I escaped my ordinary life for nine days this month to be among the trees. I headed west to the redwoods of northern California, retreating into the wine country — not for the wine — but rather for an intensive training to become a purpose guide. The experience was truly extra-ordinary!
At 50, I consider myself an “edge-walker” and this was yet another, new edge for me to walk: leaving home for nine days, staying with 13 people I hadn’t met before, sharing meals, bathrooms, and intimate details of our lives, at a remote, rustic lodge for eco-activists, River’s Bend. The week before I left, I sent my oldest child off to Spain for the semester. Another edge. Luckily, I felt fully supported by my family and friends who encouraged me to walk this new edge. In the 24 hours before I left, they called and texted, wishing me well and dropping of boots, coats, and sweaters. My family risked their own comfort zone; it was the first time their cook, laundress, and scheduler was away for so long.
Committing to this nine-monthlong intensive with the Purpose Guides Institute represents the culmination of years of longing to “find my peeps,” following deep dives clarifying and honing my own search to discover who I am and why I am here. Thirteen amazing people accompanied me on this journey of a lifetime. I can hardly believe they were ever “strangers,” they now feel so familiar and are so beloved. We journeyed together deep into the wild, and deeper still into the wilderness of our own hearts, minds, and souls. We co-created the kind of community I have been craving — where we are all seen and heard, loved and valued for who we are, where we speak our truth, kindly, and where we explore deep truths together, intent on meaningful and authentic activism. Sharing this common purpose, we trekked through unfamiliar landscape together. Somehow, it all felt surprisingly comfortable there, far outside of my comfort zone, where the Navarro River bends among the trees.
As part of a mini vision quest, we fasted for 24 hours and spent a day entirely alone in the woods, as has been done for thousands of years among indigenous folks. I stepped into the woods a bit trepidatious, and exited, excited about a powerful vision I received. In the spaciousness, free from distraction other than my own thoughts (which quieted, thanks to the fast), I realized how lucky I am to be here, now. I gleaned insight into a new role, a new way of being, and felt deeply connected with All That Is.
When folks ask me how it was, I smile and reply, “AMAZING!” They say I glow. It was utterly amazing. We silenced our cell phones and quieted our minds. We shared space and savored spaciousness. We opened our minds, and our hearts opened wider still. We posited impossible questions, and divined awesome answers. We celebrated accomplishments, transformations, and deepened connections. We held a space for the soul to show up, and BOY! did she!
Leaving that nine-day circle was challenging, and only possible because I feel more on fire with my purpose than ever before, ready to practice what I learned, eager to activate the world around me. Spending nine days in my dream state — Heaven on Earth — gave me a taste of real possibility: of what being better together can be. Walking the talk actualized all I had learned about the power of longing combined with clarity and a willingness to step out of my comfort zone and into a committed community with a shared purpose. Walking the moving sidewalk at the United terminal at O’Hare to re-enter my former life felt surreal. I am still processing the transition.
I am beyond grateful to my friends and family, and to my cohort: Jonathan, Leila, Brandon, Josh, Holly, Praveen, Stephan, Gina, Renee, Katya, Susan, Sharon, Grant — my peeps committed to creating a purposeful society. “And they call again, ‘It's simple,’ they say, ‘and you, too, have come into the world to do this: to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.’” Shine on!
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”