The ancient cultures knew the power of the wilderness for healing. They would look to mother nature as a guide, go out on vision quests and come back from their days in the wilderness with a fresh sense of purpose and peace. I believe that the African Self Transformation Adventure Retreats (STAR) have become a modern day vision quest. They are a time when a small group of people step out of their normal lives and away from the conventions of social niceties to do some deep inner work and reflection.
This June 2012 was no different as we hosted two African STARs at Londolozi. During one of the retreats we sat down to our first lunch and group discussion and began to talk about how in all ancient cultures it is the leopard that is the symbolic cat of the shaman or healer. As if on cue a big male leopard walks out onto the rocks in front of pioneer camp and for a few seconds I feel the whole world breath in and I know with intense clarity that nature is an active participant in the healing of the people who have come on the STAR.
I see it again later when we sit in complete silence among a herd of elephants and watch the youngsters throw sand over their heads with dyslexic trunks whilst tears stream down a participants face. They are, to me, the tears that come in bursts and floods when someone recovers a part of their lost innocence.
The star is tremendously transformative, powerful and connected to nature. But it is by no means a tree hugging granola fest. Led by Dr Martha Beck the work that participants do is vigorous and designed to help people develop real practical applications in their own lives. Over the course of the retreat as we teach people to track animals, we also teach them to track their own sense of purpose and mission. Martha is exceptionally skilled at helping people heal old wounds and then begin to find the hottest track for a new vision for their life.
As the days go by I see peoples faces change, I see a light arrive in their eyes and when they leave there is a renewed sense of purpose.
Since I was a young boy I have know that nature could heal and transform people. I have known that in some ways Londolozi’s place on planet earth has been compliant with that mission of healing and restoration. During STARs I have come to see the perfect synthesis of how the outer world of nature can heal the inner world of people. Then those people who have come to peace go back to their lives and change the world around them from the inside out.
The STAR also serves as a fundraiser for the Good Work Foundation. This year we raised over R 500 000 ($60 000) which has been given to the Good Work Foundation to continue with its mission of empowering education and learning in the rural communities surrounding Londolozi. In particular, the Hazyview Digital Learning Centre which aims to provide ‘leapfrog’ digital education for both adults and children alike. This is thanks to the team at Martha Beck Inc and each and everyone who took part in the African STAR.
Special thanks to Phyllis Lane for the images