By Shawn McAndrew
April 18, 1997. I was making my way to St. Helena, uncertain what I’d find when I reached the site of the Process. I was feeling dread, insecurity, excitement, fear. These feeling words would not be defined for another few days, yet I was feeling all of them.
As I drove into the parking lot, surrounded by redwoods and California oaks, I felt my body relax a little. I made my way into the registration room, where I was greeted with, “Hi, Shawn!”
Where Am I?
Wait, where was I? How did this person know my name? Liza Ingrasci, Hoffman’s president and CEO, had welcomed me in a way that was rare for me to hear at the time – cheerful, inviting, familiar.
That was the first of many surprises and unfoldings that happened during my week at White Sulphur Springs. The site itself was (is!) a wondrous place, full of nature and nurture, regeneration and renewal. Throughout the week I felt I was in a time warp – after the first couple of days, I thought, “How could they have any more material to do? I’ve learned all I can.” Then, “Why doesn’t it go on longer? I don’t want to leave!” The Process is an interwoven web of pain and joy, sadness and excitement. We learn, we cry, we go deep, we reconnect.
It was at White Sulphur Springs where I learned how to truly forgive. I forgave my father. I forgave my mother. I forgave myself.
I learned compassion and empathy. I understood how to identify what was really beneath all my anger. And slowly, steadily I learned how to truly love myself. I regained my essence, reclaimed my life. All while surrounded by the most exquisite, rustic site that bears witness to people’s rebirth.
More Than Just Buildings
White Sulphur Springs has been a spa and retreat site, officially, since the mid-1800s. Long before that, it was a sacred healing site for Indigenous people living in the area. The DNA of this place was established long before the Hoffman Process began its history of healing lives here in the 1990s.
The buildings have mostly been burned to the ground by the Glass fire that started in the early morning hours of September 27, 2020. Ash is everywhere. Smoke fills the air. The road to the site is blocked. And we all know, through the healing power of the Process, that it is not completely gone.
Most living things must go through darkness in order for life to begin. Ash, smoke, burnt remnants riddle the ground now, yet in due time light and life will issue forth and return.
Rising from the Ashes
We were blessed with no loss of life, and that is the most important gratitude. We can rebuild. We can come back. We will be strong. The Hoffman community is many things, resilience being one of them.
For now, memories of what I felt every time I entered the property boundaries at White Sulphur Springs will sustain me. I relaxed; I felt I was home; I instantly connected to my spirit and the spirits of every other person who has graced these sacred grounds. Healing energy arose in me every time I visited the site.
Each of us has our own memory to be cherished and to sustain us until WSS rises again. All the cells of its existence are still there. We only need nourish and replenish, remember and rejuvenate. As White Sulphur Springs witnessed our rebirths, now we must witness its rebirth.
Please feel free to add your memories, thoughts, feelings about White Sulphur Springs in the comment section below.
You can watch a news story about the devastation here.
Other blogs about WSS: https://www.hoffmaninstitute.org/love-letter-from-white-sulphur-springs/ and https://www.hoffmaninstitute.org/something-big/
(Photos by Jim Lyle, Gillian Hush, Shawn McAndrew)