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Reflections of a Wild Heart

In August 2023, Heartland hosted its first group campout in the Oregon desert. Far from any traces of human civilization, we gathered in the dramatic dry hills along the John Day River. The landscape here feels truly wild - rugged rock formations, scattered bones, and only a few juniper trees to provide meager shade.

I arrived early at camp to set up, ground energetically, and offer blessings and gratitude to the land. In an intuitive way, I feel strongly that this place longs for humans to come be with it in ceremony. And yet, when strong winds blew over and destroyed my heavy duty shade canopy, I was reminded that although friendly to our presence, the wildness of this place would not be subject to containment or human domestication.

The Wild Heart Campout is about awakening your inner wisdom through relationship with wilderness. This mechanism is at the very heart of Heartland - it's the reason I created this project and it is the core of every journey. There are of course many paths which show us the way to our hearts, but of all that I have found, intimacy with wilderness has been the most potent.

On the second morning, the eight of us transitioned into personal ceremony with the landscape - fueled by the power of our sincerity and intentions we departed alone to fast and walk the land. Heartland ceremonies are designed to not be prescriptive or limiting, but instead give just enough instruction to support each person in creating their own powerful, meaningful experience.

Ceremonial threshold outside basecamp

The ceremony concluded with all eight of us returned across the threshold. We ate, rested, and held council to witness the telling of each other's stories. As leader of the trip, I of course wondered how effective this structure would be for folks. It's powerful for me - but would others be able to enter into their own personal, liminal, ceremonial space? With each story told, my doubt evaporated and left me filled with the joy and gratitude that comes from witnessing another's true authenticity. Yes, indeed, this place and this ceremony worked.

At night, most of us slept on the ground without tents, small beings under a massive sky. Meteors were abundant and seemed to seal-in the magic of the day, burning themselves to bits in brilliant, awe-inspiring displays. A reminder that the sky is nature too, and it is full of wildness.

Before I knew it our final day arrived, we said thanks one more time to the land which hosted us, and departed. I was happy for the long drive home, to give my body time to process and integrate the experience before arriving back into life in the city.

Since my first vision fast experience in 2021, I have strongly felt that it is possible to encounter the power of wilderness ceremony without requiring a 3 or 4 day fast, taking 9 or 10 days away from home, and paying thousands of dollars. I certainly do not intend to disparage the full vision fast experience, which holds an important place and has been life-changing for me, but for many folks it is not very accessible. My hope with Heartland, particularly with the Wild Heart Campout, is to reach into the power of the vision fast ceremony in a scaled-down way, to tap into the magic of wilderness immersion in just a couple of days.

The overwhelming success of this campout re-affirmed my belief and I'm inspired to host future events and continue showing others this path. Modern culture has disconnected so many humans from intimate relationship with the natural world, and there is profound healing found by reconnecting - for each of us individually, for our culture, and for the planet.

Thanks to all the wonderful humans who came on this trip and a special shoutout to Annie Cattabriga-Alosa who was an incredible co-facilitator with me!


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