Jasper is an occupational therapist who works in a geriatric rehabilitation facility. Ashland, OR
What brought you to EOA?
EOA seemed like a way to spend quality time living in nature and learning how to sink down into a deeper understanding of how I fit into the web of living things on this planet. Also, I have mostly spent my time in nature doing things, being on the move with some activity. EOA provided a new way of experiencing the natural world, by being still and observing and absorbing what it has to teach me. I also wanted to learn how to spend more time in my heart instead of always living in my head.
What happened during or as a result of your journey?
One of the biggest revelations over the year was how much the other human participants in this program would shape and impact the transformation inside of me by the end of the year. At the beginning, I wasn’t so interested in my connection with the other people in the group, including the guides. I was only focused on being in and connecting with the natural world. So it was a shock for me to find I was truly inspired by the depth, authenticity, and professionalism the guides embodied and the loving and genuine way they interacted with everyone in the group. I continued to be impressed throughout the year with how Kerry designed and implemented each moment of our experience from the group councils, to the rituals, to the teachings, even how we were paired up with our tracking partners. Everything had to have many layers of planning and preparation, yet it all fell into place so smoothly it appeared effortless on the guide’s part. This was quite a feat, for the guides to hold the container and provide such a sense of safety, on a physical and emotional level. Especially when we were always out in a wild area without resources, it made the experience feel magical.
Throughout the year I moved in and out of feeling connected to the group, at times they felt like family, and at other times I felt completely isolated and outside of the group. This was all a necessary part of my own process of healing and learning to trust myself and others. Although EOA is not a therapy group, the dream work and personal stories that everyone shared allowed each of us to heal on a deep level. I do believe the combination of being immersed in a wild natural setting and the gentle support and guidance of the three guides allowed the depth of transformation that took place.
How would you describe the outcome? Was it more inward or outward or both?
The outcome was definitely both inward and outward. One of the greatest gifts for me was learning the importance of not just being “in“ the natural world, but being “with” the natural world, being in relationship with the plants, animals, the ground and the sky, the sun, stars and the moon. I found myself engaging with all of these elements and experiencing some level of comfort in them. I wasn’t just moving through the natural world as I had in the past, I was a part of it. The birds woke me in the morning, the sun provided light and warmth, the trees sheltered me and provide shade in the heat of day, the coyotes sang me to sleep at night, and the raptors and rabbits kept me company throughout the day. There is more of a reverence for the natural world around me now.
Do you feel that EOA impacted, shifted or informed the way you see yourself and/or the world?
I feel EOA had a significant impact on the way I see myself and the way I interact with others. Being fully present and being available as an active community member was modeled by each of the guides. I have always had a difficult time trusting people and letting myself be seen by others. Engaging with the guides and group members over the course of the year taught me to open up, let my guard down, and to feel like an integral part of the community, to feel the interconnection and support provided by the group. I learned to take a leap of faith and trust myself and to trust others, to let the group become a source of love and support. I think the awakening part of the journey for me is continuing to be trusting and open, to stay present, to keep loving the natural world, and keep building and participating in community.