Recently a very dear friend sent me the following sentiment in an e-mail:
"I've had enough experiences in my life to believe that many things happen through the intervention of a divine and greater power than we can imagine.
I no longer believe in coincidences. I believe in pre-ordained occurrences, giving us opportunities for deep reflection. If you think about it, that in itself is a mysterious gift in life, that we can always receive if we're willing to get off the present day treadmill."
How this very message summed up my past weekend at the Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA where I attended a Contemporary Gestalt Training Workshop that was led by Mariah Fenton Gladis, MSS, QCSW.
I met Mariah in June, 2013. Someone I love very much invited me to a similar workshop, only this was my first exposure to Gestalt Therapy. Oh yes, I had studied the concepts from a text book in school. But trust me, participating in Gestalt Therapy ... being on the Hot Seat, if you will... is an entirely different animal. There is nothing in the world that rejuvenated and exhausted me quite like this... I searched deep into my mind - my body - and my spirit and yes, I even got off my daily treadmill...
I view Gestalt Therapy as a valuable life tool and plan to share pieces of what I have and will continue to learn with you. These life gifts do not require a fancy degree to accomplish. You need to be aware of how you are feeling and you need to be willing to take action to move forward when necessary - regarding what is important to you.
I accomplished a life-changing achievement in the workshop of June, 2013. I had an exact moment of healing in the safe and loving environment of Mariah and a group of compassionate people -- just like me. I was able to release the extreme anger I felt towards a man who had hurt me badly and killed someone I loved - to a man in group (who was willing to play that role). And anger I had by the buckets... I was also able to release the extreme guilt, sorrow and sadness I felt towards a beloved colleague who was senselessly killed - to a woman in group (someone I selected who reminded me of the beautiful friend I forever miss). And tears I had by the buckets... And the group was so supportive, loving, hugging me in a net of safety...and best of all I selected the music I wanted to be played...the same music that went through my head when I was being rescued by PennStar and flown to safety: Lifted by The Eurythmics.
The moment I left the retreat, I knew I wanted to return. I never forgot Mariah, especially her eyes...they surely looked into my soul and urged me to do the same. It is very difficult to BS this woman. Her intuition is matched only by her clinical skills.
I seemed to be called to this January workshop. The timing couldn't have been better - between teaching semesters. This Workshop was actually the first of a six-month certification training series. To attend meant no obligation to join the entire training program, as the weekend in itself is of rejuvenating personal and professional benefit.
I was thrilled that I knew two of the thirty group members from June, 2013. How could I know that one was the very kind woman who had stood in during my Hot Seat for my friend who had died. It was wonderful to spend the weekend with her.
I arrived about thirty minutes early on Friday evening, due to the darkness and the curvy roads. The entire weekend was rainy, foggy but rather mild. Mom had always told me that rain was a sign of good luck. I inwardly laugh as I brace myself for a road trip. I really enjoy driving, especially enjoy traveling with me and my trusty navigator. But I am pretty much guaranteed that rain (or some kind of precipitation) will play a role in my trip...and that is Mom. At this stage of the game, she is telling Miss Lead Foot to take it easy, allow plenty of time and obey the speed limit ... which I really strive to do for her sake.
There were two other early birds. Some were staying at the Retreat house and some were commuting. I chose to commute as it was not very far and space was limited.
I met a lovely woman with the same name as a dear friend of mine. In fact, I had invited this friend and she was unable to attend due to personal reasons. Now I have two friends with the same name!
The other woman was the spittin' image of my Momma - in fact, it brought instant tears to my eyes. I told her so immediately. When she told me her name, I almost fainted. My sister shares the same name as my friend who was killed. By the end of the weekend, my second 'Momma' shares this name as well. I also have another sister as this was a 'mother / daughter' team... I derived so much comfort and love from these two women who so freely gave of themselves to me. And we don't live far away from each other - which is a very cool thing!
I did small group work with a younger woman who was hurting badly after having been abandoned by her dad. I had such maternal feelings toward her. It was a thrill when she was called to the Hot Seat and asked for me to play the role of her Momma. She was able to express anger directly to a man who played her dad and I could keep her safe... a feeling I surely needed to do on my own behalf. The beauty of Gestalt Therapy is the totality ... there are no boundaries. The therapist can and needs to benefit in order for the client and family / system to do the same. This woman was late on Sunday. She had driven to her Mom's house and they talked all night. The freedom and peace on her beautiful face was therapeutic in and of itself. Oh and I have a surrogate daughter now as well...awesome..!! She has four dogs and they are all rescue...you know it!
As I recall the song I associated with myself on Friday night, I listened to the lyrics and cried my eyes out. What else is new, right...??
The Long and Winding Road was always a romantic type of song in my mind. I feel now that Mom is reminding me of my own strength and abilities - to keep going no matter how long, winding , uncertain this life journey can be.
As I think back to our last exercise on Sunday, also associated with music...as Mariah closely identifies with music (...lucky me...!!!), we were holding hands and swaying back and forth - I honestly don't remember the song as I was lost in the moment.
Suddenly, a young girl that I had felt was so sad, joyfully sprung out and took the hands of the woman who had played the role of my friend who died. The young girl shared the same name as my niece, how lovely they both are.
These two women joyfully danced in the center and my friend sweetly broke away and was able to fly on her own... and this was the goal she had wanted for the weekend. What an inspiration for us all...we all need to fly - to feel free to be ourselves and to truly pursue what is important to us. My friend's chosen song is a song by R.Kelly that I happen to love: I Believe I Can Fly...
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