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People always say that Los Angeles changes you, but I’m not sure that’s completely true. I lived in L.A. for five years and, other than a few shots of Botox, I never drank the L.A. Kool-Aid.

Now, whenever I go back to Los Angeles, my first stop is an obscure, hidden gem: the Olympic Spa and Retreat. I’m using the term “spa” loosely, as it’s designed to resemble a traditional Korean bathhouse.

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On January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck beneath Port-au-Prince Haiti; the initial quake was followed by twelve aftershocks each greater than 5.0 in magnitude. Nearly every structure in the vicinity collapsed into rubble. Recovery efforts began immediately to rescue the millions of people displaced and the thousands who were feared dead. Disaster relief organizations from all over the world descended on Haiti to provide aid.

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Barton Brooks, leading by example, is making up his own rules for saving the world.

While reading O Magazine, I came across an article about a man named Barton Brooks. Barton was a real estate broker in New York and also worked for some time in the fashion industry. Feeling unfulfilled in his current situation, he left his job and changed his life’s focus.

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I Drove from Boston to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts filled with excitement and anticipation; I finally arrived at Kripalu, a well-known center for yoga and health. I was attending a three-day intensive yoga retreat combined with a four-part lecture series given by Bestselling author, New Age guru, and pioneer of mind-body health, Dr. Deepak Chopra.

Deepak Chopra Shares His Secrets for Transformation, Rachael RepoffI Drove from Boston to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts filled with excitement and anticipation; I finally arrived at Kripalu, a well-known center for yoga and health. I was attending a three-day intensive yoga retreat combined with a four-part lecture series given by Bestselling author, New Age guru, and pioneer of mind-body health, Dr. Deepak Chopra.

Three hundred people were confirmed to attend the weekend retreat, I was fortunate to get one of the last spots before they sold out.  I would be sleeping with 21 other women in a large room with no air-conditioning during a heat-wave in mid- August.

When I arrived Friday night, I had just enough time to throw my belongings on my bunk-bed, before attending the first lecture.  Once Chopra took the stage and began speaking, not one of the 300 attendees moved a muscle.  Everyone was immediately captivated by him and simply absorbed his presence. The atmosphere reminded me of something I’d once read; that when you’re in a room with certain people ‘you just know you’re breathing in good air’.

I was surprised to discover that Deepak Chopra is cool. He didn’t have that ‘I’m an enlightened guru, I’m better than all of you’ preciousness about him.  His glasses were brightly colored with large rhinestones on the sides, part nerd/part rock star.  He even spoke twice about his friendship with Michael Jackson.

Once the lecture began you could hear nothing in the room except Chopra’s voice and the sound of pens feverishly writing.  I’m a very solid note taker, and even I had trouble following his train of thought as he threw out facts and figures.  He has a non-linear understanding of the world.  Chopra is a philosopher, with an alchemic mix of physics, Eastern and Western medicine and insights about infinite possibilities, along with the science to ground his beliefs.

The first night he discussed change, letting go and that everything in life is intention and detachment. “Everything Changes” Chopra declared.  “Suffering comes from holding onto the idea of permanence.  We must accept the fact that everything changes.  If something is in the nature of arriving, it is also in the nature of subsiding.”  He reminded us that everything recycles, even life recycles.  The next thing he said resonated deeply with me, as I’ve never been good at accepting big life changes.  He said “Transitions are inevitable, but how painful we make them is up to us.”

The discussion moved to the concept of letting go.  He instructed us to “Learn to forgive ourselves and our past mistakes.” He added, “The universe is infinitely merciful; it’s ready to begin again.”

Deepak Chopra Shares His Secrets for Transformation, Rachael RepoffIn determining how much influence your past has on your future, Chopra said, “You must use your memories, but do not allow your memories to use you (that is the difference between a victim and a creator).  We are constantly transforming from who we used to be, to who we can be.  You must learn to let go because grasping and clinging to the past only causes additional pain and suffering.”

After the lecture it was time for bed.  Thankfully the other 21 women were as exhausted from the heat as I was and everyone fell asleep quickly.  Yet there wasn’t much time for sleep.  We had to be up for a 6:00am for a yoga class, followed by a silent breakfast.  After breakfast, there was already a line forming to get a good seat for the next lecture, so I joined it.

Chopra gave an amazing three-hour lecture followed by a quick lunch and then another three-hour lecture,  then dinner, and then what Kripalu refers to as ‘free time’.  About half the participants used this ‘free time’ to take an additional yoga class or to go on a hike.  Those were not my kind of people.  After one yoga class and six hours of lectures in the sweltering heat, I took ‘free time’ as an opportunity to pass out on my bunk bed.

During the two Saturday lectures he discussed numerous topics, one of which was synchronicity, the idea that nothing in life is random.  Chopra defined synchronicity as “a conspiracy of improbable events orchestrated by the universe.  It can be a meaningful coincidence, happenstance or an occurrence beyond the realm of a possibility.  It also, more often than not, has a sense of humor.”

Deepak Chopra Shares His Secrets for Transformation, Rachael Repoff

Creativity was also a theme of the lectures.  Chopra believes that there is always a creative solution to a problem.  He explains “when you create, you are co-creating with a higher power.  It takes quantum leaps of creativity to make something exist that never existed before.  Creativity is illogical and is directly proportionate to the amount of uncertainty you possess.  The deeper you go, the more uncertain things are, the more original your creation will be.”

Finally, it was Sunday and after my yoga class and breakfast I was almost late to the last lecture.  This day was the warmest so far and as a collective group, we were all very, very sweaty.

Mercifully, this lecture was only two hours long. Perhaps due to the limited time, Chopra seemed to have a sense of urgency he hadn’t before; he was less spiritual guru, more motivational speaker.  It was as though he really wanted to make sure he had an impact on us before we left.

He began “You must possess a strong inner conviction of who you really are.  Surrender to the wisdom of uncertainty. Get confident and trust in the synchronicity of your future. You don’t want to live with the burden of regret knowing that ‘you could’ve been a contender’.”

Chopra seemed to be on a roll now.  He continued, “Evolve from someone good, to someone great.”  Become a highly functioning individual who is actively creating his future.”

“There are three things that you can do transform the world”, declared Chopra. “First, remember who you are. Second, be part of a community, and third, do something for the greater good.”   He nods slightly, knowing this to be true.

For the last part of the lecture he gave us ten questions to ask ourselves:

1. Who am I?

2. What do I want?

3. What is my Higher Purpose?

4. What is fun to me?

5. What memory do I need to let go of?

6. What am I grateful for?

7. What do I want my contribution to the world to be?

8. Who are your trusted friends?

9. What are your unique skills and talents?

10. What single word would sum up your life’s purpose?

Chopra concluded his lecture and the weekend by adding “Ask yourself these questions…and then live in the answers.”

Could this guy be any cooler?

©Rachael Repoff

For more retreats: www.kripalu.org

http://www.chopra.com/

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The man I’m dating asked me to find a place in Kennebunkport, ME for a romantic weekend getaway. I’d put off finding a place for four days and then suddenly, it was the night before and I’d already had two martinis. So, I literally stumbled around on my computer and tried to spell “Kennebunkport” correctly for about five minutes when finally I clicked on something that took me to somewhere that led me to the Captain Fairfield Inn.

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