Being a sort-of Quaker (not fully initiated but still hangin’ with other Quakers and believing what they believe–and isn’t that all that’s required for being part of a group?), I’ve tried to participate. However, the retreats are the best, because they’re about you as a person rather than religion; and training people to be individuals and to be tolerant is more important to me than teaching belief–this does not mean that I have any problems with organized religion, it just means that I believe kindness and stuff like that are all very important.
I’ve been on two or three (I think three) retreats now, and my favorite part of all of them was Three-Way-Massage.
If you don’t know what it is, I will give an endorphin-filled summary: a large group of people (in the instances of the retreats) is separated into three smaller groups and sent to other rooms. One faction is called in. The lights are dim. A fire murmurs softly in the grate (totally over my old anxiety of house fires, so burning to death never comes to mind), and pillows are splayed across the floor. They lie down on their stomachs and close their eyes.
The other two sets of people enter the room about thirty seconds apart, and, without a word, everyone picks a random stranger (or friend, if you’re picky), and quietly massages them. The third group to enter usually starts at the legs and the second usually begins at the back and shoulders.
After five minutes, they switch roles. After approximately ten total minutes of massage, the massagers quietly set their hands on their person and think kind thoughts toward them, wishing them a good day or something nice like that. Then they quietly get up and leave. The recently-massaged group, totally blissed out, is given about a minute to relax a little longer, then get up and leave the room. Another group is called in, and it is done again.
What I like about this besides getting a free massage and possibly a nap is that there is such beautiful anonymity to it. Someone randomly picks you, bestows you with positive thoughts and confidence, gives you an intimate experience in silence, and then leaves. You don’t have to know who it is. Anything about their identity is a blank to you–their height, gender, age, race, history, sense of humor, dreams last night, favorite novel, et cetera–all invisible, all irrelevant. It’s a wonderful thing. It reminds me that some people are inherently good. Someone out there is willing to make you feel good–without necessarily caring who you are, sometimes without reason. It is empowering.