This Art of Hosting stuff – it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, you know. There are bumps and bruises along the way. Some they tell you about up-front. But some they don’t.

The AoH community will tell you about the “groan zone,” for example – the middle point in a group’s creative work together, when they’ve let go of the shores behind them but they haven’t yet arrived at their destination. Neither place is visible anymore – only clear horizon – and the group starts to feel lost, disoriented, panicked. Any good AoH practitioner knows that you just have to push through this place, and that it’s actually a good sign that the group is on the verge of a breakthrough. But it’s always an uncomfortable place to be.

What those Art of Hosting folks don’t tell you about is what I’ve started to call “Post-Ecstatic Stress Disorder.” Unlike its cousin, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, this is the feeling of sadness, aimlessness and confusion that can come after the high of a masterfully-hosted gathering. The longer the gathering, and the more rich it was with meaning and relationship, the longer your recovery period is likely to be.  Several of my fellow-organizers from last week’s three-day Art of Hosting event are feeling it now. At first, you think it’s just fatigue – these things can take a lot of physical energy, after all.  But then you realize it goes much deeper. It’s a craving for that sense of belonging and flow, for the chaordic dance that made you feel so alive. It’s an ache for the sense of importance and possibility that colored everything while you were together.

When the movie Avatar came out, I remember reading about “Post-Avatar Depression” – it was actually a widespread phenomenon. For a few hours, people got so immersed in the vivid beauty and deep wholeness of that alternate reality that it was hard to go back to our own lives afterwards.

There’s something similar in an Art of Hosting gathering, or in any powerful coming together of people.Fortunately, in the case of Post-Ecstatic Stress Disorder, there is a cure. That alternate reality we crave can be created again and again until it is no longer “alternate” but the regular experience of our lives.

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