If you lived in the desert and had never seen the ocean or a lake or even a bathtub filled with water, trying to explain what it is like to swim would take many words and not come close to touching the actual experience. Writing to you about our healing retreat for adopted people is like that. Just being in a room with eleven other people who are adopted and there to heal is often a first for everyone. It was a first for me, and I changed on contact. It was like I didn’t have to think before I had a thought. I came so easily to myself. I was more peaceful, more joyous, more at home in my body than I ever remembered feeling.
The understanding of what it is like to live the life of an adopted person filled the room, and so we as a group were finally speaking a language everyone around us understood. We could talk in a way that wasn’t bridging the gap of understanding. The understanding was already there.
There was an ease in the room talking about dealing with things such as secondary rejection, triggers, and being the ones who had to adapt to everyone else. People listened and spoke with bright eyes and nodding heads. There was a lack of effort in discussing how quickly we can go from fine to not fine because everyone in the room got it. Everyone in the room had been there and so there were so many tears and an amazing amount of laughter.
After a while, the healing focus became how do I integrate this type of joy into my life? When people experience their own joy, they get to feel life. It’s an undeniable experience that makes living in the body an entirely new experience. It’s like riding a bike for the first time. It’s good to have people around you to catch you and to cheer you on and to show you they too, are learning to ride and to see that they, too, can race down the street with the wind in their hair, happy.
When there is enough support and safety, life springs up in ways that are unexpected and delightful. At one point in the retreat, someone wanted to play a funny game that involved everyone lying on the floor and holding hands. The group was quick to jump up and fall into formation, laughing, happy, curious. Pam and I just went with it, and as a group we because this amoeba of joy. We were one.
The neighbor later told us that we sounded like a very happy bunch.
After everyone left on the fourth day, Pam and I looked at each other. “Did that just really happen?” I asked. She nodded. I knew it was going to be good because Pam and I had prepared and prepared and prepared, but I didn’t know it would be that good. I didn’t know I would be left awed by a group’s ability to love and transform and dive deep into feelings and ideas that for years and years they’d skated over, sometimes feeling fearful and alone.
I’d expected the community to be tight and deep and fun, but I hadn’t expected for the group to bond as tightly as they did as quickly as they did and as joyously. At one point I asked Pam where everyone was going as a group during break as I saw them head out, and she said, “I sent them on a treasure hunt.”
Of course she had. When it comes right down to it, the whole weekend was a treasure hunt.
I have gone to adoption conferences, and it was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by adopted people. I went to the Indiana Adoption Conference last year because Pam Dixon Kroskie, a person I had talked with on her podcast but had never met in person, decided I needed to attend, and she made it all happen. Adopted people are many things, and staggeringly generous and thoughtful are often two of those qualities. Pam is these things times a lot. I am going to her conference again this year to learn and to meet up with (now) old friends and to meet new friends.
But a conference is different from a retreat as the purpose isn’t specifically about healing. So much happens at conferences. You go to presentation after presentation and meet person after person. It’s like a waterfall of adoption. Our retreat is more like a mountain lake: a place to feel safe and contained. Nurtured. Attended to. Understood. You have invested money and time in your commitment to your own healing and sense of well-being, and so you have set yourself up for success. You believe healing is possible. You want to feel good.
I believe in the power of community to heal because something happened when I met Pam Cordano, a fellow adopted person. Just being with her changed me. It was like I was in junior high all over again and had found a new best friend, someone my developing body and mind said YES to—someone with whom I felt mirrored, challenged, and, best of all, deeply at home with in a way that let me both relax and step up my game. Being with Pam was fun, serious, wild, and it reminded me of who I wanted to be in the world, helped me be that person.
It helped that she was a therapist because she understood my brain and spoke the language of hope and healing that I’d been studying pretty much my entire adult life. I’d just never had anyone with such a similar background with whom I could compare life notes.
Together, Pam and I hold space for other adopted people to express themselves in ways that, as we saw last week, they never had before in their lives. We invite people to figure out what they need; we allow for immediate transformation; we allow for tears that threaten to last all day long. A key to our partnership is flexibility. Pam has been a therapist for so long and I’ve been a teacher for so long that we both are comfortable with the unexpected; we both cherish the surprising turns group work can take. Healing is serious work and it’s also play. It’s your life we’re talking about, after all. Being adopted is a big deal. Healing in community is, too.
This first group that came to Berkeley named themselves the Guinea Pig Group and made a secret Facebook page so they could stay in communication. Pam and I are watching them take open-hearted risks in their lives as, instead of playing small, these amazing people are coming from a place of expansion, of love and curiosity, and they are inspiring each other and us with their discoveries and stories.
Our next Berkeley retreats are July 19-22 and November 1-4. We’d thought we would travel straight away, but we loved the Berkeley house so much, the neighborhood, the restaurants, that we decided to hold off on hitting the road and settle in for a while first.
We hope you will join us.
This retreat was unbelievably helpful and beneficial. Anne and Pam were outstanding hosts, leaders, facilitators, and healers. Their ability to make people feel comfortable, encouraged, heard, and supported at any given moment or situation was absolutely life changing! I highly recommend this retreat to anybody that might be considering it.
Anne and Pam are so gracious, kind, intelligent, challenging, informed, creative, flexible, and FUN!! And they really understand the depth and scope of the adoption experience.
Loved all the writing exercises that drew us out.
As an adopted woman, I have often felt alone and without a community where I felt accepted completely. Attending Beyond Adoption: You, I truly felt connected, accepted, seen, held, and loved, and I have never had such deep belly laughs as I have had with this group: Anne brings depth, pure beauty, and a gift of understanding that allowed each person to see things in a new way. Pam brings her soft strength, light, and sound clinical wisdom to each moment. Come to you and come to this retreat.
Some thoughts about Pam and Anne’s adoptee retreat:
One main thought is that I am leaving here really wanting to make myself “big” instead of seeing myself as being small. I wish it was longer! I have learned a lot and would do it again.
A Very Satisfied Adoptee
It’s very easy for adult adoptees to find venues to tell the same old story. What is rare and hard and valuable is to find that safe space with encouraging questions and prompts in order to articulate a new narrative, a story, which is at once authentic and hopeful, a way forward. Anne and Pam have done that.
Pam and Anne are fostering a new narrative, engendering a fresh adoption story which is hopeful and healing and forward looking.
This retreat was the first time I was able to step away from the brokenness I felt in adoption and into something that allowed me to experience wholeness.
There was something so powerful about being surrounded by people who truly understand the experience of the adoptee.
Pam and Anne provided a beautiful and safe space to share in a way I’ve not been able to before.
Transformative. Create the foundation of a new beginning. Just f**king do it! You’re worth it.
This retreat was a safe haven for my adoptee self. Anne and Pam were very attentive to each individual, ensuring that everyone left with at least a few new experiences and a few gold nuggets. They went with the flow of the group and the experience was amazing and well worth the time and travel. I hope to do it again soon.
This retreat will be one of my most treasured memories and I have met so many wonderful people that I hold in my heart. It is an experience not to be missed!
This retreat was a tremendous experience. I felt immediately comfortable which I do not usually feel in groups unless I am leading them. As I sat, pieces of my puzzle clunked into place in ways I have not felt before. Lots of tears and even more laughter. Life changing!
Come to be seen. Come to be heard. Come to be supported. Come to laugh. Come to cry. But most importantly, come to be held.
The healing retreat this weekend was the most powerfully emotional experience I’ve had centered around being an adult adoptee. I appreciated being pushed, held, and asked to expand beyond my defaults.
This time shared in such an intimate, small group has changed me.
Thank you, Anne and Pam.
Upcoming retreat details:
Thursday, April 26: 5 – 9 pm (bring your dinner); Friday, April 27: 9 - 12, 2 - 5, 7 - 9:30; Saturday, April 28: 9 - 12, 2 - 5, 7 - 9:30; Sunday, April 29: 10 - 1 pm
Thursday, July 19: 5 – 9 pm (bring your dinner); Friday, July 20: 9 - 12, 2 - 5, 7 - 9:30; Saturday, July 21: 9 - 12, 2 - 5, 7 - 9:30; Sunday, July 22: 10 - 1 pm
Thursday, Nov 1: 5 – 9 pm (bring your dinner); Friday, Nov 2: 9 - 12, 2 - 5, 7 - 9:30; Saturday, Nov 3: 9 - 12, 2 - 5, 7 - 9:30; Sunday, Nov 4: 10 - 1 pm
1418 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94709
There is unmetered parking on adjacent streets. Let us know if you are planning on driving and we will get this information to you.
We will provide addresses to nearby restaurants and shops. You can store food at the retreat house.
What to Bring:
Comfortable clothes, a warm jacket, a journal and pen
Cost: $675 for retreat. Book a room with us in the retreat house or on your own. There are many cute and convenient Airbnb options close by.
If you cancel before April 1st we will refund $300 of your payment. If you have paid to hold a room in the house, the room deposit is non- refundable.
Anne Heffron: firstname.lastname@example.org 408.219.6404
Pamela Cordano: email@example.com 530.219.7430