Holding The Vision

Jun 05, 2024

Last week, we started off the season by erecting our beloved tepee again for the 5th time. What used to take days, now gets accomplished in a matter of hours like clockwork. It still requires attention, communication, fine tuning, and patience. Sometimes we have to endure inclement weather and the teepee raising requires various levels of physical strength and experience. This time was no exception. Each group that participates learns a great deal about themselves and receives a special meditation exercise. They are in service to the school and all who come to the retreats in the summer. The tepee is our most beloved sacred space.

Sean and I are especially grateful for this particular service each year.

During the weekend, we brought out our vision statement which was developed by Sean (certified in permaculture), myself, and Terra Phoenix Design - a northwest permaculture design firm that includes Doug Bullock, one of the famous Bullock brothers who are in essence the founders of permaculture in the US. Their Bullock Homestead on Orcas Island is regarded as the finest permaculture site in North America. We spent hours with Doug, Dave Boehnlein, and Paul Kearlsely walking the property and discussing our vision. The result was a “conceptual master plan” that blends Fourth Way principles with permaculture principles into a truly unique vision for the Awareness School.

Our vision weaves Fourth Way principles with permaculture which go hand in hand. 

We are cultivating the land to promote abundance and the interdependence of systems to enhance the natural environment. “Permaculture is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.” By a similar principle, the Fourth Way Work helps people develop their full human potential through cultivation of attention and self-remembering.

Our vision statement is a beautiful document with detailed descriptions of every “system” and includes a watercolor illustration of the future Four Feathers Farm, which didn’t have its moniker at the time. The community participation in this vision is an essential component. One of the members attending last weekend read this vision and was impressed by the level of depth and detail in it. We were reminded of the importance of seeing the whole picture, where we are going, and why.

We have developed so much over the past five years, together with many many people who have attended retreats to help build our dance floor, boardwalk, outdoor kitchen, glamping tents, dining hall, and walking trails. We have done hundreds of meditations and “stops”, infusing the land with our Presence. People feel it the minute they step on the property. 

Each retreat is meaningful in that each particular group carries on the work, both inner and outer, of the previous group to the future groups. We connect by an invisible thread to something much greater than ourselves. Those who come together learn from the land, the living teaching, and each other simultaneously. This provides for a depth of experience that can remain in the participants forever. We are all contributing to the vision that serves more than just ourselves, while benefiting nonetheless in myriad ways.

We cultivate a connection and a presence of Being with the land itself.

Whether people have come to erect a tepee, burn woodpiles, clean tents, chop wood, cook for a group, manage the camp, attend Sound Camp, the Week Long Retreat, a Women’s Wisdom Circle, a Men’s Retreat or an Alumni weekend, they are part of a bigger picture. When participants step onto the dance floor to do The Movements, they dance with generations of Sacred Dancers holding a portal of possibility. When they enter the tepee, they feel the power of the Medicine Wheel holding the power of the 20 directions. 

We are holding space for the Great Teaching to come through us and this place.

When Sean and I walked these fifteen acres six years ago (now 20 acres), we had no idea the vast richness that would arise from care and cultivation of this disturbed forest. We knew what we wanted to do and had been facilitating retreats for nearly twenty-five years, but doing it on our own land with the intention of implementing permaculture through The Fourth Way Work has become a deeply meaningful endeavor. It has required a great deal of patience and hard work. We have spent many years now making it habitable and functional with the help of the community..

We were strongly reminded of our vision last weekend. We felt new wind under our wings.

Next year, we will build the community house, aka Sound Barn, which we have already designed and are awaiting building permits. It’s an exciting thrust forward; a time of trust and hope.

I end this article with a quote from our vision statement. We hope that you will feel inspired to join us in this vision and come be a part of a legacy that will serve all who come seeking inner peace and freedom in a vastly abundant and thriving landscape.

“Sharing this collective vision will unify the community in their collaborative work. Each step of the

development will provide insights into the emotional, mental and physical relationships we engage with every day. As the space grows into a healthy and productive landscape, the nature of the work will evolve from that of growth and development, into the work of cultivation and care. 

The positive legacy of this work will be long lived in both the human community and its local ecology.

Synchronization of the Community and the land will be happening in two different phases; the site

development and the on-going maintenance/production. The development of the landscape will provide many opportunities for working and learning as a team. Designate projects that lend themselves to collaboration and schedule/stage them for retreats. 

Development work requiring skilled specialists and tradespeople can be conducted as needed. Collectively work towards a smooth transition from the development stage into the ongoing maintenance and land-based production. These tasks will become the primary work of the community/retreats and the rhythm/mentality is different in nature than the development phase.

Syncing the Rhythms of the Community to rhythms of the land will take a bit of trial and error.

Production farming requires daily attention, whereas the frequency of community gatherings may only be on a monthly basis. Consider the collective schedule as it will relate to the plantings. Crops of bulk scale such as dry beans, potatoes, garlic and squash may be well suited for the intermittent labor schedule. Plantings in the spring, summer time maintenance and fall harvest can each provide land-based work in tune with the community gatherings. Gardening can provide many opportunities for mindful work, especially if the plants/processes compliment the community schedule.”

Join us for a retreat this summer, visit Retreats at www.awarenessschool.com

If you are interested in these subjects, sign up for our newsletter. We’ll be talking about different aspects of the vision for a while. 


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