alternative futures: centerhold (part 2)

morning pages - 9 dec 2025 @ 519a

people often ask us how our retreat center works.

seen from one angle, it’s simple: live life.

but if scratch the surface of that, you find all sorts of complexity. and that’s because, well, life is complex. that’s the beauty!

to get into it though, centerhold is based on a few key practices. we start with practice because as ___ says, what the hands do, the heart learns. our key practices are:

and the idea of centerholding came from john kidenda and chelsea barabas [insert reference]. we believe in the paradoxical idea that we are each the center of the universe. and from time to time, it helps all of us to orient around a particular center. focusing on any center for too long will diminish the community or deplete/exhaust/crush the center. but we can make huge leaps when a strong center uses their capacity to hold in the right place at the right time. more on that in another dispatch… for now, back to how our center works.

we have a core team of five adults who anchor the retreat center. each of us live here. we each adore children. of the five, we often try to have two co-parents and three people without biological children of their own. we learned from octavia butler’s xenogenesis trilogy that five is a much more stable number for tending to new life than two. the couple and three singles live in four separate tiny houses, each located a short walk from our residence hall. in the residence hall we have our kitchen, open space, office, and tool shed. when nothing else is happening, the five us tend (grow, forage) about 50% of the food we eat. 40% we trade across the regional for with our various skills and services. 10% comes from the global market (which does still exist, though it has slowed to a trickle as we have stopped using fossil fuels for transpot and learned to live with much lower levels of material consumption).

beyond the core, there are all of our close collaborators, the outer circle if you will. this is a group of about 20 people, each connected in some critical way to boston-based community organizing. each of these people represents some branch of our movements. each person and the branch they represent has two weeks of reserved time at the center. they don’t pay because part of how we compel people to support the center as an entity is that we provide support for these groups.

beyond the outer circle are three groups of people. the adult extended stayers, the youth apprentices, and the visiting retreaters.

the adult extended stayers are individuals who stay with us for 1-6 months. this program is modeled after the gainesville catholic worker house metanoia internship that so radically changed my life. it is for people who are looking to turn over a new leaf (the definition of metanoia). they go through a supported process to undergo transformation in one or more parts of their lives.

the youth apprentices are young folks who have been identified as particularly intuitive centers or who have gone through some incident in their regular life that would benefit them and their community to be away for a year or more. in both cases, the young person gets one of the core team members as their guide and the pair co-design a rite of passage program. at the end of the year, if the young person is ready, the rite of passage ritual is engaged. if not… well, we have yet to have anyone not be ready.

the visiting retreaters are groups of people who use retreat centers in the typical way: a group seeks out our space to help them go through some multi-day process that would be better done away from their home context.

the combination of all of these individuals and groups make up our lovely little community here. , of course, we also have relationships with our neighbors as well as the other retreat centers in the region. we have our neighbors over often, for evening debriefs of the days/weeks, seasonal rituals, and storytelling or comedy nights. and our whole effort is embedded is the organizing rooted in our regional as well as the just transition stance that we hold.

we ebb and flow like the rivers and streams. we swell when the rains (aka needs of our people) are heavy and taper when they are light. and when the time comes to dry up, we will do that, too. nothing is forever. that we have known and planned for from the very start.

words / writing / post-processing
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