I'm doing my volunteer work at Friends In Deed for the Mastery again this weekend. (I've written about it a few times before.)
It is an honor and a privilege to be in the presence of people who are so courageous and dealing with some very painful life events. I can't really share what anyone says specifically, but I will say that some of the main themes are usually: care-giving, grief, life threatening illnesses, and fear of financial insecurity - either from having been laid off, or worrying about losing a job, or just running out of funds. Body issues, for both women and men (although primarily women) is also a big theme.
All of us in the back row (the volunteers) have been through this workshop and we understand how powerful the weekend can be for most people. When each of us stands up and briefly describes our experience of having done the Mastery, it's unique to everyone, but always inspiring. I wish more people had access to this weekend, although it's best suited to people who are in crisis.
Then again, these days, so many people are in some kind of crisis and if they're not - they will at some point, probably dealing with care-giving in some form, or loss, or an illness. This is life in 2010.
What we learn in the Mastery is that we are not alone. And if we ask for help and we show up for others, the reward is knowing that we're part of a community of people who are strong and capable of dealing with just about anything that comes their way. We take those difficult experiences and use them in ways that we couldn't imagine - by writing about them in my case, or creating work that has more meaning for us, or going back to school, or just simply asking ourselves: what is it that I truly love and want to do in my life?
These questions originated when the Mastery was called "The AIDS Mastery" and just about all of the attendees were dying from AIDS and HIV. After the weekend, they thought of themselves as "living" with AIDS and HIV and though many still died, quite a number of them lived and are still living - rich and full lives. There were many lessons learned from this illness and still more than we need to learn. Accepting what is and living life fully, not playing it safe, in this moment are two important ones.