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Waking Up and Growing Up

“A retreat is something that you do to retreat from all the ways that you normally retreat from your life. It is not a way to run off, do something special, and then come back to this so called real world. No, this is about standing up in the midst of the world that you live and not hiding and turning back towards what is actually happening.”

Flint Sparks, PhD,TEDxAustin 2011

On March 16-19, MN Trauma Project will be hosting a 2.5 day non-residential meditation retreat/training with Flint Sparks, PhD. Flint is a Buddhist priest and teacher and former psychologist with advanced training in Hakomi, Internal Family Systems, and Group Psychotherapy. Richard Schwartz, PhD, the developer of Internal Family Systems, describes Flint as the preeminent speaker and thinker on the intersection of Internal Family Systems theory and spirituality.

Flint has devoted his professional life to fostering the development of people, as a psychotherapist and as a spiritual teacher and guide. He recognizes that there is a thin line that separates the personal from the professional and that our continued development as a healing professional depends upon our personal and spiritual maturation. As MN Trauma Project has sought to provide learning opportunities for the local community of healing professionals on the topics of trauma, dissociation, and attachment, we also wanted to begin to create opportunities for tending to the person of the therapist or healing professional, to bridge the gap between the personal and the professional. Flint is an ideal choice as guide for the first of such offerings.

Flint's definition of a retreat, as stated in the paragraph above (taken from his TED Talk), provides the frame for this weekend event. The retreat is not meant to be a way to back out of life, but rather to more fully engage life as it actually is. Through meditative practice, teaching, and periods of inquiry, we will work to become more aware of our prior conditioning and the reactivity that often results from our conditioning so that we can encounter life as it really is. We all, through our history of experiences, have formed habits and patterned behavior that allow us to hide from life and avoid reality. Humans are naturally wired to avoid discomfort and suffering and yet in our fervent attempts to do so, we lock ourselves into ways of being in the world that prevent us from being fully ourselves, that impair our ability to live freely and abundantly. In our efforts to avoid pain, we increase our suffering. We contract ourselves and compartmentalize aspects of ourselves that we fear will not be acceptable or tolerable to others and in the process we reduce our capacity to both give and receive love.

Our hope in offering this retreat opportunity is to provide a forum for personal reflection, spiritual deepening, and professional development. In a previous retreat, Flint shared, "Our practice of sitting meditation, even when uncomfortable, allows us to practice sitting with pain to prepare us to respond to the pain that does not stop when the bell rings." This then is where our personal practice begins to blend into our professional role and function. I attended my first retreat with Flint Sparks in the fall of 2014. I had no prior experience with meditation and was surprised to discover that the retreat would be silent from start to finish. In the container offered by the group attending the retreat and the teaching offered by Flint, I began to discover myself in profound ways. In this first retreat and in the retreats that have followed, I have experienced a transformation I could not have predicted, but for which I am immensely grateful. In opening to the moment in meditative practice, I found that it was not just the present moment that becomes more accessible, but myself as well. I began to see more clearly how much of a role fear had in my life and relationships and how it kept me from fully showing up to my life.

Fear has a way of driving much of human behavior, particularly when it comes to relationships. This can be seen in early attachment patterns that develop as children begin to adapt their behavior to maintain connection with their caregivers and inevitably carry these attachment adaptations into their adult relationships as well. We constrict and contract ourselves to keep our relationships intact, but inevitably this constriction and contraction interferes with our fully experiencing relationships later on in life, both with the other, but also with ourselves. These constrictions and contractions show up in all areas of our lives, including our professional roles as healers, and our ability to show up for our clients is limited by the ways in which we cannot show up for ourselves.

As Flint says, “It is a big job once you realize what it means to transform your life.” We hope you will join us for this unique personal and professional development experience. We will be limiting the size of this event in order to maintain a safe, contained group experience. Our hope is that this retreat experience will be an offering to those who have dedicated their lives to helping people heal and perhaps offer a measure of healing for the healers.

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