Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Outrageous Love

February 17th, 2014

IMG_3372

As a long-time participant in the Wisdom School offerings at Shalom Mountain, I am excited to share with those of you who may not yet have had the opportunity to experience the depth of community and the breath of love that is experienced in our Wisdom School weekends, the following invitation from Marc Gafni to join us this March 27-30.

–Victoria Myer

FROM MARC

Dearest Beloveds,

I am inviting you in this moment – in the name of all the great masters hidden and revealed, to our weekend March 27-30 - Loving Your Way to Enlightenment: The Path of Outrageous Love.  This weekend is about the search for the beloved. It is about the actual lived process of falling in love with the divine, your beloved and everything else. It is about the lived process of awakening into your Unique Self Enlightenment through writing your Sacred Auto-biography. It is about taking a radically sexy and awake dive into the deepest intimacy that we know- all the way and all ways. It is about falling in love with the divine in a way that is so potent, powerful and profound -that is so simple, straightforward and sincere, that your life becomes a sacrament and a service.

We live in a world of outrageous pain. The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love.  We live in a world of outrageous beauty. The only response to outrageous beauty is outrageous love. 

What you want in your deepest source is not ordinary love. It is not an ordinary relationship with reality or with the beloved, divine or human.  What you want in your deepest essence is Outrageous Love.  Do not settle for anything less!

One direct and highly practical inquiry will sit at the core of all of our sacred play this weekend!   What does it take to be “lived as love” as the inner quality of your daily life? But not just as ordinary love. Not tepid love.  Outrageous Love!  During this weekend, you are invited to a level of practice, insight, and aliveness, which can potentially transform the rest of your life.

At the core of the whole thing is one practice:  Loving Your Way to Enlightenment.  Enlightenment doesn’t require heavy effort and asceticism. Enlightenment only requires that you choose love in all circumstances. Making this simple insight alive and real in your life is the change that changes everything. Something deep within us recognized that this is the secret.  But you can’t just decide to love. You need to find out how to ignite love in yourself. You need to learn the great practices for arousing love. To learn the way of the outrageous lover you need a “users guide to love.”

  •  There are three faces of love
  • There are three levels of love
  • There are three verbs of love
  • There are three languages of love

These are the four quadrants in your love map integrated from the great mystical traditions as well as from the deepest insights of modern science and psychology.  And you need a way to keep igniting your love core—through meditation, through chant, through contemplation, and through “outrageous acts of love” that change not only your relationships, but you yourself.

This weekend, we’ll open the doors together to the experience of outrageous love.  You will learn:

  •  How to ignite the experience of outrageous love within yourself
  • How to access the different qualities of outrageous love, including
  • Outrageous love as radical perception
  • Outrageous love as radical activism
  • Outrageous love as quivering tenderness
  • Outrageous love as radical self challenge
  • Outrageous love as radical  self- acceptance
  • Outrageous love as artistic self creation
  • Outrageous love as awakened imagination

Together with meditation, yoga, chant, and leading edge work with your inner psyche we will also share explore the next level of core practice which opens up the path for you as the outrageous lover.

  • Three Levels of Living your life as an Outrageous Love Letter
  • Learning how to write Outrageous Love Letters
  • And much more

A set of powerful insights, meditative transmission, and the practices we’ve created together, will make this weekend a profound experience of aliveness, joy and transformation for yourself and for the evolution of love on all levels of reality.

With much love

Marc

Register Now

www.iEvolve.org
UniqueSelf.com

MarcGafni.com

 

With Love Over the Long Run

January 6th, 2014
Jean Miele

Jean Miele

By Jean Miele

Vipassana and the Art of Motorcycle Trade-In

If clouds move without fear
According to the whims of the wind,
And husky ocean tides always rise
To the moon’s feminine beckoning;
And if the earth in her balance is always rotating and spinning,
Then why do I have such doubt in my living?

If birds have no hesistance to chirp at the sun
As he rises slow and golden,
Then why is my throat so pulled in
That I cannot say, let along sing:
“Do Not Be Afraid To Awaken!”

Why this paralysis?
Why this decade in fortress bed?
Fretting that some strange fate might befall me,
Should I dance, or chirp or sing:
“Love, Please Find Me.”

Perhaps I am in folly waiting
For the Princess of Kindness to kiss me;
To kindle with her lips
Some self respect in me.
Perhaps I am in folly waiting
For her caring on my pale and burning skin.
But how could she know my address
When my curtains are drawn so tightly in?

- Matt. Meyers

from “Peace Proceeds in Glimpses”

 

During the December 12-15, 2013 Shalom Retreat, I spent some time with my 14-year old self, back in 1976. Sigh. I thought I had long-ago worked through the issues of my teen years: the rage I felt in the wake of the random act of senseless violence visited upon my little brother by a paranoid-schizophrenic neighbor and my parents’ subsequent divorce. Apparently not. Suffice it to say, I revisited that story, had a new conversation with myself, and found some new learnings there. One of the things I remembered during the course of my work was that my mom’s boyfriend at the time, Matt Meyers, saw the pain I was in, and tried to reach out to me. (A remarkable an act of compassion, especially considering he was only in his 20s at the time.) Of course, I dismissed and rejected his overture in no uncertain terms, with the casual brutality of a teenager. It’s awfully interesting, though, that I still remember so clearly that he tried – and that I can see, now, his desire to help meant far more to me than I could admit to myself at the time.

MattMeyers

When I returned from my retreat, I remembered that Matt and I had run into each other awhile back, and I vaguely recalled that he had given me that a book of his poetry, that I had probably never really read. A two-minute search of my bookshelves turned it up. Cellulose evidence that neither compassion nor love are time bound. In spite of the fact that his body passed from this earth in 2011, it seems that now was the time for me to see, for the first time, the compassion this young man had for the boy I was – and to see him, and myself, in a new light. I can now appreciate that Matt saw how scared I was. And I can see that he knew, perhaps better than I did, that what I wanted more than anything was for someone to reach out to me, and draw me in – to reassure me I was loved, and that everything was going to be all right. It’s nice that I can receive that now, even though I couldn’t then. And I think he’s resting easier, knowing I finally got that. Funny how time works.

My copy of Matt Meyers’ book, “Peace Proceeds in Glimpses” (thank the Gods I chose to save it all these years), is filled with wisdom, love, compassion, and humor (as is evident in his bio, below.) I’m grateful to be getting to know Matt now, through his writings, and that the fullness of time is allowing me to begin to see him as the beautiful person he was. It’s also beautiful that, somehow, even now, he’s helping me to see myself – past, present, and future – with love and compassion. It’s as if Matt was on my retreat – along with all of the beautiful souls who were physically there, helping each other do their work. I can see that Matt was doing his work way back when, just as I’m trying to do mine. He would have loved Shalom.

Toward the end of the book he gave me, I found his inscription dated 9/1/88 (a year before I found my way to Shalom, thanks to Elena Vassallo).

He wrote: “To Jean, With love over the long run. Wishing you deep and lasting peace always.”

Wow. There’s an awful lot in-between those lines.
Thanks, Matt.
Same to you, my brother. Wherever you are.

 

- Jean Miele
December 31, 2013

___________

 

Here’s Matt’s bio, from the jacket of his 1977 book:

Matt. Meyers was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., three years after atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese.

He attended P.S. 206 where Mrs. Abromowitz taught him to take cover under the school desk in case of nuclear attack.

At Marine Park Junior High School, he played varsity soccer and basketball, and published his first poem in the Marine Currents. He was embarrassed to have been elected Best Athlete in his senior year. Bob Ednick definitely should have won it.

He then went on to James Madison High School, where he continued to excel at everything except tranquility. In his sophomore year, John Kennedy was assassinated and “it took a very long time walking home that day.” By senior year, the Vietnam War was raging.

In September, 1966, he went off to Princeton University where he hoped to smoke a pipe, throw frisbees, and sleep under trees. His hopes were dashed by the late ‘Sixties.

In 1971, he sold all of his albums and left the U.S. to live in Scandinavia. The Vietnam War was still raging.

Two years later he returned to Brooklyn, and has tried to keep up ever since. It hasn’t been easy. After receiving a Masters Degree in Environmental Health Sciences from Columbia University, he became a professional environmentalist, but lost his vision reading the fine print of bureaucratic regulation.

In 1980, he discovered the joy of dancing, started taking vitamins and became a personal fitness trainer. “l have had many dear friends and teachers along the way. I am thankful to all of them for helping me to re-member.“

He now practices Vipassana meditation every day. His current credos are: “Hugs not Drugs,“ “Meditation not Medication,” “Re-creation, not Recreation.”

Peace Proceeds In Glimpses is Matt. Meyers‘ first book of poetry.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jean Miele is a professional photographer, who lives in Brooklyn NY with his loving wife Carol and his über-smart and beautiful daughter, Cally, both of whom go to Shalom. He brought his parents, Isabel and Klaus Jacob, to Shalom, where they finally got their shit together. ;-)

You can see his work at jeanmiele.com and “like” him on Facebook. ;)

 

 

 

 

 

Living Into Loving

July 13th, 2013

summer festival no text crop

“Living into Loving” is the theme for the 2013 Summer Festival at Shalom Mountain.  People of all ages are invited to join us in Living into Loving, August 8-11.

By Natalie Picone-Louro

Today, I watched BellaSky meet and play with another child at the playground. I witnessed the two minutes of her feeling out this other being shift into laughter, and hide-n-go seek.  My favorite part was their wonderful exchange of the pleasurable hug goodbye.

 

 

Picone-Louro Family

As children, there is this pure innate ability to love and be loved. The ability to love openly with out judgement, with out needing permission. For them, love, is just love. Period. Love was not time bound today for these two young beings. They knew it and felt it in their body. They know this as much as they know the sky is blue and the clouds are white.

As we grow up, we see love through a different lens. If love is derailed, broken, taken away, or betrayed, we then learn to survive. We protect ourselves. We resist. We become guarded.   We limit our love-how much we give it and how much we receive it.  It is a journey going back home to where we can trust, be fearless, big, and lovingly open…..

Children already know how to do this. It is up to the bigger people to support, embrace, and empower them. To give them guidance, language, modeling integrity, and healthy boundaries. Just to name a few. Isn’t that what we are learning for ourselves? We can learn so much from them. They are closer to what we all long for. LIGHT and LOVE

We come to Shalom for just that. We come to Shalom to heal. We come to Shalom to be seen. We come to Shalom to be held. We come to Shalom to celebrate our birthright to love and be loved.

Children, Teens, Young Adults, Adults, Wisdom People, we invite you to Live into Loving. Tap into your magical play within yourself, “young and young-at-heart alike”.  Come explore play, creativity, movement, and most importantly…love.

The Summer Festival will offer creative exercises, workshops, talent show, free play, and more… It will be filled with laughter, joy, and nourishing connections to self.  It will feed your soul.  Make new friends, and connect with old friends. Who knows, maybe you will experience little pleasurable exchanges of love throughout the weekend…As love is truly a gift.

In love and in light,

Natalie

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Summer Festival is a new offering in 2013 at Shalom Mountain.  We are excited to offer this time to celebrate in love and play.  To register, call or e-mail   845-482-5421 or email@shalommountain.com.  You can register online here

 

Eros Blooming

April 5th, 2013

 

by Vyana Bergen

Yesterday, I saw a crocus in the front garden of Shalom Mountain . . . no buds yet, just a green shoot of things to come, a glimmer of spring. I love that spontaneous surprise, after the long winter wait, when a fresh, newborn causes my heart to sing with joy. This season reminds me that each moment holds the potential of rediscovering the wonder of life, like the crocus which reminds me of the vulnerable beauty of the whole planet.

Gazing into a beloved’s eyes, seeing depth of their soul and the reflection of my own is another way to spontaneously awaken to the sacred. Throwing a ball for my eagerly bouncing dog, who has boundless energy to fetch, teaches me that the whole game of life is actually for play and fun. Calling a friend in need to offer consolation and warmth, and discovering it was me who was in need of giving love because my heart was feeling so full.

These are examples of opening to eros – the powerful force of love – in each moment. The erotic is not something that is meant to be limited to the bedroom, rather it meant to be discovered throughout the day . . . in every part of our lives. To build an erotic partnership is to practice and deepen with one’s beloved so that we can make love to each moment, to each crocus with our hearts, to each fetching dog with our laughter, to each friend with the warmth of our souls.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in exploring the erotic in your life and partnership, consider Erotic Partnership:  A Sacred Sexuality Retreat for Couples, May 2-5, 2013.  Led by Vyana Bergen, Cristian Graca, Shelly Reichenbach and Jeff Hilliard a sacred space will be created to explore Eros and the Divine through sacred partnership.  Call or email Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or email@shalommountain.com with questions or to register for this couples retreat.  Shalom Mountain is located in the Catskill Region of New York.

The Reason I Keep Coming Back to Shalom …..an interview with Ken Frank

February 11th, 2013

Ken Frank

 

An interview with Ken Frank

By John Bottone

J: What inspired me to do this interview with you for Mountain Matters was something I overheard you say to someone in the kitchen at the Men’s Gathering .  What I overheard you say was “The reason I keep  coming back here is …” and I never heard the rest.  I must have been on my way to organize something, but I did have the thought “Oh, what a great article for Mountain Matters!”

K:  Interestingly, what comes up when I don’t try to remember what I said is that my life has been so transformed by my Shalom experience, and getting to be more me, more fulfilled, that I just see it happening over and over again whenever I go, even when it’s a lot of hard work.  The experience is of being in touch with that transformation; being more honest with myself, as well as with everyone around me.  I get to be more of who I really am because I don’t have to be anyone but who I honestly am, since there’s nobody I’m trying to please.  I just am appreciated for my own particular uniqueness; and that is probably the strongest draw that Shalom has had over the, at this point, I guess its 36 years.

J:  What would you say is the thing about Shalom that makes that possible?

K:  The bottom line is the Skills and Principles of Loving.

J: What about them make it possible?  What do they create, or what do they do that allows that kind of transformation into who we are possible?  Because I think you really hit a very essential experience that does happen there, and something  goes on that supports that or makes it move in that direction.

K:  What’s behind the Principles and Skills is the recognition that we want to love and be loved, and in doing that it is important that we don’t put on any pretenses, that we not withhold parts of ourselves. That comes through so clearly in a Shalom Retreat and it sets the tone and background and whole environment for the connections we make when we’re at Shalom.

J:  So, say more about the essential experience for you up there, and I’m also curious if it’s the same  when you come there  to cook, as it is to train, or do any other Retreats.

K:  Yeah … there’s two parts to that … one when you said ‘say more’ and the other when you said when you come to cook or anything else.

Once I learned to be in that environment, once I learned what it had to offer, it was no longer a function of what particular issues I was dealing with, or anybody else was dealing with, or whether we were doing an Easter celebration, or a Shalom Retreat or a Men’s Gathering or a men and women coming together, or whatever.  That openness, that intimacy and that trust that I would be treated openly and warmly regardless of what I was experiencing, regardless of who I was, was a big piece for me.  By having good will to everyone, and not having to agree with them to intend them good will, I found I could love people who I didn’t like.  That was very big for me – that I could suspend my judgment, and just stay open, see who someone was, and I found even when I didn’t like somebody, I could love them. I could honor their individuality, and the more I could do that with someone else, the more I trusted that they could do that with me.  When a place is like that, its home.  Sometimes it’s more home than the place I normally think of as home.

J: Yeah, that’s right.

K:  And after a few years of going, I used to think I had to go the Mountain to find that environment, and then I began to learn I could recreate that environment back where I lived, and I didn’t have to travel that far.  I got friends to come with me, and they understood.  Before you know it, I had a group of guys that would meet every week; in fact, we’re still meeting after over 30 years.  We meet every month.  We went through a couple of years of seeing each other once or twice a year, and decided we wanted to get back to seeing each other more regularly.  That’s been precious … and came out of that open, warm, loving atmosphere I discovered at Shalom.

J:  I remember one of my first experiences of you, Ken, was meeting at a Men’s Retreat led by Jerry, and you had come with a number of men from your men’s group, and I saw you as this actualized leader of men, and I felt like such a newbie in this arena of men’s work.  I’m very grateful to you for being such an inspiration to me at that time.

K:  Thank you.

J:  How would say Shalom Mountain has changed in the 30+ years you’ve been going?  In other words, every leadership group has its own personality that it brings.  They have their own interests, they have their own focus, they have their own way of seeing the world.  I’m wondering if you could describe your experience of how that changed from when Jerry and Elizabeth were there, and then there was the triangle days with Jerry, Be and Georgeanne, and then there was Joy and Lawrence.  Shawn, Victoria and Terry weren’t really leading; they were the owners with a group of leaders that took responsibility for leadership.

K:  Over time, and when Jerry first took it over, it felt like we had a Big Daddy running the place and even if you didn’t consider him the guy who knew everything, he was the leader and had a very paternal approach to running the place, and it was a family kind of structure, centered on the father.

When Joy and Lawrence took over, they said, it’s not going to be that way anymore; we’re going to both share the leadership role, and share making decisions.  They were saying  each one of us had a part in it and became very clear over time that they needed to develop a leadership structure with other leaders taking responsibility, as well as people in the community taking responsibility for themselves. It was very quickly that they enrolled Judy and I, not necessarily in a very conscious way, in saying  ‘we all have a responsibility for this place’ because it is creating so much benefit for us, but it’s a big thing, and it’s so big, we all need to do our part.  In that way, the community shifted.  We didn’t just go up there to get the benefits and just be parented, but rather, went up there to help build and enrich the place.

The transition with Terry, Shawn and Victoria, in a way, that’s what they were trying  to do.  They were trying to take on just their part, whatever they could contribute, and they did it in a way that was filled with a lot of trauma for them and for everybody else until enough of us got it together to say “we just have to buy the place” and then automatically everybody has to take a role.  And with the grace of God, that seems to be happening at this point.

J:  I remember meeting Lawrence for the first time.  I was faced with a big decision, because Jerry went off and started Timshel, and at that time he was talking about leading retreats there, more on the mystical journey as opposed to the psychological journey.  I was torn between following him, or staying with what I knew and loved here at Shalom.  A lot of it depended on my experience of Lawrence and Joy, who I had not met.

I remember I was standing in front of the music cabinet in the Shalom Room and Lawrence walked in.  Without a word spoken, I sensed “Oh, he’s a brother”, and that he is going to offer things that Jerry didn’t.  You spoke of them very clearly: much more inclusive, much more ‘let’s do this together’ and that’s what attracted to my staying at Shalom.  I had a sense there was a different place for me here; one I can grow into.  They offered leadership training programs and things like that which were what I wanted for myself, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

K:  One of my favorite stories was when Judy and I were going through some difficulties in our relationship, and we wanted to get some help so we went to talk to Joy to see if she could help us.  This was before we started doing couples work.  I started telling Joy what was going on, and Judy chimed in, and Joy looked at us and said, “you guys do that too?” and we just knew we were in the right place.  They had something to offer us because they struggle with the same stuff we struggled with, and they opened up their journey, so that we could travel along with them, and it made such a profound difference, and it felt so good.

J:  And also Jerry was involved in exploring alternative relationships and stuff like that.  In my view, that was always fascinating, and opened me up to my own provincial life in some ways, but it wasn’t something I connected to for myself, whereas Joy and Lawrence were bringing a more traditional couple experiences, which I think was a big shift for Shalom, and especially for couples.

K:  Very much so. In expanding that whole experience within Shalom, Joy and Lawrence started opening up to other people leading , and leading in areas where they had particular skills because of their own journey.  Things opened up in myriad ways, like you and LJ looking at gender issues, work on Tantra was being done, and Body Sacred was created for those people that wanted to explore deeper issues of sexuality without necessarily being part of a couple’s relationship.  That kind of expansiveness happened as the whole concept of leadership and responsibility was being expanded.

J:  How would you describe it now, as opposed to then? What’s changed, or what’s different or what’s shifted?  What is your sense of where Shalom Mountain is headed?

K:  Well, I think one of the most special things that has happened with Shalom Mountain, is that everyone who comes in, adores the leader they started with, but as soon as you’ve been there for a while, you get an understanding that there are a lot of good leaders.  It’s not just all in one person or one couple, and in fact you’ve got a whole bunch of really capable leaders.  So it’s not dependent on one person.  It doesn’t feel like a house of cards in that way that if THE leader disappears, what do we do then?  And that feels so good, it feels more secure than it’s ever felt, and I think it’s one of the biggest differences now than it was 20 years ago.

J:  Yes. Now there’s a very large experienced leadership base in place.

K:  With a depth of commitment.  The fact that we’ve been able to buy the Mountain, to pay the mortgage, to continue to raise money for the important things, it just feels like so much of a secure place.

J:  So, where would you like this all to go?  What is your hope and vision?

K:  My big dream is that as my grandkids grow up, they too will not only go to Shalom Mountain saying  “Oh, I love it there because I can do all the things I want to do and nobody’s on top of me to stop me”, but they will have the opportunity to deal with their emotional, psychological and spiritual issues in the same way that their parents have, and their grandparents have.

I just see the place as a wonderful catalyst for my children’s children’s children going into the future and continuing that way.  Not just an opportunity to do Shalom Retreats, but for the beautiful physical space that’s up there.  There is plenty of room to grow and have plenty of woods, and plenty of fields, and plenty of sunshine and moonrise  and stars that have made the place so precious to me over the years.

J:  Well, it’s starting to happen!  On this last retreat the children of the parents that were on retreat with me are starting to come.  So, it’s definitely happening!

K:  Yeah, the young adult community is so close and so emotionally tied together, it’s sweet to watch.  And they treasure what Shalom has brought into their lives.  And that’s just the kind of thing that will nurture the core values.

J:  And when you think about it, that’s not something that has ever happened, where a group of young adults grew up in the Shalom experience, and got to know each other.  It will be very interesting to see how that matures, because it’s never happened before.

K:  Right. It hasn’t been around long enough for a teenager to grow into an adult, and it’s wondrous.

J:  Oh, my God – what did you start?  I can see these young adults getting married and having Shalom children!

K:  Oh, my God – imagine Shalom Children.

J:  Shalom children of Shalom parents and Shalom grandparents.

So, thank you Ken for just sharing your experiences and profound vision of this place.  It is clear to me that your deep love of Shalom has carried it well for all these years.

Change Your Story, Change Your Name?

February 7th, 2013

Lily Wolf Solomon

 

By Lily Wolf Solomon

If I could, I’d turn everything on its head. Start the wheel again. Grow another hope. Maybe another childhood. I’d take everything I learned and make myself a whole new ‘Me’, starting from scratch. And I’d be free.

I just want you to know that everything you want is possible. A year ago, I was there. Everything felt like it was at a dead end and I wished I could start over. Too much stuff had accumulated in my enormous sack of psychic baggage. I checked myself into the hospital when things got to a low, and though I’d started to recover, I didn’t know what it was to thrive. Everything was a struggle, one step forward and two back. I longed for a life where I could be free from it all, one where I might actually get a chance to be what I dreamed I might have been. But how? Too much life had happened.

I felt imprisoned by my experiences of disappointment, heartbreak, betrayal. I felt so misunderstood. I was imprisoned by a life story that told me what wasn’t possible, what I couldn’t be, and one thing after another seemed to tell me I wasn’t worthy of love. I had internalized so much shame and my body was full of poison. Given the cards I was handed, what was the point?

One day in October I found an energy healer named Jon Terrell. Something felt right about it, and after my first session with him, something in me was excited about life again: I could see the beautiful blue sky with a possibility that I’d long forgotten. Addictions that I had taken on to fill my yearning for love and meaning started to fall away. Jon suggested I come to a place called Shalom Mountain, where he led retreats, where the healing power of love could dissolve our old stories and help us create new ones. I was skeptical. I had tried every sort of healing I could find, and though these modalities taught me something about myself, none of them touched the deep blocks inside me. I was still the same struggling me. It was the same old stuff, it was coping, and I was tired of it.

Maybe this was some sort of cult. Maybe Jon just wanted to make a buck. But something deeper in me told me to go for it. I almost sabotaged myself on the day of the retreat but I got there. I walked through the door and there was Jon, with a smile and a hug that told me he actually cared that I was there, and others welcomed me in a similar way. Even the first night, my heart beat faster; I knew something big was happening.

I probably slept three hours over those four days. I tossed and turned. I groaned and curled into a ball. I felt too-big energies and poisons inside of me coming to the surface and I wished I could regurgitate them like a physical sickness. And then, I was so excited by the love I felt in this place. Normally I would crash, on so little sleep and with such unconscious stuff coming to the surface, but I was running on the energy of loving and being loved.

The retreat changed everything for me. For maybe 10 years, I would dissociate a lot. I’d be talking, and a certain subject would come into the flow of thought that I couldn’t face, and I’d just go blank, forget everything. I’d hit a negative emotion and get stuck there for what felt like eternity. It happened all the time.

What happened on that retreat was sacred: indeed, the power of being held in loving community dissolved years of deep pain that I could never have confronted on my own. Working with Jon on the retreat, I felt deep joy and pain and sadness and laughter and bliss and the wonder of it all; it was all jumbled together, agonizing tears turning to joyful laughter from millisecond to millisecond. It was all there, my deepest joy tied up in my deepest pain. I hit the places I couldn’t face, and for a split second, I blanked out. I lost all sense of self and felt what I could only call God. Then I touched a core, something irrevocably alive in me, and I emerged as a wild and passionate animal howling at the sky. My Shalom community walked outside with me to howl and celebrate life. I had never felt so me. Everything I’d ever wanted was right there. I was born in that threshold.

For the first time in years I knew what it was like to flow from joy to sadness to anger in a healthy way, just experiencing life as it unfolded. I wasn’t afraid to go to those dark places anymore. I knew what it was to trust my body, to move authentically, to speak my authentic voice. I knew how to honour myself, to hold clear boundaries. My stories about how I’d been betrayed somehow shifted, and I found myself talking about these experiences very differently.  When Jon told me Shalom retreats would change our story, I had no idea he meant it literally. I actually felt some love and understanding for those who had hurt me, and I was able to stand my ground, knowing maybe for the first time that I did not deserve that hurt. Dissociation may take years to heal in therapy, but I felt that, and years of other issues, practically healed in one weekend.

Before the retreat I had felt some resentment around every significant relationship in my life. I wasn’t as close to anyone as I wanted to be and I didn’t know how to make new friends. Thanks to my first retreat, I started taking risks with friendships, asking a friend I’d known for years if it would be all righti f I said “I love you.” I opened my heart to friends who felt distant, who I wished would be closer. I told them that, I was vulnerable, and they opened up to me in return. When a friend who had hurt me, who I didn’t think I’d be able to talk to again, contacted me after the retreat, there was only forgiveness there. Love, even. I’ve even taken her to a couple of Shalom retreats! And then, when one friend acted in ways that were not all right with me, and I knew nothing but drama could come from taking it further, I found myself suddenly ending a friendship of seven years. I shocked myself. This wasn’t like me. Suddenly my priority wasn’t to suffer through a dysfunctional friendship but to care for myself. I was living a new story.

Every retreat for me has come with the miracle of changing more and more of my old story into a beatuiful new one. Every retreat was exactly what I needed to be, and often, what I never imagined it could be.

On my second retreat, I started to accept my own weirdness, and came to terms with the fact that so much of what I thought was my own story actually belonged to my family.

On my third retreat, it was about feeling trapped in the box of caring what other people think. Boxes that said a boy couldn’t wear a skirt, to name just one. I felt that something was wrong with me for even bringing such issues to a Shalom retreat. How superficial, wanting to wear a skirt! Surely there were bigger things… And yet, somehow, it was huge for me: such psychic energy was trapped in this prohibition. I felt such shame even admitting to this. There was no way I could see myself wearing what I wanted without being flooded with shame. Even one negative comment and I might have wanted to hurt myself. And yet, just a few months later, I was dancing in a skirt, without a thought as to what anyone else might think. “It’s amazing how well you wear that skirt!” someone told me. I told her how much shame I had around it just a few months before. “I don’t see any shame at all. You’re in your power!” Shalom changes even the most unchangeable stories.

Being able to express myself in new ways, I felt more creative, more playful, and new worlds were opening up to me. I started to realize that, in so many ways, I feel more like a girl than a boy. I went to the Gender Outlaws retreat, though before Shalom, I never would have imagined that I fit in that category. Being so loved and so accepted just opened something up for me. I wore all sorts of crazy and colorful clothing, skirts, eyeliner. On that retreat I learned not to be so afraid of intimacy and play. I wrote a letter to someone I wanted to be more intimate with — which I was scared to death of doing before this retreat — and got a positive response! Shalom has taught me that life can be so much easier if I simply ask for what I need; and that it’s surprising how often I get it.

A couple months ago, I asked some friends to gather for a naming ceremony, since I wanted to live into a new name, Lily. Though I look like a boy, all my friends now call me Lily. No one has questioned it. They tell me it’s so much more me, that I seem much more settled in myself as Lily, growing into new parts of myself. I would tense up when I heard my old name, with all the old stories attached to it; but I relax and feel little bursts of love when I hear someone call me Lily. I even identify as female and don’t feel shame around it — I don’t have to be trapped in the boxes of what other people think! Lily is my new story. Not only do Shalom retreats change your story, sometimes, if you let them, they can actually change your name. Careful, now.

As much as I’ve said here, I’ve only scratched the surface. That’s why I’m working on a spiritual memoir. The center of it is how this place called Shalom Mountain changed my life.

Part of what made me reach out just now is what you said about childhood. I feel so lucky because these retreats have given me an opportunity I never thought I’d have, to learn how to be human, how to be really alive in the world, how to take in love and brush off hatred… the sort of thing I thought I’d never learn because it should have come with the unconditional love I didn’t get as a child. And I thought by now it was too late. The world hasn’t been kind to any of us! But somehow, it’s as though I’m slowly reprogramming my childhood, and I’m actually learning what it would have been like if I did get that nurturing and love as a child… my life is becoming as though I had.

I am living a whole new me, my friend. I feel like I can start from scratch, rewriting all those old stories about who I am and who I’m capable of being. I am free. I am loved. I am becoming more me all the time. Those old stories still come up, but they don’t rule me anymore. I am so grateful to have found a place where I can be exactly who I am and be utterly loved for it. I’m so grateful I can carry what I’ve learned at Shalom forward into every aspect of my life. I’m so grateful to be able to write new stories about myself and who I can be every day.

Whether or not you decide to come to this place that has become a home to me, remember: you are not your old story, and you *can* live into a new one. You can be more you than you ever imagined.

The Business of Love

November 21st, 2012

Joyce Harvey-Morgan

 

By Joyce Harvey-Morgan

I am fresh off the annual Shalom Mountain Board and Executive Council meetings and have returned home exhausted but so inspired. As I look back over the past year, I am in awe and so proud of what WE (all of us together!) have been able to accomplish—development of annual plans and many policies and procedures in place, healthy and thriving programs with many returning and many new participants, and palpable changes in our culture as we continue to live into being a community-supported non-profit organization.

We continue to work diligently and creatively with a full agenda for the year ahead. And it’s not just the Board and the Executive Council, but also so many community members who have offered their talents to assist in marketing, fund development, caring for the facilities and grounds and other areas. People wonder why we do it, why we give so much of our time and so much of ourselves to Shalom Mountain. For so many of us, Shalom Mountain has been important in helping us to become who we are today, and it is all about giving back…as well as giving forward. It is clear that Shalom Mountain needs all of our gifts—our time, our talents and our money. And it is all about serving the business of love. Each time we give, no matter how large or small, no matter whether it is our time, talents or money, we are helping to sustain Shalom Mountain and to make a difference in the lives of others.

Joyce Harvey-Morgan
Chair of Board

Self-Love

November 13th, 2012

 

By Francesca Moscatelli

Dealing with our shadow is a complex but guaranteed journey back to love. Not just love of another, but love for each and every characteristic that lives within you and within me – a love that allows us to embrace the richness of our humanity and the holiness of our divinity. Having faced our own internal demons, we are filled with peace and compassion in the presence of other people’s dark side. We can forgive and let go of our demeaning judgments and our resentful heart….Exploring our dark side is the gateway to understanding why we do what we do, why we sometimes act in ways that are contrary to the desires of our conscious mind, and why we spend countless hours, days, months or years judging other and holding on to grudges that only bring us headache, heartache and dis-ease. – Deepak Chopra

Every year, in the Fall, when the call to sign up for the Intro to Process Training lands in my inbox, I’ve asked myself if “this year, can I pull it off?” In the past, both time and funds have been short, and my priority has been my children. But each year, since my first Shalom Retreat in the Fall of 2004, I’ve recognized my desire to participate in the Process Training for the main purpose of continuing the rapid pace of person growth since that fateful first retreat.

Leading into the first “Intro” session, I was feeling confident and loving towards myself and working toward balance in self-care, work, and relationships. To thrive in my self-love, I exercise consistently, eat and sleep well and make choices that support my value system, growth and well-being. I journal, meditate and have fun with my friends, family and partner. Much in my life is joyous. My mantra is that I am “brave, joyous and accepting.”

I knew that I would be faced with my own demons and shadow while at the training and yet I wasn’t prepared for falling in love with myself all over again. Once again I learned that what upsets me most about someone else can be an opportunity to look at that very trait in myself (also known as “projection”). And I am open to getting to know myself better with each go around and answering the question “who am I?” at the ego, soul/essence and leadership levels. Bring it on!

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-
This is the second post in a series that follows the 6-month Intro to Process Training. Check back next month for Francesca’s next installment of what it means to her to participate in the Intro to Process Training at Shalom Mountain.

Outrageous Love

November 6th, 2012

Victoria Myer

 

By Victoria Myer

The one thing that we all know is true…that we live in a world of outrageous pain. And the only response to outrageous pain is outrageous loving.” Marc Gafni—October Shalom Mountain Wisdom School

I would like to share a story of outrageous loving by one of our wisdom school community. Last Friday in preparation for the storm in NJ, Julie and I spent the day trying to locate generators for our homes, as our sump pumps are electric and we get water in our basements during large rains. We called around New Jersey and Pennsylvania and not a generator to be found–we got on one list as the 154th person for an order of 34…. Through a conversation with Julie, Peter Britton heard that we needed a generator and offered one that he had and wasn’t using, but he lives more than 5 hours north of us and we were heading southwest for the weekend.

Needless to say, we returned home Sunday evening quite concerned about the effect of the storm and how we would weather it. And there on Julie and Larnie’s front porch was a beautiful generator with two tanks of gas! Peter had driven it down to New Jersey himself to deliver it. His comment was something along the lines of–how could he keep something he had that he didn’t need when someone else was so in need—ONE HEART. I cannot tell you how such an act of outrageous loving touched our hearts!!! We were out of power from Monday until Saturday and the generator has become a community gift moving between three homes to keep our food preserved and give us some battery charging for the necessary electronic equipment. This was indeed an example of outrageous loving!!

You are a wondrous man, Peter Britton, and may all your loving return to you many times over!!

Thank you for spreading the love,
Victoria, Shawn, Julie and Larnie

The Dual Yearning of the Heart

October 19th, 2012

By Francesca Moscatelli

“When we open our hearts to the wonder of the journey and search through the pain for the truth of our experiences, we begin to glimpse a new light that will guide us deeper into ourselves. There we will meet our whole, undamaged and pristine essential self. In touch with this essential self, we can experience powerful levels of intimacy while engaged in the most ordinary behaviors. This is the promise of undefended intimacy. This is the satisfaction of the longing to love and be loved, directly, immediately and without restriction.” – from the book Undefended Love

Today I am pondering the “dual yearning of the heart”, that longing to be known and to know another on a deep level, with no secrets, no defenses and no need to be anyone but myself. Intrinsically, the deeper we know ourselves; the deeper is our capacity to know another. Here I sit, practicing, practicing and practicing loving with no strings, no attachment to what it might look like, no guarantees or requirements, no need to trust anyone but me. I am succeeding more and more because I know that if I can stay present to all the emotions, even when I feel exposed and excruciatingly vulnerable, I reach that place where I am centered and the feelings of being emotionally disconnected, incomplete or unloved, disappear.

There is no waiting for something to fall into place, for the right circumstance or partner. I am living life one moment at a time, stretching my assumptions and finding the strength within me to face each moment as it comes. Consistently challenged by the events of life, I vow to love with an unguarded heart even when the outcome is uncertain. When I chose love (and it is a choice) and happiness, my interactions are more fulfilling.

I speak my truth, am free to make my own choices and won’t apologize for what I feel, nor for what I want. I continue to be my own best fan and supporter, prior to doing that for someone else. Daily I taking care of me and am true to myself, through whatever feeds my soul. When I am in touch with my deepest sense of well-being, my dedication to stay open comes naturally. My own growth is primordial.

Today, I understand on a completely different level that, in order to achieve the intimacy I desire, I must accept the inevitable distress and dissatisfaction that are part of every relationship, as essential. Without it, I don’t get to look at myself and I don’t get to grow. I am free because I no longer need confirmation, agreement or validation from another to know that I am OK, that I am golden. I am no longer defined by my history.

The connections to others are everywhere, and my friendships are growing ever deeper. The journey continues with the first session of the Introduction to Process training at Shalom Mountain on October 20th. See you on the path!

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

“Dual Yearning of the Heart” was originally published in the Shalom Seacoast newsletter.  Click here for more information on Shalom Mountain and its local communities.