“The Hill” put on its most beautiful smile for this year’s Whole Being Weekend, a three-day retreat that combined opportunities for self-improvement, entertainment, healing and spiritual renewal.
Held annually since 1970, the event brought more than 350 people together from throughout Southern California and beyond for the September 23-25 weekend. Attendance was up about 40 percent this year, with about a third participating for the first time, according to organizer Stephen Markowitz.
For Monique and me, it was a chance to regain some of the spirituality that has waned during our years of traveling North America in our RV. For those who don’t understand my meaning of “spirit,” it’s not a substitute for belief in God. It is an internal feeling of balance, of accepting the world as a good place, of focusing more attention to the values of people around us.
That is my interpretation, and probably everyone attending the WBW has a different definition – but that’s okay. Acceptance is a very important part of the experience.
Local singer Amadeus Star was among the performers who regaled an enthusiastic audience in the new Buckhorn Camp Peace Center Saturday night. He was followed by Karl Anthony, the Whole Being Weekend (WBW) headliner for 25 years. Opening the show was “The Comic Shrink” Howard Richmond, M.D., of San Diego.
Each year dozens of professionals from many disciplines volunteer their time and skills to conduct free workshops at about 25 different venues on the campus. WBW participants choose among more than 80 sessions to attend. The variety of topics range from traditional Indian drumming to how to write your book — exercising and nutrition to religious conversations – massage therapy to nature studies — and much more.
For more than a dozen years, Monique made the drive from Laguna Beach to Julian, and then to Idyllwild for the Whole Being Weekend. After meeting her at a Cajun-Zydeco music festival in June 1998, she gave me several challenges to prove our compatibility. One of the main hurdles I had to clear was my tolerance of the WBW. I cleared with room to spare, and we married four months later in New Orleans
We drove up from our home in San Clemente for five years, often taking the time to enjoy Idyllwild. Then for five years we were gone in our travel trailer, returning late last year before continuing our journeys. Instead of hitching up again, we revisited The Hill and decided to put down roots.
Back to this year’s get-together. As in past years, after gates opened at 3 p.m., tent campers set up their spaces in flat meadows, although a few ventured into the verdant woods of the spacious Buckhorn campground to establish their homes in the forest, willing to give up easy access to restrooms for solitude. Others moved their duds into large tents and permanent dormitories.
The festivities began Friday evening with dinner, followed by the opening ceremonies, highlighted by dancing and meeting old friends and first-timers. Saturday after breakfast each presenter was given 45 seconds to talk about his/her session, often with a bit of showmanship and music.
Then came the essence of the weekend – the first of four workshop-sessions put on at numerous areas of Buckhorn. The first is at 10:30, with others at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday and a final one at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. I speak of these in present tense because the weekend has followed the same schedule for as long as I’ve been going.
For Session 1, I planned to sit in on a creativity-stimulating artsy-crafty presentation, but I wandered into the wrong room and ended up listening to two and a half hours of nutrition led by a nurse practitioner, who has learned the ways of Eastern cultures. I could have walked out at any time but chose to stay and participate.
In Session 2, I joined Monique in choosing a lecture about the teachings of an Indian Guru. Drawn by the sound of an American Native drum playing nearby, I walked out after 10 minutes and joined the drum group, which included a bit of history and explanation of the various percussive rhythms. Monique showed up about 30 minutes later. As I pointed out earlier, we are compatible.
Session 3 for us was an introduction to Tantra, showing the basics of touch for greater intimacy. A good experience that induced us to return for the late Saturday night continuation.
And Sunday morning while Monique heard how people communicate with dolphins and whales, I gravitated to a talk on Intuition and Wisdom led by a nationally recognized corporate consultant and speaker.
Throughout the weekend, attendees are served vegetarian meals or can elect gluten-free and vegan items — not my cup of tofu, but while I was able to eat most of it, I chalked up the other parts to a chance to lose a pound or two.
The event traditionally ends with uplifting closing ceremonies, during which participants are reminded to visit Idyllwild before departing The Hill. We also took on the mission of encouraging others to take time to get to know Idyllwild as we have. With the fresh air, towering pines and flawless blue skies, it was an easy sell.
Happy RVers, but At Home on The Hill
Barry & Monique
© All photos by Barry Zander. All rights reserved