Participants of the Memory Bridge Summer Retreat 2016 were asked to share their thoughts about their experience. Below you will find their testimonies.
My experience with the 2016 Memory Bridge Training Retreat was a completely unforgettable and life changing experience. When I applied, I had an idea of the kind of ground-breaking paradigm of care for the person with Alzheimer’s that I would be encountering based on the documentary, There Is a Bridge. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the sense of emotional fullness that I felt during my experiences with the group, on my own, and with my buddy.
My hope is that as I see more and more patients (currently I’m a medical school student) and find myself zeroing in on what it is that might be “wrong” with them, that I can bring to mind the faces of those I met at Memory Bridge who taught me that love is listening- and REALLY listen.
First of all, I feel very blessed. I feel deeply content and sated after having an experience I couldn’t have imagined. I felt seen, heard and experienced in the fullness of my being as I was growing, and in the flow. Words are inadequate to describe my multi-dimensional experience. I felt so calm that I was able to do what one of my life coaches has been urging me to do for the past several months - to exhale to the end. Doing so allowed me to listen, both to myself and others, from a much quieter place. I have found people (including therapists) and places where my thoughts and opinions are heard and valued, and yet I don’t believe I have ever felt sufficiently heard until this experience.
The sense of community and understanding that was built collectively during the week was overwhelming. A very real and genuine connection developed among the group in such a short space of time. It was incredible to see and feel the bond of trust that emerged due to the mutuality of sharing, the authenticity of contribution, and the tangible commitment of everyone to the space and the work. It was truly one of the greatest experiences – professional and personal – that I’ve ever had.
Those circles – in which our Memory Bridge community came together two and three times each day – are what I will remember as having been the most concentrated sources of insights, inspirations, and new resolutions for me. They seem to me in retrospect to have been an uncanny combination of careful construction and exquisite serendipity.
Michael’s beautiful conceptualizing of what it was essential for us to think about as we examined I have not THOUGHT so hard and so deeply in a very long time. But I don’t think that these aspects of my experiences at the retreat would have been quite as inspiring had it not been for the incredible group of people Memory Bridge brought together. What an honor and privilege to be in the company of such special people! A number of us shared with each other at various points how moved we were by the almost immediate intimacy of the group, and tried to imagine how Memory Bridge could have anticipated that we would all relate to each other in such loving and nurturing ways.
Meeting my Buddy was simply beautiful. I enjoyed every single minute with her and she taught me a lot. To slow down. Why was her first sentence the morning after the eye-looking exercise, – oh we could just look into each other’s eyes? I’m not the very magic sort of person – but in this situation it felt like magic. And it was nice. And it made me cry. Our first meeting had a lot to do with her wanting to go home; our last meeting had a lot to do with her taking me around the place and showing me her home.
I learned so much from all the presentations. The meals were a special treat; the monks were so kind; and the food was always interesting and enjoyable. I grew to really enjoy the large spaces between events. It gave time to get to know others and attend to self-care as needed. The morning meditations felt like cornerstones to our retreat. I could not wait for the sit, learn, breath exercises, and the meditations each morning. I loved the whole thing. The circle exploration in conversation was helpful; the Buddy-visit debriefs helped me learn more – especially in hearing the development in each person’s relationship with her buddy. It would be hard to say what the most valuable aspect would be. It all felt meaningful.
Shortly after arriving I walked over to the meditation centre. By now the whole experience, the woodland setting, the humidity, the sheer beauty surrounding me, made me feel almost drunk, a sensory overload. We entered the “temple” and I was instantly struck by the brilliant colors, the elaborate attention to detail in the décor, the peaceful calm atmosphere was incredibly inspiring, we spoke in whispers, humbled beings in the presence of something bigger than us all. After gaining permission from one of the monks, we sat in a circle on the floor and made ourselves at home; soon we were sharing stories, singing songs and one of the other participants taught us a few mantras. I don’t think I have ever had such an experience in my life. To an outsider it may have looked comical or pretentious, but from within the circle it was exquisite, divine.
This was the first of many inspirational circles to follow. I am deeply grateful for having been given the opportunity to experience such unconditional love
The retreat gave me 15 new friends from whom I learned a lot and from whom I expect to continue to learn. Friends are what you might call a common cause: teachers, mentors, and supporters. I’m paying more attention to paying attention. Everything was valuable in its own way.
Mary Jo Gibbons
Once in my career I was accused of following with my heart more so than my head... I am proud to say that I prefer my heart! It is the perfect criteria for bridge connections. Once in my career I was accused of being too idealistic... I am proud to say that I believe idealism can be turned into realism with the proper passion and dedication. Once again, a perfect requirement for living the Memory Bridge.
To connect with so many inspiring people in the field was such a treasure. I’m incredibly grateful to now have the opportunity to share ideas and learn through this network. Since coming home I’ve found my group work in the Dance & Dementia space greatly enhanced. I’m much more confident to follow my intuition to connect in non-verbal ways, such as simply holding hands and shining my love and curiosity when I look into someone’s eyes.
The Memory Bridge training retreat created an invaluable meaningful space to experience, reflect, explore and exchange. I was able to take time out of my busy work schedule and personal life to fully and solely focus on communicating and connecting with people, including those living with dementia. It was equally a great joy, privilege and seemed at the same time a big luxury to delving into the depth of paying attention to myself, and others.
The most meaningful part of my experience would have to be the time with my Buddy. We laughed and had deep dialogue, her social commentary with regards to her insights of the people that went by or those we saw in the magazine. She loved my wife like I love her just by looking at her picture...she looked at every detail and with firm resolve declared us suitable for each other and lovely as well.
I found myself listening closer and not only listening but hearing not only the words but her rhyme and reason, the body language as well as her telltale eyes that lead me to understand the things we could and the things we could not share. At first she kept me at arm’s length, then she drew me in.