True Healing Cannot Happen at the Expense of Another

True Healing Cannot Happen at the Expense of Another

When I was a pre-teen I was horse crazy.

I had Breyer horses in my room and horse shoes with pictures inside of them all over my walls.  One year for Christmas my parents got me a subscription to the Quarter Horse Journal. I read every single word and even indexed all the information so I could come back to it when needed.  I was organized, committed, and passionate.

My horse’s name was Mr. Ed. He certainly wasn’t show or performance material but he loved me, and I was smitten.  Absolutely smitten. I can still smell him today and feel his breath. Bathing him was probably my favorite thing – an even better smell that takes me back to all things wonderful in my childhood.

Mr. Ed was SLOW.  So, I spent a lot of time on trail rides or pretending to help “work cattle” a mile behind my dad.  I can remember singing “you are my sunshine” to my horse, while ignoring my dad’s pleas for me to catch up.

I now know the science behind what was really happening for me in those sweet and utterly perfect moments – those moments that formed me – powerful attachment and regulation stuff that I love nerding on and on about nowadays.  The thing is, it’s not just research for me, nor is it for most of us.

It’s personal.

It’s why we do this work – we BELIEVE in the power of the horse/human relationship to heal and to help us develop and grow.  We want this for ourselves, and we go to great lengths to offer this to others.

We need the horse human relationship

Some of us may not have had a living, breathing pony when we were young, but even so, many of us knew deep down that we NEEDED one.  Intuitively, we knew what those who have come before us knew, what science is finally catching up to, and what those who will come after us will find deep in their bones – the relationship between horse and person is special and somehow part of the very fiber of our existence.

AND most of us, at some point, if we are in the EAS field long enough, find that our heart and our passion get fractured.

Bills to pay.

Horses and families to feed and care for.

A business to fund, and clients and communities with needs well beyond our capacities to meet.

And grief and loss – oh, the loss that is deep when we love our horses, and that can be particularly complicated to process.

So, we plug along.

And plug along some more.

And plug along some more, because. . .

Goodness me, horse people have some serious grit.  It’s a strength until it’s a hindrance.

In Natural Lifemanship, one of our core principles is that true healing cannot happen at the expense of another.  The first time we ever said this, we were talking mostly about the horses, and about how important it is that their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being is cared for in and out of sessions.

But a good principle is a good principle regardless of where it is applied (another foundational NL principle), and true healing for my horses and my clients cannot happen at my expense or at the expense of my family.  I, too, need care for my physical, emotional, and psychological well-being in and out of sessions.

Maybe read that again, because you need this, too. We all do.

Returning to our why

So, this year it is my intention to return to the heart of this work – the relationship that formed me – my real why.

Selfishly, I’d love to have support and a little accountability, so I’d like to invite our NL community to join me.  Connect or reconnect to what childlike love of a horse feels like – this simple, yet profound love is at the heart of what we teach and what we do in the world every day.

My invitation to you is that you spend time each day for 30 days with your horse or horses, then we’ll meet as a community once a week to support each other and reflect on our time.  For those of you that find it useful, we’ll give you prompts each day – some gentle guidance as you deepen your relationship with your horse. You can learn more about what we’re doing here.

I plan to do my best to create space for this each day, with all kinds of grace for imperfection.  It’s okay to miss a day (actually, we’re building in a few extra days for this purpose).  Your community will still be here when you get back.

Remember, true healing cannot happen at the expense of another

As of late, I need this reminder on the regular. And I need time with my horse, while ignoring the world’s pleas to catch up – even if for just a short time each day.

If you need this too, please join me.  Join our community as we take time for ourselves and time for our horses. . . on our own and in community.




Belonging to a People and a Place

Belonging to a People and a Place

In my twenties  I went on a silent retreat at a convent that my spiritual director recommended.  This was the very beginning of a contemplative journey that I am so glad to have begun.

During this time, I was at a crossroads and I needed this chance to step away and go inward, a skill at which I was certainly not practiced.   I met with a priest whom I had never met before.  I was among people I did not know. Truly, it was a  rich experience that I will never forget.  I was, indeed, able to make a very difficult decision about my life during those days.

However, after this retreat, I recall calling every single family member and friend who would answer their phone and talking on the telephone for HOURS.  I don’t think I even talked about my experience at the retreat – actually, I have no idea what I talked about.  I know now that I was frenetically trying to reconnect to others and to my world.

I was also left feeling that this is what retreats and personal growth are like –  lonely and disconnected.  At the time, I conflated the experience of being physically alone with the feeling of loneliness and the pain of disconnection from others.

About a year later I went on another retreat at a place where the hosts knew me, loved me, understood my intentions, and silently held space for my experience.  This retreat was still silent, it was still self-guided, and I was still physically alone most of the time.

But I was not lonely and I felt a deep sense of connection to those hosting me.  I felt held and seen and understood.  I recently re-read some of the journal entries I made at those two retreats.  The second retreat brought so much more peace and joy and hope – of course!   I was regulated and connected with those who were holding me in their hearts while I grappled, grieved, and sought solace, guidance, and rest.  I left feeling a deep connection to myself, others, and the world around me.

Two Kinds of Retreats

There are a couple of different definitions of the word “retreat.” The first is to fall back or withdraw. This is what happened when I went to that first retreat. I felt isolated, lonely and disconnected.

But the definition I like is a period of time set aside for rest, meditation, or study – away from the usual daily distractions – where you can regulate your nervous system and reconnect with self. This is how my second retreat felt. It was a purposeful getaway aimed at self reflection, healing, and personal growth.

Most importantly, I was still attuned to the people and the setting I was in, while making space to work on my mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.  Likewise, my hosts were attuned to me.

This is the kind of retreat we’ve created at Natural Lifemanship Headquarters.

Nourished: NL Self Care Retreats

Stress, burnout, and disconnection from our inner selves is all too common — especially among helping professionals who already carry so much.

Since the very beginning, we’ve always felt that NL’s headquarters in Brenham, Texas, is more than just a place to train. It’s your place to unplug and unwind while we hold space for you. And unlike the first retreat I went on, our Nourished Self-Care Retreats are not about withdrawal or disconnection.   It’s exactly the opposite, actually.

We start by welcoming you and giving you a tour of the property so you know how you can use the  space.  Then you’ll have an opportunity to set intentions for your stay with us – to be seen, felt, and heard.  After that, you will guide your own schedule and experience, but we will hold space for you and give you time away from other demands to care for and invest in yourself in a very purposeful way.   At the end of your time with us, you’ll meet with one of our team members  again to reflect on the experience and decide what to carry with you as you travel home.

You belong here, with us

I love this quote from Wendell Berry:

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”

~ Wendell Berry, A Long-Legged House

Being a member of a community, like Natural Lifemanship, is not just about belonging to a group or a people.  It’s also about belonging to a place.

When you’re going through a process of personal transformation and renewal, there are parts of that journey you need to take on your own.  But you do not have to withdraw or disconnect to be on your own.  When you are on a solitary leg of your journey, it is of utmost importance that you still have a compassionate witness to your experience.

As a part of Natural Lifemanship’s beloved community, you have a home here at NL Headquarters always. It’s a home for training and learning and connecting. But it’s also your home for healing and rebuilding and rising from the ashes.

When it’s time for you to retreat, we want to invite you home, to your place. You will be surrounded by a community that loves you while having the space – and place – for growth.

Come stay with us.


Belief in Magic: The Grown-up Version

Belief in Magic: The Grown-up Version

By Bettina Shultz-Jobe

In 2018 when I was pregnant with Mabel, our second child, I began watching This Is Us during the last trimester when I was on bedrest.  I was already a little late in the game on this series at that time, and now I’m even later. So is life as a business owner and Mama. . . 

So, I recently watched the last episode of season 4. If you’re a This Is Us fan you might remember when Gerald McRaney, the actor who plays Dr. Nathan Katowski, shared some words of wisdom that he supposedly pulled out of thin air in the moment. Maybe you also cried (or wept) like I did. He said: 

“I think the trick is, not trying to keep the joys and the tragedies apart. But you kinda gotta let ’em cozy up to one another. You know, let ‘em co-exist. And I think that if you can do that, if you can manage to forge ahead with all that joy and heartache mixed up together inside of you, never knowing which one’s gonna get the upper hand. . . well, life does have a way of shaking out to being more beautiful than tragic.” 

At our home, our Christmas tree tells our life story. Memories of people who are no longer with us, homes and lives in which we no longer live, moments we will never get back. Each year tears fill my eyes as we unpack and hang ornaments that take me back to younger love, younger children, and seasons I thought would never end. Each year I remember, reminisce, and grieve.

When we decorate the tree I also feel the joy, magic, and mystery that is all around during the holiday season. Sometimes this comes easy, but more often than not I find that it is a practice.  It’s a discipline, because life is hard. It’s hard for everybody. Even when it looks kinda easy. . . it’s still hard. It’s gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking, and for many of us these feelings are profoundly worse during the holidays – in juxtaposition to all the Christmas Spirit and the implication around every corner that we should feel joy. I call this grinch pain, and it is all too real for many of us.

Some of us were blessed (or lucky) enough to remember a time in childhood when magic seemed easy. Ya know, it just happened (mostly because we had parents who really loved us! But that’s another conversation). The awe and wonder of the Christmas season was simple. I was one of those lucky children.  

As life happens, the magic of this season can become less. . . well magical, if we let it. It’s so easy to lose sight of the magic of twinkle lights because they take so damn long to put up. It’s a lot of work. It’s terribly easy to lose sight of the beauty of just about anything worth working for, especially when we’re in the thick of it. 

During my childhood, Christmas traditions, twinkle lights, trees, and Santa Claus all just happened – the innocence of this kind of magic is something I cherish. It has brought me great joy to be part of creating this kind of magic for our children, because I believe this helps to set the foundation for something even more miraculous and magical to occur. . . 

To find awe and wonder and magic and joy even amidst all the work it takes to create it. Even during the very real pain that life often brings. This is a miracle. I do believe that to recognize and accept a miracle takes great work and oftentimes even greater risk.  Very seldom do miracles just happen.  

For me, the entire Christmas season, especially tree decorating day, is a perfect time to practice letting the joys and tragedies “cozy up to one another”.  Deeply holding and feeling both.  The risk is huge, because there is no way of knowing “which one’s gonna get the upper hand” moment by moment. At times, I have been overcome by grief when unwrapping and hanging ornaments, but it’s mind-blowing what those lights look like through tears. When we just stay in it, keep feeling all the things, the reward is great.  It’s a high risk, high reward venture.  

The belief in magic we experience in our youth is innocent and beautiful. . . and fragile, but the magic found at the end of a pilgrimage and a voyage  – the grown-up version of believing in magic, in miracles, is worth dying for.   

My wish for you this holiday, however you may celebrate, is that “you can manage to forge ahead with all that joy and heartache mixed up together inside of you, never knowing which one’s gonna get the upper hand.”  Because this is brave, and this is what prepares the way for things to be “more beautiful than tragic.”  

This is the miracle of Christmas.  

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  My sentimental heart loves this sweet little rhyme.

I’m generally not superstitious, but I do love tradition. I find safety, connection, and predictability in this passing on of customs and beliefs.  For generations, brides and grooms have abided by this list as a way to incorporate cherished people, objects, and memories into a sacred ceremony.  Arguably, the most sacred of all ceremonies.  A ceremony about new beginnings, new life, love, and commitment.

Rooted in Tradition

At our wedding, I wore my mother’s wedding dress, new shoes, and a turquoise necklace Tim had given me.  Almost all of the decorations at our wedding were borrowed from many dear friends who contributed to our special day in precious ways.

When Natural Lifemanship formed a relationship with That’s the Dream Ranch, it was a new beginning for us, a wedding of sorts.  This partnership is all about love and commitment and the building of a new life for our family, our business, and our community.  The renovating and remodeling of the thirty year old, mostly furnished 12-bedroom inn, that we now call the NL HomePlace, was a labor of love – so much labor and so much love went into every single room.  I have said many a time that each room has something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue – like any sacred experience should.

So, what is meant by this little rhyme? This Old English rhyme dates back to the 19th century and all meanings are just theory, so here are mine.

Something Old

I’m a huge fan of antiques – objects with a story that tether us to the past.  Sometimes it feels easier to just burn it all and start fresh, but when we do that we lose the wisdom of those who have come before us.  The wisdom of our fellow travelers who have prepared the way for us – who have walked the paths we tread.  We also lose the profound learning and joy that comes when we repair a relationship, a life. . . or an armoire.  Throughout the Inn we have done the painful work of choosing what goes, deciding what to keep, and what needs repair.  Each room has something old – something from the past to remind you that you are not alone.  Something with a story.

Something New

There’s nothing like the smell of a new car, a new saddle, a new home.  Let’s face it, the musty smell of something old is no joke.  The ozone machine has become an important member of the NL team here at the ranch.  Something new represents hope for the future and an acceptance of where we are now – what is.  The new allows us to embrace change and progress and possibility.  As we purchased new furniture, bedding, and artwork, I held the belief close to my chest that healing is possible and that the old can be repurposed in a way that plays well with the new.

Something Borrowed

We need each other.  We need support.  Something borrowed is about having the humility to ask for help and accept support and nurture from others. It’s also about community and family – the kind we create.  I have always dreamed of living in a neighborhood, where I could run next door to borrow a cup of sugar or a stick of butter. It is our dream to create this kind of home for you.  Each room has something borrowed – something our NL family has contributed to our grand purpose.

Something Blue

Specifically, turquoise. . . the NL turquoise.  Well, this is just good taste!  Need I say more?

Welcome Home

It is our deepest desire that when you come through the gates of the NL Headquarters, you feel something right away.  When you step foot on our land and cross the threshold of your bespoke room, you feel an energy that prepares.  An energy that pierces your soul and prompts your heart to say, “I am safe here.  I am protected.  I am ready –  to learn, to grow, to heal, and to transform.”

It is our desire that this place, our HomePlace, prepares the way – for profound growth that even extends to those whose feet may never touch this land – those whose lives you touch.  Your life is our legacy – a responsibility we take very seriously and hold with great tenderness.

We have prepared this place so that you may find what your soul seeks – maybe a new beginning, a bit of healing and growth, a renewed sense of love for and commitment to yourself and others. May you connect with the deep history of this place, and with those who have come before you.  May you find hope.  May you be supported and nurtured.  And may you grow to love turquoise. . . because that’s just good taste.  😉

May you be at home here.  May you find true belonging here, at your HomePlace.

Also, if you register for an in-person training at the NL Headquarters in Brenham, Texas before December 31st of this year you will get free onsite lodging in our little inn.  

I hope you can join us in 2024.



Because We Were Together

Because We Were Together

In 2020 the NL team got together on Zoom for a Christmas party.  One of our trainers, Courtney White, guided us in a very robust and super competitive scavenger hunt. I’ll spare you most of the details, but, basically, The Jobe family won.  Just sayin’ *shrug shoulders*. 

I’m fairly certain we left our friendly competition in the dust when we were the first to find “poop” in our house.  As it turns out, Cooper had coprolite in his bathroom. Petrified poop won the game!  It really was fun. Truly. 

Since we couldn’t be in-person.

At Interconnected 2020, our first online conference, we connected through movement and music at the beginning of each day and through Fireside Chats (with an actual fire on our end) each evening. Each of us made nature mandalas in our little part of the world and shared pictures of them with each other.  Our entire community went to great lengths to connect through the distance. It really was amazing.  

Since we couldn’t be together in-person.

In 2021, at our Love and Grief conference, which was also online, I remember several powerful moments of intense connection, where with tears in our eyes, we felt deep in our bones that we were attended to.  We knew that we were not alone. We held grief in one hand and love in the other, and we were changed. It, truly, was beautiful.  

Since we couldn’t be together in-person.  

Fast forward to 2023, our most recent in-person experience, the NL Sacred Landscapes conference.  Imagine 75 people walking silently at dusk, some with lanterns, some with drums, some sprinkling cornmeal and tobacco or anointing oil as they moved. Our intention was to christen our community in our new home at the NL Headquarters and to bless the land that holds us.  

We began by listening to Mary Oliver play the kalimba – a sound we not only heard but felt vibrate throughout our entire body.  A vibration that can’t be felt online, and that has been shown to have all kinds of physical and emotional benefits.   



As we walked, we could hear each other’s steps, breath, the rhythmic friction of our clothes. The science of biological entrainment tells us that our hearts began to beat in rhythm with one another. Our brain waves began to dance in tandem. We certainly didn’t need science to tell us about the powerful energy exchange occurring, but science does happen to support our experience. 

It was palpable – it was powerfully felt and no words were needed.

Because we were together in person. 

As we came upon the Back Forty at the NL Headquarters, the sun was setting as we watched the  silhouette of our horses running across the top of the hill. We all stopped and watched in silence – a thin moment I will never forget. Never. My words don’t do it justice. The pictures don’t even come close to capturing what that moment was like, but those who were there feel it now. 

We were changed.

Because we were together in person. 



That moment was transcendent and transformative – it is a moment I will continue to come back to throughout my life. We were connected. With each other. To the ground on which we walked. With the sky. The trees. The horses.  

This kind of connection changes us. It just does. There is a lot of science to support what happened in that moment, but we didn’t need an explanation because we had an experience.

At the top of the hill we did a calling of the directions to set up a sacred space (within us and around us) to do sacred work. We took a moment to look at each other – mirror neurons firing, co-regulation creating a tremendous amount of safety and nurture, our social neural networks lit up like crazy (if we must employ a bit of science to explain the magic of the moment) – we took a moment to really see our tribe, our people, the people doing this world-changing, legacy building work.  

My body is still buzzing as I recall our time together, in person.


As we walked the rest of the way home, I could hear people sniffling or openly weeping. We were together. Research suggests what we already know to be true – being physically together simply can’t be replaced online. It just can’t. Our physical bodies need each other to survive, to grow, and to heal. My heart needs your heart – literally – and yours needs mine.

Research shows that if we are within 6 feet of each other our hearts will start to beat in rhythm. My eyes need your eyes. When we are physically together, eye contact affects our pupils and field of vision which affects our nervous system. My nervous system needs your nervous system, the electromagnetic field of your body, to regulate. It’s how our bodies work.  My brain needs your brain. When we are within about 6 feet of each other, our brain waves begin to entrain. Mirror neurons fire like mad when we communicate face-to-face – it’s not the same online

In a very physical sense, we need each other.  

I am so thankful for zoom and online learning. Truly. It has made NL so much more accessible. It has provided a way for us to disseminate so much more information, but research shows that it can’t replace face-to-face interactions. It CAN powerfully augment them. It is certainly a powerful alternative when in-person experiences are not possible.  

Online learning has made it more feasible for us to focus on the experience you get when you take the time to be with us, because you have already learned foundational information online. I love and deeply appreciate online learning, and I believe we can embody what we learn online. 

Embodied online learning is a practice. That said, most of the time some in-person experiences are necessary to move beyond practice to embodiment – we must all wisely choose which experiences we will do while being held by the energy of place and person.  

Nowadays, we CAN be physically together.  

Place matters. We prepared a place for you.  People matter.  We are thrilled to serve you, be with you, and walk with you.  

This year we want to make it possible for you to be with us, in person, at your NL home. When you register before December 31st at midnight for an in-person training in 2024, onsite lodging at the NL HomePlace Inn will be included in your registration fee.  

We hope to be with you in 2024.  

Welcome Home.

Check out our winter and spring 2024 calendar here.


We Are All Creators

We Are All Creators

I have a close, yet at times conflicted relationship with the creative process, as I suppose many of us do.

My ambiguity goes way back to family dynamics, sibling rivalry, and all kinds of messages about my artistic ability that I internalized and then generalized to include all things creative.  Some of these messages were somewhat inevitable – I mean, my ability to do the things that people typically think of when they think of artistic ability is severely compromised and, if you will, underdeveloped. I mean, really, it’s bad. Even my stick figures could use some serious help.

In my twenties I had legitimate panic attacks related to the need to draw anything. Anything at all.  And if said drawing would result in any sort of assessment, the terror was even worse.

When I was getting my masters degree in counseling we were asked to draw a horse, a tree, and a person during an assessments class. In previous classes I had always managed to be absent on the “art therapy” day, but given that this was a summer class I could not exactly miss the entire day.  AND I didn’t know it was coming.

I found myself in the bathroom hyperventilating, and feeling ridiculously foolish. . . and shamed.  Later that evening, I told my roommate, who is absolutely the best artist I know (in the traditional sense), about my “horse, tree, person meltdown.” With gusto, I explained to her that I am NOT creative!  She calmly and in a very matter of fact manner said something along these lines, “What do you mean you’re not creative? Of course you are. You are made in the image of a Creator – creativity is the very essence of the Divine.”

It’s been a process, but I believe now that in that moment with my sweet friend I began to find myself and embrace what I was created to do. I truly believe that we are ALL created TO CREATE – each of us in different ways. When we lose our ability to create, or when it is taken from us, we begin to lose our humanity.

The creative process is the process whereby we find life and meaning and purpose.  It is the process whereby an idea is born, grows, develops, gets squashed, gets repaired, changed, or reinvented, and then somewhere along the way comes to fruition through a progression of thoughts, feelings, and actions, and then ultimately it is something we let go of. We share it with others. Sometimes this process is quite personal, but most of the time it requires relationship and collaboration with others.

The creative process is inherently part of experiential therapy and learning.  The art of walking alongside people on their healing journey while holding space, holding the frame, gently guiding, supporting, and co-creating.  I am definitely an artist, and I get to work with all of you –  fellow artists, each of us refining our craft every day.

There are at least 5 key stages of the creative process:

  1. Preparation, Inspiration, or Brainstorming;
  2. Incubation, absorbing, or processing;
  3. Illumination – the “AHA moment” where it all comes together;
  4. Evaluation – deciding if it is worth doing;
  5. Elaboration – bringing your idea to life; and
  6. A step I added – share it, release it, let it go.

The depth to which I love this process is matched by the depth to which I hate it.  Truly.  I get to create a lot through Natural Lifemanship – webinars, websites, blogs, programs, etc.  BUT, my absolutely favorite creative endeavor is the NL Conferences.  It’s also the thing I hate the most, truth be told.  I think this community probably doesn’t need me to expand on this much, but the creative process can be just gut-wrenching at times.  Those of us with a drive and passion to make a difference in the world, know all about the blood, sweat, and tears that go into our work.  The labor of birthing anything is, at times, painful – pain beyond what we ever thought possible.  Of course, the elation, connection, and love deeper than you ever imagined is what makes it all worth it.

Creativity is not just the work of artists, musicians, writers and designers. It’s an inherent part of the human experience, one that manifests in our daily lives as well as our work with clients and horses. At its core, creativity is our ability to envision new possibilities and create meaningful experiences that deeply resonate, which is exactly what we got to do when creating the Sunrise Summit and Sacred Landscapes conferences for you.

Here’s a deeper look at the creative process that went into designing this year’s NL Conferences and how we have infused every aspect of the conferences with meaningful experiences that you can’t get anywhere else.

Phase 1:  Brainstorming

I LOVE brainstorming and dreaming. I have learned that some people in my life really enjoy this too, and others are annoyed because VERY little in the brainstorming phase ever really comes to fruition.  I have learned that some people want to move straight into the evaluation stage, and so I feel like they are poopooing on my ideas, so it’s best to engage these types when I’m ready to evaluate if the idea is really worth doing.

This phase requires absolutely no commitment, so it’s my comfort zone for sure.  Also, it’s a very important part of the creative process because it is where we find inspiration.  During the planning for our upcoming conference we found inspiration in the natural world and in the many ways that we are nature.  We found so much inspiration as we explored ideas about inner and outer landscapes, and how our horse and human herds live within these spaces.

Mary Reyolds Thompson has explored many of these concepts for much of her life – I almost cried when she agreed to do the online keynote for Sunrise Summit, opening our entire conference.  By the way, if you missed the Sunrise Summit, you can still access recordings.

However, I gain the most inspiration for our conferences from relationship with our students – there always seems to be something we are collectively grappling with.  NL has brainstorming documents planning themes, presentations, and flow for many more conferences to come. Have I mentioned how much I love this stage?

Phase 2:  Incubation

This is the phase where you just set it all aside, and don’t purposely think about your idea. I do my best incubating during the rhythm of making dinner for my family.  I have to keep my computer in the kitchen for this very reason, because it’s when my thoughts are incubating that my best ideas come. I take notes, I keep brainstorming, and it is inevitable that during one of my periods of incubation, it will magically all just come together.  AHA  – that’s it!

The NL Headquarters has been under all kinds of construction, and like many construction projects it has taken way longer than planned.  This has given us a little forced incubation time.  Incubation is typically not my jam – that’s why it happens when cooking, folding laundry, or in the shower.  What I can say, without a doubt, is that unless I walk away and sit on it for a while, the next stage never really happens.

Phase 3:  Illumination

Usually, all the preparation, inspiration, and incubation sets the stage for a clear moment of illumination.  This moment happened during a call with one of our students as we were talking about feeling a bit lost and displaced as our digital community has grown.

I sense deep in my soul that our wider community is grappling with an innate desire for place.

Since 2020 our world has become more and more digital. It has allowed all of us to expand in powerful ways, but it is also the great paradox in the human services professions, because our field is one of connection, relationship, and hands-on experience.  In this digital landscape, especially one in which most of our students have trained only online with us, to have a place that our NL Family can call home is simply magical.  In this stage (which I circled back to later) I felt a strong sense that this conference would be all about introducing our community to their home with us.

Phase 4:  Evaluation

Very few ideas actually make it past the evaluation stage.  This isn’t always my favorite part because I feel like some of my best ideas die here because of practical things like money.  Damn!

This is where we put pen to paper, do surveys, collaborate more, and try really hard not to get defensive when others think our idea isn’t worth doing. It’s here that you decide if you are going to forge ahead or go back to the drawing board.

Stage 5:  Elaboration

Elaboration is all about bringing your idea to life.  The active work of creating, destroying because you hate what you created, starting over, making mistakes, crying, cussing, and all the feels. Sometimes LOTS of cussing, but once we’re into this stage we don’t quit, because we know that it matters.  It is important and worth doing.  Even when we begin to doubt that it was the right decision we remind ourselves of the journey we went on to get here.

Stage 5.5:  Illumination Take Two During Elaboration

The blood, sweat, and tears happen in the elaboration phase, and sometimes the thing you are creating takes on a life of its own.  I love when this happens because it means I get an extra dose of illumination!  Illumination feeds my soul and keeps me going when we’re in the trenches of the thing that matters.  This also helps me prepare to let it go, because I begin to realize that it was never really mine.

This year as we were planning Sacred Landscapes, I found myself focusing on the experience we are creating more than ever – the experience continued to draw my attention and my heart.  This conference is all about the EXPERIENCE!

We have planned how we will walk together (we discussed this a bit in this webinar), how we will move together, and how we will transition from one thing to the next.  How we will be together has become of the utmost importance as we plan. I have attached the NL Principle of the Circle which will guide our time.

You will get to explore and move throughout our NL Home to find all kinds of treasures – literally, we’ve been shopping for and planning a treasure hunt for you.  Walking, moving, exploring, and finding little gifts left just for you.  We have thought deeply about how you might spend your time between sessions.

Mary Oliver and I have spent an enormous amount of time in prayer, meditation, and thought as we plan the community property blessing that will take place the first night, and as we prepare for how we will come together as a community in preparation for each day and as we integrate all we have learned at the day’s end.

Each evening two food trucks will arrive so that you can linger on property for a bit longer.  One ice cream truck and a taco truck called “The Raging Taco” who tells us to “Surround yourself with tacos, not negativity.”  Yes please and thank you I say!  Thank you NL Conference for telling us what you need!  Of course you needed tacos and ice cream!

The Darling Daughters will play their folk music rife with sweet harmonies and healing stories during our Family Dinner the first night and at our opening and closing ceremonies for the online conference.  Terri Schanen with the Darling Daughters is a NL certification student and she reached out to us because she has written songs inspired by previous conferences.  Experience, experience, experience!  Yep, this conference has taken on a life of its own.

Each evening you can go home and rest or you can pick your flavor. . . at the ice cream truck and then from among a litany of activities to quiet your mind and your body, or energize it in a way that intentionally creates space for incubation and integration.  There will be sound healing, drumming, meditation, story telling, and cowboy poetry, allowing us to connect with each other in new ways.

The teaching at this conference will be mind-blowingly good.  We’ve told you all about the presentations on Facebook, and you can see the detailed schedule for Sacred Landscapes here, complete with all presentation descriptions.  We know they’ll be good, which is why this year we are allowing NL certification students to apply conference attendance toward parts of Basic and Advanced NL Certification requirements (details can be found in your email).

This conference is about experience in every single sense of the word – even the tacos matter!

Jonathan Stalls beautifully (and unknowingly) summed up the purpose of this year’s conference in his book WALK: Slow Down, Wake Up, and Connect at 1-3 Miles per Hour when he wrote:

“It’s a practice of giving oneself to what can be learned or gained through experience and not just ideas of the mind.  Once this embodiment takes shape and begins to live within you, the mind often has no choice but to let go and to adapt.  You move with, cry with, and laugh with the story and the song of who you walk with.  There is no turning back to what were only ideas.”

This, my friends and my NL family, is what our conference is all about.  It’s a practice that we engage in together.  I promise you it will be worth your very precious resources – all of them.

Stage 6:  Share it, Release it, Let it go

I added this stage because this one is often the hardest for me.  To officially be finished and share it with the world can feel so vulnerable.  I have been frozen by perfection many a time at this stage – I’m ready to let it move from my hands to yours, but have just one more thing to change. . . and then another. . . and then another. . . and on and on.  I must admit that solid deadlines do wonders for this struggle.  The conference is coming y’all!

This conference will soon be yours.  It will belong to all of us.  We will create together.  I have butterflies in my stomach as I adjust just one more thing and trust that what the NL team has created will be exactly what it is supposed to be.  Registration closes on Thursday, October 19th, and we come together on November 8th.  I hope you can join us!