Size of the Group
The group should comprise six to ten participants—eight is ideal—not including the facilitator. A group of this size is large enough to include diversity of perspective and experience while still small enough for participants to build trust and intimacy. It has the added advantage of fitting smoothly into a weekend retreat schedule. The primary advantage to engaging in a group, rather than individual, process is that the input of others is likely to broaden and deepen each person's work. Other people's reactions and ideas can point in directions participants may not have thought of exploring, and that can be very rich indeed!
Age and Gender of Participants
There can be real differences between a person of fifty or so, who is still working, who may still have a child at home, who may be changing careers, and whose body has not quite begun to experience the vagaries of aging, and a person of seventy or older who is truly retired, living on a fixed income, and experiencing both the pleasures of leisure and the discomfort of creaking joints. Consider that people born in the late 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, and the 1950s have been formed by very different experiences and events. A person who experienced the Great Depression and World War II will bring a different perspective than one who was a young adult during the turbulent 1960s. Some people will prefer to be "in their own generation" and others will enjoy a diversity of experience and perspective. Decide whether your High Hill group will be close in age or span more than one generational cohort of elders.
Similarly, High Hill groups that have participants of a single gender will be different from groups with diverse gender expressions. Consider gender composition when shaping the group.
Discuss group composition with those who are engaged in the planning process, and define the parameters of your group. What group composition is most likely to stimulate interest? Which do you personally prefer? Why?
Time, Energy, and Commitment
Be sure that participants can commit to the entire program and process. Simply stated, the commitments are:
- to be present for and participate fully in the two weekend workshops, arriving on time and staying through the closing ceremonies
- to create a written Odyssey in the interval between the weekends.
Time required for writing will vary, because each person will research, organize, write, and edit their Odyssey at their own pace.
Following the path of memory and life story can be like working with a knot of string that needs to be sorted out, unwound, and rewound; sometimes a pull creates new knots which have to be untied. Following the thread of the mysteries of a life is a bit like following the Greek goddess Adriane's thread into the Minotaur's maze. The journey may have dark and bewildering moments, but there can be resolution and light at the end. Writing an Odyssey requires intention, attention, and a belief that the end results will be worthy of the effort. Encourage prospective participants to ask themselves:
- How long can I take for this project? Am I willing to work on it until I finish?
- Between the two workshop weekends, how much time can I give to writing?
- Am I interested in sharing, and willing to share, such personal writing with peers?
- Am I interested in the question, "What do I not wish to leave undone?"
Every participant will need a printed copy of the Participant Guide or access to it online. The guide sets the tone for the Odyssey project. It serves as a reference during the writing interlude and as a resource after the group process is over, for individual participants to creatively extend the project.