June 03, 2016
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
We are happy and grateful that our first annual men’s retreat, “The Quest of a Spiritual Warrior: The Courageous Journey Inward” at Unity of Delray Beach, was a success! It was really a blessing to all of those who attended and to all of us who participated. We experienced 100 percent participation from the patients, received an excellent result on the surveys, and got heartfelt “Thank Yous” throughout the day. The fact that many of the patients asked to stay later to continue working on their Spirit Sticks even after our retreat had ended speaks to the need and desire and appreciation for more spiritual activities for our patients. Beautiful.
The theme really spoke to all of the patients and we weaved it through each activity from our opening ritual and meditation to yoga and our closing ritual.
We used Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” as the basis for much of our message for the retreat. We began, after our welcome, by showing two videos: the story of “The Golden Buddha” and “The Hero’s Journey”. Both clearly send the message we are so much more than we realize and all those mystical powers we love in our favorite mythical heroes also lie within us.
In our opening, we discussed “The Journey” and how it begins with a call to adventure. Often that call comes in the form of a tragedy: a death, an overdose, or the loss of a loving relationship - it often comes in the depths of despair. Each patient has gotten the call. We asked, “Are you answering the call? Are you willing to take on the challenges you must face, the dragons you must slay, the doors you must open, the dark you must enter?”
At this point, we reminded them they’ve already slayed many dragons and walked through much darkness to get to this moment in their lives. They’ve been on the hero’s journey - the journey of life. Slaying the dragon means taking on that part of themselves that is bigger than the dragon; the dragon is necessary for them to discover the strong, powerful, wise, courageous Self (Higher Power, G-d, Christ) within.
We then asked the patients about the “other voice” that calls them; the one that says, “I’m too afraid”; “I can’t do this”; “It’s not time.” We asked them to write down on a piece of flash paper what that other voice calls to them and then one by one, each patient dropped their flash paper into the burning bowl, which was placed in the center of the circle, to let it burn. They watched the paper burn while listening to the song “Now We Are Free” from The Gladiator - this was a very powerful moment in the day.
From here, we went into a meditation. The journey is about facing yourself, your fears, and your darkness; the struggle,acceptance, and then finally, returning home victorious, eager to help others. Then the journey begins again.
We placed a very large piece of driftwood on the alter and throughout the day, we encouraged the patients to tie a prayer thread and pray for someone who was a part of their journey in life; someone who helped them along the way. This was a way to honor them. The driftwood will be a part of Spiritual Fridays and patients will be able to continue to add to it.
An amazing local artist Elise Crohn presented a creative activity our patients LOVED. Each patient selected a unique wooden stick from our altar that would become their own “Prayer Stick” or “Spirit Stick”. She went on to explain that in traditional cultures, Spirit Sticks are seen as powerful instruments with great ability to aid in connecting with spirit and the place from where the song of their own soul comes. Because it can be seen as having healing properties, it must be conceptualized and created with great care.
Elise had a ton of art supplies, but before they began to create, she asked them to close their eyes and imagine they had a wand or stick that could heal. What needs to be changed or transformed? What power needs to be awakened within? What help do you need? And then, miraculous creating happened!!! Some of the patients worked on these for hours. Again, it was beautiful.
After this activity, the patients were given lunch and were offered the opportunity to use the sports field for an outdoor activity. Some of the patients played football; others just enjoyed their time outside.
Robert led them in an hour of yoga with a focus on being a spiritual warrior (a Buddhist teaching) and a warrior of Love and Light.
For our closing, we asked each patient to quietly and reverently place their Spirit Stick back on the altar while announcing a word (or two) that represented the power of that stick. Some of the words shared: Bravery, Light, Warrior for Love, Balance, Peace, Healing.
This was done with great meaning as local Grammy-nominated drummer, Michael Moses lightly drummed in the background. He then performed a light drumming ceremony for the patients – a very powerful, meaningful closing.
What an incredible day! It’s almost impossible to describe the blessing but we’ve tried!
We highly recommend making a Spirit Stick!
Reverend Laurie Durgan and Lyndsey McMillan