Learning to Paint – or, Why I am in AspenPosted by Gina on Apr 15, 2012
INSIDER | body
LEARNING TO PAINT
Local yogi Gina Guarascio Murdock connects to the Aspen Idea
colorado always felt like home to me—ever since my dad and I pulled over at the Four Corners National Monument and I sat my butt on Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona all at once. The mountains have always captivated me, but like the artist Gauguin, I was always searching for a place that was more than a place. To my surprise, I found it after more than 18 years in Colorado and more ski towns than I care to mention—in Aspen.
Aspen is where I feel a sense of self and a connection to mind, body, and spirit. This was unexpected, because Aspen had always been the place—when I lived in Durango, Telluride, Pagosa Springs, and Carbondale—that you didn’t want your town to become. I had a chip on my shoulder about Aspen before I even set one of my hairy legs or Birkenstock-clad feet in it. Aspen was devoid of soul, I thought, full of rich folks painted plastic, who didn’t give a damn about humanity or the environment.
I used Aspen as a cash register when I first moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Telluride in 2002. I worked as a massage therapist, a bartender, and a ski instructor all at once. Eventually I became a reporter downvalley in Carbondale and let the chasm grow even larger between Aspen and me.
But the universe has a funny way about it—and now, several years later, I find myself living in Aspen. Or, more accurately, living it up in Aspen and wanting nothing more than to identify with this place. Why? Because it does have a soul and a spirit and a legacy, one so rich it helps me to answer those questions Gauguin asks in the title of one of his most famous masterpieces: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
Aspen helps us explore and elevate ourselves—our minds, bodies, and spirits. That is essentially the Aspen Idea, a concept born in the late 1940s when two visionaries from Chicago, Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, set foot here and embarked on a revival of Aspen, then a downtrodden silver-mining town. Walter envisioned Aspen as a place “for man’s complete life…where he can profit by healthy, physical recreation, with facilities at hand for his enjoyment of art, music, and education.” It would be, in his words, “a place where the human spirit could flourish.” I found that place in my own way, along a winding path that took me from judgment to exploration and now to creation.
It was on another occasion when I was sitting on my butt that I discovered a truly meaningful insight: that I could be a part of the Aspen Idea—for, rooted in history, it is also a living thing. The Aspen Yoga Society started life in 2009 at the Aspen Institute, where, as I was sitting at that year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, my mind was stimulated but my butt was asleep. The body and spirit elements were lacking, at the birthplace of this great idea, but I knew I had the perfect antidote: yoga.
Yoga can be defined in many different ways, from the physical postures that most Western practitioners identify it with, to the more spiritual endeavors that find skinny men in caves chanting for years on end. For me, yoga is about union; it is about connecting to ourselves, to one another, and to the universe. The Aspen Yoga Society started with classes offered at the Aspen Institute in 2010 and has expanded to large community events throughout town.
It is a team of yoga teachers and community members committed to honoring the Aspen Idea by nurturing and unifying the mind, body, and spirit. It is our hope that we have begun to change the way people think, expanding on that fabulous idea that distinguishes Aspen from so many other places that are just…places. Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Let Aspen help you figure that out. The joy is in the journey; it is in every step, mountain, yoga pose, and painting. aspenyogasociety.org
The Aspen Yoga Society at the Aspen Ideas Festival
PHOTOGRAPHY: DANIEL BAYER
34 | ASPEN MAGAZINE | SPRING 2012