On a frigidly cold morning in Vail, we finished breakfast and trudged up to Jay’s Cabin for the final leg of the first ever Mens Spiritual Retreat weekend at Jaywalker Solutions. The weekend had consisted of two days of intensive therapeutic work, one solo day coined as the “Day of Silence,” and one day of presentations. In the free time, we ate together, used the old-fashioned sauna, hiked, and spent time together as fellow men in recovery. If you have never spent any time at the Shrine Huts in Vail, I would highly recommend it. The locations solitude and rustic quality made it a perfect location for a men’s spiritual retreat. As we sat in a circle in the cabin with logs in the wood fireplace crackling. I felt a sense of anticipation as we prepared for the final session of the experience. We started the group with an introduction, then invited someone from the group to start the presentation ceremony. The assignments being presented encapsulated the themes and ideas talked about throughout the weekend, and to me, seemed very significant. The day before, this group of men had undergone a solo experience for 5 hours, in which they were asked to reflect on several pertinent questions. What is my masculine ideal? What are the barriers in my way to this ideal? What can I do to show up as my ideal self in the future? As the first man presented, I felt more than anything, a sense of deadly earnestness. It was clear to me that the embodiment of his ideal was relevant not only to him as a man, but as a person in recovery as well. That the culmination of his values in his life would be an integral part of his future life in recovery. It was a serious matter, and he knew it. As we continued around the room, I was pleased with the amount of time, effort, and thoughtfulness, that the men had put into the weekend. It seemed to me as though the atmosphere, the group, and the quiet serenity of nature all worked in unison to create a space of honesty, openness, and reflection.
It was a delight to see how all the components of exploring male sober identity were captured in the experience. The men ventured into solitude from the outside world, identified and dissected their old ways of thinking, engaged in an important trial, and reintegrated the experience back into their lives with a new vision of themselves, their ideals, and their relationship to others. The comradery, the times of vulnerability, the peace of nature, the ample hours, communication with others and silent reflection left me feeling both exhausted and recharged at the same time. In my view, the trip embodied many facets of what we try to do every day at Jaywalker Lodge, and recovery in general, for that matter; to create a space where recovering men can answer some deep questions about themselves, where they can integrate that knowledge into their lives, and where they can do it together as peers. I feel a sense of gratitude that I was able to participate in the inaugural trip, and I hope that their will be many more. As I sit here reflecting upon the experience I had in Vail, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotations:
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”-John Donne