12 Nov The Path of Love Retreat
Can a week-long transformational workshop help singleton Rose Rouse open her heart to new love?
I’m an optimist but I was beginning to give up hope. I’d been unhappy in relationships – often with unavailable men. I’d been unhappily single in a needy sort of way. I’d become contentedly single by having a close community (of women and men who dance 5Rhythms together, who camp together in summer, who dance and socialise, by having a women’s group and other very dear friends). I didn’t have that special someone but I could be more vulnerable and intimate with these dear ones than I’d ever been with a partner.
And yet there was still a yearning there. I admitted it. I had one of my women’s groups round and I wrote a list of what I’d love in a relationship. I put it on my wall so that my intention was clear. I tried internet dating. I did various workshops like Meetings Without Masks. But I was still not meeting the right men. Or, I was still not open enough to attract the right man. I’d been hurt along the way and I could feel (and quite a few of my women friends were the same so I didn’t think it was odd) that my heart was protected against future pain.
So when a psychotherapist friend told me about this seven-day transformational group process called The Path of Love (www.pathretreats.com) last year, it just seemed right. I already knew how powerful groups could be. I’d done a year group with Malcolm Stern where I’d started to learn about my shadow side; I’d done the seven- day Hoffman Process which had helped me back to loving my mother; I’d been to Jan Day’s Living Tantra week where old sexual wounds were healed. Now it was time to open my heart to a potential lover…
What drew me to the Path of Love (POL)? The seven days factor. I knew that this was a substantial amount of time in which to immerse myself in the self-exposure that was necessary to change. I am a big believer in witnessed authenticity as a route to transformation. And my friend also mentioned that it was seven days of unconditional love. That swung it for me. It felt like exactly what I needed.
One chilly November morning, I find myself in a gorgeous stately home in Wales – roaring fires, great food, a range of different bedrooms – with 30 others about to embark on this challenging adventure. It takes courage to change and I know that the only way is to enter into the experience totally. It’s funny, I’ve always been a rebel, but now when it comes to these courses, I’m a goodie goodie, because I want to get the most out of them.
Created by Rafia Morgan and Turiya Hanover 18 years ago, POL has only recently arrived in the UK. They’re both here in Wales and as passionate as ever about what this seven days can do for people. “People tend to come when they want to work on themselves in a deep way. Path of Love is the fastest, deepest vehicle for transformation that I know of,” says Rafia.
“Everything in between the exercises is done in silence. No chatting over meals, because it would be a distraction from what’s happening on the inside”
The general format for the days is: dynamic meditation (it has lots of initial movement that leads to a sitting stillness) at 7am which allows us to get into our bodies and feelings. Then breakfast and shower, and meet in our groups of ten which have a couple of trained facilitators leading them. Lunch is followed by a break where we’re encouraged to reflect and write, before an afternoon of cathartic movement to release, dinner and a quieter evening of listening to meditations and singing. Everything in between the exercises is done in silence. No chatting over meals, for example, because it would be a distraction from what’s happening on the inside.
By day two, I’m having difficulty with one of my roommates and have upset one of the men who happens to be my buddy. The roommate has complained about snoring in the dorm and I feel unduly attacked because we had to confess to our night-time foibles before we arrived. The buddy – we’re supposed to keep a check on each other and generally be kind towards each other – is ignoring me.
However I know conflict is a rich area for learning and how we deal with it is an indication of where we are emotionally and spiritually. I decide to tackle – I transgress the silence rule briefly – my roommate outside the group in a direct way. I think I could have been a bit more loving. But I take the conflict with my buddy who is a man to be a reflection of my relationships with men. We were asked to give feedback that might help them, and I said I didn’t think he was in his sexuality. So I say sorry in the group and really mean it because I see how hurt he is. Then I use it to fuel the burn (this is POL speak for movement leading to catharsis) in the afternoon – I keep saying sorry to all the men I’ve been in relationship with, and allow myself to collapse into the sorrow of this. At various moments, I’m held by the staff in the most nurturing of ways. Oh so exquisite, which allows me to move into what I really want. A man who will truly meet me as an equal.
And then I begin to melt into my heart. My buddy and I become connected and so appreciative of one another. For me, the high point of the week is when we do a heart prayer: we walk round and round a room very slowly and sink into tenderness, stillness and love. There are hugs during this walk where I feel I have turned into a kitten. I can assure you that most friends don’t think of me as a kitten, more a tiger. But I relish my new kitten-ness.
There’s a lot more that I can’t tell you. It would be a book. I admit how ashamed I am that I’m not in a loving relationship. I admit the desolation I have felt in previous relationships with unavailable men. I dance like a crazy woman. I learn more about prayer – really putting poetic intention out there – and write one about gratitude. A rainbow appears just as I’m writing it.
By day seven, I am melting constantly. It’s such a joy to be in my heart and not in my head. It’s so important for me to practise being in this state for such an extended amount of time.
And a year later I am in a committed relationship with a mate who is more than meeting me. I’ve never in my life met such a devotional, emotionally intelligent man. I have to say I don’t think I’d have met him, unless I’d opened up