Healing at Pleroma Farm

32By Sue Jarboe

Issue: Summer 2003, What Gives You Hope and Courage? - Issue #32
Pleroma Farm is a therapeutic retreat located in upstate New York close to the Hudson River. Initiated in 1999 by Ana Lups, M.D. and her husband Arthur Lups, it integrates the work on its biodynamic farm with that of the anthroposophical medical practice. Pleroma Farm boards a modest milking herd of Dutch Belted cows, hundreds of chickens and a horse. Patients come from far and wide to live for a shorter or longer period on Pleroma Farm. Through the support of the medical practice, artistic therapies, counseling and farm work they can find ways to deal with their disease or other struggles in life. Living together and working together, sharing our tears and our smiles, we find our way to our individuality and learn how we can become who we really are. Lilipoh asked one of the patient/participants to describe what it is to be at Pleroma Farm.

Sue Jarboe’s experience follows:

My introduction to Pleroma Farm came by way of my desire to find a more promising treatment for cancer. In January of 2002 I stopped taking the chemotherapy and radiation I had begun and called Dr. Lups to find out about mistletoe extract as a possibility for me. After seeing her weekly for that month, starting treatment with viscum mali (mistletoe that grows on apple trees), she invited me to come and stay for 4 weeks.

When I first came to Pleroma I was timid. I was learning about many new things - veil painting, eurythmy, oil dispersion baths, colema board detox, biography work, mistletoe shots. I was also planting seeds in the greenhouse, pruning rose bushes and apple trees. Each of these new experiences was introduced gently by teachers whose trust in my capacities gave me confidence. Just when I was beginning to feel comfortable, I would be presented with a new task that felt a bit out of my reach. Then with their guidance and support I was able to stretch, grow and accomplish.

During that month I approached most new things with hesitation. I was leary about lifting a chicken from her nest. I was reluctant to get close to Awesome when I gave him his morning grain and water. I didn't yet offer my thoughts or opinions except in individual sessions. I had not driven a car for a year. I had a very hard time following a project through to its conclusion. It seemed there were so many important things to be done, I would start one project and before I was finished, I'd move on to another. I also dealt with a fear of not doing the project right. Again, with the ever-present encouragement from Dr. Anna and Arthur I learned how to prioritize projects, do them the best I could and complete them. By the end of my stay I was reaching under the hens, ever so gently, to gather eggs and feel the downy warmth. I got close enough to the horse to let him whisper to me.

I felt supported, protected, guided, challenged, sad and uplifted. I left Pleroma Farm and tried to renew my former way of living inspired by what I learned during my stay. Two months later, after I'd spread myself too thin with family and work, I become overwhelmed and depressed. I called Dr. Anna and Arthur and they invited me back to the Farm. I struggled with my family and my fears but decided to return to Pleroma Farm to continue my work here. I have been back now for 6 months and am taking a course to become a Licensed Practical Nurse. I am driving again! I look forward to conversations at dinner now that I am participating, not just listening.

While all of this individual work is going on with me, parallel work is going on with other patients, students and co-workers here. I have found our interaction part and parcel of living in this therapeutic community. I have been inspired by the dedication of others to a therapy, special healing diet or farm project. Arthur and Craig tackle a building project and see it through to completion. Alex and Chris mix and stir a biodynamic preparation, taking turns driving the tractor and spreading it on the fields. Kathleen prepares savory, nutritious meals in the kitchen. Mark, our 11-year-old in residence, is a constant companion to Luna, our yellow lab in residence. They wrestle to their hearts' content. Dr. Anna sees patients in her office, escorting them over to the shop to buy chickens or eggs, stopping on her way back to the office to pluck old petals from the geraniums, then waving to me and squealing a greeting to Mark and Luna!

All of these individual rhythms blend into a heart-warming harmony that is highlighted by the simple gift of eating meals together.

As one of the Pleroma community, I have found that there is a spirit here - a spirit that works with subtle, powerful energy in communion with nature, the seasons, the land, the animals and the people. I am truly blessed to be part of the family of Pleroma Farm.