The camp consists of 500 acres of woodlands and rolling hills, three lodges, and a dining hall. The spaces are warm and comforting though not at all luxurious. We meet in an octagonal room with glass doors that open onto a deck with the woods for our view. A large fireplace sits at the back of the room. I love when it is cool enough (which it was last weekend) to have a fire crackling in the background while we meditate, practice yoga, learn new things, listen to music and talk with one another. The staff clearly cares about this place and acts as stewards of the land. They serve us wonderful wholesome vegetarian food and we look forward to the local salad greens on the buffet, and the property's own maple syrup for our buckwheat pancakes.
The camp has no television sets or computers and most people are good about not overusing their cell phones. To "retreat" means to pull back, to come out of the fray. The supportive environment really allows one to rest and reflect, to go within and examine your "state of affairs."
This year's theme was Native American traditions. We ate squashes and corn, learned about Native American flutes, and had a shaman perform a welcoming spirit ceremony (a ritual that should be performed in your teens years to welcome your soul into the world and set it on the path of its life's work). We even smoked a ritual pipe (tobacco). However, the most provocative part for me was receiving the Native Code of Ethics.
The code reflects a need to honor the natural world and to respect one another. There is a clear call for compassion for all those who walk this earth. It is uncompromising and difficult. It requires positivity and selflessness. In other words, it is tough work. If you think about what has happened to native populations in the Americas in the past 500 years, it is ironic and sad that people who embodied respect and caring for one's fellow creatures should be treated so brutally. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from these cultures (there is no "one" Native American culture but rather a kaleidescope of tribal variations) and a need to reclaim the beauty of this land. The shaman who spoke to us asked us to consider "indigenizing" the spiritual awakening that so many are heeding a call for--in other words, craft a new culture that incorporates the wisdom, accomplishment and majesty of those who came before European contact and colonization, and those who have made their home here. So, here are my thoughts on "going native":
- Eat Native: corn, squashes, tomatoes, beans, peppers, maple syrup, blueberries, and cranberries are just a few products. Enjoy the bounty of autumn and the native plants of the Americas. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/10/07/354053768/the-sioux-chef-is-putting-pre-colonization-food-back-on-the-menu
- Walk Softly: hike through the woods trying to tread lightly and quietly. Carry that quietude into your interactions with others.
- Respect others, even if they are difficult. They are lost souls.
- Think positive and don't gossip (boy, this can be a tough one). Examine your speaking habits and think about how someone observing you, without your knowledge, would judge you.
- Be honest: Appraise what you want in life and determine if you are being greedy or petty. Be honest with others and yourself.
- Be balanced. In body, mind, spirit and in all that you endeavor to do. You need not go away to retreat. You can have a "timeout" in your own home to address your need for balance and contemplation.
I'm going to post the Native American Code of Ethics in my home and office and think about how I can modify my behavior to fall more into line with these edicts (see link below). It is good for us to retreat and reexamine our lives and values from time to time. As the shaman said in our welcoming ceremony, "You were born to fill a purpose, but then you forgot why you were here." We all forget, get sidetracked, get lost from time to time. It is good to be reminded to get back onto the path of a journey of enlightenment. And it is good to be reminded of the wisdom that walked the earth before us, and still walks among us.
Aho (Amen) -- Lisabeth