Local Harmony and Kauai Work Retreat

I’m heading home from Kauai after spending three weeks in the sweet, soft Hawaiian air, rejuvenating from a usual, atypical western MA winter. The second week of my stay was spent facilitating – along with Owen Wormser – our second Local Harmony-sponsored Kauai Work Retreat.  Visit Local Harmony  for more information about our non-profit group, dedicated to bringing interested people and parties together and spearheading projects that couple self-cultivation and mindfulness with stewardship skills largely in the area of gardening and horticulture.

We were on a fence about running the retreat because of low registration, but a gut feeling inside both of us told us to override the pull of logic and to instead trust and leap. Neither one of us wanted to drop this one-of-a-kind experience that we knew would benefit whoever chose to participate for the rest of their lives. After the success of our first retreat two springs ago, we wanted to see if our intuition was correct, that this was something too good to abandon. Kauai has a way of either accepting you or rejecting you, in clear, decisive ways, so we knew we would get an indisputable answer. We also wanted to see if the first retreat was ‘beginner’s luck’. We were answered with resounding positivity on both counts. The day before the retreat participants arrived, after what many residents on the North Shore called the rainiest year they could remember, the weather broke and we were blessed with seven days of sunshine. After a couple of years of low whale and dolphin activity, we were blessed by daily spouts, breaches and general frolic and fun. Add to that a handful of top-ten sunsets, full moon rises, and sun rises, and it was evident Kauai welcomed us.

Any notion of experiencing a sophomore slump after a stellar first retreat was completely blown out of the water by the individual and collective quality of the retreat participants. We were hoping for nine students, as we had for the first retreat. Registration rose to six for a short spell, after which I believe our conviction was tested by Kauai, as if she was challenging us: “Are you committed to this experience, or is it about the numbers?”  We almost balked when the number of registrants dropped to three. Owen did some fancy maneuvering and figured out a way for us to break even IF we played our cards right and everything went smoothly with minimal hitches. I guess we played them well, as we had two dollars and change left over at the end.

Kauai Magic and Stellar Students

The magic of Kauai and the retreat experience extended to the character of the three participants. Had it not been for their enthusiasm and persistence during the registration phase, we would have canned it. But there was something about each of them that made us trust our gut and go for it. We are very glad we did. There are no coincidences in my world, and I know clearly that this retreat was a one-of-a-kind (actually, I remember saying that about the first retreat, too), never to be repeated experience. The three people made it so! As we sat each morning in meditation after joint loosening, qi-invigorating exercises, sun salutations, and a short Dharma deconstruction conversation, breathing and being with the rising suns, rolling swells and crashing blue surf, we all knew how special it was that this was happening. We all felt truly blessed, something I’m still basking in the glow of, and I saw it in the eyes of the three students as we said our goodbyes at the airport at the conclusion of the retreat.

Five of the six days we spent the mornings and early afternoons working and offering our help at different places along the Kauai’s North Shore, one of the most beautiful places on Earth (in my opinion). One current that runs strong through our work retreats is our dedication to uncovering and nurturing self-cultivation skills that are birthrights present in all of us. The other current offers what Owen and I believe is an epigenetic talent and desire innate in all of us: a chance to be gardeners, to offer and use our exquisitely designed bodies and minds as caretakers for this jewel of a home we call by many names. We like Gaia. The look I see on the faces of virtually every person who plunges their hands into the earth and helps to co-create overflowing sustainable abundance and beauty with their sweat and  intention never ceases to amaze and hearten me. And I have seen it often enough in so many people over the last twenty years that I have extreme optimism and hope for our human future. This generation of humans, and the next, are lit. Giuliana, Matt and Sadie – our three participants — are no exceptions.

How quickly they absorbed and synthesized teachings, guidance, ‘cheat codes’ and experiences and made them their own, only to express their unique takes on it outwardly within days or even hours, had Owen’s  and my jaw dropping with regularity. And I keep seeing it, in the people showing up to take my classes and programs at Clearpath Herbals, or the ever-growing number of Five College students – now sixty-plus per semester – taking Topics in Herbalism at UMass in Stockbridge School’s Sustainable Food and Farming program. There’s evolution in the air, and I am truly happy to be part of it. With people the likes of Sadie, Matt, and Giuliana appearing on a regular basis, it’s a pleasure waking each day to see what’s going to be coming over the horizon.

Details of the retreat from a facilitator’s perspective coming in next blog, and we’ll be posting installments from Matt, Sadie, and Giuliana. As part of our sustainability mission, it’s important to give back, in this case letting people know about their experiences.

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