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Leadership for Life Alumni Newsletter

Fall 2005: For Leigh Ellen Key LDP Marked a 'Whole Life' Awakening

Leigh Ellen Key
Leigh Ellen Key
Leadership Development Program (LDP)®, 2005


Many alumni speak of changes that take place in their lives following a Center program. For Leigh Ellen Key, the Leadership Development Program seven years ago was the unofficial start of something more — a fantastic journey of self-discovery.

"At the time I took the program, I was the director of derivatives marketing for an energy marketing company," she says, "and I totally loved my job." But when her company went through a merger a year later, Key was suddenly forced to make a decision: (1) attempt to stay in the organization or (2) try something different. "I decided to take some time off, do some volunteer work, and figure out what I wanted to do next."

It was a choice made easier, she says, by a goal she had set for herself at CCL. "When we did the goal-setting at the end of the LDP, one of the things I realized was that I wanted to be more physically active and also to have a more balanced lifestyle." Out of that, she decided to take up yoga. "The yoga tradition is a very powerful thing," she says, "allowing you to tap into your mind-body-spirit connection as a way to understand who you are."

Key spent the next year and a half in Central America, first studying Spanish in Costa Rica and Guatemala and then working for a year at a Guatemalan-Mayan textile cooperative. She continued her yoga, and as she contemplated the next phase in her life, she learned about the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Mass. "It had a good reputation," she says, "and when I came back from Central America, it just made a lot of sense for me to spend some time in a yoga center. By doing that I really trusted that I would have the space to figure out what to do next in my life."

Kripalu is the largest yoga and health center in the United States, currently drawing nearly 25,000 guests a year to workshops at the 125-acre retreat in the Berkshire Mountains. "For people who want to reconnect to nature, the setting really serves that purpose," Key says.

Key arrived at the Kripalu Center in 2001 as a volunteer and has been there, off and on, ever since, working in various capacities, from consulting to full-time development and fundraising work. Most recently, she took on the newly created position of administrative director of the Institute for Integrated Healing, leading an initiative to develop an educational, clinical and research institute that ties together alternative, traditional and conventional healing methods. "It will provide a tremendous opportunity for individuals, groups, and healthcare professionals to have an immersion experience in holistic health," Key says. The institute could launch as early as the end of 2007.

She is also working with another of Kripalu's institutes on a second initiative, a leadership program that brings her CCL experience to mind, — although it is designed for a different audience. Called The Semester Intensive, it is a four-month residential immersion program for young adults (18 to 25) that addresses core life issues not covered in a traditional college curriculum. The program, set to launch about a year from now, will include experiential learning in areas critical to young adult development, peer and faculty feedback, and mentoring.

"In working on the curriculum team for this project, I was reminded of the impact that the LDP had on me," Key says. "That was the first time I was able to take the time to really reflect and see what living a whole life could look like. That it has worked out to get me to this point is fantastic. I feel like what I'm doing now is right in alignment with how I like to live and how I want to be on the planet."