“My Other Selves”: the 2012 Spiritual Wilderness Retreat for People of Color

It was a Retreat that almost didn’t happen. Twice. First, our original location fell through due to some dubious circumstances, misunderstandings, and well…some racism. So we decided to go camping since there was “no room for us at the inn”. After carefully staking out our next location, the world-famous Icicle Creek area near Leavenworth, we found out 2 days before leaving Seattle that the gorgeous canyon it was in was engulged in the smoke of nearby wildfires and would not be usable. “Oh the best-laid plans of mice and…and…?” But fear not, friends, for not even racism or massive wildfires could keep us from getting some amazing healing work done together! …And since we were simply following the forced-migration way of lots of folks of color around the world, it just rolled off our backs–we were used to displacement! ūüėČ We gratefully¬†found our temporary retreat home amongst the towering mountains and deep river gorges of the North Cascades National Park, at Goodell Creek, near Newhalem.

Falling on the weekend of the Autumnal Equinox, the theme of the weekend was finding balance and loving¬†each other as our “other selves”. This teaching was lovingly and generously shared by one of Christine’s best friends, spiritual teacher and mentor, Ilarion Merculieff, an Aleut Spiritual Teacher and Elder. The Aleuts traditionally greet each one another with “aang waan”, which means “hello, my other self.” (For more on this and other wisdom teachings, please check out this interview!¬†or watch this!). We practiced addressing each other and any other living being we encountered such as a tree or the river as “my other self,” bringing us to a beautiful level of oneness. We discussed Zenyu’s mission of healing the 3 isolations amongst People of Color: isolation from ourselves, from each other, and from Nature. We shared practices in community ranging from powerful meditations, yoga on the shore of the gorgeous Skagit River, hiking, swimming, and beautiful ritual.

One of many highlights include a bonfire storytelling ritual in which we shared stories about our ancestors. All incredibly inspiring and beautiful, a few shared about the struggles and triumphs of their immigrant parents, one shared a beautiful warrior myth they had grown up hearing. All stories shared that night and throughout the weekend showed the tremendous healing power of voicing our own stories and the necessity of a loving community in which we can feel safe enough to keep our hearts open and vulnerable.

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Zenyu feels grateful to be able to share such a loving and unique space of healing, in which not only our deepest spiritual questions and most vulnerable stories were shared, but also dirty jokes, belly laughs, and spontaneous swimming! We look forward to the next one!

PRAISE FOR THE 2012 SPIRITUAL WILDERNESS RETREAT FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR:

Image‚ÄúChristine and April, our leaders, were compassionate, flexible, humble and encouraging as they guided us through deep meditations, spiritual exercises, and profound healing ceremonies. They created a warm, open and safe space for us to share and dig deeply into our internal landscapes, but I never felt pressured to share more than I felt comfortable. Overall, I felt completely held by their well-planned retreat structure, leadership during the retreat, and by the incredible community surrounding me. A thousand thank yous to Zenyu!‚ÄĚ – Nari Baker, ChangeLab

‚ÄúDeciding to come to his retreat was the best gift I could have given myself during a time in my life of great transition. I felt so taken care of by Christine and April’s thorough preparation and organization that made this retreat possible. This time of healing and connection helped me vision what and how I want to manifest my being and the work I am doing in this world. I am so grateful to Zenyu for reconnecting me to nature, community, and my highest and most joyful self.‚ÄĚ

– Meng Yu, FEEST Coordinator

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‚ÄúThere are so many things I am thankful for in this world, and Zenyu is very near the top of that list. I was thinking how to list all the¬†wonderful memories and special gifts the retreat provided me, but I really feel as though words can’t even begin to express how much of an impact the retreat had on my spirit. Lots of R words come to mind; rejuvenation, refreshing, replenished, reinvigorated…but love is the biggest gift that was given this past weekend. Thank you for your boundless love, you give so much to so many, which allows us to continue on our paths to hopefully give others the love you have given us.‚ÄĚ

– Rachel Anthony, Childhaven

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“Thank you, Zenyu, for existing and providing us this opportunity to heal as a community. As my body and mind have begun to react to the stress of my life, healing has become a large part of my life. As a queer mixed-Latina working for social justice change, I find myself in a constant struggle to defeat the feelings of burn out and difficulty connecting with others. In the legal profession in which I work, I often feel like an outsider. It was so healing to enter a space where I felt I could be me, with others who wanted to know the real me. Being surrounded by trees, water and the sky provided an atmosphere that allowed me to feel more grounded.  It also encouraged me to seek out nature more often and in a more spiritual way in my daily life.

Most of all, the opportunity to share, reflect and go inward surrounded by individuals with the same value system and similar experiences had a larger impact than I could have imagine. The POC retreat will prove so necessary in continuing on my path toward spiritual growth. Just in the past week the loving supporting environment of the Retreat allowed me to be and feel more present with friends, loved ones and all those I encounter in my work as a social justice advocate. It also helped me address differently the many difficulties and oppressions I encounter on an institutional and societal level that often leave me feeling hopeless.

I left with new healthy practices of meditation and positive thinking. I also left committed to continuing these practices.¬†Thank you for making this space for healing possible. I didn’t want to leave that safe space, and cannot wait to take advantage of more Zenyu events.‚ÄĚ

-Lillian Hewko, Social Justice Advocate, Legal Voice

 

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