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Nature and nuture

Pulse correspondent spends summer at an unusual camp

Pulse correspondent spends summer at an unusual camp

September 09, 2008|By FEDORA COPLEY / Pulse Correspondent

For nearly every summer of my life, I have gone to a remote alcove of the Shenandoah Valley to live in a close, loving community, where hugs abound, intellect evolves and open-mindedness is rampant.

This is the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) Camp. When people ask me what ARE camp is, I find it difficult to fully describe its magic.

The camp, located close to Rural Retreat, Va., was founded on the readings of Edgar Cayce, a reputed psychic who lived in the early 1900s. His advice, which he said was channeled through him while in a trance-like state, promotes a healthful diet, lifestyle and spirituality, among other things. Nowadays, ARE camp still refers to Cayce's readings and follows some of them closely, but is mostly just a place for living close to nature with little electricity, a strong sense of community and an openness to spirituality.

In the early morning, the whole camp meets for exercises, which is mostly massages, stretches and yoga positions. When everyone starts trickling into the exercise meadow after the bell has rung, we form a massage circle. I think it's one of the best ways to wake up in the morning.

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The next activity is some form of inner calming, whether it's chanting, meditation or a silent walk. At various times throughout the day, we have moments of inward reflection as a group. I know it sounds sort of odd, especially in our always-on-the-go culture, but I find myself more centered when I have a chance to forget about what's happening around me and look inside. It helps me to calm my mind, so to speak. I find it gets me in touch with the moment - my feelings in that instant.

The rest of the day follows with wonderful, health-conscious meals, music, crafts, hikes, camp fires, sports and pretty much everything in-between. I like how the different activities let people see each other in new ways. And of course, the often-eccentric counselors come up with some funky activities, like watching the grass grow, tie-dyeing, hiking, dream interpretation or beard scratching.

While the activities at camp are fun and diverse, it's the people that make camp such a special place for me. I have some amazing friends I've known for several summers, and I feel ridiculously comfortable around them, both physically and emotionally.

While old friends become closer each summer, camp has a rare quality of having both newcomers and veterans feel included and interwoven in the community. I've theorized a lot about what makes camp so awesome, and I think it comes down to the way it brings out in people a sense of joy and discovery. Whether you come from a hippie family or a mainstream one, camp has a rare ability to melt down preconceptions and barriers. For me, I feel uninhibited and am able to express myself freely and truthfully.

Camp is my haven of peace, love and comfort during the summer. With its inspiring, calming, infectious energy still in me, I find I can face the upcoming school year with intrigue and openness.

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