Susie Arnett, Director of Luminary Programming at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, hosted our August webinar exploring the theme of Programming in a Changing World and Mission vs Margin. Representatives from The Haven, Hollyhock and Le Monastère des Augustines in Canada joined the call, along with Breitenbush Hot Springs, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Mount Madonna and Guest House Center in the US, and the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland.
Kripalu offer between 550 – 600 programs annually, ranging from 2 – 7 days, and welcome approx 18,000 guests each year. Kripalu R&R programs are mission orientated, based around yoga, and offered by their core faculty of 68 people.
Their four schools – yoga, ayurveda, integrative yoga therapy and mindful outdoor leadership – further support their mission of ’empowering people and communities to realize their full potential through the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga.’
Kripalu reach out to service organisations through their RISE program, anchored in the science and practice of mindfulness and positive psychology. It’s a great opportunity for people of all ages and in different roles in society to benefit; K–12 schools, correctional facilities, law enforcement, and healthcare.
Some of the key questions Susie raised include;
- How do we program differently?
- Do we always want to grow guest numbers?
- Have we hit the capacity of the building?
- What’s really important?
“We’ve spent years filling every room with the best people we can find. The business is built on the 40 person program. Is this the right model?” she asked. The majority of programs at Kripalu are repeats, with approx 30% new each year. Overall, they have a low cancellation rate, about 10%, even with extreme winter weather conditions.
Susie observes how the speaker industry is changing. People have social media to build their platforms rather than relying on holistic centers to reach an audience. “Kripalu are offering millenials a chance to share their voice. They have something different to say and have a large following which is a great way to attract their younger audience.” I asked how this approach was working. “They’re growing into group holding/facilitation skills,” she replied. “Sometimes the programs work well, other times not quite as much.”
Legacy centers face challenges in having large overheads to cover and not being as nimble as smaller centers, who are perhaps more able to experiment with new programming. Of course smaller centers haven’t built up such an extensive audience and there are pros and cons to both. Each one serves an important role in the awakening of consciousness, compassion and understanding so vital in the world today.
Trend spotting remains important and researching large online communities is worthwhile too. “One example is the massive fitness groups online” Susie suggested. Centers can reach out and offer the opportunity for them to come on retreat, meet in person, and build their sense of community.
I imagine there’s scope for centers reaching out to more organisations and non-profits, inviting them to host retreats or group meetings within our holistic environments. Our staff and faculty excel at holding, let’s build on that expertise. One of our great gifts to the world is offering a safe space to have courageous conversations, for people of different backgrounds and beliefs to dialogue with each other and find our common unity, beyond the differences that cause such polarisation in the world.
In the age where we’re becoming more conscious of the negative impact of social media and the importance of privacy, these tools can still be used widely. Kripalu have seen the positive impact of investing in facebook ads to reach audiences who have an interest in their programmes of personal growth. It’s clear people need the tools our holistic centers offer and sometimes working in these centers we ourselves forget what it’s all about – the importance of being over doing. I’m sure many of us can relate to this!
After seven year of being full time in the Findhorn Foundation, for the past 18 months I’ve been transitioning into a part time engagement, exploring how best to navigate the changing relationship so that I can balance my role with HCN. I imagine those of us called to holistic centers share the spirit of service, the dedication to a more conscious and sustainable world, and speaking personally dance between engagement and retreat, learning and integration.
For several years we’ve been involved in conversations around online programming, curious what other centers are offering. It was really interesting to hear that Kripalu shut down their online department a few years ago. “We don’t have the expertise,” Susie explained. “Other organisations are in that business and doing it well, the gift of our centers is personal connection.” This decision really stood out for me and resonated with other people on the call.
The Findhorn Foundation, the center I’m most closely connected to, has for years talked about developing e-content as a new income stream and way to reach more people. Yet is it the area to focus on? I see the value of focusing on our unique contribution. For Kripalu that’s yoga. For Breitenbush Hot Springs that’s nature. For Hollyhock it’s social activism. For Findhorn it includes co-creation with the subtle realms.
I’m excited to attend the Co-Creative Spirituality conference at Findhorn in September, exploring how we can partner with the Earth’s energetic and spiritual ecologies to help shape a more positive future. Much of the conference will be live streamed, sharing the spirit of Findhorn with the world. Kripalu have just installed live stream technology and this is a great way we can reach people who might be unable to travel, or consciously choose not to travel out of consideration for their carbon footprint. Is the most important programming we can offer related to climate change and the ecology of the planet?
Returning to one of the initial questions, Do we always want to grow? Susie and I share the belief bigger isn’t always better, small is beautiful. In our post webinar reflection the book Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher came to mind and by synchronicity Susie replied, “That’s by my bed. I’m reading it at the moment!”
Are centers buying into mainstream mentality by focusing on growth of programming and guest numbers to support our sustainability, rather than developing other income streams such as fundraising or membership? Omega Institute and the New York Open Center both launched membership models recently as did HCN this year, offering a range of benefits along with building community.
Are there other ways we can expand our reach and deepen our impact? More questions emerge as we continue to serve the holistic impulse. As the world situation intensifies so does our stage, to voice what is truly important and embody the values we believe in.
Sometimes it’s about coming back to basics and Susie shared a great anecdote that inspired us all, related to the presenter vs topic question. For many years Kripalu have been offering workshops in non-violent communication, “It’s not a big program ever, maybe 16 people,” she said. At the last minute the presenter couldn’t attend, a colleague stepped in and came up with a new title. As the workshop approached she watched the numbers increase unexpectedly day by day. “There were 34 people booked in and I’m wondering what happened to this program?”
Susie went along on the Friday evening curious to talk with the participants. The workshop was called Radical Self Love. “No one had heard of non-violent communication,” she said. “No one was there for non-violent communication. Everybody could say yes to radical self love.” This simple story highlights the importance of titles and what it is people are really looking for.
Watch the webinar