There I was on May 26, 1992, sitting in my over-stuffed Toyota, tears streaming down my face as I left for my four-day drive from New York to Arizona. I had taken a leave of absence for doctoral study for one semester, but I had a feeling I was never coming back.
After 18 years of teaching English and seven years working as a staff developer, I was leaving a good position and had decided not to pursue a principalship. I also had my own small business, Write Well Consulting, but I was ready to leave it all behind.
It was as if I had been called to Sedona. After spending a week in Sedona’s red rocks the previous summer, I knew in my heart that Sedona was where I was supposed to be. And I had a knowing that I would be taken care of no matter what happened.
When I arrived in Sedona I was ecstatic. I moved in and began hiking in the red rock vortex areas and transcribing my Ph.D. interview tapes. In the fall, I submitted the first draft of my Ph. D. case studies to New York University and relaxed. To earn money I did substitute teaching at a nearby high school.
I began camping and found myself happier, freer, and more comfortable when I was outdoors. So I gave up my apartment and went off to live in a tent in the desert forest. I loaned out my furniture and set up my desk, computer, fax and phone machines at a friend’s who let me use her house. Hardly roughing it, I could take my rose glycerin bubble bath, do my laundry, and make calls. Sitting at my big oak desk, I spent many hours looking out at Cathedral Rock, writing my dissertation.
It was fun to stay at my campsite for a few days with nothing to do. When I awoke, I would gather wood to start a fire for tea; it was always a meditation.
In the summer I practiced walking barefoot to feel the earth, consciously walking around boulders and cactus. I learned to make do with what I had, slowed down, basked in the sound of the creek and the prana of the trees, rocks, earth, and sky. I lounged and stargazed in my hammock, and became so still I could hear the sound of a leaf falling.
In the winter I bought a “78 Ford camper van and made the mistake of telling my father I was trading in my ’89 Toyota. With intense disapproval, he told my sisters and brothers, “Your sister lives in a truck! She’s out of her mind.”
So much had shifted for me. I went from being a recognized leader in education to a nameless substitute teacher, from a $60,000 income to being technically “homeless,” and I was freer, happier, more secure and core confident in myself than ever.
While camping I did yoga every day on the flat red rocks by the creek and invited passersby to join me in spontaneous mini classes. Naturally, I thought of sharing my deepening sadhana with people who are in the heart space, consciousness, and commitment to well-being that Kripalu is.
So I created a weeklong retreat with yoga, pranayama, meditation, hiking, vortex excursions, and a Native American sweat lodge. I invited two Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training sisters to bring out some of their students and lead yoga classes at the retreat. Following the successful pilot, I acted on my commitment to lead transformational yoga retreats. First, I spent a month working around the clock to complete my dissertation and received my Ph. D. on November 1, 1994.
Then I reluctantly left the forest to move into a beautiful large house with my own yoga studio–“Sacred Space.” I began leading four yoga classes a week and advertising my retreats. In the summer and fall, I led several magical yoga retreats and invited Lev Teternikov, a Russian expert, to lead partner yoga at another retreat this Thanksgiving.
At each Sedona Spirit Yoga Retreat, we get out of our heads into our hearts and bodies, breathe in the meditative energy, and feel the prana of the earth. We also enjoy workshops, a satsanga, and lots of Kripalu-style sharing and integration. Participants move into a fuller, deeper expression of life.
The most satisfying moments for me have been when I am moved to tears by my own heart opening in meditation and when I watch my yoga students come out of deep relaxation, curl up in embryo position and give themselves a hug. My father is right–I’m out of my mind and into my heart, doing what I love, following my bliss. I am a happy camper, and I still keep a subway token in my purse to remind me.
Published: Kripalu Network News, Spring 1995. For more information contact Sedona Spirit Yoga & Hiking, P. O. Box 278, Sedona, AZ 86339, 1-888-463-9242.