• Do you feel you are stuck in a rut and that having HIV is a big part of keeping you there?
  • Do you find yourself using HIV as an excuse to not do things, to not pursue goals, to not get off that couch and away from the TV, to not see beyond your own shit?
  • Are you finding it difficult, if not plain humiliating, trying to get by on Social Security, but are timid about trying to get back into the working world?
  • In your own head do you find yourself whining about your HIV and current life situation?
  • Perhaps you don’t get any type of disability check but still feel constrained and held back with your infection and the medicines you are on.
  • What has happen with your sex life? Has having HIV made that more difficult? Or do you use your HIV as an excuse to fuck at will,“hell some asshole gave it to me!”

Several of us here in the clinic will be facilitating a time limited group that will meet on six occasions to discuss and explore together ways that we can better put HIV into perspective in our lives. Each group will be limited in size to 12 and we would like those interested to commit to attending all six sessions. If it works we’ll do it again.

You may have been involved, or currently are involved, in some sort of support group around HIV. These can often be very helpful but a frequently heard complaint about some of these groups is that they often turn into bitching/whining marathons where everyone tries to outdo each other with the whole “whoa is me” gig. That is not what this group is intended to be! We want to specifically look at how to, on the one hand, not ignore our HIV but stop it from running every aspect of our lives. As difficult as it may be to hear I believe that even those of us who might have very advanced and life threatening HIV disease can benefit from an approach that addresses broader issues than our own immediate melodramas. The group facilitators feel this can be done by re-engaging life in a variety of ways addressing body, mind, soul and spirit and this is what we hope the group will explore.

Session 1: This will primarily be an overview of the upcoming five sessions and provide the opportunity for folks to bail out if this looks like something that would not be helpful.

We are proposing to provide an outline for the development of individual Integral Transformative Practices (from Leonard and Murphy’s work among others). Now before everyone is scared off by that let me break it down into plainer English. An Integral Transformative Practice is simply a way of living your life that takes into account that you as a human being are made up of body, mind, soul and spirit. We are complicated little buggers with amazing potentials and it is sad and a waste if we let HIV get in the way of living life as fully and productively as we can.

  • Integral would mean working with all aspects of our being: body, mind, soul and spirit. Not neglecting any one of them.
  • Transformative implies that there is change, hopefully positive change, occurring in our lives.
  • Practice of course is the hard part. Once we have identified areas to address we have to do it or the transformative part probably never happens.

If this is still too obtuse a simpler way to describe the group process would be ways we can together identify areas of potential positive change in our lives that will make things better. Stuff we can do that will make us better human beings dealing with HIV. The group organizers are not going to tell you what you need to do, but rather together we will explore and hopefully come up with ideas for feeding our body, mind, soul and spirit. We will look to develop accessible menus to help address each aspect of our beings. The contents of these menus will ideally be drawn from our particular life realities and therefore something that we can practically access. We will also try to make these forms of practice for each area, body, mind, soul and spirit, something that will also helps us handle our HIV. How do we integrate the reality of HIV infection into each area?

Sessions 2-5 will address body, mind, soul and spirit. Here are quick definitions for each and I will expand in greater detail in the following descriptions of each session.

BODY (session 2): Diet and exercise could be explored here. Getting a handle on drug and alcohol use are important. Medication side-effects and body image changes are huge issues also. How do I express my sexual needs and desires in a responsible fashion.

MIND (session 3): Learning a new language, crossword puzzles, learning to knit, reading books, learning to use a computer are just a few examples for this category.

Sometimes soul and spirit are thought of as the same thing. We will break it out though.

SOUL (session 4): Ways to nourish the soul might be friendships, intimate relationships, listening to music, and writing. For some folks religious activities fit here.

SPIRIT (session 5): To more clearly distinguish from soul we will focus on more traditional ways to feed the spirit: meditation, contemplation spiritual dance and drumming etc. An exercise, or better one approach, on how to meditate will be a part of this group.

A specific curriculum for each of the group sessions will follow. The premise here is that persons with HIV are as complex as anyone else and to expect positive change and growth to occur they need to approach their beings as the complex, multifaceted entities they are and not deconstruct the whole issue to genitals!

It is my contentions that if you address each of these areas in an honest and sincere fashion the issue of dealing with HIV will easily fall into place.

To reiterate one more time: “Integral means comprehensive, inclusive, balanced, embracing. When it comes to human beings, integral means maps, models and practices, that include the full spectrum of human potentials, often summarized as “exercising body, mind, and spirit in self, culture and nature” K.W.

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