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Scotland Pilgrims Return Home

As a pilgrim community we were blessed to meet “nature’s darlings” across wild Scotland and among each other for the school’s first international pilgrimage June 8-15. From making a street friend with Nikko and his dog Bella in Edinburgh to gathering our community on the remote Isle of Mull, to a  pilgrimage walk from the Iona Abbey and nunnery out to St. Columba Bay, to a wild boat ride across giant Atlantic Ocean waves to see puffins on the Isle of Staffa, we became adventurers across Sacred Earth.


John Muir’s quotes guided us into sacred conversations from day one:


“Walk away quietly in any direction

and taste the freedom of the mountaineer.

Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings,

Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you

and the storms their energy,

while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.


“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,

places to play in and pray in,

where nature may heal and give strength

to body and soul alike.”


The Yosemite (1912), page 256


“Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away,

once in a while, and climb a mountain

or spend a week in the woods.

Wash your spirit clean.…”


John Muir quoted by Samuel Hall Young

 in Alaska Days with John Muir (1915) chapter 7, page 204


We answered the call to “break clear away” “and climb a mountain” as a means to “wash our spirits clean.” And we gathered for daily sacred conversations, inspired by mystical poems of Marie T. O’Neil and our direct encounters with “wild and thin places.”


These unique ways of practicing the presence of God were in keeping with our school’s mission of seeking “personal transformation” and filling our inner reservoirs for “compassionate service with the world.” Crying is a sign for me that inner transformation is happening and I did plenty of crying as encounters with humans and other beings welled up a unitive sense that “these are my people.”


I also learned new things about myself as a leader, not all pretty, but things I need to know in expanding into a new role as retreat travel guide. I need a time of community grounding in contemplative practice to start each day, rather than racing off for the next adventure. And I need more practice in speaking up to express my own needs and plans as a guide. Such learning is also part of “personal transformation.”


We want to express great appreciation to Laura Tolleson who invited us to retreat with her in Scotland and who was a hard-working and gracious host throughout our travels. She had the idea and created our itinerary and blessed us all with a gorgeous opportunity to renew our beings. Thank you, Laura.


If you feel inspired by these stories and images, reply with “interested” for our Scotland Retreat in June 2025.


William Thiele

June 2024



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