We drove along the curved driveway, around the pond and up to the big white house against the hill. Once out of the car, seven hours away from Canada, my eyes turned across the fields and the low mountains on the other side of the valley. I sniffed the clear air. Hmmmmm.............40 days. I had come to train as a psychotherapist and go deeper into my own feelings. I had left my clipboard and deadlines behind to take time for myself - perhaps the first time since summers as a little kid. I wanted some peace, some time, and some solitude. I unpacked. Then I descended into the basement to help organize Bill Smukler's sandplay collection - a self-replicating, three-dimensional field of dreams that seemed to be crawling out of the boxes that covered the entire floor. At that moment, I got the feeling that the Ark might not be what I had expected.
The first week was wild. The final enrollment - 12 Trainees, 5 Leaders, 3 Leaders-in-Training and two helper/participants - had suddenly come together at the last minute, causing a flurry to establish practical organization and community identity. Bill Smukler, the originator, was gone and a new Ark was being born.
The Trainees were an interesting gang, with a wide range of ages, backgrounds, experience, tastes and temperaments. I had never considered Barry White as wake-up music before. Some trainees were therapy veterans and some had never primalled. As a whole, we were a strong-willed, resourceful group, and after bonding quickly, began to challenge the leadership, ourselves and the structure of the Ark itself - which I believe was both an over-intellectual defense and a natural drive to allow the process to transform. We had high-energy confrontations and we had storytime "puppy piles". We had tears and we had laughing fits. I guess we had everything that makes humans human. Two trainees reached their personal limits and left early. And to think that I had dreamed of peace and solitude. Ha. The schedule was intense. People were up before dawn in Dream Group and the Gong donged us through the day - from breakfast to chores, to seminars, to exercise, to lunch, to therapy 1, therapy 2, therapy 3, group, supper, tracking, seminar, primal group, story time, bedtime. The schedule changed every week as the program progressed and we experienced more than I could ever express or remember - Group Sharing Day, Jungian Sandplay Sundays, The Long Dance, Shadow Party, Peer Therapy, Meditation, Mess Painting, Inner Child work, Gestalt, Mandalas, Re-evaluation Co-counseling, Conflict Resolution, Shock Work, Past Life Stories, Psychodrama, and of course, Primal Group.
Terry Larimore came on board twice to lead workshops and sessions on the "shock model" of therapy. This modality seems to indicate that for serious, early wounds (shocks), an approach more gentle than primal "trauma work" is necessary, requiring even deeper safety within the client/therapist bond. At the Ark, however, we moved from therapist to therapist in a community living on top of itself - a "shake-up" approach designed to challenge our defenses and allow hidden material to erupt. The difference between the two approaches caused strong conflicts and profound revelations. To the veterans, it was a quiet Ark. Not as much screaming and tissue consumption. Every trainee, however, expressed to me the incalculable value of the experience. Maybe change and healing can't always be measured by volume and snot. What about Sam? I got what I needed and more. I learned and practiced various therapy and growth modalities. I got to absorb the wisdom and humor of some of the great primal elders, the wonderful "next generation", and the "kids in the nursery". I got to be a sperm, a foetus, a birth canal, a newborn, a mischievous boy, a teenager, a Noah - even a hawk. I got to laugh like a fool, cry like an idiot, scream like a maniac, play, drum, sing, meditate, draw, dance, listen, talk, learn and do nothing but be me. I got to slow down so profoundly that friends have spontaneously commented on how much more confident and contented I seem. Imagine that. After a birth primal, laying in Barbara Bryan's arms, I finally felt that I was enough, just as I was - that 1 didn't have to DO to be loved and appreciated. By just being there, I was a gift to those around me. I could really relax. I could slow down and just be with life. Be me.......