Posts Tagged ‘Dexter R. Richards’

Justifying My Existence

02/11/2012

A case for the hard working travelers & educators

Finally Realizing I Actually Did Make the Best Life Decisions
By R. Richards, Founder
Mountain Spirit Institute
Andrew McCarthy in his book  “The Longest Way Home – One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down “  writes, “Whenever I would tell people that I was going off on some trip or another, I was met with remarks like, “Oh, tough life,” or, “That’s rough.” Even good friends reacted with outright hostile envy-“Must be nice,” they often said. I used to try to explain and justify my travels.  It was pointless.  Travel, especially by people who rarely do it, is often dismissed as a luxury and an indulgence, not a practical or useful way to spend one’s time.
“People complain, “I wish I could afford to go away.” Even when I did the math and showed that I often spent less money while on the road than staying home, they looked at me with skepticism.  The reasons for not traveling are as varied and complex as the justification for any behavior.  Perhaps people feel this way about travel because of how it’s so often perceived and presented.
“They anticipate and expect escape, from jobs and worries, from routines and families, but mostly, I think, from themselves-the sunny beach with life’s burdens left behind.  For me, travel has rarely been about escape; it’s often not even about a particular destination. The motivation is to go, to meet life, and myself, head-on along the road. There’s something in the act of setting out that renews me, that fills me with a feeling of possibility. On the road, I’m forced to rely on instinct and intuition, on the kindness of strangers, in ways that illuminate who I am, ways that shed light on my motivations, my fears. “

The author as a child on Lake Sunapee

My wife, who had been reading McCarthy’s book this week, showed the above passage to me the other day.  Although I’ve done more than my fair share of “inner work”, in one instant, after hearing her read these words, I realized, I too have been carrying a chip on my shoulder about supposedly not working hard enough, about being a mountain guide and facilitator and director of a non-profit organziation. I’ve tried to defend what I do to  family, friends and the fellow community members in my home town. It has not been the work of my imagination – that some have thought I “was on permanent vacation”.

After graduation from University of Utah, I was on a fast track to represent an Austrian ski boot company in the U.S. by taking a Master Boot-maker program in Austria. However, the combination of two main life events,  meeting Erga and Luciano Cappella, (see my earlier post: Reconnecting with a Mentor)  and one day, simply realizing I was on the wrong side of the window in that little mountain workshop where I was learning how to make ski boots, made me have a paradigm shift. I needed to be “out there in the mountains”, in the Alps. Something in me snapped, and I realized at that moment, I was the closest I would ever get to corporate life, (aside from later conducting Outward Bound Professional corporate team-building workshops). I took a left-hand turn out of the corporate ski business, and never looked back.  With that decision, came a shift in perception, and future decisions  led me to international mountain guiding, a long stint with Outward Bound as a lead instructor and staff trainer, and lastly, founder of Mountain Spirit Institute.

Richards rappelling in his twenties, Newbury, NH

I’ve worked hard, as do most people in the outdoor education field. Anyone who has started a  non-profit organization from the ground up also knows program building and organizational management on a small scale takes a lot of energy, more so than punching a timeclock.  It has sometimes felt like pushing a boulder uphill.  That’s not even taking into account the fun, but hard and endless hours of making sure the participants get what they need on any given program.  I’m committed to what I do, and feel I’m  good at it. It has been my passion since I started teaching in the outdoors at age thirteen, and I feel it’s my life’s purpose.

But from the outside,  it looks like I’ve been galavanting around since my twenties. “When are you going to get a real job” is what if not said, is implied sometimes. Indeed, even my parents occasionally expressed concerns about my not “biting the bullet” , a nice term. Then, later in her life, my mom was just happy knowing that I was doing what filled me up.

With Dr. Theo Paredes, Peru

I didn’t know this article needed to be written until a few nights ago, but now realize it has been long overdue.  I quoted Eckhart Tolle in an earlier post
“Most people are only peripherally aware of the world that surrounds them,  Especially if their surroundings are familiar. The voice in the head absorbs a greater part of their attention. Some people feel more alive when they travel and visit unfamiliar places or foreign countries because at those times sense perception, experiencing takes up more of their consciousness than thinking. They become more present.”

I never looked back – Guiding in Alaska

It’s almost a cliché, but I think this is what other climbers, outdoor leaders and guides are up against when they encounter the world of the conventional. It’s almost like two worlds intersecting. Many articles and books have been written about this. Of course we’re all connected on one level. On another, there very different lives happening in my small hometown.  Said Oliver Wendall Holmes  “A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimensions.”

Fortunately my mind has been stretched. Now it is up to me, with this new perspective, (thanks to McCarthy), to compassionately nod to those who don’t understand my lifestyle and career choice, and to move on.
For more information on R. Richards’ career choices you can read his short bio at Mountain Spirit Institute’s About Page.
Re-edited on 11/3/12 16:46EST (My motto, post first, edit later)

Some responses from my personal Facebook Page, also see the comment posted below by Jay for additional insight.

  • Peter Canaday Hard to explain unless you come across others of the same mind, and then, no explanation is necessary….
  • Wendy Gilker Randy, I understand living a life different from the norm. Generally, people do question it. How many times have people asked me – “When do you get a life Wendy”. As Joseph Campbell said ” the Journey begins with a” call to adventure in which the He…See More
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  • Wendy Gilker Helen Keller – “Many people admire what I did with my life because I seemed to be at such a disadvantage. But, they’re mistaken. If anything , I was greatly blessed. The danger in my “zone unknown” was great, but so was the treasure since eternal pr…See More
  • Randy Richards Good comments Wendy, I like the quotes.
  • Irene Powell Thank you for sharing….I will be allowing this words to percolate inside and see where they take me in my inner voyage of discovery.
  • Kevin Sleeper Randy, I have to say that it is/was probably jealousy which produces those comments. Be comfortable that it is our loss and your gain. Being outside was always a passion of mine, mostly expressed through scouting. Check out my posting of the Sailors take warning sky last Sunday at 6:15 or so over Lake Sunapee. I am sure you will recognize the place?
  • Randy Richards Thanks Jay Leavitt for the comment and poem (posted on our blog). You bring up some good points I failed to include. Also, I’ve done some re-edits of the blog post – My motto: Post first, edit later.
  • Randy Richards Hey Kevin Thanks for that..Yeah I remember that about you.
  • Dale Morrow I agree with Kevin, Randy. Feel a little sympathy for us who look at you, and feel the need to needle you, because we covet your life. But don’t take it all to heart. They mean no harm. People have to learn to accept the choices they’ve made.
  • Kevin Sleeper Randy, I learned a long time ago if U R going to swim upstream U R going to need a thick skin.

Water, The Great Mystery

04/06/2011

Water, Check it out.

Austrian Researcher Alois Gruber states in the movie, Water – The Great Mystery, by Hopscotch Films, “At the level of thought, a person who thinks negative thoughts is polluting his own water of which his body is 75-90% composed, and giving it a negative charge.”  The movie had my attention.
The film’s narrator continues, “As it records new information, water acquires new properties yet its chemical composition remains unchanged. The structure of the water is much more important than the chemical composition.

H2O

The structure of water means how its molecules are organized. Water molecules join together into groups which are called clusters. Scientists *theorize that these clusters work as memory cells of a

certain sort in which water records the whole history of its relationship with the world as if on magnetic tape.”

Water's structure in clusters

“Of course remains water, but its structure, like a nervous system reacts to any irritation. Modern instruments have made it possible to record the fact that within each of the water’s memory cells there are 440,000 information panels each of which is responsible for its own type of interaction with the environment. “

Molecules coming and going

Marc Chaplin, Professor and Laboratory Chief of London University says, “If you consider a cluster as a specific group of molecules, then it can only survive a short amount of time,  but if you consider it as a structure, whereby molecules can leave and other molecules come in, the  cluster will survive in effect, for a very long time. Water can record and store information, like a computer memory.”

H2O has "memory panels"

“Basically water has photographic memory and you can imprint it with very subtle energies, even from 10,000 km away”  says Professor Rustum Roy, of Penn State University, and Member of the International Academy of Science.  “Does that mean remote communication can happen between human beings who are structures essentially composed of water?” asks the film.

Subject A in Russia

“In Februrary 2005 a professor and colleagues conducted an experiment  to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis that remote communication between people is possible.  Two people were 10,000 miles apart, one in Moscow, the other in South America. The “virtual brain” of the experiment’s participants showed with EEG’s and EKG’s as well as other systems being monitored.

Subject B in S. America

Suddenly the two people had tuned themselves to the same wave, synchronization of areas of their brain, breathing patterns, and pulses. The theory is, liquids in the body carry out an information transmission system.”
The book the Secret Life of Plants was one of the first early works exploring and describing the reactions and relationships of plants to external stimuli in their world.  The author hooked up house plants in his office to a lie detector machine and to his surprise saw the plants react to his thoughts, regardless of whether he was in the same room or not, or the same city for that matter.

Subject A & B's synchronized scans

Dr. Masaru Emoto, author of “The Secret Life of Water”  was also interviewed in the film. Emoto, in his experiments, exposed different water droplets  to different thoughts, words  and intentions.

Water Crystals presented with Bach

These words and thoughts were directed at droplets before they were frozen, then images of the resulting water crystals were captured on film. The stunning results, such as  “beautiful” or “ugly” depended upon whether the words or thoughts were positive or negative. Emoto claims this can be achieved through prayer, music or by attaching written words to a container of water.    If you ‘re not familiar with his book or images, one of which is included here, check it out.

This led me to a logical conclusion from my shamanic studies in Peru, where the Inca and Quechua concept of Ayni, (reciprocity) runs throughout the mountain cultures in the Andes.

Q'ero Priests in the Andes

I learned to give words and form to what I had intuitively, (and most likely all of us have) had  known all my life from growing up in woods of New Hampshire, and later, mountain guiding in the mountains of the world –  that the mountains, streams and rivers, and other natural features give off a certain energy, and that we can interact with them as we would a person.  We can exchange energy, ask for support from the mountain, or lake,  and give back that support through emotional prayer, conservation protection and simple acknowledgement of the mountain’s energy and presence.
This might sound silly to the western logical mind, but the indigenous cultures who lived closer to the land knew and lived this life, and many still do, on a daily basis.  The western mind  is too busy, the channels are too clogged with data, to recognize the subtle signals that come from the old oak tree or the master mountain on the horizon.
The people of Cusco have twelve main “Apu’s “ or Mountain Spirits around their city, two of which are named Ausangate, Salkantay, Each main mountain or other geographic feature has its own characteristic such as male or female, strength,  allowance, introspection etc.. and the spirit of Ayni pervades all interactions with these mountain spirits.  As a side note, when I named our organization Mountain Spirit Institute in 1996, I had no awareness of the Andean “Apu’s”.
I took what I had learned, and melded it with my own intuition and experiences. When back in the U.S., I started to give more form to my relationships with the surrounding mountains and water features in my hometown of Sunapee, NH.  I started to see Mt. Sunapee in a different light, and in fact, took a job as a ski patroller mostly because I wanted to interact with the mountain energy on a daily basis. I wanted to, protect it, be in on the mountain, feel its power, and ask for strength from it as well.  Now that I think about it, maybe when Catherine Busheuff and I decided to move forward with those early meetings at the library, that later turned into the Friends of Mount Sunapee, maybe part of the seed that led to the mountain’s protection that exists today, came from those early interactions.  Many individuals have since carried forward  with their own passion to protect the mountain from abuse and over-development. I hope to think I may have had a small part in that.

Communication w/Lake Sunapee from NZ's Lakes District

I also started relating to Lake Sunapee in a different way as well. While I always felt the water was in my bones, this film, and Emoto’s book, gives me some credence that the water memory from where we come is actually part of us.  So after seeing the movie, I spontanisouly  meditated on the waters of Sunapee from here in New Zealand. I started feeling the healing power of the waters of Lake Sunapee, even though I’m down here on New Zealand’s south island,  very long way away. I could feel the exchange of energy, of love and gratitude.
So what’s this all mean – from the shamanic studies in Peru, to experiments in Russia to meditation and communication with a body of water in New Hampshire from New Zealand,  from one water body to another body of water? It means, at least to me, that we can interact more with trees,  mountains, rivers, lakes and each other on a level far deeper than conventional society believes. Traditional societies know about this connection, and its knowledge may just mean we learn to survive as a species.
I started Mountain Spirit Institute because I feel I can contribute to helping people reconnect to the natural environment, each other and a deeper connection to themselves by setting the stage for powerful transformative experiences. This film is an affirmation that I, and our board of directors are on the right track. Visit our website for more information on our core values, and our mission, and do see the movie!

Water's structure as important as chemical make-up

Chapters of the movie Water, The Great Mystery, include:
The Structure of Water
The importance of water,
Dead and Heavy Water
Natural and Artificial Water
The Effect of Water on the Body
Water as the Medium
The Power of Faith
A Water Crisis
Nature Disasters
Love and Gratitude

* While I didn’t look for footnotes to the research mentioned in the movie, nor check into the science, I decided to write this post to share my personal experience of the movie, and in life.

There was much more fascinating information in the movie than I was able to include here. Do see it to learn more about agriculture, hydro power, our public water supply and one of the world’s most pristine water supplies in Brazil.  All images are screen shots from the movie and are intended and used for review purposes only.

MSI Successful Board Retreat

16/09/2010

Burning the midnight oil

At MSI’s recent residential retreat, the energy was contagious. The board members worked on actively bringing Mountain Spirit to a new level of commitment and confidence. MSI was started in 1998, when R. Richards,  after having just returned from high alpine guiding in Peru, led a trip under the MSI name to the Cusco region of Peru.  Since then the non-profit organization has had numerous and successful programs and workshops ranging from a Peruvian Shamanic Studies program which ran over the course of two years, a wilderness experience educational program, author lectures, and a film series, ongoing programs to Peru, the teen healing adventure and the Peru/USA Music Exchange held in the Northeastern US in the fall of 1998.

“Becoming more sustainable as an organization, and building capacity to deliver programs ” has been the board’s goal for the last two years.  At each board retreat we’ve identified how we can move forward, and at our last retreat, we dug in and wrote our first grant together. Laptops were all over the room, crunching numbers from every program we have on the calendar.

We had a ball, put in some long hours and have some great results. Importantly, we have set a time to develop our annual program schedule where we’ll slate new programs for the coming year during our Board of Directors summer retreat. Also, as  a result of the great work every did putting together some great programs and an top-notch organization-wide budget, we applied for our first grant to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Express Grant. We put in some serious hours, and suffered from a bit of what fellow board member Craig Cimmons calls “HBO”.  The acronym stands for “Haven’t Been Outdoors”.

Thanks to Cindy Heath, Craig Cimmons, Bob Stremba, and Amanda Richards for all the work and energy that they put into the board retreat! Adelante!

Image: MSI Board Members LtoR: The beagle Daphne (not a board member), Randy Richards, Amanda Richards, Bob Stremba, dinner guest and author *Henry  Homeyer, Cindy Heath and Craig Cimmons. (*Who you’ll be seeing more about on this blog)

MSI Director & VP Present at Conference

16/09/2010

Assoc. of Experiential Ed

R. Richards and Bob Stremba, Ed.D, will be giving a presentation at the 38th Annual International Association of Experiential Education Conference on November 4th in Las Vegas, NV, USA.  The two will share MSI’s unique mission and how MSI blends the world of experiential education with practical spiritual facilitation.  Ther a number of presnetation categories, and the two are slated for a workshop during the conference under the Body/Mind/Spirit category.

The conference, bills itself as “Connecting Communities, Sustaining Educators” which brings together more than 900 experiential educators and practitioners for professional development and networking.

The title of the presentation, “Exspiriential” Education: Integrating Spirit with Experience, comes from the term coined by MSI Founder Richards, which combines Spirit and Experiential education.  The MSI website states: “We’re a hybrid organization – a cross between an experiential wilderness program and a holistic learning center, with elements of both experiential education and spiritual development.”

Stremba is a former board member of AEE, and continues to be actively involved in the association. He currently runs the Outdoor Pursuits program at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Richards has recently joined again as an individual member of AEE.

vegas_conference_head_template.jpg

November 4-7, 2010- Workshops

2010 Workshops (pdf)

2009 Workshops

2010 Workshop List (subject to change)


Adventure-Based Programming

3rd Annual Trends and Issues in Outdoor Education Programs Panel Discussion
Andrew J. Bobilya,  Tom Holman,  Betsy Lindley, John Gookin, Tim O’Connell, Nina Roberts, Bobbi Beale, Bob Stremba & Jay Roberts

Accreditation 101
Shawn Tierney

Adventure Education and Motherhood II; Are they Mutually Exclusive or Mutually Beneficial?
Erin Lotz

Building Respectful Learning Communities: Setting Positive Behavioral Norms through Adventure
Jane Panicucci & Larry Childs

Chiji Cards: Beyond Processing
Chris Cavert

Designing Skill-based Initiatives
Paul Nicolazzo

Developing a Self-assessment Study
Shawn Tierney

Facilitating Inclusion in Outdoor Adventure: Decisions in Management and Modifications
Alison Voight & Catharine Bishop

Girl, You Got it! Empowering Girls to Develop Technical Skills
Priscilla McKenney & Nadine Budbill

Good Judgment: The Ultimate Facilitator Skill
Chris Ortiz & Jim Grout

Into Thinner Air: More on Adventure Programming at Altitude
TA Loeffler

Intuition or Cognition: The Dual-Process Approach to Judgment and Decision-Making for Outdoor Leaders
Wynn Shooter & Nathan Furman

Leadership and Challenge Center ¡Lánzate! Empowering Agents of Change
Juan Carlos & Echavarría Flores

Outdoor Ethics – How AEE Members Can Easily Implement Effective Leave No Trace Education Programs
Catherine Smith & Sarah Folzenlogen

Project Venture – Evidence Based Prevention Programming
McClellan Hall, Bart Crawford, Neal Ferris & Heather Yazzie

Standards, Legislation, Regulations, Certification, New Technology. What Does This All Mean for My Challenge Course Program?
James Borishade & Bill Weaver

The Living History of Experiential Education
Tom Lindblade

The Ropes of Ecology
Shawn Moriarty

The Use of Emotional Rescue In Adventure Based Activities
Joel Cryer

Thematic Programming: Unifying the Experience
Patrick Torrey

What’s Nature Got To Do With It?
Jacquie Medina

Willi Unsoeld: Outdoor Education Philosophy and Practice From Risk Taking to Rites of Passage
Krag Unsoeld

Experienced Based Training and Development

A Foundation of Trust
Sam Sikes

Accountable Team Building in a Web 2.0 world
Jason Kipps

Alternative Mediums in Experiential Learning
Anand Upadhyay

Experience and Reflection to Inform Design:  Outward Bound and Professional Development for Educators
Billy O’Steen, Andy Mink & Jim LaPrad

Explore the World of EBTD: A World Cafe Experience
Marc Levy & Jonathan Clark

How To Hear What Is Not Being Said
David Kampfschulte

Is Team Building a Set Up?
Claudia Valle & Tim Arnold

Judgment and Decision-Making: How Our Brains Are Wired… and What We Can Do About It
Jeremy Johnson

Overcoming Language Barriers in Facilitation
Sarah Kauntz & Kathleen Day

Secrets of Successful Networking
Jeff Richardson

Spiritual Dimensions of Team
Al Wright

Using Personality Assessments To Become A More Effective Educator
Chris Gee

Facilitation/Processing

A Book of One’s Own: How to Make Books for Processing
Gretchen Newhouse Berns

Building a Sense of Community Experientially
Jeff Jacobs

Creating Transfer of Learning Through Intentional Program Design and Framing
Gregory Paninski

Dramatic Problem Solving
Steven Hawkins

Enhancing Flow in Classrooms Through Experiential Education
Marleah Blom

Focus Your Locus
Justin McGlamery & Mike Gessford

Going GA GA For Global Games
Rich Keegan

Got Tossables?  10 Team Building Games Using Tossable Props You Already Have
Michelle Cummings

Green Mentoring Program
Melinda Campbell & Maryam Davodi-Far

How to Turn Your Support Group from Mediocre to Magnificent
Lynne Downey, Jenni Jardine & Ian Prinsloo

Nature Experiences, Use Them or Lose Them
Francine (Frankie) Piela , Clifford E. Knapp & Mike Bingley

Raccoon Circles, 2010
Thomas Smith

Shifting the Paradigm: from Challenge by Choice to Conscious Choice – An Evolution in Ideology
Jody Radtke & Lizzy Slatt

Systematic Family Sculpting
Gary Hees

Team Interaction Mapping
Mark Rose

The Art of Experiential Group Facilitation & Teaching
Jennifer Stanchfield

The Assessing Matrix
Nate Regier

The Fine Art of Team Building
Adam Ames & Andrew Bordwin

Turbo-charging for Character
James Fish      

Mind/Body/Spirit

“Exspiriential” Education: Integrating Spirit with Experience

MSI Director on MSI’s Forward Direction

15/08/2010

Mountain Spirit Institute Director Cindy Heath talks about MSI’s proactive attitude about new programs, and action steps we’re taking to offer more programs next year.

Good Communication & EcoChallenge Wins

31/03/2010

Robert Nagle,  Eco-Challenge Multi-Winner: “Teamwork and Communication, Some Major Keys to Wins
By D.R. Richards

I recently met Robert Nagle at a Professional Ski Instructors of America Telemark Spring Rally, and when he mentioned that a particular piece of clothing he was wearing was great for “desert runs”, it got my attention. “Desert runs?” I asked,

“Yeah,” he responded, “I was a professional competitor for a number of years, and did a Sahara Desert Run, where we had to carry everything on our back, except water.”

“What?” I replied. I’d never heard of such a race.  He added, “Yes, I also used to compete in the EcoChallenge,” adding humbly, “We won it a number of times.”

Below, Robert shares what was were keys to his team’s success.

The InBox: Amantani Island, Peru

23/03/2010

Sustainable Travel, Off the Beaten Track, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Dear Randall,
I hope you don’t mind my contacting you. I saw your blog post about staying on Amantani Island and I wanted to ask your advice. I had been planning to go to the island and stay with Richard Cari at Kantuta Lodge. However, having read your post I am wondering if I should be staying elsewhere in order to be a bit fairer and in the interest of sustainable tourism – such as going to stay with the islanders who don’t usually see a lot of tourists.

I felt a bit nervous not booking something in advance and am also not sure how easy it would be to organise something like this (I will only have one night and we arrive in Puno the evening before we hope to go to the island). Do you know any responsible tour agencies who give back to the islanders and could help me find somewhere to stay? Or would you recommend just turning up and hoping to find a boat / somewhere to stay on the island?

Many thanks for any help you can give.
Kind regards,
Lucy H.

Hi Lucy,

Family Mamani, Occopampa, Amantani

Thanks for your email, and for your concern about sustainable tourism on Amantani on Lake Titicaca. Here are a few suggestions.
Richard Cari and family are good friends of mine, and we do hire his launch/boat to get our clients to the island, and although we might stay one night at his lodge, the lodge has evolved into something bigger than I want my participants to experience, (semester students excluded, plus Richard will help facilitate these longer programs). So we may bypass the lodge in favor of the other families who are wanting to have guests visit them. However, depending upon your comfort zone, and interest, you would enjoy Richard’s family and small lodge in any event. But more about staying with other families:

There’s no real problem with taking one of the boats run by the community of Amantani which you can pick up (more…)

Craftman’s Love of Wood & Music

20/03/2010

A Passionate Drum Maker

Kai Mayberger, owner of White Raven Gallery in Vermont, who makes drums, didgeridoos and Native American Flutes  has one of those personalities to which one is drawn. He’s unassuming,  passionate about life and has a good sense of humor. I’ve stopped in his Bridgewater Corners store a few times over the years, and last year, he was a vendor at Mountain Spirit’s “Sunapee SunFest“. We stopped in the other day to say hi, and this impromptu interview happened. Watch the interview below:

Mayberger continues the family tradition of creating art. After studying antique furniture repair and finish carpentry with his uncle, he attended Goddard College and studied a combination of ecology, shamanism, sculpture, and woodworking. The result of his Senior year at Goddard was the birth of White Raven Drumworks. Now he makes flutes, drums, didjeridus, and music. Kai displays his work at the White Raven Gallery on Route 4 in Bridgewater Corners, VT.  If you happen to be passing by, he recommends you give him a call (802) 672-3055 to ensure he will be there when you visit.

Quebec vs. American Anxiety

26/02/2010

By D. R. Richards

Telltale signs of "joie de vive"

What is it, that makes Quebec, Canada a breath of fresh air for those of us who often escape there from the northeastern U.S.? It’s interesting to experience this question through the eyes of my wife, who’s from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. She’s new to the U.S, and to New England, and is not afraid to share her observations. I always felt more comfortable when I lived in Europe, South America and New Zealand,  but, honestly, still struggle to put into words exactly why an ex-pat life could still be my destiny. I had my “Euro-epiphany” at 21, after having a chance meeting with Erga Rehns in Portugal. It took two years to sink in, and I almost didn’t return stateside. I still have that ex-pat perspective. I still look at the U.S. with the eyes of an foreigner.
My wife just got her Green Card a few days ago, on the 22nd, and the next day we were outa here, off to Magog, Canada. Partly because my birthday was on the 23rd, and partly because she was on the wait list for a Vipassana course for which she was accepted and started the following day.

Mt. Orford with "Visitor's Center"*

As we walked the streets of the little Quebec towns, and went for a walk at Mt. Orford Provincial Park, we discussed what exactly is it that makes us feel more relaxed away from the U.S.? Here’s what our conversation yielded: For one, the people take care, and pay attention of their food and time. They are not as stressed. Immediately it’s obvious that there isn’t an anxiety in the air –  in fact, there’s a calmness. Kids are smiling, people are quietly enjoying their week-day afternoon. We also concluded it takes a lot more effort in the U.S. to relax because of the nervousness of the collective consciousness. Today’s Health Care Summit in Washington illustrates the deep crisis Americans are experiencing about such basics as going to the doctor. In other countries, people are incredulous that there’s even a debate in the U.S. about profit over people. The idea that someone could lose their house should they become sick is a foriegn concept.  It would simply not happen in France or New Zealand, or in Canada. (See the movie Sicko)

Meditation: The Ripple Effect

As I write this, my wife is sitting peacefully in the mountains of Quebec at a Vipassna retreat center. I feel the ripple effect, and I hope you do as well. Janice Vien, in her Iyengar yoga classes always closes with the phrase, “May the benefits of this practice be extended to others”. It’s clear Americans face difficult roads ahead because of the greed of the “corporatracy”. And yes, of course, one can keep their center no matter where one is, as put forth by Eckhart Tolle. But for those that are sensitive, the difference in  energy between the U.S. and Quebec is striking.

Maison Verte's B&B = Quality and Care

*The reason I put quotes around the Mt. Orford Visitor’s Center is the sense of scale in Quebec, and other countries is more realistic than in the U.S.  When one thinks of  “Visitor’s Centers”  in the U.S., usually the image of the Denali National Park, Arches National Park, or the Smithsonian most likely comes to mine. The Center is Quebec however, is a small lodge, (with fireplace, bathrooms and picnic tables), despite it being a popular national park.

An “Awakening Together” Retreat

23/02/2010

By D.R. Richards,
Learning to live with an Open Heart, Part I

Martha and Don Rosenthal

I first met Don and Martha Rosenthal about 10 years ago when I enrolled in a monthly meeting of  “Awakening Together” sessions here in New Hampshire, where couples meet to witness, listen, talk and learn vital life skills in relating to one’s partner. The group was started 18 years ago and a few of the original couples are still continuing today. Other couples have naturally come and gone. Indeed, the gathering is more about becoming a more fully realized human being, about living in the present, than how to only relate better to one’s partner. It’s about learning to love unconditionally with all who come across one’s path.  At least this has been my experience of the meetings and the work.

Amanda and I just completed the Rosenthal’s  Awakening Together couples retreat” at their country farmhouse in central Vermont, as a proactive approach to building a good foundation for our marriage. We’re so glad we committed to going to the Rosenthal’s for the weekend. We are also enrolled in the once monthly group mentioned above, but the weekend was a “full on” laboratory for personal disarmament.

The Rosenthal's "Learning to Love"

Six couples of various ages and socio-economic backgrounds attended the weekend retreat.  Amanda and I were blown away not only with the wonderful format and top quality information covered, but with how both Don and Martha walk their talk, not to mention their well versed articulation and perceptions of participant’s situations. In fact, if you haven’t heard of Don Rosenthal, I expect you will as his reputation will most likely grow . His book and his way of being in the world is direct and heart felt. In short, he walks his talk.

We suggest this as one of the best, if not the best, couples workshops a couple can attend. It is mostly advertised by word of mouth, so I thought I’d post this today. I will write more about our weekend in Part II.

From their website:
Don and Martha began their 31-year journey together in Alaska, where they lived in a remote cabin and explored the quiet life together. Emerging after some years, they moved to the coast of California where they began what has now been more than two decades of counseling couples and individuals. Don received training in psychotherapy and began a career as a counselor. Martha studied mind/body/spirit connection with various teachers and developed a private healing practice. They have a son, now grown, whom they home-schooled.

Don's Second Book

In 1989 Don and Martha moved to rural northern Vermont, and shortly thereafter began offering weekend workshops for couples. Through word-of-mouth these soon expanded to a wide circle, becoming the core of their work. In addition, Martha leads meditation retreats for women and works with couples and individuals privately; Don offers consulting to individuals and couples, fundamentally as a form of spiritual guidance. Don and Martha view their own relationship, with all its trials and wonders, as the testing ground and measure of their teaching. They are co-authors of Learning to Love: From Conflict to Lasting Harmony.

For more information on their work, or the weekend workshops see their website.
Editor’s Note: Another book “The Unquiet Journey” is a book of reflections, written by Rosenthal that provides the philosophical and spiritual context for his later publications. Many readers have found it valuable.
To Be Continued in Part II