Greetings again on a beautiful spring day. Few more stories here about the early days and the startup of the Cancer Retreats.
There were several people at our very first retreat in early 1994 that became on-going “weavers” in the unfolding of the CRs. Beth Fischer was one who not only attended our first retreat but also came back for the next many retreats offering massage, art and eventually became an outstanding faculty member. Beth was an expert artist, amazing healer, and a beloved friend. She had a wonderful laugh and zest for all of life.
Dani Hart another amazing “weaver” is a Psychotherapist who had just moved to the area when I attended her presentation on ‘Using Visualization to Heal Cancer” at the Shelton Moose Lodge. She had studied with Dr. Carl Simonton, Dr. Bernie Siegel, and other leaders in this field. We became friends around visioning the formation of cancer programs at Harmony Hill. These conversations along with our Commonweal training became seeds of the very first cancer program, the ‘FAR – Fully Alive Retreat’ centered around opening the heart to healing. Dani served as primary faculty in that at first retreat held primarily in the Lodge. She has served periodically on faculty in the last few years and has been witness to the way the program has evolved.
When HH was starting I had no experience managing a retreat center. I found a group called IACCA—the International Assn of Conference Center Administrator which is dedicated to the unique practices and challenges that non-profit institutions face. I asked to attend their meetings for advice. They were interested to learn of the HH dream…asked me how many beds we had which I said 10. They laughed and so did I as I had no idea of what was so funny. They were laughing in a kind way at my naivetés…telling me that in order to ever be sustainable, to have a margin of economy we would need a min. of 50 beds. However, they shared that when people come on the retreat they need programs. So they offered to help me get HH going and then someday take our programs to their centers.
As we were getting close to starting our CR’s I knew we needed a lot more help with the grounds and gardens. Fortunately, I saw an article in the Belfair paper about a 6 ft. fence built at Twanoh State park by women from a local Correction facility. I called the Park Ranger and got the information needed for a review by the Dept. of Corrections (DOC). Starting early in the 90’s HH has had small groups of inmates from Mission Creek helping HH twice a week with weeding or planting the gardens, mowing, assisting with upkeep, and maintaining our beautiful grounds. For many of these women, it is their first opportunity to work closely with the earth and to develop an appreciation for nature. After their release, several women have brought their families to Harmony Hill to show them the work they did and introduce them to the spirit of the place that touched them so deeply. Here are a few quotes from these women in HH’s One Hill Many Voices Stories of Hope and Healing:
“It taught me how to get along with others and how to work as a group. I used to be a colder person, harder. I was all ‘woe-is-me.’ But I became more sensitive, more compassionate. It gave me patience & friends.”
“Harmony Hill is a good place for a person who is incarcerated. If someone is full of rage and not able to feel peace, they can go there and see that beauty, and feel a whole bunch of love. They get sucked into that loving energy – it’s the energy of all the people who have been there. A negative person comes out positive”
“Being there made me reflect on my life. I took responsibility for what I’d done wrong and I knew that if another chance was given to me I wouldn’t mess up again.”
One of my all-time favorite authors touched me early in the life of HH. Here is one of her powerful reflections:
Joan Borysenko quote from Fire in the Soul
“We are living in an unprecedented time. The world soul is truly on fire with hunger, pollution, and hatred. Many of us are wounded. And it is up to each person to use the fire of their wounds consciously—to heal, to work for peace, to transform our world. If we do not, the fire in our souls will burn us up both individually and collectively. Our cities will burn, our children will turn to drugs, our earth will become too polluted to sustain life. More and more people –paradoxically through pain, abuse, and trauma—are literally seeing the light and committing themselves to personal and societal healing. To be healers we need to go beyond being victims or even survivors of whatever our own private hell might be. We are being called upon instead to become transformers of consciousness.”
CR Participant Quotes thanking donors who make the Cancer retreats possible:
“We will take away the skills and techniques learned here and let them bless our lives going forward. We take much-needed peace and hope home with us. Thank you a thousand times, Thank You! “
“Being on this retreat with my husband has been invaluable. We come here stressed, burned out, and lost. We are leaving with so many ways to support each other and with a renewed sense of strength and hope. “
“Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t describe what it meant to come here, be here worry free. “
Thank you for reading this blog…welcome your comments. Blessings on this day.