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 of this pocket of space here 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, I started meditating, studying plants and birds, all 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 previous, a mountain with water and stone walls, spectacular views, and a space for building. Nurture Through Nature was truly taking its form and ready to be built.
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, 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 the past life behind. I mentally gave it 7 years for NTN to be a viable business.
On year 7, “the fleet was complete” with 7 canoes and enough gear to take out 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 ½ of the materials for the second cabin, Robin’s Nest. A carpentry workshop helped a bunch with it’s construction. Each group that came here to retreat purchased, unbeknownst to them, beds, mattresses, a door, chairs, a woodstove, on and on, all for comforts, 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.
Year Eight, circles of infinity, Raja shows up from California for a 5 month solo stay in Harmony with her dog Mo. She falls in love with the place and never leaves and I watch, in support, as she opens a donation based yoga studio here at NTN. Community comes in and a chosen family seems to be born. In the midst of that, we build a special healing space on the land, our circle shaped sauna steam bath that holds 18 people. The project began late summer and was completed 10 minutes before its opening, Winter Solstice of 2009. People come, change happens. That’s the pattern. Right on time, albeit a bit harried!
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 look like mini theaters for some reason. We could practically rent them as solo cabins they are so beauteous! Poo happens; so, we say, “go in style”
Raising a yurt was on the list for a while… Yurts are such unique structures, such a cradling container for a personal retreat. We found the sweetest location for our 20′ “Mountain Brook Yurt” to live, tucked into the forest overlooking the brook, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature at her best. All the building materials and supplies were carried in by hand as there is no road access. has been home for those coming for holistic coaching immersions for deep healing and transformation. Also solo travelers and couples have 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. We are now ready for groups to lead their own retreat here or individuals to come here for their own healing work and eco-getaway. We can host 20 guests in beds. 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 us to fall 2011… the evolution continues: I had been noticing a voice asking for a sabbatical, step back and widen the vision towards what was, what is and what is next. Raja began to hear a voice saying there was something waiting for her back in California. Within an hour of her saying it out loud, I said, “Can I come?”
Click here to read how Jen’s pants spoke to her and what they said!
I continued my coaching practice and traveled to California for the winter months to reflect and percolate. To rest and to see. It was really an amazing gift to not have to do anything in particular for months and to see if inspiration could be the guiding movement.
Instincts happen. Have you noticed? For me, it’s a deep and still knowing in the center of my gut. The instinct names itself as a yes or a no. Either way, it’s clear.
Movement or retraction follows, aligning with the instinct. What joins a yes is enthusiasm, inspired action, powerful movements in the instinct’s direction. This is the place where big change occurs effortlessly. Love those moments!
Case in point: this is my second winter of bi~coastal living, spending the winter and spring months in southern California on hiatus from Maine’s rugged winter living off the grid. This second round of returning to Cali from Maine, I was inspired toward greater purpose for my outer work out here. I wasn’t sure what it would be specifically, but I knew to come back.
Then it began to unfold…Raja says to me, while I am half asleep, “What if we open a donation Yoga studio in the ghetto?” My first thought was “Uh, oh” and then I rolled over and fell back to sleep. When morning came the idea was still alive and I just began to watch the unfolding.
I then watched Crips and Bloods: Made in America, and cried through most of it. This was a world that Raja had awareness of , but I did not, until now. There was no turning back once I began to see.
Inspiration followed. It sounded like a voice; an instinct.
“Open a yoga and meditation center in the ghetto.” There is was again. It’s not going away.
I said “yes”.
In the Santa Monica area where we winter, there is a yoga studio practically around every corner. The demographic is, to be blunt: mostly white, mostly female and mostly upper middle and upper socioeconomic class.
Only 13 miles from there, in South Central LA, another world exists. The population is over 90% black, median age 34, with an above average number of single moms and widows. Catching a yoga class for $18-$24 a pop is probably the last thing on their minds. It is not available. It is not in the awareness. It does not exist there. Yoga and meditation may as well be on another planet. It looks and feels like a segregated island left behind.
I am excited to be a part of this venture. It feels very expansive for me, even edgy~ from the simple life on the mountain surrounded and 100 year old White Pine and Hemlock. As much as I love those old trees, I told them (or they told me) that it is a big world and I wanted to experience more of it. At least for this season in my life. I cannot think of a more rooted way of doing that than through a new nonprofit foundation aimed to serve and expand the greater consciousness.
How I see Green Tree Yoga~Meditation Foundation and Nurture Through Nature uniting is through offering NTN for inner city parents and kids to retreat to “the wild country” of Maine’s western mountains, a true paradigm shift potential.
Part of our outreach program would be to offer funding for people who do not have the financial means, to experience life beyond their current neighborhood as a means of expanding their universe as they know it. What an amazing opportunity for all involved!
It also feels amazingly exciting to bring Mainers out to the inner city for a paradigm shift in an equal and opposite direction! I can see a volunteer program where NTNers come out to LA for yoga and meditation classes in the studio in conjunction with this community and getting involved in a project in an under-served area. How exciting to bring worlds together.
Life continues to prove to be one big adventure with twists and turns that one could never expect or plan on. So here I go, listening to the winds as they pass through the leaves of another kind of tree, following Instinct’s Infinite Intelligence as best as I am able.
I will find myself in living in both Maine and California, following instinct’s and heart in the movement. My continued work is to find home wherever I am and to keep listening to the voice that rings clear and true.
Thank you, everyone, for all that you show me, teach me and how you support this human, and the expanding mission and the vision of what continues to unfold.
Sincerely and gratefully yours,
Jen Deraspe, 12/12/12