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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Transgender Spiritual Retreat

I'm off for a few days of renewal and self-reflection to Hot Springs, North Carolina.

It's been an incredibly busy summer, not the quiet one I hoped for.

Kindred Spirits is "a global network based in the Southern Appalachians near Asheville, North Carolina since 1993." They put on a spiritual retreat every year where people get together to think about and be in the presence of the "spirit of transgender."

A friend told me about it, and it sounded awesome. So we're driving down together.

"Each of our four days together, we share in daily sacred circles. Our Laurel River hike culminates in a ritual swim-frolic. Special teaching sessions will be offered by some of our veteran attendees, often including various intuitive and shamanic sorts of work. Our ceremonies climax on an ancient Cherokee bald mountaintop with a 360-degree vista. This retreat can be a life-changing experience for you, connecting with your trans-spiritual family, as well as launching you further along your own spiritual path. You are encouraged to bring your own unique visions and expertise to share within this powerful gathering of your own kindred spirits."

Whoa, right? I hear the cell service is hit or miss, and I'm not sure about the internet. Here's some more about the retreat.

There are people from various spiritual and religious backgrounds, shamanic traditions, Native American cultures, Buddhists, Druids, and me with my bagels-and-lox Judaism, but also a long background in Biblical and Talmudic (even some Kabbalistic) studies.

I talked to Holly Boswell, the founder of the group. I asked her about the issues of cultural appropriation that concerned me, and she assured me that the retreat does not attempt to appropriate other cultures' spiritual practices.

Here's a little snippet from an article by Ms. Boswell, entitled "The Spirit of Transgender":

What brings us to this place we call "transgender" -- this way of being that needs to redefine, transform, and recreate itself in a world that insists we must conform to our genitals? Perhaps there was an itch in the groin. Most assuredly, there was an ache in the heart. And let's not discount all the mental anguish.

Researchers are investigating causative factors such as chromosomes, unique hormonal configurations, and of course psycho-social influences.... but I ask you: what do you believe it is that made you transgendered? Was it the itch, the ache, the anguish... or was it also something else? -- something most people can't define, something called "spirit".

This "body-heart-mind-spirit" pattern is an age-old, universal construct. Most of us spend a lot of our lives in the "body-mind" mode. Some of us manage to also be in "heart space". But how many actually visit the dimension of "spirit" -- even a few times, much less regularly? I have observed, however, that many transgendered people not only visit this dimension -- out of necessity -- but are often coming from this place.

I'm really looking forward to this.

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