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)
10/15/20 at 2:35 PM
It’s been nearly 11 years since I did the Process and I’ve been back twice for Q2 weekends. What a blessing The Process was in my life during a very challenging time. I continue to appreciate and to be amazed that so much of what I was able to forgive and release in several important relationships still can not shake me. When I heard about the fire, my first thought was, wow 2020 is relentless, continuing to take us all to our knees in so many ways. I sent a group text to a bunch of close friends who have been through Hoffman too and we each shared our shock and sadness then a memory of White Sulphur Springs, where our rooms were, the walk to end of property through the trees, the laughs in the jacuzzi and so much more. It’s hard to separate the retreat center from experience but luckily, the Process will continue and we’ll forever have our memories. Can’t wait to visit again and see the new facility. With lots of love & light!
10/16/20 at 9:22 AM
Thanks for sharing your story and memories, Debbie. We’ll all celebrate there together when the rejuvenated site rises.
10/11/20 at 12:00 PM
I attended from the east coast in October 2004; the experience was such a gift. I had never been to northern California and was awe struck by the majesty of the trees and landscape. The process made a positive, indelible impact and I’m forever grateful. I was devastated to hear news of the fire and will keep watching for ways to help.
10/12/20 at 11:43 AM
Thanks, Kara. I appreciate your feelings about the Process and WSS. The east coast site had its charms and DNA as well. I think that no matter where you do the Process, there is a connectivity that makes us a community. Many blessings to you.
10/08/20 at 6:43 AM
Shawn you’ve captured the essence of Hoffman beautifully! Thank you for your writings/feelings. It has been 10 years since my process and I get goosebumps thinking about it to this day. I’m grateful for all the staff and participants that made Hoffman what it is. I know it will be reborn again! Every day and every night I do three “ ishes and an ohhhhmmmm” thank you again for that tool!
10/12/20 at 11:41 AM
Thanks, Jay. It is a blessing how that place, and the Process, makes us feel. I love that you still get goosebumps! Really great practice, too, to do three ishes and an ohhhhmmmm twoice a day. I may have to try that! Love and Light to you.
10/07/20 at 12:55 PM
I have no doubt that White Sulfur Springs and Hoffman will emerge new and fresh from this death and rebirth. Sending much love and light.
10/07/20 at 3:50 PM
Thanks, Elysia. Indeed, we will emerge.
10/07/20 at 7:48 AM
What a beautiful story. I too made that journey in October 2019. A journey to change my life. Not only did I learn to forgive but I learned to understand, most of all myself. Learned to love myself and my body. The body I took to hell and back several times! I loved the conversation I had with my parents who have long since been gone, the long letters I wrote to them as well as my grandmother were invaluable and key to learning to understand and forgive. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything! When I think of the tears and the joy and the fear and the uncertainty and the accomplishments that went on in that sacred ground I have to know that it will Regrow, rebirth, and come forth even stronger as the same sacred ground it always was.
10/07/20 at 3:52 PM
Thanks, Lola. An incredible journey. More people will certainly be able to have that journey at White Sulphur Springs again. Blessings to you.
10/07/20 at 7:28 AM
For me WSS was my refuge and sanctuary especially in the creek right around the corner spending time there I felt I could detox and leave recharged. If I may help I am willing to assist. I have no problems donating my time helping rebuild. My knowledge of construction is limited however I do have experience I would gladly give back to Hoffman, who saved my life in more ways than one.
10/07/20 at 3:53 PM
Much appreciation, Yasamin. When things get going, we’ll let our grad community know what’s happening, and how people can bring their muscle to the site. Meantime, our memories serve us well!
10/05/20 at 3:29 PM
Beautifully written from the heart. I am sitting with the sadness and grief for now, knowing that this lovely place will indeed rise from the ashes, transformed and once again ready to support transformation of all who seek healing.
10/05/20 at 3:51 PM
Thanks, Tami. WSS will always be in our hearts, and hopefully soon back in the canyon that holds the space.
10/05/20 at 11:58 AM
WSS is a second home to me. I have often stated that the Dining Room feels like the center of my universe. That could be due to the early morning hours spent there studying material and completing course work. I loved the class interactions that took place in that room. One of my greatest joys in my Process was standing in a far corner of the room and watching my classmates(we call ourselves the “Goosepack”) conversing with each other. It was the sight of the intensity of their engagement that spoke to me. People were turned sideways in their chairs to look directly at the classmate they were speaking to. I’ll never forget it or the feelings I got just from witnessing it. Loved my Process and my Goosepack classmates.
10/05/20 at 3:52 PM
Thanks, Mike. I love that, “Goosepack”! It always amazed me how we could arrive strangers and leave feeling like we’d known each other our whole lives.
10/05/20 at 11:17 AM
10/05/20 at 3:52 PM
10/05/20 at 9:10 AM
Thank you for this positive inspiring message. Another challenging chapter in 2020.
10/05/20 at 3:53 PM
You’re welcome, Jeff. When the book closes on 2020, it will be one of those “stranger than fiction” years. Blessings to you.
10/05/20 at 8:38 AM
I’m a licensed Public Adjuster with the department of insurance of the state of California. Im also a graduate of Hoffman institute and was waiting for Q2.
I would like to donate my services to Hoffman institute to make sure that you get everything you are untitled in your insurance policy.
During my time at the institute I expressed my concerns regarding adequate flood insurance. I’m currently in the area serving my clients.
10/05/20 at 3:56 PM
Thanks, John. Give Liza a call (415-485-5220). We will all pull together to make another sacred space.