How To Pick Your Path To Enlightenment

On the last Tuesday in June, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health was a New Age encyclopedia come to life.

A roomful of seekers pursued "Total Immersion for Total Transformation." A lecturer demonstrated yoga poses to combat anxiety and depression. Pounding music issued from a gymlike hall where the inventor of a "movement experience" called JourneyDance supervised the liberation of her trainees' second chakras. "The burning in our souls and the fever in our hearts and the fervor in our eyes as we're hoping and we're praying ..." went the soundtrack as women waved their arms heavenward or sat crosslegged on the floor.

So many paths to serenity; so many pilgrims: 30,000 guests a year come to Kripalu, which bills itself as the biggest retreat center in the country, offering 700 workshops and seminars annually.

But behind the scenes in a crowded second-floor suite at Kripalu's sprawling lakefront campus here in the Berkshires, things are a tad less restful. Beneath a long expanse of whiteboard and corkboard plastered with thousands of color-coded sheets and dots laying out each day's offerings from 2007 through the end of next year, phones ring ceaselessly. Gaps between projected and actual attendance are tracked like stock prices, and self-proclaimed visionaries and healers are subjected to the scrutiny of veteran vetters.

This is Kripalu's programming office, known internally as Mission Control or Grand Central, where the gatekeepers decide who merits the instant respectability a player like Kripalu confers in the ever-expanding Lohas industry (that's lifestyles of health and sustainability). For a place that makes its living selling relaxation and harmony, the love can feel a little tough.