by Caren Osten

I’m not going to lie. It felt a little bit like the first day of high school, when you haven’t yet reunited with your middle school friends. I walked into the Kripalu Dining Hall on the first day of the recent Embodied Positive Psychology Summit, carrying my tray of salad, soup, and iced Moroccan mint tea. I scanned the room and, not recognizing a soul, I took a seat at a table for two. I pulled out my Kripalu catalog, ready to peruse the offerings and keep my eyes in a downward focused direction. I was slightly uncomfortable sitting alone amidst the cacophony of conversations around me, but I was okay.

And then, I raised my eyes and a woman at the neighboring table asked me if I’d like to join her group of four. “Sure,” I said, smiling. High school lunchtime anxiety be gone. I recognized one of the women at the table from my CiPP class, and another from the WBI course I took on Mindfulness and Character Strengths in Coaching. My table move offered a sudden shift toward connection. And that is largely what my experience at the summit was all about.

As a returning member of CiPP, a continual online course taker, and a lifelong learner who revels in the science of well-being, I was quickly swept back into my element of relationships, savoring, and engagement. I leapt into the wholeness of the embody model—the stories, science, and practices that make positive psychology come to life.

Sitting with Sharon Salzberg, the mother of loving-kindness meditation, is always a privilege, as is hearing the intensity of Maria Sirois’ anecdotes, which can go from laugh-out-loud hilarious to soul-shaking in the breadth of one long sentence. I listened to Barbara Fredrickson speak about her research, and then danced alongside her to create a Grace Garden of Hearts and Souls, conceived by WBI’s own Megha Nancy Buttenheim. Watching James Pawelski do a dance of gratitude with his wife, Suzie, brought new light to an integral concept.

With all the learning, practices, journaling, yoga, and let-your-hair-go-wild dancing, it was still the connections made at the Summit that were my favorite gift—one that comes wrapped in science but, once opened, is all about the human being. Partnering up during an exercise is an opportunity to spread your wings with someone you’ve never spoken to. To invite someone for a walk, share your notes with a neighbor, pose for a selfie to send home, offer a cushion to someone before you take your own, place your hands in prayer position to greet those around you—these are the reasons I came home energized, elevated, and inSPIREd.

Caren Osten is a positive psychology life coach and freelance writer, covering psychology, education and travel. Her articles have been published in the New York Times, Psychology Today and National Geographic Traveler, among others. Read more about her work at