Nov. 30, 2007, Vol. V Issue 21
Have you ever let yourself off the hook? Well, I did that in mid-October when it was time to get out this e-news. I just had to give myself a break. It’s been a real pain (literally!) to adjust from an active lifestyle, and what I thought my life was about, to one as a patient (as I wrote in my last issue, I’ve had an arthritis flare-up in my knees) with chronic pain. And so I’m finding that while adding all the doctor’s appointments, new routines, etc. to my regular agenda, I’m having to be more flexible overall and accepting of how things are rather how I want them to be. Humph!
Actually, despite the inconvenience, I managed to hobble to a lot of events this fall, so I have quite a backlog to share. I’ve wanted to tell you more about Pasha Hogan ever since we connected last year, and as you loyal readers know, I always like to do that within the context of an event. This story is about a retreat for breast cancer survivors, and the theme, “Time to Live,” couldn’t be more appropriate for me. So, that’s our feature story today.
It’s good to be back in the writing saddle again. Thank you for patience. Please keep your inquiries coming. I’ve been doing lots of research for clients so my resources are running wide and deep. I’m grateful to have a job that I can handle while healing.
Time to Live
When Debbie Denitto first contacted me regarding a speaker for a breast cancer survivors’ retreat, it was immediately clear to me that this was a very special assignment. Sponsored by Wellspring, a service of Winchester Medical Center (WMC) in Winchester, Virginia, they wanted to create an intimate retreat for women in their first year of recovery from breast cancer. This was not to be a discussion of treatment options or other medical topics, but to focus on emotional and spiritual issues and to have some fun!
Debbie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago when she was 44, helped organize it along with fellow breast cancer survivor Phebe Burgess. They both work at Valley Health, parent company of WMC and were inspired by a retreat sponsored by Johns Hopkins that was rejuvenating for both of them after their first year of cancer treatment.
It was clear that she didn’t want someone to come in and just speak to the women. What she was looking for was someone who could go deep – an empathetic and compassionate facilitator, and as this was their first retreat, someone who could help them design it. Pasha Hogan, a 3-time breast cancer survivor and psychotherapist I’d recently connected with came immediately to mind. I’d been impressed by her holistic and creative approaches to re-igniting the fire in women’s souls. As a survivor, she had the credibility of shared experience. As an artist, she brought creative innovation into her programs. As a psychotherapist, she had professional counseling skills. As a practitioner of meditation, yoga and Reiki, she was tuned into spiritual and holistic healing modalities. As luck would have it, Pasha, who lives in New Mexico, was scheduled to be a guest speaker at the Young Survival Coalition annual conference in Virginia, where Debbie and Phebe could go meet her in person months before their event. As things turned out, it was a match made in heaven.
The retreat was held in September at Capon Springs Farm, a family run resort, surrounded by forested mountains, miles from civilization, with no televisions, computers, cell phones or locks on the doors. “I almost expected Nellie Olson to skip in front of me as I walked down the dirt road in response to the dinner bell,” Pasha said. “All the meals were home cooked and delicious. The venue really was extraordinary in that it truly was out of the ordinary. I felt as if I had stepped into another time and into the heart of nature. We were surrounded and held in a container of natural beauty which helped set the stage for the magical and transformative experience the women experienced in such a short time.
“I was so thrilled to participate in this retreat,” Pasha said. “Twenty-two women from the area congregated for a day and half not knowing what to expect. Almost all of the women were strangers to each other except for the fact that cancer was no stranger to all of them. We came together to reduce the sense of isolation and fear that a cancer diagnosis can bring.” Each participant paid a $49 registration fee. The food, lodging, and the guest speaker’s fee were paid for with proceeds from the Pink Ribbon Luncheon held earlier in the year.
“We served as compassionate witnesses for each other as we agreed to confidentiality and set some guidelines on the values we would like to live by together for the next couple of days,” she said. “I shared some personal stories and experiences as a means of connecting with them before their personal introductions began. One of the things I did was introduce the ‘Myth of the Half Girl’ and we formed a new circle based on where people identified with the story. The entry point for our journey together was wherever they were in their own journey, honoring how far they have already come and acknowledging it is a spiral — it is not a linear journey and no place is better or worse than another.”
Pasha led them through various exercises, all designed to guide them in getting in touch with their hopes and dreams and expressing themselves from a heartfelt place “It was wonderful to see the women so excited, trusting the images that emerged, without knowing why, discovering buried parts of themselves, and witnessing them trust the process and their intuition. They were fully engaged in realizing that this is a time to live.
“The breathing and meditation exercises I shared with them were also very popular and I have been receiving emails on how many of them are using the techniques and experiences of the retreat to create more loving and kind relationships with themselves and opening up to all the wonderful possibilities that they are now seeing for themselves going forward — creating a life and lifestyle that serves who they are now.”
“The retreat gave the women time away from family obligations and the luxury of concentrating totally on themselves,” Debbie said. “Their lives have been turned upside down after a cancer diagnosis and year of treatment. I had been wanting to do this retreat for a very long time and couldn’t have been more pleased with how it all turned out. We plan to have Pasha back next year.”
“It was incredible to me how deeply and honestly the women connected,” Pasha said. “My intention was to create a container of beauty where their own beauty could be reflected back to them in the eyes and voices of each other. I feel truly blessed to have been connected with this group of amazing women. Basically, by the end of the retreat, it felt like a big love fest!
“My work feeds my soul. My life has been my greatest teacher. There are no detours, only magnificent opportunities to become more fully alive!” Pasha concluded.
Pasha is not only a talented facilitator and workshop/retreat leader, she can inspire an entire room to embrace life fully. Through her workshops, speaking engagements and private practice, Pasha’s mission is to empower individuals to live passionately and transform life challenges into profound learning and healing experiences. To learn more about Pasha Hogan and her background, please visit our website.
Watsu® – What’s Up, Doc?
Hmmm. It’s been an interesting (and demanding!) few months, seeking relief from pain, from doctor to doctor, through test after test etc. etc. And, interestingly enough, the most effective relief I’ve received from pain is from warm water therapy – not prescribed by anyone either I or my health insurance provider is paying — but suggested by my dear friend, speaker and water baby, Winalee Zeeb, as well as Denise Medved, another Nia trainer and speaker. Do I have friends in the right places, or what? They both suggested water therapy and Watsu®. If you don’t know Watsu® either, let me just suggest you google it and find your nearest practitioner for relief from stress or any malady. Simply put, it’s water massage in trusted hands in a warm water pool – pure surrender, relaxation and heaven on earth.
I share this with you not to belabor my personal situation, but to make the point that we are all the CEO’s of our healthcare and we can be influential in sharing what we learn and know with our professional healthcare providers. Neither the two orthopedists I’m seeing nor the pain specialist I saw yesterday had heard of Watsu®. To the credit of my physical therapist, he agreed that warm water therapy – working out in a 94 degree pool — would do me much more good than land exercises.
All through this I have been conscious and determined to be the CEO of my own healing. I take notes at every appointment and share each session with the next healer I visit. My intention is to keep all of them in the loop so they will have the benefit of all their colleagues – orthopedic MDs, my family doctor, osteopath, chiropractor, acupuncturist, physical therapist and spiritual advisor. I think the sharing benefits all of them – and it gives me satisfaction and a sense of participation.
My point is that professionals do listen. So if you’re going through a health challenge, question and share what you learn. And if you have suggestions for me, for arthritic knees and leg pain, I’m open!
Until next time, be good to yourself for your good health and those you love.
PLEASE NOTE: The information shared in this e-news is designed to help you make informed decisions about speakers and the programs they offer. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment prescribed by a doctor. If you suspect you have a medical problem, seek competent medical help.