Fall 2013 STAR News
In This Issue:
Be sure to use the attachment at the end to help prepare you to have better family holidays this year!
They say there’s no place like home for the holidays, and yet, for many, being with our family of origin can be challenging. Here are a few thoughts and strategies you may find useful.
Ken and I noticed while attending a celebration of his mother’s 80th birthday, ways he was still treated like the baby of the family. His five siblings would correct him; he would make a suggestion that was ignored but someone else would proffer the same idea a few minutes later and it became a great idea. Although it didn’t feel good, he was able to see that, in the eyes of his family, he was still “the baby.” By noticing and no longer taking these things personally it helped us both have a better visit. It is helpful when we are able to notice subtle accommodations we make during these visits that support the old family patterns. With awareness, we have the power to change.
In another vein, I remember when we used to drive our 13 year old a few hours away to visit his mom, how we watched him regress. He would leave home with us a relational, fun teen and the closer he got to his old home place, the more he would become upset at the smallest things, and his voice sounded like he was about six years old. His role in that family was to be the helpless one and to be sure mom knew she was needed.
Most of the behaviors at family gatherings are predictable because all families create roles for various members and we continue to play these roles as adults even though they are no longer needed. Growing up you had a “job” to do and you did it well. That mode of being helped you survive and get your needs met … then. Now when you visit family it can be frustrating and even hurtful to be with some family members for even a short time. And, sometimes we find ourselves behaving in less than helpful ways or engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
Often we keep hoping things will get better. We even attempt to change things. How is it possible to have a better experience with family? Truthfully, you’ve already done the hardest part. You’re aware that something is off and you’ve made a commitment to create a different outcome. Now, what steps can you take? First, assess the situation and make some choices that will serve you before family arrives. For example, do you need to curb the amount of time in the company of family? How can you be certain you are resourced during the time you are there? Here are some suggestions you may find helpful:
Heighten your awareness of behavior patterns. For example, you know your sister will make a few cutting remarks. And mom will tell you how many days she slaved to get things just right. Dad will ignore you and brother will smile and change the subject when you ask him a straight question. And, you may find yourself drinking an extra glass of wine or eating non-stop. You may watch yourself withdraw and feel hurt or perhaps get angry and act out.
It’s important to stay as resourced as possible. Take care of yourself. Remember to slow things down and breathe. Sometimes in the middle of a heated discussion, you can excuse yourself. “I’ll be right back.” The restroom can be a safe haven when needed. You may need to get a drink of water or a bite of protein to tide you over. Anything that will create a break in the escalating conversation that you know is going nowhere can be helpful.
Do some work on yourself before the family visit. Knowing what the patterns are and what you can expect, dig a bit into your family memories. Ask yourself, “What role did I play in my family? What was my ‘job’?” See if you can get a sense of yourself as a kid. Were you the good kid, the one who always had to be perfect? Were you, perhaps, the one who took care of everyone else, making sure everyone was happy? Or, maybe you were the scapegoat, the brunt of all failures, the one who could never do anything right. There’s also the role of the clown or the one who distracts or covers up what is actually going on so no one sees “the elephant in the living room.” Were you the invisible one who had no voice, the “lost” child?
After you get a sense of the role you played, see if you can remember a time as a young child that would exemplify your “job.” Where were you and what were you doing? Take a breath and notice any sensations in your body, how that feels. Now, ask yourself, “What self talk might that ‘Little One’ have engaged in?” Thoughts such as, “I guess I’m not lovable; I must be bad; something must be wrong with me; I’m not good enough” are common. See if you can imagine what yours might have been. These early attempts to make sense of our world become our beliefs about ourselves and feel like “Truth.” And, we continue to reinforce and act from these beliefs as though they were true.
As a caring adult now, when you look at your situation as a child within your family, what would you say is the real “Truth” about this Little One? Is she really unlovable? Is he really not good enough? No! If you can, just now, see if you can experience yourself as the Wise Adult telling your Little One the real truth. Find your own words that fit, such as, “You are lovable; you are capable; you belong here, etc.”
Now, write your statement(s). “I am lovable and/or I am capable and/or I belong here, etc.” Take a breath and even say them aloud. Put them in a place where you can see them. This becomes your affirmation, your touchstone. Your family may not yet (and may never) see your Truth. However, when you feel it inside, their responses are less triggering, less hurtful. This may allow you to be with those you love and keep your cool.
The accompanying worksheet will walk you through this process. It has certainly been helpful for me and for many of our recent STAR® Retreat grads. I hope you will find it useful to help create a meaningful holiday season for yourself and your family.
Increasingly, more STAR® Grads find their way to another STAR® Retreat. We wanted to know if they felt like something went wrong or that they “didn’t get it” the first time so we did some research. Quite to the contrary, grads seem clear that at each STAR® Retreat there is a deeper level of work to do and on the other side, a greater capacity for the true goodness of life. We discovered that “repeating” STAR® is not really repeating at all. Not only have many STAR® processes evolved, but each participant has evolved as well. As facilitators, we work to tailor each grad’s experience toward their current needs. Recently we assigned four grads to the same small group and discovered that they were able to delve into different aspects of their healing process. We spoke with a few grads to get their perspective regarding their repeat STAR® Retreat.
Shelly said, “The first time I was at STAR I had an eye opening experience that allowed me to become unstuck and move forward, especially in critical decision-making. In my second STAR Retreat I was able to heal a whole different level of hurt and shame that I carried for years. Now I can own my story—not just in words but in color, shape, and feeling along with its positive affirmations. I am the author and illustrator of my life—and now I have the ability to change my life direction, and allow for a new future even if the road is rocky or the mountain before me is a dandy to climb. Since my second STAR my children have their creative, fun loving mother back. It is gratifying to experience us moving forward as a family in so many areas.”
Karen related her story: “The work I did at STAR and the ongoing work after changed my life immeasurably for the better. And my life continued to improve. At the same time, the unhelpful patterns built up over a lifetime have a way of re-exerting themselves. So, after much thought, I decided to return to STAR. This time, I could experience it without skepticism because I knew—powerfully, experientially—that STAR works. I returned to STAR with specific goals in mind. And thanks to the guidance of the gifted, hard-working, and exceptionally compassionate facilitators, I was on track to achieve them. This was such a good place to be and I was filled with renewed hope for living the kind of life I had long dreamed about. This would be a reasonably satisfactory summary of the impact of STAR except that it leaves out something central. Beneath, perhaps beyond, the conscious goals I had set, STAR was operating at even deeper levels. The experience of my second STAR Retreat led me to a massively life-enriching existential shift in my consciousness. While my life isn't (and won't ever be) perfect and the old patterns haven't totally vanished, STAR has helped me understand myself and how I relate to others in revelatory and healing ways.”
Rachel readily shared about her STAR® Retreat experiences: “When people act surprised that I would spend so much time and money to repeat STAR I remember that no one questions those who redo their kitchen or finish out their basement. Healing my psyche and my life is so much more important and rewarding to me than that. They’re remodeling their house, I’m remodeling my life!
I have to say, the program is very rich. Each one has been extremely rewarding and healing. Having returned to STAR a number of times, I can say that each time, I go deeper into the dynamics of my family of origin and formative life events, and I strengthen the use of new approaches and tools. On repeat STAR Retreats I have been able to go deeper into certain themes, such as fear, boundaries, or just working through grief. A repeat STAR is also a richer experience because so many of the staff know me, and I them. I’m able to open immediately into the experience. Going to STAR feels like “coming home.” The work we all do at STAR—the facilitators and the participants—is always life changing.”
Ever wonder if a repeat STAR® might help you move to your next level, give you the support you need to create the life you want? If you consider returning, please give us a call so we can support you in your process and help you create the most appropriate goals for your next STAR® Retreat. Also, check in with Diana about the discount for graduates coming back to STAR®.
This past year we had the wonderful privilege of having several families send members, one to each STAR®. For example, we had one participant who came home and visited with his mother-in-law. She said to him, “I don’t know what happened to you but I want it!” And she signed up for the April STAR® the next day. His wife attended in July and her sister in October. The wife of one of our facilitators came in January, their daughter-in-law came in April and their daughter came in July. Upon going home, many spouses of grads realize that they, too, would benefit. We see how many families are helped when more than one member has an opportunity to do their deep healing work at STAR® Retreats. Please let us know how we can support you to help any of your family members or friends receive the healing gift of STAR®.
During our half hour interview, Barbara spoke about her new, creative ventures and adventures. She pondered, “How do I go beyond STAR?” Barbara was inspired by an image of circles within circles. “I’ve always seen consciousness as linear, but in my recent vision I saw consciousness as expanding circles of awareness with each individual in the center. The lines or membranes between these circles were permeable to the energy radiating from without or within, from one ring to another.” Seeing these levels of awareness, which contain the stories that impact our lives, she developed a weekend retreat called, “The Stories of Becoming.” Barbara explains, “The first story, held in the innermost circle, is that of the individual; the next circle includes the parents’ stories; the next, the grandparents’ stories. We live within interrelated stories from the past with possibilities of ever-expanding consciousness in the future. Stories of ancestors, immigrations, calamities, break-throughs, the Earth and the environment, Spirit, and the Cosmos all have influence. We are more connected than we think we are.”
Barbara’s next scheduled event is her annual retreat, the 4-day “Celebration of Spirit & Life.” The event will be held at Kenyon Ranch over the New Year holiday from December 28 to January 2. Ed Aguilar, Apache Shaman, will assist Barbara in leading this celebration that will give attendees an opportunity to consider their gifts, look at what they have accomplished, assess their power to move forward, and create a vision of what they would like to accomplish in the coming year. Ritual, art, sharing, and joy—a wondrous celebration! Barbara reminds us, “We carry stories with us, whether they are rocks or wings, and transformation is possible at any time!”
We are once again excited to offer the STAR® Retreat Facilitator Certification Program this spring. The on-site five-day retreat will be held at Kenyon Ranch March 19 – 23, 2014. The training will also include some teleconference seminars to discuss the applications to STAR® Retreats of the latest research and practices in attachment theory, the new neurosciences, and trauma. In addition to the 5-day intensive training new facilitators will serve on staff at a mutually agreed-upon STAR® Retreat to complete the Certificate requirements. If you find that you have integrated your STAR® experience and feel called to serve in this way, we invite you to contact Diana for more information and an application.
We asked Pernille to give us an update of her experience since completing STAR® and her doctoral degree. She writes: This year has been one of major “outer” transitions for me: I graduated with my doctorate in Psychology at the beginning of the year, started working as a psychotherapist, turned 30 and finished a professional training in somatic (body-oriented) psychotherapy which I am really passionate about. It looked as though I was all set for my professional life, but not so. It’s becoming clear to me that finding an external structure that will allow me to express my service to the world from a place of deep inner truth is going to be the real journey—one that I am entering with a sense of both anticipation and vulnerability. My inner life, too, is full of transitions, since one of the things I took with me from STAR is a deep dedication to continuous inner work. My STAR experience allowed me to work with some important pieces of my early wounding, but even more significantly I see it retrospectively as a sort of laboratory or playground for developing intense practices of self-exploration and healing that I have taken with me into my everyday life. In the spirit of “retreating,” I have made it a habit to make space for myself as often as I can to do “micro STAR’s” with myself where I engage in practices such as journaling, artwork, visualization, contemplation in nature and different embodiment practices for a period of time (sometimes just a few hours, when I am lucky, or when I can, an entire day). I do this with the purpose of staying in touch with myself, to continue my growth, and simply because I enjoy it and it enriches my life. It has become a real important part of my life, one that I am hoping to be able to share more with others in the future.
If you’ve done STAR® in the last 30 years, you know Diana Barrett, STAR® Foundation’s Administrative Director. You’ve spoken with her on the phone; perhaps you’ve also met her during a STAR® Retreat. You’ve benefitted from her organizational skills, her attention to detail, her helpfulness as well as her kindness. Diana has been working with STAR® in several capacities since she did her own STAR in 1977. In fact, it may be a surprise to those who’ve done STAR® since 1996 to know Diana was previously the Chef when STAR® was located at Pocket Ranch. And what a chef she was!
She also shares her skills with her local community as a volunteer, and in 2013 was named Geyserville’s Citizen of the Year. Diana has served as the long-time Treasurer for the Chamber of Commerce and also serves the vital role of carrying the Chamber’s history to those members unfamiliar with it.
When I asked why she’s stayed with the STAR® Foundation for so long Diana replied, “I love the work—it’s a really good fit for me. I love working with people. I know I make a difference to participants on the phone, and at the retreats I make a difference to both participants and staff. It means a lot to me. My skills come easily to me (and with them) I make everything work well at STAR, all the mechanics. Everyone can count on things to happen with clockwork. Helping make everyone else feel safe and secure enriches my life.” We definitely feel cared for, Diana, and are so grateful for all you do. Congratulations on being named “Citizen of the Year” in your home town. You deserve it!
2013 has been a busy year for the STAR® Foundation and we are planning some important projects for the coming year.
Our new co-directors, Marti Glenn and Ken Bruer, are doing a great job of carrying on with STAR® Foundation programs. They created a Facilitator Certification Program that is not only giving new staff an excellent foundation, but benefitting our veteran staff as well. With Marti and Ken at the helm, the STAR® Retreat continues to transform lives and we just had our best enrollment since 2010.
One really exciting development I’d like to share with you is the new name for our 10-day program—STAR® Retreat. We all casually talk about having done “STAR” and refer our friends to “STAR.” But when they try to find us on the internet, that beloved name simply gets us lost among a wide variety and a multitude of choices. However, if you search for “STAR Retreat” we come to the top. So, remember when you refer friends and family, or if you are looking for the website yourself, it’s the STAR Retreat.
In addition to ratifying the new name of STAR® Retreat, the Board of Directors also approved new vision and mission statements for the STAR® Foundation. Our new Vision Statement is:
The STAR® Foundation provides nurturing intensives where adults experience empowerment and inspiration, and are given tools to transform their lives. Within the next three years we plan to increase our therapy retreats to five per year. We will also provide intensive facilitator training to qualified applicants once per year. Furthermore, we intend to strengthen the STAR® Foundation as a dispersed educational and healing community that continues to empower its members in their lifelong quest for wholeness.
Our new Mission Statement is:
To provide nurturing intensives for individuals to transform their lives
We’ve started updating the website to reflect some of the recent developments. You can already find our new co-directors on the home page; be sure to link through and read about their credentials and what they bring to the STAR® Retreat program. You’ll see some new faces on the STAR® Retreat staff page and some changes on our Board page. Keep checking http://www.starfound.org —there’s more to come.
We have already started preparing to make an application for accreditation of the STAR® Retreat as an Outpatient Treatment program. This is an important process and will take us at least a year to prepare. We are excited about the benefits to our participants, staff, and organization—we are already seeing some of these benefits and can anticipate many more.
Last, but not least, did you notice that we have some new writers for our newsletter? We enlisted a crew so we can publish our newsletter on a regular basis. We want to thank Susan Highsmith, Mike Roll, and Dana Hickman Williams for helping with this issue. Marti, Ken, and I round out the authors.
If you were exchanged in the cradle
and your real mother died
without ever telling the story
then no one knows your name,
and somewhere in the world
your father is lost and needs you
but you are far away.
He can never find
how true you are, how ready.
When the great wind comes
and the robberies of the rain
you stand on the corner shivering.
The people who go by--
you wonder at their calm.
They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind,
"Who are you really, wanderer?"--
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
"Maybe I'm a king."