Last updated on 5th June 2012
First morning of the "Mixed Group". We have been meeting like this - in an old converted watermill in Cumbria - nearly every year since the start of the 90's. This year's residential is a bit different. For many it's a 20 year reunion (or thereabouts). Sixteen old friends! Sounds a little like "The big chill" or "Peter's friends" or any of a whole series of other films and stories looking at "reunions". I've written a lot about these residential groups in this blog - see, for example, the group work links in "Update on website traffic: my own favourite top 15 ... ". Some - both Scottish & UK wide - are Mixed Groups, and some are Men's Groups. There are Women's Groups too in this loose network, but I don't get to go to these! The Cumbrian Spring groups are Mixed.
I've said in the past "I find a four part understanding of why people come to these peer groups quite helpful. The four parts are friendship, personal growth work, retreat/holiday, and outreach. I think for different people these four components carry different weights ... and their relative importance for individuals are likely to change too over time. So, for example, I might first come out of curiosity, a wish to work on myself (and how I relate with other people), and for a break/retreat/holiday. Later, reconnecting with friends may become the most important reason for coming. And for others, outreach, generativity, sharing and passing on becomes increasingly relevant."
We arrived bit by bit last night. Five couples and four not in a couple sat down for supper. Hopefully a sixth couple got here safely after most of us had gone to bed. Our full complement should be sixteen. Sitting here early this morning, I feel a bit disconnected from it all. I guess this is partly "parachuting in" from living such a busy, goal-directed life back up in Scotland. I know from of old that it can take me a bit of time to "arrive" psychologically into this four day "community". I guess the same is going to be true, more or less, for pretty much all of us. Making home & work arrangements for while we're away, for many of us sorting childcare, the longish journey to Cumbria itself by car or train. It is quite "magical" in a sense, this suddenly "appearing" to each other after months or, in some cases, years without meeting.
In some ways, I feel a little shy, a little "stand-offish". Still arriving. Almost as if my body is only slowly waking up, beginning to remember what it is to spend intense, "intimate" time with a big group of friends. Because of the "20 year reunion" tag to this group, we're a bit more homogenous than these annual peer groups often are. There are no "newcomers" this year. There's more of a feel for me, that friendship is a particular focus. How are these dear people doing now and in their lives? How am I doing now and in my life? And, in ways I don't really understand, I feel that my "brush with death" on Skye two weeks ago also colours my experience here in this group. Two weeks ago I was getting up after a very blowy, noisy, tent-flapping night in Sligachan campsite and making breakfast in the well-known environment of my two-man tent before heading up into the Cuillin and trouble. So very precious to be here now. To be with dear friends. To be aging together rather than broken or dead at the bottom of a cliff. Time to go to do some yoga, walk maybe, sit to meditate, dip in the stream.
See tomorrow's post for a description of our first full day.