It's been just over 2 months now, since it happened. The 1st Crystal Wisdom & Wellness Conference is behind me / us now. Though I've already scheduled the next one, I want to look back, and take stock of what happened.
The value of retrospection is not just a way of learning more from an event. It's also a way of holding onto the value, and sharing it with those who were there, as well as piquing the interest of those considering coming in the future.
I've been putting on Meditations and Workshops for years now - I know how it's done - but putting on a daylong event was outside my comfort zone. I didn't know I could do it. I wanted to deliver more (or different) than I had thus far, and I wanted help in doing it, to add dimension to the experience.
WHO'S COMING & IS IT WORTH IT
So I put feelers out - maybe not for this time - but for the future: who could present what, and how would that look. I also wanted to vet attendees - so I could feel comfortable that everyone present would play well with the others - and not end up challenging the flow of the group dynamic. Instead of putting up a ticket link, I crafted a handful of questions into a Survey, for folks to fill out as a kind of prerequisite, or "application."
That worked - it was free - and attracted only folks seriously considering attending. Some were from far afield - often people don't realize just how far - and that it'll cost at least a thousand dollars extra (on top of the event fee) to travel. You have to factor in travel and lodging (for a single day event), is it worth it?
So one of my questions was about what people felt comfortable paying. Now, I simply have a price tag for attendance - sometimes with an Early Bird discount - because regardless, I have to cover my own expenses. And my hope is that - now that the cat is out of the bag - and I have favorable reviews people will consider traveling from further afield I most definitely think it's worth it!
HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 (sort of...)?
There I was though, with no idea what to expect, going into it. I was a bit over ambitious, as you can imagine. You definitely want to over deliver. But once it's done - especially reviewing the attendees post-event questionnaires (and conducting an internal, moral inventory of what worked and what didn't, for me) - it's so much easier to map out the day and tweak whatever worked into working better next time.
PRIORITIES AND OUTCOMES
It's all about priorities - what you want to put time into - and that's the crux of the day's meaning.
We take time out just for us - individually, collectively, and in the context of a supportive community - to learn together, deepen our own Spiritual practice...and generally accelerate the trajectory of our own Personal Growth process.
What does that really mean (you might ask). If you have to ask what it means to "accelerate the trajectory of our Personal Growth process" - I'm speaking over your head (for which I apologize) - or perhaps you haven't fully stepped onto that path. Anyone who's struggled - who's striven for better, believes in Self Improvement - and has an automatic interest in speeding things up...not making the same mistakes over and over again. That's our mission: to stay on the high road, to avoid common pitfalls, and keep holding ourselves to a standard of our own personal best practices.
I won't know till after volume two whether I've truly learned all I could from the first event - but the main thing I did learn - is that all of the above happened. It was a magical time, new friendships were made, and old ones were cemented. There was a strong sense of community, and we most certainly advanced our collective and individual practices.
GATHERING VERSUS CONFERENCE
Interestingly, as volume one was taking shape, I learned something immediately, before it ever even happened. I realized a month before the date, that it was more appropriate to call it a Gathering than a Conference. Conference felt stuffy - like a bunch of presentations and break out sessions - which was not (as it turns out) what I was offering.
I wouldn't have minded a Conference, it sounds like a great time. But that's not where it was headed. I wanted something more participatory - less of a top down experience - because audience involvement (including everyone present) is key to all my events. And I didn't want to offer any distracting workshops within the larger event (which last only a day, after all). I wanted a unitary experience, with continuous flow.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WELLNESS PIECE
I also incorporated the word Wellness into the event name. It was important to me that this not only be an intellectual (or even simply a Spiritual) event. I think it's essential that we care for our bodies equally. And to the credit of a one day event - as opposed to something shorter - it's really possible...we don't have to spend the entire time in Meditation. That's also why I start each day (every day) - unless I'm too pressed for time - with a Yoga-based workout of sorts. I wanted that for our attendees as well. Without our physical person, what have we? Your Body is the foundation on which your entire experience Lives!
It's a challenge (and non-interest) for some, who aren't used to getting physically involved at these types of events, to do so. At my shorter events, we don't take time for movement or stretching. It's possible to make it through without touch or any more regard for oneself beyond the internal contact that occurs through Awareness, Sensation, Imagination, and internal and across-the-room Communication.
Given Wellness as a priority - beyond (or as essential for) the Mental and Spiritual levels - it was a natural to include my wife Nina Manolson. She's a women's Health Coach, with a degree (MA in counseling psychology) and several certifications (Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and the Institute for the Psychology of Eating). As a presenter, Nina was able to deliver Yoga instruction, and a healthy breakfast (both of which really hit the spot).
Nina also made a few other outstanding contributions - giving people an outline of what they are responsible for (taking care of themselves) - and what they're not responsible for (others well being). She assured us that if someone's showing emotion - that's okay. It's only natural (and healthy) to let it out. And in the afternoon, during our Spirit Stations segment, Nina received each attendee for a 10 minute conversation about their self-care concerns.
What stood out for a lot of attendees, was how well Nina and I complemented one another. That's without us ever having done an event like this together. We've attended several self development programs over the years, but not led any together, as a team. Everyone's feedback was so glowing (including on the day itself) - that we decided to make it a thing (and do it again).
BRINGING IN THE SEASONS
In fact, I was so inspired upon completion of the date, that I decided almost immediately that this should be a triannual, or happen 3 times a year (not to be confused with a "triennial" which happens every 3 years). In other words - every 4 months, equally spaced throughout the year - we'll bring in the new season with an event like this. Eventually, for one reason or another, we may need to skip one (down the line), or - heaven forbid - we'll have to discontinue these. But for now, it feels right and nourishing to mark the major shifts in the year with a transformational, collective ritual gathering.
While we tend - especially in New England - to think of there being 4 seasons really, I think there are 3. You can put them in any order, but from the start of the calendar year, we are in Winter - the cold, dead time. Yet with New Years resolutions, it's still a time of new beginnings, and hope for better to come.
Then, after the hibernation, or gestation period, there is rebirth. As the heat of the sun increases, we soar into Spring and Summer. Some love the warmth, for others it's too much, but at least the weather seems to be on our side (and we can experience some sort of a peak experience at this time).
Next comes the Harvest of Fall - when the crops give up their bounty - and our culture molts to make room for the new school year. Whether you have school in your life or not, September is the perfect time to rededicate yourself to your mission - realign - and reinvent yourself, yet again.
Pausing to get the most out of these auspicious periods, is a wonderful opportunity. But it can also feel vulnerable. That's why I want people to feel taken care of - have their day planned out for them - so they have nothing to worry about (and can just glide on through).
So planning we did! I lined up the venue months in advance - created the graphics (with visual partner Raphael Brickman) - and placed a big ad into the regional New Age magazine Spirit of Change. Closer to the date, we bought food (and a brand new assortment of back jacks) for the occasion. The night before, we loaded in, and did some mock layouts leaving the space ready for everybody's arrival, first thing the next morning.
Let me take a moment to praise the rest of our team. Bill Hennessey, who works with me on things technical (like eBay) - was a prince (on both days). He participated, but also kept himself on the sidelines, in case anybody needed help. And when we needed someone to move folks through the Spirit Stations, he rose to the occasion, and was an extraordinary facilitator.
Linda Davis came in as an adjunct co-presenter - being a healer in her own right (Acupuncturist), but specifically bringing her own sound resonance talents to the event. With a full array of percussive support, she not only accompanied the Yoga and Meditations, but also delivered individual Sound Healing sessions during our Spirit Station segment. A veteran of the New Age community, Linda's input and support was instrumental before, during, and after the event.
THE DAY BEGINS
Now on to the day itself...
We set the start time as 8am - a tad early for some - but everybody was there (with the exception of a few who were not well or up for it that weekend, and others driving down unexpectedly from New Hampshire). Because space is limited, I only do refunds with over 30 days' notice. The reason for that is also that during those last 30 days, I can no longer focus on promotion, or scrambling to fill slots. Unless I have a waiting list ready to go, I'm focused on preparing (as I should be) for the actual event. People were very cool about forfeiting their entrance fee in these cases (last minute inabilities to attend), which was below my cost for putting on the event in the first place. So while it was our mutual loss, that's how Life goes sometimes.
One thing I was particularly excited to share with everybody - was my brand new way of organizing Crystals (For Sale) by Chakra - so that you could immediately know (without individual descriptions for each stone) what "department" you were in.
Another great innovation was adding all attendees to a private Facebook group, where I could post instructions and photos (like all the big & small stones we'd be working with). This was also a great venue for folks to ask questions, and get newsflashes.
I like hosting these on Sundays, when parking is free, but also to give you Saturday to get all your other practical errands taken care of. Remember, it's important to handle your Tangible Needs, before you tackle your no less important - but less pressing (at least on the surface) - Spiritual Needs. Besides, in our goodie bag, was a bar of the very best naturally sweetened chocolate - a wonderful alertness aid I use when driving long distances.
Once we were sure everyone who was going to be there, was there - which got us off to a bit of a late start - I welcomed everybody, introduced Linda, Nina, and Bill. Before Nina led us in our morning Yoga routine, I showed everybody some mudras, which are hand positions (in this case, placed over parts of the body). Each related to the Chakras, which were the conceptual focus of our day.
CHAKRA THEME FOR THE EVENT
Each of these retreats has an overarching concept - a bit more specific than the broader notions of Crystal Wisdom and Wellness - which are of course important parts of what we're exploring, too. But they're the framework - or even an actual frame - if you can visualize that. The painting is what we make if it, on the blank canvas of opportunity the Gathering (and its set number of hours) presents for us.
Basic to my understanding of working with Crystals, has been figuring out how to connect them with our Body. The goal is to have a physical, personal experience of what it means to connect with them. That is easiest when we can plug in different crystals to the different energy centers our body already has (and of which we have an intrinsic understanding).
For example - if a given stone (Smoky Quartz, in this case) is a detoxifier, which I associate with Forgiveness - what Chakra (or Energy Zone) do you think that would be associated with The Heart, right? Exactly!
And so it goes on. I won't elaborate on all the details, that's why you want to attend one of these events - but suffice it to say: my information as to what goes where, and what means what - comes from intuition and logic, working together in a coherent fashion.
REAL TIME EXPERIENCE (with lasting impact)
Whether an attendee buys my paradigm or not - they certainly aren't tasked with memorizing or learning it - this experience isn't for certification (though it certainly could be). The important thing is that we apply it in the moment, through guided Meditation (and it makes sense at the time - or in retrospect - shaping the day and our reflections on it, later). I hold the knowledge, you hold the experience. It's a working relationship.
LET'S GET PHYSICAL (...I had to use that phrase)
At all my events (even when we do all Meditation) we begin by focusing on the body - our biology - sensations and feelings. This is before we introduce any stones - which are anchors, lightning rods, and enhancers of our experience - but are not welcome at first. I want you to become conscious of what it's like "in the beginning," and initially, for you to experience your own, no-frills Baseline of Being.
That's why it was so perfect to start the day off without any intellectuality, but going straight into Yoga poses. I have my own routine I do daily, but it's always a treat to have Nina lead me / us. So even that day, though I'd done my morning routine at home, I happily partook of the gentle Yoga practice Nina brought in for us.
Nothing was too hard for anyone present - some did the whole thing from their chair (due to their own limitations) - others had Yoga mats and props (which you could bring, or were provided). At the end of that shortish experience (I would like to allow more time for it next times) we had a warm down, just lying under a blanket, and taking in the experience of having been in, and worked with, our own bodies.
It's 9:45am, and we get up to socialize and enjoy breakfast - all natural: no dairy, meat, sugar, or gluten - and everybody loved it. We had oatmeal with maple syrup, fruit smoothies, and green vegetable drinks. Some might not think of that as appetizing, but everyone went back for seconds!
From about 10:15am till 11:45am, I introduced everybody to the Chakra stones - big pieces - I had selected to illustrate my Human Crystal Energy Zones paradigm. In it, specific stones are linked to specific parts of the Body. Yes, we meditated in our bodies first. We also went around, with introductions, and people expressed their motivation and hopes for the day.
THE MENU GIVES YOU AN IDEA, BUT YOU'LL HAVE TO SIT DOWN AT THE TABLE TO ENJOY THE MEAL
I won't go into even more detail than that, because I haven't written this article to serve up all the content of the day - but to give you a sense of it - and pique your interest in attending (and learning more).
I've issued dozens of free webinars and plenty of content-rich Blogs already. Even if I outlined exactly what it was that I was teaching, I think there's so many other ways you can partake of that knowledge base, that I want this to be different. I also want to emphasize that you kind of have to be there, to get the full dosage and take-home message of the Gathering it's an experience not a sound bite or nibble of knowledge.
I will say that folks were invited to select one of each of several highlighted Chakra Stones - smaller, generally palm sized pieces - that they could use in the Meditation (and later, Peer Sessions). I had three types of Root Chakra stones to choose from, and on down (or up) the line: Solar Plexus, Heart, Voice, and Source.
For 90+ minutes, folks went out to lunch in the nearby town center (except for a few that lived locally, and could go home). A great time was had by all.
The team stayed back, to prepare the room for Phase Two. Nina had brought lunch for us, and we set about putting away the Yoga mats and laying out the 16 by 16 pink/lavender printed canvas Labyrinth. I repositioned all the big Power Stones in order on it, but it's harder than you might think. You see, a labyrinth is not just a big spiral. Instead, it curls back and forth on itself, like a great big digestive tract. So unless you specifically walk in its prescribed route - and have someone handing you stones as you go (which have to have been set aside previously, in the correct order) - it doesn't come together perfectly. In this case - as it did the previous night, when we did a mockup - it came together beautifully.
For about two and a half hours - 1:30 till 4pm - we cycled everybody through what we called the Spirit Stations. Most folks started with the Chair Massage - we had brought someone in for that (Diane Crawley) - and everybody got just under 10 minutes of touch time.
Another explicitly timed segment was the private mini Crystal session with me. You lay down, tell me what your issue or challenge is in the moment (or these days), and I select stones (from those arrayed alongside you) that are appropriate for your situation. Quite apart from the larger Power Stone layout, I had arranged a smaller grouping - no less numerous, but just not as big - for us to work with in these sessions. I led you in a guided meditation, and each person felt transformed, on some level, by the time they got up.
Nina sat with you too, to discuss your Diet and Health issues, for which she had some pointers and suggestions. It's always good to bounce off a professional what you feel is and isn't working for you. And we all could be healthier, if we really think about it.
Linda gave each person a Sound Bath which emphasized tone and vibration, rather than words. She used tuning forks on specific areas of the body, purposed to engender your improved energetic alignment and flow.
With time in between, getting to the next Spirit Station - again, skillfully orchestrated by Bill Hennessey - the 4 sessions above totaled just under an hour. Folks could mix in, or then proceed (if they'd done the above first) to the other Spirit Station options, which were more self-directed.
Some mats were set up for Peer Sessions, in which you could work on someone else. We had printed instructions - but only the most ambitious took advantage of this opportunity. Of course, you also had the option to simply sit in Private Meditation (on your own). We'd listed all these in a File on our Private Facebook Group, but could have printed out a list for folks to reference, on the spot.
In our gift baggy, we'd given out a newly printed (for the occasion) spiral notebook. It had a fancy cover, with the Crystal Concentrics logo on it. The idea was for you to also take time in this segment to Journal regarding your day and journey (in general).
Lastly, and this was a main attraction - as it seemed to take up the whole center of the room - was the Labyrinth itself. Given the theme of the day, it felt right for each of us to take the time to (no more than 5 folks in the Labyrinth at once) slowly amble contemplatively through the entire route. The idea was that you would travel the path and flow of your own energy system - from Root and Belly through Solar Plexus, Heart and Voice - ending up in Source. Then you'd turn around revisiting each again, on "the way back" in the opposite order (before leaving the Labyrinth).
Of course I (and the other team members) weren't able to get a Massage or make it through the Labyrinth. This was for the attendees, first and foremost. As it should be. Though it's attractive (for us) to imagine what it would be like if even the hosts were able to partake of some of the event's Spirit Stations. I'm not complaining, though - we choose to lead these events in this way - and our main goal is our attendee's fulfillment.
Once everyone had completed the Spirit Stations we cleared out the Labyrinth, and I set up the key Chakra Power Stones in a magnificent spiral. We assembled around it, and shared our experiences. It was then that we started getting positive feedback from the day. We'd been on automatic - delivering all day - so it was nice to get that type of response so instantly. And to really let down - feeling like we'd truly been through something profound together - and were better for the experience.
I think our decision to go ahead and offer this type of event again, for the future - is a sign of its success - that it was enriching for everyone, including the facilitators. There's really nothing like setting aside a day for Sacred Purpose, even 3 times a year, not to focus on someone else's religious priorities...but ultimately, on your own...in a way that's shared and supportive of you and your own personal process (as well as the community's common experience and general movement forward).
About the Author:
Kyle Russell, founder of www.CrystalConcentrics.com (and Power Stone Crystals) - has been working with Crystals since 1987 - when a transformative experience left him imbued with a meaningful percentage of his current knowledge and expertise. The time intervening has been used to hone and develop his understanding, applying it for clients, and also figuring out how best to teach what he knows. Hosting Retreats is an efficient way to deliver a lot of learning and depth of experience. To that end, followups to the first Gathering have been scheduled for January and May of 2017. Please don't hesitate to write Kyle@CrystalConcentrics.com with any questions...