HerStory

In 1998, year 9 in a job I was burning out on… I started to think about how I really wanted to live and work. In my mind, I saw a mountain with water; buildings powered by the sun; a central meeting space for people to gather; gardens; stone walls; a flow of people coming together for healing and peace; living close to the land; being caretakers on a beautiful space on earth. The vision kept unfolding and I began to really listen. I invited different people to join me in the venture. No one committed. Person after person faded. It became apparent it was for me to do and the rest would unfold. I was ready to answer the calling.

I took business courses, developed a brochure and a business card. A friend showed up and built the first website for free. I got my Maine Guides and Ski Patrol license so I could take people into the wilderness and have winter work that utilized my current base of knowledge in sports medicine and emergency care as well as my love for skiing. I devoured a variety of texts, and I started meditating, studying plants and birds resulting in an expansion of my understanding and knowledge of life. While leading my first holistic canoe trip for women, I got to witness transformation first hand. That experience guided me to the core of what was being created, a space of healing. I offered everything I knew at the time. Nature and heart did the rest.

I led retreats for 7 years without a base… with the container simply being a canoe, the shore, the island, the camp fire circle, the sunset, under the full moon, in the rain and the sun. It was time for a base now. I sold my house to buy the land. It was the land I envisioned 7 years prior, a mountain with water, stone walls, spectacular views, and  space for building. Nurture Through Nature was truly taking its form and was ready to be built. With  7 canoes and enough gear to take 14 travelers into the wilderness, it felt like full circle. A frequent retreater lent me money to buy the first cabin, “Harmony”.  A grant then paid for half of the materials for the second cabin, “Robin’s Nest”. A women’s carpentry workshop, “Zen and the Art of Carpentry” helped  with its construction.

A barn raising happened… Carpenter angel shows up named Bob Dunning. He teaches volunteers the art of orchestrating a barn raising. Ten hands-on weekends later, the retreat space was closed in, made with wood from the land and volunteer hands and hearts. Even the logger, who had cleared space for building and the solar panels, asked the birds to move from the trees before felling them. I spent a lot of that fall (2003) in tears of gratitude. I knew and I think everyone else knew that what we were working on was bigger than our little selves. It would evolve with time. NTN grew as requests showed up at the door. The vision was manifesting. My passion was exploding and apparently it was contagious as retreaters kept returning and support kept showing up. Donations, hands and hearts kept everything afloat. NTN was still not generating enough income to support a living wage. So, I worked part time jobs along way, gradually releasing old identities and hats, former skills, and made progressive leaps to leave my past life behind. I mentally gave it 7 years for NTN to be a viable business.

Each group that came here to retreat purchased, unbeknownst to them, beds, mattresses, a door, chairs, a woodstove, on and on, all for comfort, shelter, and service. It had all come together now in the most beautiful, green, natural setting I had thought it could be. Without all of the love and support of so many people NTN would not have been born.

Special thanks goes to Lisa Baldwin, often the brains and much of the brawn behind the scenes, helping Nurture Through Nature in its fledging years.

In 2006, some unfinished business was percolating up in me.  I started to notice anxiety before leading a retreat. Not the normal nervous energy kind. It was strong and loud. Coming soon was a week at a yoga retreat center for long needed R and R; to restore from all the work in creating a retreat.

Byron Katie was leading a weekend immersion there. I peaked in and was very curious about this tool called, “The Work”. I learned it was a form self-inquiry meditation that helped undo negative thinking patterns. I learned that in being so hard on myself, I couldn’t help but be critical of anyone around me, especially those closest to me. Since everything and everyone is my mirror, I learned that I could only appreciate you as much as I appreciate me and that comes from questioning and turning around the negative beliefs that had been building up inside of the unquestioned mind.

I knew to go to Byron Katie’s 9 Day School for The Work for my own sustainability and mental health. It proved to be so powerful and transformative for me in my personal life that I decided to continue forward with becoming a Certified Facilitator of The Work. It’s the best thing I could have ever given myself, this tool for mental freedom and clarity. Over the course of the next 3 years, I dove deep into all the concepts that were keeping me from peace. Being a Certified Facilitator and offering this tool is one of my passions and heart’s desire. I am grateful to be able to witness people coming Home to who they are really are, over and over again.

In 2009, a Donation-Based Yoga Studio is created. Local community starts attending classes and people really enjoy the space and each other. It starts to feel like a community destination and it’s such a pleasure to meet the neighbors and locals through yoga and meditation. In the midst of this, an amenity that had been on the list  begins to come alive– a wood-fired sauna. This idea was sketched on a scratch piece of paper in the birthing of the retreat and had remained as a quiet possibility. The project began late summer and was completed 10 minutes before its opening, Winter Solstice of 2009, birthed a wood-fired sauna like no other in the region.

Year Nine on the mountain was another remarkable year… A deep and profound question kept arising…”What to do with the people’s poo…what to do with the doo…” Two swanky composting toilets were brought into play in full style. The “Common Throne” and “The Vortex” are classy places for your business.  We could practically rent them as solo cabins they are so beauteous.

I do think it is an important question worth pondering; what do we do with our doo on the large scale? We tend to pee and poo in our drinking water, if you notice. The water in the typical toilet is potable. With the demands placed on water and how we are all drawing from the same well, I just couldn’t go down that road. Hence, we compost our guests’ contribution– and from that flowers and trees are grown. My house plants are very happy.

Raising a yurt was on the list for a while… Yurts are such unique structures, such a cradling container for a personal retreat. A sweet location was found for the 20′ diameter “Mountain Brook Yurt” to live, tucked within the forest overlooking the brook, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. All of the building materials and supplies were carried in by hand as there is no road access. It has been home to those coming for holistic coaching immersions for deep healing and transformation. Solo travelers, couples and families have also loved the space. This space seems to be nothing short of sacred.

All the big stuff has been seen through to its fruition… What a labor of love it has been.  Readying for groups to lead their own retreat or individuals to come for their own healing work and eco-getaway. There are beautiful trails, healing spaces, renovations to the meeting house with a full kitchen, thoughtful finish work, and an office studio in the back for staff and guests that includes wireless internet. Whoa.

That brings this journey to fall 2011… time for a break: I had been noticing a voice asking for a sabbatical,  a step back and to widen the vision of what was, what is and towards what was next. I was getting worn out from the physical nature of creating and building a retreat center. The opportunity arose to winter in California to test out that notion.

My dear friend Raja who was the inspiration behind opening NTN’s donation-based yoga studio, had also been inspired to open a yoga and meditation studio in South Central Los Angeles. I decided to help support this venture, and through it learned first-hand about the realities and effects of classism, social injustice, and institutionalized racism. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and connection to “The Tree.” It has expanded my World View significantly and continues to thrive as an amazing beacon of community empowerment in South LA.

I continued exploring living bi-coastally while leading retreats in Maine, Mexico, California and Costa Rica… It was a challenge that provided much growth and learning, managing support staff and facilities, both virtually and on site during my extended stays in both Maine and Southern California. The contrast between the two lives led me to the knowledge that Maine was where I needed to be for my soul and life’s work.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to return to LA to teach Yoga Anatomy and Injury at The Tree’s  unprecedented Yoga Teacher Training for people of color. It’s been an honor to be a part of something so powerful for so many who otherwise may not have had access to affordable, quality Yoga teacher training. Many of the trainees are now teaching yoga. Roots planted and growing.

2014 brings a land-mark 15-year anniversary celebration at Nurture Through Nature… I invited the old and the new. We sang, danced, honored, celebrated the amazingness of thriving and evolving over 15 years. To bring the celebration home, expansion and renovation happened to bring the retreat to the next level. Hot showers for all, a brandy~new yurt named “Sunset” and the “Mt Pleasant Meeting House” transformed into a lodge. She started out affectionately called a barn and now she rests as a lodge housing 6 retreaters in beautifully, heart~fully crafted Maine-made bunks constructed by Marc McLeod. Marc oversaw the construction of the shower room, the raising of “Sunset Yurt” and the transformation of the lodge during the winter and spring of 2014– culminating at our 15th year celebration. So grateful! The retreat is  now be ready for other retreat leaders to create their own magic here on the slopes of Pleasant Mountain with the space and amenities to support.

Groups from near and far begin to lead retreats here…Brooklyn. Boston. New Jersey. Portsmouth. Portland. Brunswick. What an honor to meet, greet, and support those in the healing arts, yoga, and meditation and who have an appreciation for earth~friendly practices infused here in the being and doing. It’s truly become an earth-friendly retreat destination.

Paying attention…Now back in Maine full-time with my God-Send sister Marie (Mer) helping me maintain and hold the space sweetly for the many guests that retreat here, it becomes clear to me that I want to distill my focus and life’s work down to simply leading retreats and expanding my holistic life coaching practice.

Prison of the mind…I began volunteering at the Maine Correctional Facility, offering mindfulness, meditation and Inquiry-based stress reduction through The Work of Byron Katie (which I love). I am very moved by these amazing, resilient, courageous human beings. As I drive home after our time together, I shake my head in awe of them and what they teach me. Their insights, willingness- their open minds and clear eyes- model possibility beyond what I have witnessed before. This Work inspires me to want to delve wider and deeper.

Perspective is needed…Living at a retreat center~ the lifestyle here is varied, real, engaging and deep. I took it upon myself to take a solo sojourn at the end of a very busy summer and fall– seeking perspective and space for reflection– as I roll around in the idea of freedom. What is it to be free, truly free? A quest was born. Here is my experience~

Sojourn in Truth

I learned that I am free- I am free to come and go, be or do, work or play, retreat or come forward. It’s all a state of mind, a perspective, moment to moment. I have chosen to offer Mer Deraspe, my beloved sister, a greater role here, of which she loves, thankfully. This has freed me up to do what I love. We now have the resources to have a small team of independent support peops and we do our best take good care of  each other.

Off the grid living requires mindfulness and conservation- and that’s ok with me. Except all these years the system has been a bit too small. So… this fall, dear friend Bennett Verbeck supported the installation of increasing our solar powered capacity by 33%. This relaxes the shoulders of this solar police officer towards the guests that don’t yet fully get the mindfulness and conservation piece at this practiced day-to-day sun-dependent level of living.

Speaking of mindfulness, I got thee to a nunnery this year for a 5-day silent retreat with Thich Nhat Hahn’s monks and nuns at Blue Cliff Monastery. I got to dive deep with people who have dedicated their lives to clarity, loving kindness and waking up. It was profound and it has inspired me to create more space here for mindfulness and meditation practices on purpose. Now I offer occasional “Days of Mindfulness”.

I have been thoroughly enjoying and been inspired by our Days of Mindfulness  here at the retreat center. It brings people together on common ground,  nurtures practices that allow for peace and connection to both the living earth, the self and each other. I often feel quite high after these days. This offering has proven to be well received– and good medicine for all involved.

It’s been sweet to be able to settle into beautification of the land, the trails, the spaces. We have carved a sacred little space into nature– and do our best to reside in cooperation with the natural world.

I got introduced to Qi Gong some years ago and it has settled into my marrow  as a regular practice for inner healing and vitality. Inspired to dive deeper, I trained with Lee Holden out of Santa Cruz and got officially certified as a Qi Gong instructor on Winter Solstice 2018.  It has been an excellent immersion and I am loving sharing it. More and more Qi Gong is making its way into our offerings.

The retreat center has been growing steadily and more and more groups are leading retreats here. It’s so satisfying and enjoyable to witness people from all over reconnecting with nature, simplifying, sharing in healing practices and their own sense of joy.

I don’t even know where this came from, but I got inspired to do some healing and restoration work around the river that flows through my home town, Mexico, Maine. It was like the birds called me in and I really heard their call. It was a game changer for me and has been the most moving experience of my 53 years. You are invited to join me on that journey.

It was one of those once in a lifetime things. Something that could not be repeated. I suppose every moment is that way, of course. This journey was a deep one for me– and I am deeply grateful for the support and love I received during the journey. It translated to love for this majestic river and for the water of life that we all share in.

A tribes person came to check out the retreat in May 2019.  Her name is Megan-Mack. Immediately upon meeting her, she felt very familiar and comfortable  to me. Good company. She wanted to learn more about what goes on here–  if there is a possibility of a way to collaborate with each other- a greater role. The conversation flowed as did the ideas. The connection was fast and strong. From the moment we met, we both knew there was something very profound in our connection– and in our meeting each other.

As life would have it, as Grace would have it, Ms. Megan-Mack is not only coming on board, bringing her vast skills and heart to the table– we are joining our lives in partnership in all the ways. I could not be more grateful for the role she plays at Nurture Through Nature and most importantly, in my life.

2020 is a new season at Nurture Through Nature. I feel revitalized, excited, and creatively passionate about all the possibilities and birthings coming to light.  I am deeply grateful for this adventure– and the unfolding of what is to come this year and all the years that follow.

Humbly Yours,
Jen Deraspe

March 2020

Canoer Paddles The
Androscoggin In An Effort To ‘Heal And Restore’ The River

Maine woman making solo trek on Androscoggin River

Maine woman paddling Androscoggin to raise water awareness and money