Featured Team Members: Kendall R. E. Smith, MA, LPC, NCC
It has been a few weeks since we gathered with alumni parents at the EarthRise IONS Center in Petaluma, CA. Our inaugural Open Sky Alumni Parent Wellness Retreat was a full, wet, and beautiful weekend. The part that stands out to me today, as I look at the snowy, winter landscape in Durango is the incredible, near-constant, rain that we experienced.
As a wilderness therapist, I, at first lamented the downpour. It is different when parents come together for Open Sky events. We don’t just put on our rain gear and live outside the way that our students in the field do. Traditionally, Wellness Weekends are about raising self-awareness, identifying areas for growth, learning and practicing self-care. I worried that without time outside we would be missing an important aspect of reconnecting with the earth and feeling close to nature.
Friday evening before the rains came we were able to have an outdoor fire, started by bow drill, and culminating in group song! It was such a sweet experience to sit around the fire, and feel simultaneously connected with our current students in Utah and yet so present with the group of alumni parents that chose to spend their weekend with us in California.
Our time was marked by deep listening, developing an understanding for others and compassion for ourselves, sharing, and gaining new perspective. Every few hours we broke to share fantastic group meals. After a wonderfully engaging Saturday (up early for yoga/meditation and all the way through to stimulating after-dinner group discussion), I went to bed, hoping for a pause in the rain.
Somehow, perfectly timed, the rain slowed to a misty drip and the group on Sunday was able to walk the labyrinth and experience special moments just being in nature. In our closing circle participants shared how grateful they were for the rain. California has suffered a devastating drought, and the rain was experienced as a gift. One member shared that she felt the land was being “nourished” in the same way that the group had been nourished through their time together at the retreat. It was such a beautiful example of how the unpredictability of the weather and our response to it is wilderness therapy at its best.
If you are interested in attending an Alumni Parent Wellness Weekend, please contact: email@example.com for more information. Events are scheduled quarterly throughout 2017.
Alumni parent participant reflections:
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Open Sky Parents retreat weekend in California. What a treat to be with other parents who are on a similar journey as ours and to share in this common bond we have. The self-compassion and reflection skills I learned have stuck with me and I often use the breathing and relaxation techniques I learned from Norman and Kendall during our time there. I am forever grateful to Open Sky for providing not only a transformative and therapeutic environment for our son in treatment, but also for the ongoing support, kindness, and loving attention they provide for us as parents, and our family together.” Alumni Parent, Jill.
“The Open Sky weekend experience in Petaluma in the winter of 2016 was very positive for me. I enjoyed the meditation work which I need to handle my daily stresses and helped to move me into a therapeutic state of mind. The interaction with other Open Sky parents was very helpful as it included parents on both sides of my Open Sky experience spectrum. I heard the trials of the parents newer to the program and empathized with their efforts and learned from parents who were ahead of me in how their child had progressed since the program. The setting was just gorgeous and tranquil. Both convenient to the Bay Area and seemingly out in the country – quite a feat! The dorm-like accommodations were adequate and the food was better than I imagined it would be. Kendall and Norman have already impressed me with the depth of their knowledge in interpersonal relations. As expected, the personal work was challenging and on point and very helpful towards my personal growth as a parent, spouse and for myself.” Alumni Parent, David
“Norman and Kendall more than lived up to my high expectations. They do a wonderful job of creating an atmosphere where I felt really comfortable being vulnerable and authentic. It was also a great opportunity for a refresher on so many of the tools Open Sky introduced me to at the beginning of my journey.
I believe wellness weekend is a must for people looking to gauge their progress and process. The biggest difference between it and the original family weekend was the level of engagement amongst the attendees. Unlike the first meeting which was mandatory I found that the voluntary nature of wellness weekend attracted a really motivated and engaged group of people. It created great energy that really enhanced the experience.” Alumni Parent, Dan