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The IPA Spring Retreat 2001

by Harriet Geller

The second annual Spring Retreat in the Catskill Mountains of New York State was an even greater success than the first. My expectations were high after the glorious experiences of last year (uh-oh!) - but they were met in new and unexpected ways.

The staff at GROW II Lodge, where we stayed, were as gracious and available as ever, but I found myself taking the now famous groaning board a little for granted. Ho hum, one more nutritious delicious abundantly varied meal! Should I have the flan or the cherry pie or the chocolate cake for dessert? Maybe just the melon-kiwi-strawberry fruit salad with whipped topping? I think I'll have some of each!

The retreat attendance increased by nearly 70% from last spring - 27 people including five newcomers, Dave Easton from Maine, Alex Tadeskung from the Boston area, Vera Scroggins from Pennsylvania, and Lauren Spiro and Genna Watson from the DC area. We introduced ourselves at the opening circle on Thursday evening, led by the Retreat coordinators, Michele DelGesso and Linda Marks. Then we got down to the difficult but inspiring task of choosing workshops for Friday.

In addition to the pre-planned daily events - men's and women's circles followed by Mat Track (facilitated primal group) in the morning, and small-group sharing (peer group) before dinner - we scheduled Jana Smith's Drama Play Group, so well-received in 2000; Primal Pool with Larry Schumer, a variation on the softball workshops Larry has been conducting at the Summer Conventions for years; and Releasing Fear, a new workshop from Bill Whitesell based on co-counseling techniques.

Friday's Mat Track was facilitated by Jean Rashkind and Sam Turton in traditional fashion. As we moved into our feelings - finding our way in the primal process once again - the gray chill outside was forgotten, and we began to fuse into a warm, loving community.

On Friday evening we welcomed the recent arrivals, planned Saturday's sessions, and savored an extra-special Cabaret. Emceed by Shelly Beach and Dave, the show was held in the "Disco," an intimate space that, for me, is so much more appealing than Appel Farm's professional theater. Nearly half of the community took the stage to sing, dance, read their poetry, or tell a joke. I risked all with a dramatic monologue from the play, Wit. Serendipitously, many of us had taken Bill's workshop in the afternoon and were able to use his shaking technique to ease our stage fright.

The acts that stood out for me were Jean and Walter Gambin's improvisations, Sam's songs and virtuoso guitar, and a panel discussion with Freud, Janov, and the RC guru, Harvey Jackins, imagined by Bill and realized in high comic style by Barbara Kay Cope, Dave, Leonard Rosenbaum and Bill.

Saturday morning brought sunshine and warmer temperatures for our trek up the hill to the vast nest strewn with mattresses, pillows and blankets that served as our primal room. Our second Mat Track was facilitated by Mickey Judkovics and Bill. The afternoon workshops included reprises of Sam's Meditation Sampler, a medley of approaches for connecting to a peaceful place in ourselves, and my Tribal Walk, a non-verbal exploration of our relationships to nature and one another. We also had new offerings from Jean, Monologues from the Mat, a taste of Alec Rubin's primal theater, and from Mickey, Metaphoric Healing, a visualization methodology.

Unlike last year's washout, the dance party on Saturday night really rocked. There were enough of us ready to rumble that our combined energy overcame prolonged music decisions and temporary fatigue in aging limbs. For the coda, we turned up the lights and enjoyed a sing-along into the night.

Linda led the last Mat Track on Sunday. She helped us move out of the primal depths by suggesting for the final sharing that we verbalize a newly acquired positive attitude for the group to echo back. Mine was, "I can care about you," and everyone answered, "You can care about us." Wow!
Over the three days, these instances of learning, fun, connection and joy were most memorable:

  • Successfully relinquishing my quasi-leadership role as Board liaison into the very competent hands of Michele and Linda.
  • A peer group of diversified personalities chosen by lottery (I like this method more and more), Michele, Alex, Jerry Lucrezia, Jana (for the first day) and me, who, after only two meetings, melded into a supportive family as cohesive and nurturing as any I have experienced at the six-day Summer Convention.
  • Practicing Ping-Pong and sensing a growing mastery (at least until I saw how I was outclassed - as opposed to just beaten - by Sam).
  • Fully expressing my infantile longing while gazing endlessly into Mickey's steadfast eyes.
  • The women's circle as a continuous source of information about myself, whether by empathizing with someone's story or by being triggered into my defenses.
  • Dancing at the party and feeling sexy.
  • A perfect balance of support and teasing - and a lot of laughs - in a game of pool with Dave, Jane Lewis and Larry.
  • Learning to pronounce one another's names in a puppy pile at the end of the Tribal Walk. From now on, Bill will forever be Blichhh.
It toasted my cockles at the closing circle to see how much everyone - veterans or neophytes, Americans or Canadians, juniors or seniors, lions or lambs - had taken in the nurturing of the IPA community and had grown. Some of the much-appreciated participants were Sharon Kane, Denise Kline, Judy Lucrezia, Cate Lund, Jessica Nooney, Mandi Cope, and Marie Regis. I can't wait to hug you all again in August.

This article appeared in the Summer 2001 IPA Newsletter.

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