I thought I would give everyone an idea of our schedule for the Integral Healing Retreat we just did. What I really liked about it was that we had a very full schedule and used it to really look at health from a lot of different approaches. We were always looking at everything from new angles!
The retreat began Friday evening, with a short introduction where we introduced ourselves to each other and talked about why we had come to the retreat and what we hoped to accomplish. Then we had a delicious meal together, consisting of squash soup with a sampling of raw carrot-parsnip soup. There was a lively discussion about taste differences between the raw and the cooked soups. Quite a few of us liked the flavor of the raw soup better. Hats off to the chef!
After dinner we had the first substantial group meeting of the retreat. I spoke in depth about the context, contents and goals we hoped to achieve with strong emphasis on the importance of experiencing, understanding and supporting health in ourselves. Learning to support the natural healing force in ourselves is what I envisioned the retreat to really be about; an ideal way to bring other people into this view and directly experience it for themselves. We all did a guided visualization then, in which we experienced the egg shaped energy field that exists all around each of us and we tried to see how that energy field interacted with our surroundings and with others. We spoke about the value and power of being together on the retreat and to use the time for working to refine and strengthen our own experience of health - whether we were health providers or participants. Then we did a drawing exercise that was remarkable for how directly it displayed what our unvarnished image of health and healing really is. Those of us leading the retreat drew pictures of how we saw the overall healing potential of the entire retreat. Those who were participants drew 3 pictures - one, how they saw themselves; two, how they saw themselves with their biggest health problem; and three, how they saw themselves free of this health issue. Such simple exercises are incredibly revealing and it was a powerful way to get to know one another. Each picture was as varied and expressive and vulnerable as anything I have ever seen. I think we were all amazed with what got expressed.
The participants went home for the night after that and our chef Jorin prepped for Saturday’s breakfast. I think Jorin was by far the busiest person on this retreat. She certainly went to bed the latest and got up the earliest! Her spirit really reflected the essence of the retreat and her excitement and interest fueled all of our interest in food as a pathway to greater health.
Saturday was a really full day. We started at 7:30 am with a Qigong exercise and then we all had a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit and grains. Our first formal group of the day was a talk about stress and how stress literally causes disease and discussed creative ways to help us all deal with stress. After the group was time for individual treatments. Every participant (including the organizers) got hands-on treatments from myself (doing osteopathic manipulation) and from Margaret (who did energy medicine treatments). Everyone also spent a lot of time in the kitchen with the chef learning new approaches to healthy cooking and preparation of food and for asking personal questions about health and food. We wanted everyone to be able to take home new food knowledge that they could apply immediately in their own lives. These times were also very valuable for us all, as we had the time and space to get to know each other on a deeper level. Margaret and I both found that our hands-on treatments went much deeper because everyone was in such a relaxed and unified state.
Lunch was a lively affair, with lots of animated dialogue amidst a delicious array of fresh, novel and tasty whole and raw foods. After lunch we had a group on nutrition and health in which we spoke about food as the life-giving energy source that it is, and explored ways we could change our diets to promote ever greater levels of health and well-being. We used Michael Pollan’s books and Sarma Melngailis' raw cookbooks as they are great examples of places to go if you want to read and learn about food production, food preparation and food potential. Our emphasis was on each individual finding their ideal diet, to learn to draw on their own experience and intuition and we encouraged everyone to keep exploring this approach on their own. Our dialogues during this group and at other times were extensive and always relevant -- because we were having meals together so everything was right there on the table, so to speak :-) We definitely had many very enjoyable and illuminating discussions about what we were actually eating, how to prepare it, what we could do to modify it, either for taste, variety or health. Jorin made sure there were lots of examples of raw vs. cooked food which was very interesting for all of us to see and we learned how easy it is to add raw food to our diet without just having more salad. Our dialogues were vibrant and alive, much like the food. Our chef fielded questions from all angles and gave all us ideas on how to take our diets to the next level. She engaged everyone in her passion for food which was a real focal point for the weekend.
The afternoon was filled with time for individual treatments and then we had dinner (I think all we did was eat!) and the evening ended with a brief group to reflect and discuss people’s experience and to answer any questions that might have come up.
Sunday morning started again with Qigong exercise and yes, another lively breakfast! Our morning group was a guided visualization/meditation which emphasized bringing all our intuitive sense of what our next step to greater health might be and how to integrate that into our experience. It was a powerful meditation and nearly everyone commented afterwards that they didn’t even know they could get so relaxed.
There were more individual treatments after that and then, alas, our final lunch together. The camaraderie at the table was extraordinary and so alive and we continued our exploration together of health and food. After lunch we had a final group in which we drew pictures of ourselves again. The participants were asked to draw a picture of how they felt the weekend had benefited their health and the coordinators/practitioner drew a picture that captured our total experience of the retreat. Just like in the first round of drawing, the pictures everyone drew were disarming and amazing and truly gave expression to something which we often find too challenging to say in words. We had a brief meditation and closing of the retreat and then it was time to say goodbye.
The best thing about the retreat for me was that all of us: the healers, the participants, the chef and the coordinator, the care givers and the care receivers, all participated in everything together. We all benefited from that collective experience and we all got a deeper sense of each individuals’ strengths and where each person needed some guidance. Our time together at meals really enriched the experience for everyone. We learned together and that made a lot of room for everyone to find their own way and seek out what worked the best for them. Also, I think the short guided meditations at the beginning and end of all the groups helped ground us in something bigger than ourselves and I feel, awakened the intuition to listen to our own health as it spoke to us from the deepest place in ourselves. Onward.
So, what's next? Well, I am working on plans for more retreats! Using this initial experience as a springboard to try other formats - larger groups, more intensive time with smaller numbers of people. Who knows? The door is wide open for all of us.