Everyone needs a personal retreat every now and then. My personal retreat comes each February, often on the week of my birthday. I start looking forward to attending the American Group Psychological Association conference many months before and miss it almost as soon as I step off the airplane back in SLC. Chad is so awesome to make every effort possible to accommodate my absence for this week. Bonus for him: no birthday celebration or present obligations!
AGPA is a 5 day conference and is held in really cool locations across the nation. Often those locations are in the frigid northeast so I was delighted when I learned this year’s AGPA would be in lovely San Francisco!
This year did not disappoint! In fact, it exceeded my expectations. I didn’t go to AGPA thinking, “I’m going to work on x,y,and z” but rather just an openness for the experience of it. And the personal work I ended up doing surprised me and was super powerful! Some of it involved grief work but most of it involved interpersonal struggles and the connections and feedback I received in my institute was perfect; exactly what I needed.
One of the most memorable moments of the conference, however, came outside the conference. One morning, one of my colleagues invited me and others in our group to ditch our morning workshops and spend three hours meditating in a zazenkai session at the famous San Francisco Zen Center.
Only three of us ended being able to take the morning off to do this excursion. Ironically, the workshop I ditched was “intro to mindfulness.” I decided a crash course would be more beneficial. And I was RIGHT! I honestly don’t think I can describe in a way that would give it justice, exactly what it was like to meditate for three straight hours! It was powerful and awesome. The session was led by a legit Buddhist monk (robes, shaved head, gong, bare feet, and all). We alternated doing silent sitting meditation for thirty minutes and then ten minutes of silent walking meditation (imagine walking at a tenth of the speed you normally walk to get an idea of what walking meditation entails). We repeated this over and over for three hours. I can’t summarize the experience because each “episode” of meditation was different for me (I almost fell asleep in one of them). I noticed I have a very active mind and it required a lot of attention to stay present. But the effort was worth it. After the zazenkai, I felt physically like I had just had a massage and that I had this invisible, light, warm blanket around me. I felt blissfully tired and hesitant to re-join reality. Definitely going to try to find a place in SLC to do similar meditation work!
Other highlights of the week included hopping a cable car and touring the city with one of my friends from grad school and favorite people: Jenn Alonso!
The food this trip was also a highlight! I drool just thinking of some of the yummy meals I shared in the company of good friends!
I also fell in love with the Uber app which rewarded me and my friends with the opportunity to see this at sunset:
Our Uber driver was super accommodating.
I also got to meet my therapy HERO this week: Irvin Yalom!
You might call him the God of Group Psychotherapy. He came and gave a plenary speech at the conference and then signed books afterwards. When I met him I said, “Would it be creepy if I told you, you changed my life?” He smiled and said, “No that sounds very nice.” Seriously this man influences my therapeutic work every day! I spent so many hours in grad school watching his group therapy training videos and reading the bible of group therapy books: The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (it’s highlighted more than my scriptures). He’s written lots of books but my favorite of his, as well as my favorite therapy-reference is, The Gift of Therapy.
Oh, I also got to see a talk by Phillip Zimbardo, another God in the field of psychology (think Stanford Prison study). But I left his talk half way through to have a wonderful sushi dinner with one of my all-time besties: Robin!
And finally, AGPA wouldn’t be AGPA without the DANCE!
How often as adults do we get opportunities to Get our Groove on outside of sleezy club scenes (which who would ever frequent once married and outside their twenties?)? Yeah, um, never. This is my yearly dance therapy. This dance is a voyeuristic delight as people between 22 and 85, of a variety of ethnicities and sexual orientations, are all unabashadly throwing their bodies around in dance-like-movements to a live band singing a wicked rendition of “Love Shack”! It’s SO GRIN-PLASTERED-TO-FACE AWESOME!
The downsides of this six day retreat included a lovely sinus infection (that didn’t impede me too much with the aid of medications) and missing some good friends who couldn’t attend this year’s conference. But it was great to connect more with my colleagues/friends, as well as meet some new and amazing people. Hopefully next year some of those peeps I missed will be able to come and complete the experience!
I just LOVE AGPA! What a highlight of my year and a bonus that I get over 1/2 my required CEs from this indulgent retreat! Just the medicine I needed this time of year!
PS I did not wear that flannel shirt each day of the conference! In fact I was dressed quite professionally during the conference but threw on jeans and the comfy flannel for excursions and the like!