time that all the seeds of our healing work that we have planted, not just here at Kripalu but even before we got here, take root and grow. During free time they grow into connections, insights, and radical self-love. Free time is fertile time. Free time is boring time. Boredom is where the good stuff grows.
Admittedly, I am quite happy with my decision to have attended this writing program, to have made new friends and to have been trusted to hold their stories. But none of that is why I came to Kripalu. I came to Kripalu in search of the fertile space of boredom, so I could do nothing and catch a glimpse of my spirit being wild and free.