Yesterday in our five day residential we invited the participants out on the land for a solo retreat. Bowen Island, where I live, is an incredible place. To get here, you have to take a boat across the Queen Charlotte Channel, a deep body of water at the entrance to Howe Sound. Howe Sounda was formed by glaciers and mountain making processes, and now is a fjord surround by walls of 1200 meters or more.
Entry to Bowen is through Snug Cove, a small and protected harbour that s part of of a bigger bay called Mannion Bay. it is a deep round sanctuary that serves as a channel into the island, and a kind of birth canal when you leave. I have never tired of the process of crossing this threshold.
Once you are here, the Island draws you ever inward, with our one main road branching into three at the crossroads and later into dozens of ever smaller roads and lanes ending at beaches, bays, lakes, mountains or sometimes just petering out into the forest. There are no real loop roads here: once you take a path you have to retunr pretty much the way you came.
This landscape sets us up for a beautiful retreat. When I have helped people have solo experiences here I have always framed them first with a noticing of the threshold that is crossed. Richard Rohr captures the power of these kinds of thresholds here:
The edge of things is a liminal space – a very sacred place where guardian angels are especially available and needed. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, “a thin place” and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position. You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways. When you are at the center of something, you usually confuse the essentials with the non-essentials, and get tied down by trivia, loyalty tests, and job security. Not much truth can happen there.
Once we have crossed the threshold, typically a person’s experience will consist of three phases: a moving out onto the land, a resting phases in stillness and a return. It is a mythic journey in many ways. In going out I invite people to dwell on what they are getting ready to leave. In resting I invite people to be still for at least an hour in the forest or by the sea, which is enough time to let the forest close back around a person and let it reveal itself to you. And the return journey is always accompanied by a gift; you are bringing something back. These little out and back pilgrimages are important and very powerful for people. As I learn more about the way this land works us, I feel like I can let it more fully host me and the people I work with and the insights can come.