A year ago I was getting ready for a week long retreat in Napa Valley, taking part in an intensive program of introspection, journaling, group sessions, and taking a long look back at my younger self.
The program was the signature offering of The Hoffman Institute. I was part of a group of about 40 students, and we were there to delve into our past, our personal histories, patterns, coping skills, and to learn.
Hoffman is for anyone over 18. Most of the people in my group were 30s to 50s, with a few on either side of that age range. We had an amazing diversity of people who attended, and though we were strangers at the beginning of the week, by the end we were well acquainted, and cheering each other on.
Our goal was to learn from our younger selves, to see how we had come to our present selves, with all our baggage, habits, defense mechanisms, and blindness.
The reality is, being human, we all have our blind spots, our patterns, and our ways of viewing the world that we crafted from our earliest experiences.
It was a powerful week. We learned about ourselves, individually, and we learned about the group, to some extent. The structure of the program was respectful of privacy, and no one was embarrassed or put on the spot, or expected to share anything more than they chose.
A year later I’m still connected to several from the group via Facebook and texting, and we’re still supporting one another’s ups and downs. It was an experience unique in my life, and I would guess the others who attended would say the same.
A year later, I’m still aware of the lessons I learned, still practicing many of the tools and skills I gained during the week.
I don’t know of anything, other than my faith, that’s had a bigger impact on me.
I wrote a book that grew out of the experience.
I posted about the whole thing here. and here.
This isn’t a religious program, though there’s definitely recognition of the spiritual core of each of us. The goal is that each student does the important work of delving inside themselves, confronting damaging negatives, learning new skills, and learning to extend and practice forgiveness. The biggest challenge is to come out of the week leaving baggage behind, choosing new paths with intention and eyes wide open.
Hoffman isn’t about blaming others or playing into victim mentality. It is about being honest with self, recognizing how each of us repeats patterns and cycles, and really learning to see.
A small number of counselors lead whole group sessions, smaller group discussions, and meet one-on-one with each student, checking in throughout the week to monitor progress on written assignments, and offer support and guidance as students work through questions and realizations. The counselors and support staff are professionals through and through, compassionate, insightful, encouraging and bracing.
Trust me, whatever your story, whatever your history, whether you think you have issues to work out or not, you could benefit from attending this program. Anyone can benefit from this experience. Check the website, linked above, for details on the program, sessions schedule, and to connect to advisors who can give you details about the organization and the mission of Hoffman.
Here’s a great read, with an interview with one of the counselors who worked the week I attended Hoffman.
Even though it was a week in Napa Valley, it wasn’t a vacation…not by any stretch of the imagination. It was a week of work, and a week of confrontation with self. It wasn’t always fun, either. But it was rich, and worth it, so worth it.
Check it out. You might be surprised by the person you meet there.