earth initiation

27th Aug to 7th Sept

The Whole Earth is the True human Body – Dogen Zenji

We’ve been running wilderness immersion and Nature Based Practice retreats at Ecodharma for many years now. As our work develops we’ve decided to give time in our program this year to an event guided by facilitators trained in the approach developed by the School of Lost Borders – one of the most highly acclaimed wilderness schools in the United States. This is how they describe the event:

The greater part of the soul lies outside the body. – James Hillman

We used to ‘know’ our belonging in our bones. As a culture we have grown away from intimacy with the more-than-human world, yet it waits for us. This initiatory journey is an invitation to remember what we deeply belong to, what we have always belonged to.

For much of our story as a people the wider natural word has long been respected as a necessary partner in initiatory journeys or rites of passage. The land offers itself as mirror, as ally, as fertile container in which to draw close to the roots of our life, to what is important and what so easily can be forgotten in the fullness of contemporary life.

This journey will be divided into the three classic phases of a passage rite: Preparation, Threshold and Incorporation.

The first days serve as our preparation as we come together as a community to clarify our intentions. Here we listen to each other’s stories of where we find ourselves in life and what brings us here. Specifically we explore in some depth our intention for this passage rite, what is it in our life that is asking to be honoured or marked through an initiatory journey?

The threshold phase will be a traditional four day and night fast. Each person goes alone into the wilderness (with the support of guides at base camp), without food and minimal external trappings. The threshold time allows for one’s intention to be revealed and to be unfolded in the mirror of Nature. It is a time for self-generated ceremony, for becoming intimately receptive to one’s life and for experiencing both the challenge and the beauty of taking our place amongst our relations as a simple human animal on this Earth.

The final days are devoted to incorporation. We share the stories of or threshold time and explore its gifts and implications for the life we return to. We sit in ‘story council’, sharing our stories and having them mirrored back to us by the community, offering the opportunity to see our individual narrative in a wider context. This can be one of the most touching and heartening parts of our time together: being witnessed and affirmed by those who have come to participate and create this ceremony.

Other elements we will explore in support of our time together will include:

• Cultivating a receptive mind through sitting practice
• The practice of ‘Council’
• Shaping and honing of Intent as a foundation for threshold experiences
• Exploring the role of contemporary wilderness rites of passage or initiatory journeys in our times including the challenges to this.
• The four Shields of Human Nature – An Ecopsychologial model of human development.
• The nature of self-generated ceremony and the role of threshold crossing.
• Nature as mirror
• The role and art of Mirroring for empowerment and community witnessing.
• Physical safety during the Threshold time

We do not go into the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them: we do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good. – Thomas Merton

At Ecodharma we know how important it is to cross-pollinate and collaborate in the creative development of our work. We hope we will learn a lot from this opportunity to see this approach put into practice in the wild and beautiful valley we know as home.

For an application form and more information contact us at

Suggested contribution in the Dana Economy €400 to €1025 (euros). Make a booking.

The team:
Rupert Marques has worked within the field of experiential environmental education for the past fifteen years with an emphasis in outdoor education. He trained extensively and subsequently worked as a guide with the School of Lost borders in the U.S. offering contemporary wilderness rites of passage.
A practitioner in the Insight meditation tradition for over 20 years, he is interested in how experiences in wild places can serve to open the mind and remind us of what we belong to. “I am interested in how we come to find our place, our sense of belonging in the times we are living through, how we meet the magnitude of the challenges we face in a manner that calls forth our integrity and even our gratitude.”

Rhonda Brandrick (to be confirmed) is a soul centric, nature based guide who facilitates a deepening relationship to nature that encourages inquiry into the mysterious depths of what it means to be fully human. As part of our human development she feels that a move away from ego-centric life and into deeper soul centric practices are crucial if we are to re-member our true indigenous selves. She believes that we cannot mature unless we turn towards the soul of the earth and see our part in the great evolutionary story at the heart of creation.
From her 20 years as a therapist, mediator and teacher she brings a wealth of experience and realness to her work. She has co founded Failand Training which runs a year long certificate in ecopsychology and nature based practices. As Director of Human Nature she has led the development of courses and retreats that bring people into an ever deepening re-connection to nature and themselves. She is currently training with Animas Valley Insitute and Bill Plotkin in becoming a Soulcraft guide.

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