When people ask what a Sixteen Stones seminar-retreat is like, I think of leaving my desk or my kitchen, putting on a jacket and heading out the door on a crisp fall day. Not to train for a marathon. Not to run an errand or shop or finish my visiting teaching. Just to walk. To take in the beauty of leaves and clouds and get my bearings in the world again.
I don’t take that time as often as I could. Sometimes it is a relationship challenge I stew in too long without getting any fresh air. Sometimes it is a loss I can’t resolve or a regret I can’t release that keeps me from putting one foot in front of the other. And sometimes grief or disappointment weighs so heavily I’m a little afraid to be alone with my thoughts and my tennis shoes.
We created Sixteen Stones because we’ve learned to value pulling off the expressways we all seem to live on to take a good look at the map – to follow that marker beckoning, “Scenic overlook ahead.” Without the mesmerizing hum of that engine running it is easier to listen to the wind.
Sixteen Stones is a small group of mental health professionals with training and experience helping people heal and change. We designed Sixteen Stones for ordinary people – people like us – struggling with challenges like facing disappointment, forgiving, finding a purpose, coping with regrets, or building more satisfying relationships. We draw on some of the best innovations in psychology, the timeless principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and our own experience as therapists, teachers, and run-of- the mill human beings to create a safe, respectful place for you to take a walk with your soul and see what it has to say.
We’ll surround you with trees and wildlife, settle you in with a fireplace or a cool fountain, and treat you to safety, respect, and good food. We’ll suggest questions to ponder and concrete tools to help you imagine the future and make sense of the past. And whether you want a little more support or more personal space, we’ll listen.
One of our favorite things about Sixteen Stones is something called a sandtray. A sandtray is a way to find out what your hands know that your brain hasn’t yet caught on to. It is a simple way for people (even utterly unadventurous people with no artistic talent) to let the part of the brain that doesn’t use words express its wisdom about where we are stuck, why, and what we might do about it. Occasionally sandtrays are not someone’s cup of tea, so we offer a variety of learning tools at every seminar-retreat. But most people find sandtrays amazingly thought-provoking – and really fun. After all, when was the last time you got to just play in the sand?
What to expect
At our retreats you will come to a homey, park-like setting for a day-long event with lunch included. After introductions, we will begin our exploration of the topic at hand using presentations, handouts, discussion, and sandtray. There will be time for personal reflection and individual guidance on your issue (if you desire). Your personal safety and comfort are our priority, and you are never expected to share with the group or the facilitator more than you wish to. You won’t be asked to do anything you don’t want to do, and there are spaces for individual reflection if you need a little time away from the group. Most people go home with a sense of significant healing around the issue they came to explore, as well as some specific action steps or ideas for the future as a result of the day.
So why do we do this? Because loving people have made safe places for us to stop and breathe for awhile, and we find it soul-satisfying to provide the same for you.