Thursday, June 19, 2003

California HSP Gathering recap, Part II

In the morning, I awake early-- and decide to hike to Wildcat Ridge, so as to get an overview of the site. I love California; I love the West Coast-- it's cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon. It's been a long time since I've been there, other than just "passing through," on a road trip. Wildcat Ridge is about a mile, with an 800 foot elevation gain-- on the way, I meet deer, jackrabbits, quail, and any number of birds on the way up. As well as the herd of cows that go with the ranch. It is incredibly peaceful at the top-- although it is only 6:30, I see someone else has also made the trek up. The view is great; I take pictures.

And so it begins, in earnest, on Friday morning. People start to feel that it really IS safe to be "authentically themselves" and they open up. And Jacquelyn is right-- we slowly become "extraverts" of a sort. I really thought I had a "thick shell" against the world. And I thought others would, too. Instead I find that we are incredibly "in touch" with ourselves-- in a matter of less than a day, all the "shields" we put up to protect us against the world are down.

A bunch of different words come to mind, but they seem hopelessly inadequate. In shamanic practice, altered states are often referred to as "non-ordinary reality"-- and that's close to how I would characterize what I experienced, except the physical body I inhabit in "ordinary reality" actually went along. I visited a "place" I had really only thought about in "conceptual" terms.

I am in a bit of a "thought daze," still running the internal "films" from those four days. I really have nothing but good to say about it-- except that it was over too soon. As for descriptors, I like the sound of "resonance." And "reciprocity." And kinship and fellowship. Acceptance. Safety. Openness. Non-judgmental. As one participant tearfully said, during the closing moments: "I have spent a lifetime giving, giving, giving-- and for the first time ever, it was reciprocated back to me." I feel a mixture of awe, joy and sadness... sadness, at the fact that I got to live 42 years before having the opportunity to experience true "connectedness" in a completely supportive and safe group setting; awe and joy at the fact that it actually did happen. Not just I, but so many of the other participants shared that same feeling, by their words and their reactions.

It was like we found "our tribe," in a world where we might have otherwise felt destined to walk all alone, and misunderstood. It was amazing to be in a group where nearly everyone "got" nearly everyone else. I expect we each took something different away from there-- having already known about being an HSP for some years, I mostly went for the purpose of finding fellowship-- and I came away with 20+ new friends. Contrast this with the fact that I am someone who might make one new friend, in a year. I have been to many seminars and retreats, but never... never... have I experienced 30+ people spending four days together without a raised voice, without power struggles, without regularly hurt feelings, without arguments and otherwise nothing but kindness and compassion. Instead of feeling "odd" and "alienated," we felt ourselves reflected back in the faces of everyone around us-- and so, the "shields" we all have grown so accustomed to wearing, as protection against our surroundings, just melted away... and underneath, a group of profoundly powerful and compassionate human beings emerged; the very best of our human species.

And for the first time in my life, I have sat with a group of men in a room where there was no "ranking," no "one-up and one-down" (I feel like I have gained a year's allotment of buzzwords!) and no male posturing-- just the honest cores of the men who were there, talking about the truths and essences of their lives. That one brings tears to my eyes. As does the overall fellowship I found-- as I said, I went to "find" the people, not to "be at a seminar," and that is precisely what I found. During the closing remarks, it was as if we all realized the enormous impact and implication of what we had just been a part of-- and emotions freely came to the surface and were released... and to all those who have been told they were "too sensitive" on account of choking up during "goodbyes," here they found only acceptance. It was all OK. And even the most timid and introverted of HSPs found the "safety" to become an active participant. "WE" are all "OK."

Elaine came and spoke on Saturday, to an extended crowd that included a number of "weekend-only commuters." I spoke to her only very briefly, although I contributed a bit to a discussion on "attachment styles." She struck me as intensely private, intensely introverted, and intensely intellectual. She was almost like a shadow that suddenly showed up, was their, and then vanished again.

All I can say is that I highly recommend going to a Gathering, if you ever get the chance.

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