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Kripalu, the health and yoga retreat in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is reopening this summer after shuttering in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Outdoor programming begins July 8th and overnight guests return on August 19th. New CEO Robert Mulhall, who came on board as a consultant to expand online offerings during the pandemic, will shepherd Kripalu through its re-emergence. He tells WAMC that the center is returning with a new commitment to addressing broader social issues like climate change and racism as well as its own diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
MULHALL: So I'm Irish born and raised. But I left the Emerald Isle about 11 years ago to spend time working in India in doing humanitarian work out there, having spent time in Ireland working in the corporate sector and finance, as well as in human developments and leadership developments. And then got brought over to the United States to New York and Colorado and now into Western Massachusetts, and spent a lot of time during that phase doing organizational consulting and leadership development work. And my whole upbringing in Ireland was very unique, it was steeped in the traditions from the East. My father and mother were very inspired by it, and I actually went to a school in Ireland where I learned to meditate from the age of four. And we talked a lot about this stuff that we talked about at Kripalu on a daily basis at the school I went to. So when this opportunity came to actually work as a consultant for Kripalu and then to join full time, everybody understood that I knew what Kripalu speak was, and I was able to translate and just slide right in.
Now you're taking the reins at Kripalu amidst an unprecedented challenge for not just the center but much of the planet. What kind of unique challenges present themselves to you to step in at a time like this?
Yeah, well, obviously, there's all the practicality of opening the center and bringing all of our student guests back and having them have an incredibly transformative experience in this, you know, still very deeply uncertain world. But I think the big thing that we've done over the last, really over the last year is step back and look at our purpose as an organization. And we've always, for 49 years, we’ve focused primarily on individual or personal transformation. And we just feel like now is the time for us to expand that and to hold our purposes to ignite personal and societal transformation. And that feels really important to us now, because, you know, the individual can't be well if society is not well, and society isn't well if the individuals aren't well, and we do see this sort of interconnectedness between the me and the we. And we really want to, as an organization, use our voice and our platform to highlight that, to make sure that our messaging, our programming, the people, the teachers that we bring here and the teachers that we have here are speaking to that, so that Kripalu was a place of retreat for people, whether it's online or in person, but also a place where people can find out how they want to serve in the world and go out and make the world a more beautiful place.
Now, at this point, have you or Kripalu diagnosed with specific societal issues you're hoping to target with this new initiative?
We're in deep dialogue around that internally and with different partner. We also did a big outreach to our population and say, Look, what are you passionate about? Because we don't want to just do this ourselves and sort of make that decision internally as an organization. And obviously, the big things which are not surprising that are coming up, that people are deeply passionate about across our student population, as well as our board and our staff, is, obviously people are deeply passionate and concerned about environmental issues and the sustainability of how we're living. People are deeply concerned about the social justice issues around race and economic inequality, etcetera. And so we're, what we're doing is we're spending this time in deep dialogue. And then we're going to see where the opportunities naturally arise for us to serve best, knowing that the thing that we're going to bring to the table is- We're not necessarily going to be experts in ecological justice or environmental justice, but we can bring what we bring around mindfulness and yoga and what these teachings have always brought to the world is this sort of deep lens of how we can view ourselves in the world and how to operate in it in a balanced and healthy way. And that feels like Kripalu can bring to those conversations.
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