Cliff Kayser tells the story of Kayser Ridge Retreat & Learning Center…
I love Margaret Mead’s quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
In 1998, my belief in the power of small groups led to the vision of building a unique retreat destination for small groups in the D.C. metropolitan area. I wanted to create a space that was immersed in nature and markedly different from what hotels or corporate spaces offered. As a trainer/facilitator, my experience was that most spaces lacked a certain intangible “energy” and “spirit” – an essence that brings out the best in people and contributes to meaningful, creative, and lasting group work.
In addition, I thought that one way I could contribute to the many small groups doing BIG things was to make this type of unique and intimate space not just available, but affordable and easy to take advantage of. Kayser Ridge was a way to serve the people I love and the causes they love (which I often share also but can’t necessarily devote myself to directly). I also wanted to create a space where I could play, learn and grow – personally and professionally. ”Build it, and they will come” was my business plan, and I started looking for land and figuring out how to finance my vision, a journey which took almost four years.
In 2002, I found 20 acres of undeveloped mountaintop land in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, located two miles from Cacapon state park and 12 miles from Berkeley Springs in the historic town also known ”Bath” — and referred to as “the Nation’s first Spa.” That year and part of 2003 involved working out the design and the next thing I knew, ”The Ridge” started construction in May…OMG!
Between 2003 and 2006 there were many steps, stages and a series of incredible highs and lows. All the twists and turns are impossible for me to describe here or attempt to put into words. It was tough stretch in many ways, but my vision for the retreat helped me through the rough spots.
As “The Ridge” neared completion in 2006, I met Dr. Barry Johnson, author of several books, including: “Polarity Management: How to Identify and Manage Unsolvable Problems.” Aside from developing a wonderful friendship and becoming part of an amazing community, I learned about a theory, tool and process that helped me articulate more effectively and apply more practically, an area of deep interest and passion around YIN/YANG energy and Taoist philosophy.
Most of all, nobody gets through this merry-go-round alone, and I’m testifying to that. One person who showed up in my space who was critical to my dream becoming a reality was the very talented Holly Thompson. Holly took a shell and made it a home.
I knew immediately that I would promote Barry’s life work and mission to “Improve the quality of life on the planet by helping individuals, families, organizations, and nations identify and leverage unsolvable problems (manage polarities).” I also knew that The Ridge would somehow play a role in that.
Around the same time, friend and colleague Susan Waldman (branding guru at Zilyen, www.zilyen.com) shared with me that ”Kayser Ridge” would be more effective from a branding perspective than just “The Ridge.” I struggled with that suggestion on several levels. However, my grandfather, Willard Kayser, Sr., had passed away in late 2007 and as I reflected on Susan’s suggestion, it made sense to call it “Kayser Ridge” as a testament to him and his memory. As retreats at Kayser Ridge emphasized physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being (and Polarity Management training became a staple offering), we started referring to it as ”Kayser Ridge Retreat & Learning Center.”
The next thing I knew, it was 2008 and we were lining up events, programs, and training. 2009 and 2010 included creating this website and the logo with the help of Dawn Coleman, retreat-coordinator-person extraordinaire, and web designer Sean Smith. Dawn has added so much in the way of atmosphere, environment, and just a wonderful presence and energy.
If you would have told me between 2003 and 2006 that Kayser Ridge Retreat & Learning Center would be where it is and would have come so far, I would have had serious concerns about your sanity. How did it happen? The answer is — a small group of thoughtful and committed people believed. They believed it could happen, they believed in me, and they contributed amazing talents, skills, and energy in a wide variety of unique and important ways.
In 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Cindy Hosgood, whose wealth of talent has helped bring the facilities and surrounding garden/landscaping at Kayser Ridge to a whole new level. Cindy’s contributions are so diverse and extensive, it would be impossible to mention all of them here. However, all of us who enjoy Kayser Ridge have Cindy to thank for the improvements to the natural beauty that surrounds Kayser Ridge, as well as to improvements inside. And from me, THANK YOU, CINDY! Rest in peace my friend.
Now when cooking, I step outside to the herb garden, pluck some fresh herbs, and use them in our dishes. Besides herbs, you’ll experience the beauty of other new and different plants that are the result of Cindy’s knowledge and work (see picture, right, taken in October, 2011).
Many more people believed in Kayser Ridge than I can mention here, but let me name a few:
Family/friends (you know who you are…)
Hemlock Overlook Center for Outdoor Experiential Education (now the EDGE, Mason Center for Team and Organizational Learning)
Zilyen Archetypal Branding — Susan Waldman and Pete Beebe (www.zilyen.com)
The Begumpura group, and especially Sartaj Alag
Sean Smith web design
My wonderful partner Tracy Roman
Marie Gilson and Hella Meivers
Holly Thompson and Dawn Coleman
Jody Gill and Mike at Timber Ridge Grocery — THE BEST BBQ IN THE WORLD…
Maryjane Bullen and Richard Barrett
Amy Foster, Siddharth Shah, Adam Hood
Barry Johnson and my friends and colleagues in the Polarity Management Community and Mastery Group — especially Beena Sharma
Dr. Susanne Cook-Greuter and Jane Gray
The Georgetown University Executive Coaching Program
Extraordinary Coaches: Kate Ebner, Betty George, Chris Wahl, Kelly Lewis, Beth Raps, PhD, and Patricia Deveccio (among other informal coaches and classmates–you know who you are!)
The AU/NTL OD Master’s community, Class 50, NTL Institute, and the Founders House at Bethel, Maine
The Gestalt Community — The Gestalt Institute of Cleveland
Laura George and The Oracle Institute
BB&T and King Money Management, Inc.
FOXes (Friends of Xperience LLC, who are “frequent flyers” who hold retreats)
Finally, I have deep gratitude for Willard C. Kayser, Sr., my grandfather and the namesake of Kayser Ridge, who passed away just two days after the first retreat in October, 2007.
He was described by many who knew him well as a “living embodiment of Love” and he epitomized values of integrity, character, kindness, generosity, honesty, and good humor. Kayser Ridge is a testament to his spirit and wonderful essence.
Many guests and visitors talk about a wonderful spirit that envelops Kayser Ridge and helps support the work of individuals and groups seeking to embody their own values and to live them out. That’s all part of both the tangible and intangible “IT” that is part of the experience.
My grandfather never saw the completed Kayser Ridge, but he was able to visit just after construction began in the fall, which was his favorite time of year. There is no place I would rather be in the fall than Kayser Ridge.
I wish you the very best and hope you will consider Kayser Ridge Retreat & Learning Center for your next retreat! Also, please visit Kayser Ridge on Facebook and become a fan!
W. Cliff Kayser, III | Willard C. Kayser, Jr. | The late Willard C. Kayser, Sr.