A Report on the Pacific Northwest
HSP Gathering Retreat,
By Jacquelyn Strickland and Jenna Avery
The Pacific Northwest HSP Gathering, held in August 2005 at the Whidbey Island Institute just north of Seattle, Washington, was a powerful experience for the 30 sensitive souls gathered together to share and connect around our sensitivity. We had some wonderful discussions and presentations.
Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, gave a talk about the inner child in all of us and answered questions about being highly sensitive. She led us through an exercise to help us both better understand our childhood experiences in light of our sensitivity and gave us a tool to help us evaluate how we are now "parenting" ourselves. It was a deep exercise that was difficult for some people, but which offered a powerful perspective as well.
Jacquelyn taught an "Integrative Thought Process for HSPs" combined with a journaling activity called "Clustering" from Journal to the Self by Kathleen Adams. She developed the "Integrative Thought Process" for HSPs after finding it helpful with the clients she works with. It incorporates looking at any issue through our thoughts, feelings, needs, assumptions, and intuition as a means of better understanding it. She will be writing an article on this method for her next e-zine.
Katherine Wismer, a coach and corporate trainer, taught us about "Conversation Cafe," a remarkably simple but profound method of communicating about any topic. It incorporates Native American "talking stick" principles, and takes conversations progressively deeper.
Some of us participated in deeply moving conversations about HSPs in relationship, and HSPs and music using this format. Other conversations focused on spirituality and sensuality, while others talked about HSPs at work. All of the groups reported back that the experience was deeply inspiring.
It was not entirely coincidental that a favorite activity of the Gatherings -- "Art Night" -- occurred after Jenna Avery's "Embrace Your Essential Self" program. We planned to coordinate the two activities to provide a space for post-program processing.
Don Walls, a graphic artist by profession, and a true artist by calling, was willing to share his composition from art night that he calls the "Light House."
His picture symbolizes that "a light house is a guide to safe harbor and the light can penetrates the fog and darkness." Don says, "I found the guided imagery session with Jenna to be a profound experience that I am still processing with a growing sense of happiness and contentment. I felt I encountered a connection with my twin brother who died in infancy, which allowed me to connect with a positive and capable aspect of myself. I also got a message to 'stop grieving and enjoy my life for myself and for my twin brother as well as my other siblings and friends that have passed.'" Finally, Don shares, "I came away with a deep feeling of peace and calm. I am somewhat skeptical of these types of sessions but found it to be a powerful experience."
Towards the end of the Gathering, Laura Berryhill facilitated a session called "The Healing Power of Music," leading us through a variety of experiential exercises culminating in chanting in the sanctuary at the Institute. The natural sound system in this beautiful structure made our voices sound incredibly beautiful. Laura also shared her first CD with us, Far Morning, featuring harp, voice, and fiddle.
All in all, it was a truly wonderful and enjoyable experience of connecting with other sensitive souls. Many were "newbies" to the trait, others were old hands. Regardless, we learned, grew, and shared.
* Adapted and expanded from "Notes from the Field," by Jenna Avery, published on her blog at http://www.highlysensitivesouls.com/blog/?p=53, September 2, 2005