A Blog from the 2011 Spring Retreat


New Mexico Men’s Wellness Spring Retreat April 15th-17th, 2011

Sign-to-campBy Manuel Tafoya

(This post is Manuel’s written recording of his experiences at the 2011 Spring retreat.  Unless noted otherwise, photos were taken by Uwe Schroeter; Joseph Woods and Jim Connolly also provided a few images.  Most images are small “thumbnails”; to see the larger image, click on the thumbnail image.)

Friday, Day One

Photo: J. Woods

Photo: J. Woods

As we passed the bridge crossing the Jemez River to our sleeping quarters, we marveled at the different face the river presents to us each year. This year because it has been a dry year the water was low and clear.  During other years the water has been muddy, frothing and so voluminous that it fills the riverbed seemingly wanting to carry away anything in its path.

Crossing the bridge we continue up the winding dirt road, sweeping under the towering PonderHum-roomosas we turned right to come upon the familiar green Hummingbird Music Camp sign, This will be fearless-leader-2our living quarters for the next few days. Our fearless leader, Christopher king, is already there welcoming all arrivals.

The hours before the Spring Retreat official Opening Circle at 7pm was spent unpacking our things, setting up our rooms, greeting old friends and catching up on each other’s lives.  Those of us lucky enough to arrive on the early side even had time to take a brief nap.

Finally, seven o’clock arrived and during the Opening Circle we were asked to introduce ourselves, state where we were from and name first-circlesomeone who has had a great influence on our lives.  As the twenty-nine men introduced themselves there were roars of laughter and spirited banter.  It is a well known fact that most NMMW men have a very well defined sense of huma-small-groupor.

After the conclusion of the Opening Circle, we broke into our assigned small groups–to become our core family grouping for the weekend.  These small groups turned out to be the meat and potatoes of the retreat.  By retreat’s end we had achieved high levels of intimacy and trust.

Our small group began to gel well immediately.  We were soon engaged on several deep subjects.  One topic we discussed that first night was how we could best react when we found ourselves confronted with a highly charged situation.  How coffee-housecould we responddoug-bob-music without becoming so angry that we withdrew within ourselves or went on the attack and thereby escalating the situation?  How could we respond appropriately– without losing face or putting the other person down?

When we came back from our small groups we had Coffee House Time inside Harmony Hall (live music led by Bob Sugar, Dough Booth, Rich Weiner and Kyle Piorkowski).  Then it was time to bid goodnight to the opening evening.

Saturday, day two

Next Morning we went to the 6:15 meditation training hoping Jon Driscoll had elected not to bring his Zen Jo or Kei Saku stick–designed to wake up any mediator who might have dozed off by delivering a sharp blow between the shoulder blades.

Then came Qi Gong led by Dough Booth.  That has always been a rewarding experience for me,  Each movement has a most descriptive name such as  “parting the cloud”, “bringing down the moon” or “wild geese in flight” all done to a soothing, rhythmic motion while staying attuned to the breath.

Photo by J. Woods

Photo by J. Woods

The quarter mile walk, from our North Campus quarters to the dining hall on the main campus is another blessing of the weekend, a time to reflect if walking alone or a time to visit if in the company of others. After breakfast on this Saturday morning Christopher gave us a class in Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a Physical/mental practice for relieving emotional distress.   In his superb teaching manner, Christopher helped us learn the EFT basic recipe, i.e. The Setup, The Sequence, The 9 Gamut Procedures including the 13 meridian tapping points.  His class left us all with a tingling sensation. At our next small groups meeting we decided to do a psycho-drama session for one of our members.  It focuses on a part of his life he wanted to process and resolve.  One of the group, a psychotherapist by vocation organized the session.  Roles were assigned to the various group members.  As is common in psycho-dramas, the feelings that were brought up were most intense. In the afternoon we had discretionary time.  These were some of the extra-curricular activities that took place at this time and over the course of the retreat. (Click on the underlined links for photos)

  • Uwe Schroeter leading a hiking party to Battleship Rock (and a secret hot spring)
  • Bob Sugar, Doug Booth, Kyle Piorkowski and Jim Connolly playing guitars
  • Lawrence Cook playing the flute
  • Many men playing the drums
  • Rich Weiner playing the First Movement of Haydn’s Sonata on the piano
  • Arturo Portillo being the brashest baddest man around
  • Joseph and Uwe taking pictures
  • Mischke giving massages with his fabulous electric massaging machine
  • David Pease leading a discussion on conscious dying
  • Robby Beck going and taking others to the hot springs before breakfast
  • Richard tying to catch Tugboat Annie in the moonlight with Miguel and Lawrence as witnesses
  • Carl tooting his humongous hornsmudging
  • Jim Connolly as always being Mr. Computer Man
  • Lawrence Cook leading pasture ball
  • Mike Pedroncelli and Bob McMain as the two friendliest men on campus

The Fire Ceremony was great.  As usual Joseph did a wonderful job with the spiritual side of the ceremony this time assisted by Jon who admitted each retreater into the fire’s sacred space with a sharp rap to the sternum.  Even nature seemed to cooperate for darkness lasted until the ceremony was over, then just after completion, a full moon breached the ridges to the east, turning the huge ponderosas into an enchanted forest bathed in brilliant silver light.fire-circle

Sunday, day three

On Sunday after mediation, QI Gong, and our walk for breakfast, we again went into our small group for the final time.  This time our group had an intense session where we discussed the HSP (the Highly Sensitive Person), the ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), a group we all agreed Arturo belongedsticktakers-for-2012 to.  We also discussed the Indigo Child.  As usual we hated to stop what we were doing, even when it became time to tackle the packing and clean-up chores. Later on we had our final Talking Circle, one of my favorite NM Men’s Wellness traditions, where we talked about the retreat and how it had affected us.  Finally the stick was placed on the drum in the center circle.  A few seconds later it was picked up by the men who elected to lead next Spring Retreat – Richard Rubin, Arturo Portillo, Kyle Piorkowski and Gabe Jones. Next, we went outside for a group picture.  We had a final closing ceremony, where we thanked Christopher King for a job well done, went to lunch then headed to what Will Hoffman calls, the Real World.


Print This Post Print This Post


2 Responses to “A Blog from the 2011 Spring Retreat”


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] of an idea of what goes on at the Spring Retreat, check out the “blog” recorded and posted here from the 2011 Retreat.  Print This […]

  2. […] A few years ago (in 2011) a blog recording the events of the weekend (with lots of photos) was put together and published on this web site.  We invite any men (particularly new guys) who would like to get an idea of what goes on at a retreat to check it out at: http://www.nmmw.org/a-blog-from-the-2011-spring-retreat/. […]