A PILGRIMAGE OF SERVICE, LEADERSHIP & ANCESTRY
Beginning June 2009, a small group of 8 leaders of different ages and backgrounds began a year-long journey around the world with a nature quest in the high desert of the Inyo Mountains in California, coming together to form a community with the intention and commitment to serve.
Following this solo time, we all joined to support a youth RITES OF PASSAGE IN NATURE. Their stories coming down from the mountain were true inspiration and confirmation of the power of Nature as teacher, of the lessons that we can receive from listening deeply to the world around us and to one another.
These six youth, and hundreds of our supporters, family members, and friends served as a long-distance base camp as we set off for a year-long pilgrimage to a number of places, programs and centers creatively exploring the frontiers of peaceful, regenerative culture. We also offered our hearts and hands at different reservations and indigenous peoples projects focused on reclamation of land and repair. While offering our service and skills, we focused on learning from and supporting those we met. We found many areas of collaboration and exchange, which we hoped would benefit the people and places we visited, as well as the many we will return to in the months and years to come.
Sustainable, holistic, regenerative… many adjectives today are attempting to describe a commitment that is in some ways very old and simple: to live in awareness of the generations to come, to live with care for the earth and all beings, to live with heart and truth, to live in remembrance of the gift that is to be shared. This is not religion or politics but common sense. It goes beyond definitions of class, culture or nation, beyond boundaries. The values of coexistence with all our relations are ones that need to be experienced, learned and practiced.
In whatever ways we could on the Beyond Boundaries pilgrimage, we wanted to bear witness, to join and support those living and working in this way. A year and thousands of miles later, we have gathered the stories, recorded the songs, and shared smiles and tears with hundreds of people working proactively to facilitate positive change for a healthy future for the Earth that we call home. We listened to the stories of celebration and struggle in areas of utopia and crisis, music to the ears and the ones hard to hear; and we bring them home to become part of our transformation. We believe that we have visited and become a part of the places where collaboration and partnerships can truly make a difference. We joined in the stories of success, survival, hope, sustainability, and new beginnings.
Our intention was to offer our simple time and labor along with the best of life practices and skills we know, as appropriate and as requested to do so. We opened ourselves to learn from others, and to deepen into a spectrum of cross-cultural community living. We went with the intention of being “part of,” strengthening the “morphogenetic field,” some call it “the matrix” of energies that supports all life, which seems to be so threatened in the instability of our time. Our task then became what it is still today – to incorporate the journey into our lives in numerous ways while supporting and inspiring others.
THE 2009 PILGRIMAGE
- To offer an international walkabout, a leadership training, a cross-cultural, eco-spiritual community education and collaboration, a possible flow-fund site visit, a pilgrimage of service.
- To model and seed a unique education for ‘glocal’ activists and community leaders.
- To inspire international and local action that comes out of listening, bearing witness, ceremony and prayer (as well as those already coming out of science, politics, art and social exchange).
- To form long-term partnerships with specific communities and projects by being in service and exchanging information and experience first hand.
Each center that we visited is committed to the work of social and ecological design. Many serve as regional hubs for convening seekers, students and teachers in the realms of health, spirituality, regenerative living practices – the building of societal structures based in peace, justice and shared human and earth rights. Beyond such centers, we listened for the ways we could be part of supporting and learning with both local and global indigenous peoples, so many who have been living these principles despite centuries of repression and genocide. We were and are part of a prayer of repair and healing, relearning the old story so essential in the walk towards a new one.
We were surprisingly gifted a Flow Fund for our year of travel with the opportunity and responsibility to pay it forward. Additionally, each team member visited a number of other projects and places during the independent study time based on their ancestry, specific areas of interest and inquiry.
We were and are a multi-talented team bringing a unique set of skills as well as curiosities to our intention, calling forth the voices of both youngers and elders in council, committed to bringing those voices home, back to our people. Council was one of our core practices throughout the ten months; it is the act of speaking from the heart, listening devoutly, expressing oneself in a lean manner, and being spontaneous. Though it sounds or seems to some simplistic, those of us that share this practice have felt the profound sense of connection and truth that this way can manifest. It was for sure a large part of what held us together and kept us walking ahead.
Wishtoya Foundation, California
Ojai Foundation and Chumash land project,California
Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
Biosphere Foundation, Indonesia
Favela da Paz, Brazil
Dolphin Project, Bimini
Council Project Israel
Belarus ancestral lands, Russia
WILD Congress, Mexico
USA ancestral lands
By journeying to these sites, our commitment was to give away the best of life practices and skills we know, as appropriate and as requested to do so, while learning from others, deepening into a practice of cross-cultural community living. As North Americans,as well as white Americans, we had and have a lot to shift in our world view and actions around being the greatest.
At each site, we not only visited and exchanged information, but also joined in events and participated in community undertakings. Further, we are increasingly aware of the need to use scarce resources wisely, and further called to limit our travel because of its true cost to the environment. We were deeply aware of the need to make this journey count on many levels, given its carbon footprint. Among other things, we, literally and metaphorically, planted trees all along the way.
- Who is co-creating effective models for peaceful, connected and regenerative ways of life?
- What can we learn from these people and what can we offer them?
- How can we integrate the different strands together, creating the best potential outcome for all?
- Given our increased awareness of the interdependence of the international community and the natural world, how can we live in right relations now and for generations to come?
- What does it mean to be a Global Citizen? What does it mean to “Go Glocal,” or to think and act locally and globally simultaneously?
In 1980, Gigi traveled to projects and communities in the U.S., researching what, by some, were considered, ‘alternative’ systems, meeting and learning with individuals and groups committed to sustainable living practices and the healing of self, others, and the planet. It, however, was her work and time with dolphins and whales, the oldest brains on this water planet, that most informed and inspired her. Each experience and project were seeds for a life work focused on international citizen diplomacy, council ways, community activism and service as a passage guide. All were seeds of inspiration for the BB 2009 journey.
It was in 2007, while fasting in the desert that she dreamed and developed – the 2009 Beyond Boundaries Pilgrimage. She was called again – to go on “ a “pilgrimage” of service, a different definition and use of that word than that referring to and enacted by many of our Western European ancestors. The word, she and others feel, needs remembering, re- defining and reliving into the best of its meaning as sacred passage… The journey was intended to connect many of the people and places, both those who had struggled to maintain as well as those pioneering alternative living systems. She contacted many named herein, based on years of accumulated relationships with individuals and organizations both local and global. She was joined by her partner Win Phelps and together, they invited a small intergenerational group to join them. Together, they made quite a time and are still travelling in deep connection with each other and all they learned today.
Will Scott, Siri Gunnarson, Shay Sloan, Emilia Dahlin, Aaron Frederick, Sam Deboskey, Gigi and Win
* With special mention of (Sierra) Sally Silverstone, who held our base camp throughout at 3 Creeks and now has passed over.
Will was an aspiring agent of change and a student learning all he could about how to rebalance human systems on the planet. Today he continues to learn, and also teaches much of the same.
Aaron joined the Beyond Boundaries journey in 2009 after 10 years developing an off-grid island-based leadership and ecology education school-driven to transform the human-nature relationship from extractive to regenerative. Today, Aaron works with institutions, investors and startups addressing social and environmental challenges using dialogue and a dialogic approach, a close-cousin to the Council practice of Beyond Boundaries.
Emilia was an adventurer, hopeful gardener, and touring songwriter who was tired and searching for more connection, which she found. She’s now a mother, change agent, and teaching artist who still writes/performs songs and tends the earth and relationships.
Sam was bright eyed and bushy tailed, aspiring farmer/cowboy, poet, and mentee…now farmer, guide, less bright eyed, poet and community organizer/organizee in Denver,CO.
In 2009 Win was grateful to be exploring intentional community, ancestry & roots, nature divine, and “what is my give-away?”… listening deeply to a wider circle. Now, he’s feeling angry, grieving, selfish, afraid, open, loving, and still grateful… feeling communion, song, and the divine in all things–still in service, learning life/death. Yearning to awaken from the script of the cultural trance, he wants to better listen to Mother’s voice.
Siri was the wildcard who joined last minute, jumped all-in, fell in love easily and kept the pilgrimage going for many years, returning to beloved watering holes many times. These days she is slowing down, dancing frequently, and bringing her inquiry and love towards justice, healing and regeneration with the places, networks, organizations and individuals she serves.
Shay was a student of the human-nature relationship timing out on a decade of being a younger working with younger youth for social and community development, empowerment and connection. She is now married, mother to a toddler, and living, loving and working for all ages with and for The Ojai Foundation, an essential watering hole on our pilgrimage.
I’ve found any true vision is not ‘ours’… it is not new or isolated but emerges in different styles, different ages, different places… we are not alone… we join with many others. We will be just a few, but if held or seen as acupuncture then much can come of that… ripples throughout the entire earth body. Hopefully, any good vision is heard, seen and carried in more places than one.