Adam Schumaker is co-founder of Gray Bear Lodge, a rustic retreat center in Hohenwald, TN, 80 miles southwest of Nashville, that hosts experiential workshops to promote growth, fulfillment and the joy of learning. He’s a certified Watsu aquatic bodywork practitioner, lifelong yogi and potentially one of the kindest people on the planet.
Gray Bear opened in 1996, and the Feathered Pipe Ranch was a big influence on its beginnings, as Adam considered the Ranch one of the “grandfathers of this movement, one of the holders of the seeds.” When he and his partner Diann visited Helena in 1999, India Supera welcomed them with open arms, sharing everything she had learned about running a retreat center—kitchen and cooking details, employee structure, accounting, lodging and more. Adam recalls her saying, “We need places like Gray Bear and the Feathered Pipe. If you’re the generation bringing this up, all the wisdom and all the experience I have, I want to share it with you. Feel free to call any time.” And, he did.
It’s hard to pinpoint themes in this conversation, as we meander gently through many topics. We weave stories with conscious teachings and personal experience with the memories that touch our hearts and open our perspectives. Adam believes stories are integral to learning—he calls it “life teaching life,” the ability to connect with each other outside of the boundaries of any structured tradition or discipline. We talk about the power of nature to remind us what’s important, the necessity of digital detoxing and breaking the modern habit of immediate availability, and how building Gray Bear over the last 30 years has actually built him as the person he is today, a process that has invited in the opportunity for profound personal development, accountability and reflection.
There are many gems in this interview, but one that really sticks with me is a quote from one of his teachers: Live life as if one foot is in the presence of the almighty divine god being imaginable, and your right foot is in a fresh cow patty that you’ve accidentally stepped in. All that to say – don’t take life too seriously. Don’t forget to laugh, and find the lightness in the miracle of being alive.
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Adam Schumaker (00:00:00):
Science is still fledgling on the level of the tiny, tiny microcosms, all the little flora and all the little pieces of the earth that are so critical to activating minerals and to activating things in our gut and our biome. Our job is to not be separate from. And so I heard someone say once it’s like, you know, the next great deficiency is just nature deficiency. Of people realizing not being connected with it enough starts to create physical, physiological, and mental and spiritual depressions and challenges by just getting too distant from it.
Andy Vantrease (00:00:57):
Welcome to the Dandelion Effect Podcast, a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never-ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that help them blossom into their unique version of this human experience. This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community, and empowerment.
Adam Schumaker is co-founder of Gray Bear Lodge, a rustic Retreat Center in Hohenwald, Tennessee, 80 miles southwest of Nashville, that hosts experiential workshops to promote growth, fulfillment, and the joy of learning. He’s a certified Watsu practitioner, lifelong yogi, and potentially one of the kindest people on the planet. Gray Bear opened in 1996 and the Feathered Pipe Ranch was a big influence on its beginnings, as Adam considered the Ranch to be one of the grandfathers of the movement, one of the holders of the seeds, he says. When he and his partner Diann visited Helena in ’99, India Supera welcomed them with open arms, sharing everything she had learned about running a retreat center, from the kitchen and cooking details to employee structure, accounting, lodging and more. Adam recalls her saying, We need places like Gray Bear and the Feathered Pipe, and if you’re the generation bringing this up, all the wisdom and all the experience I have, I wanna share it with you. Feel free to call me anytime. And he did.
It’s hard to pinpoint themes in this conversation as we meander gently through many topics. We weave stories with conscious teachings and personal experience with the memories that touch our hearts and open our perspectives. Adam believes stories are integral to learning. He calls it life, teaching life, the ability to connect with each other outside of the boundaries of any structured tradition or discipline. We talk about the power of nature to remind us what’s important, the necessity of digital detoxing and breaking the modern habit of immediate availability, and how building Gray Bear over the last 30 years has actually built him into the person he is today. A process that has invited in the opportunity for profound personal development, accountability, and reflection. There are many gems in this interview, but the one that really sticks out to me is a quote from one of his yoga mentors, “Live life as if one foot is in the presence of the Almighty Divine God being imaginable, and as if your right foot is in a fresh cow patty that you’ve accidentally stepped in.” All that to say, don’t take life too seriously. Don’t forget to laugh and find the lightness and the miracle of being alive.
After this conversation, I’m excited to get out to visit Gray Bear in person one day and to see how the real life Dandelion Effect of the Feathered Pipe Ranch has reached well beyond the borders of the American West. I’m Andy Vantrease and you’re listening to the Dandelion Effect Podcast, season three, episode eight, with my friend Adam Schumaker.
As the co-founder and owner of Gray Bear Lodge, a retreat center that offers a lot of different types of programs, but primarily yoga programs over the years, I wanna start this conversation really simply and ask you to tell me about what your relationship with the practice of yoga has been over the years and how did you get started with it? Where did that enter your life?
Adam Schumaker (00:04:49):
One of the things that drew me to yoga early on—you know, I started in the nineties—is an Iyengar class. I loved hearing and was amazed by like how my instructor could be upside down, backwards, doing a head balance pose and her voice wouldn’t change. How is she holding that calm, steady presence? She can’t be doing it with effort. It’s like she was tapping into something else. And the first moment I had this idea that yoga could be something completely different than what my, like even early beginnings of it was, I’d taken a little break from college and was living in Europe, in England. And I went to a yoga class and at the time I was way heavy fitness, like, you know, chiseled out lifting weights, pushing it—just typical American kind of going that route. I was the youngster in the class and a bunch of ancient, you know, 30 year olds were in there <laugh>.
And as we went through the practice, I found myself shaking and sweaty and pushed. And I looked around and I was easily in the best physical shape but I wasn’t even close to being calm and steady in what was happening. It really woke me up, like, there’s something to explore here. I love how a practice, we can get some discipline that ends up being like that, but it informs our vehicle of perception, who we are, how we see the world, how we interact with it.
Andy Vantrease (00:06:24):
Adam Schumaker (00:06:25):
I mean, that’s when I get just like, if this helps me by doing this practice to perceive life in a more beautiful way, to be able to walk with someone I love and see a sunrise or a sunset, or just whenever the flitter of some moment, you know, we’re interacting with another human being and the emotion of the moment can overwhelm the communication, but instead we can see it for what it is. It’s like, okay, I can take a breath. This person’s having a difficult time right now. I can be with that. I can calm down and listen with my deeper intuition and then connect with what’s really happening. And that to me is where this practice is phenomenal.
Andy Vantrease (00:07:09):
Yeah. And I think what’s so interesting about that and exactly what you’re speaking to is that there are so many ways into this window of perception. You know, some people use yoga, some people use cooking and eating. I just watched this Chef’s Table episode with a monk from South Korea. This monk is one of the world’s best chefs and she’s never been trained as a chef. You know, it’s just, it is her practice. It’s presence, it’s her presence, it’s her savoring the food. They have a big garden onsite. There’s just all these different avenues into presence and perception. I think it’s just so fun. Like there’s so many options in life. It doesn’t have to be yoga, it doesn’t have to be Qigong, it doesn’t have to be Watsu, which I know that you’re into. It doesn’t have to be hiking. Like it can be all of those things and so many more.
Adam Schumaker (00:08:03):
A hundred percent with you. It’s the great common thread through all these modalities and spiritual practices, is presence. Sometimes the greatest yoga practice I ever see is someone who’s fishing on the river.
Andy Vantrease (00:08:17):
Adam Schumaker (00:08:19):
You know, that’s it. All of what you’re saying. I’m with that. Cause it’s like, it can be cross-stitching, it can be gardening, and people really truly find that beautiful ease of being present. Rock climbers are amazing at it because what I love about rock climbers is they’re literally like, Hmm, will this piece of earth lend me her support?
Andy Vantrease (00:08:41):
Adam Schumaker (00:08:41):
And every time they’re trusting their strength, their flexibility, the earth to hold them or not to hold them.
Andy Vantrease (00:08:47):
And there’s a lot at stake <laugh>.
Adam Schumaker (00:08:50):
Yeah, totally. Totally, totally. We had this amazing moment building our yoga room at Gray Bear and it was a kind of a big deal for us, cuz we had, you know, we started off as a small little scrappy startup, effectively with Gray Bear in 96. And we were to the point then we wanted to build a beautiful, dedicated yoga room. It was much like Feathered Pipe. We did all of our initial courses just in our main lodge. And so we started building this yoga room and got to a certain point with it, and then we actually needed to get some extra help. We did an old fashioned barn raising when we put up the walls and just had a bunch of yoga friends and community members all show up, and it was like 30 people showed up and it was just fun and beautiful and amazing.
We stood up all the walls and got the roof on it and had this beautiful platform and just an amazing beginning. And then we needed some construction workers to step in and help with some drywall and pieces there. That was almost Christmas. And this local worker in a little town near where we are, pulled into the property, and I’ve known him for years. And he goes, I’ve had a job kind of fall through and we’re just a few weeks out from Christmas and my workers need some work and I’m wondering, I know you’re getting ready to do drywall, if I could help you at the yoga room. He goes, I won’t even have to be paid. And it was just like this amazing moment that showed up and I was like, I would love for that to happen. And I said, When can you start?
And he goes, Right now. We’ll go unload the ladders. And they literally just got out and started doing it just like that <laugh>. And what was so phenomenal about the moment is, as we started working with him, and he’s just a local guy, born right here locally, never hardly traveled outside the state of Tennessee. He’s the kindest, most centered, gentle soul I’ve ever met, and just so clear and how he would work with you, putting the mud on the drywall and gently easing it. And he made suggestions to us, like all of our doorways, he said, you know, I did some work out in Arizona. And he goes, I love looking at the rounded archways. And so he made these beautiful, gentle archways with every door we have. And it was like he end up teaching us about the most lovely Buddhist, calm, centering ways. He’s never done yoga to this day, never done meditation to this day, and he was one of our great teachers.
Andy Vantrease (00:11:26):
That is so amazing. And I was telling a friend that I just really enjoy meeting people, talking with people who are deeply connected and deeply what maybe I would consider to be spiritual, but there’s no new age jargon. Maybe they’ve never stepped foot in a formal class of what modern day would consider to be like “being on a spiritual path.” But there’s such a connection with land. There’s such a groundedness in their energy. I find a lot of times it’s people who have some connection to like the cycles of life. You know, and I’ve interviewed farmers on this podcast and there’s such a connection to magic really.
Adam Schumaker (00:12:19):
<laugh> Right? Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
Andy Vantrease (00:12:21):
More and more I’m so fascinated by people who have these, I wanna say traits, but it’s not traits. I don’t know what the word is.
Adam Schumaker (00:12:29):
It’s a listening skill.
Andy Vantrease (00:12:30):
Adam Schumaker (00:12:32):
There is this place where we start to realize that nature’s really the teacher, you know, it’s Earth. We’re composed of this planet. We’re beings here. And once we get that and start to really get it and get out of our heads. It’s this. I think that’s one of the dangers right now, like you said, the new age teaching, it’s like the information age. We’re getting the backlash of some of this. Yes, it’s important to have information and have all these digital things at our fingertips, which is truly, truly a magical, amazing thing—and it comes with a downside. And it’s like our brains can get stuffed with it and people can regurgitate it and it’s like a danger I see. Actually, I think in all of the mind body yoga, tai chi, Qigong, anything, is they start to somehow… they’ve got the brain teachings of this, but it’s not connected, it’s not interwoven, it’s not in the grounded feet of the experience.
And that’s it. And so yes, I think that when we do see people who are just living connected to earth and from that place, they’re teaching and they’re sharing. It’s authentic, and it’s lovely. You know, our grandparents knew these things in many ways. It’s like, this is what works. And, you know, not in any way diminishing this. I see all the fancy terms we have for growing a simple garden, <laugh>, all the permaculture things. And I understand it. I understand the teaching around it, but it’s also rooted in the oldest teachings. This is what truly works.
Andy Vantrease (00:14:09):
Well. I know that nature as medicine is one of the pillars of Gray Bear. Gray Bear started with a plot of your family’s land. I’d love to start to dive into that story and to hear a bit about what your connection was with this land, because I know that there’s been this symbiotic relationship.
Adam Schumaker (00:14:33):
The roots of it, you know, my father was from Chicago, had traveled around the United States a little bit, purchased some land in Tennessee and was going to do a back to nature and live on the land. And, you know, this was in, um, the eighties and was gonna try and establish himself that way. And pretty quickly realized being totally off grid with no electricity, no running water, was a lot more challenging than he thought it was going to be. And it was just a reality check. And that didn’t quite work out. And it sat for some time. And things that sit for some time can go into disrepair and kind of neglect. And I was in college. I’d love to say that it was this great epiphany and this mind body and this moment of enlightenment and a ray of sunshine burst through the clouds and gave this energy…
But the reality was it was a breakup with the girlfriend. I went back to this land. I would close the gate, just be back on the land by myself for two or three days, four days at a time. Sleeping on the ground, in a sleeping bag, a trillion stars, no noise pollution, no other human beings. It started quieting me inside like nothing else on the planet did. That was the root. It’s like I started feeling how the magic of listening to the whipper wills or the piliated woodpeckers, or hearing the owls call at night, hearing how wind will move through a forest of oaks and hickory and poplars. And it wasn’t a yogic thing. And of course it was.
Andy Vantrease (00:16:12):
Adam Schumaker (00:16:12):
It was the deepest, quietest piece with me. And that really started moving me towards, What could this be? You had to have, at the time I started this, a four-wheel drive vehicle to get back into the property—and know how to drive it. Just having a four-wheel drive wouldn’t do it. You had to. It was rustic by far. And so just started developing and working and cleaning and taking some time. Over a little time, I was doing yoga in Nashville over in the Berry Hill area at an Iyengar class. And I would tell a few friends about what was happening and what I was kind of into, and over the course of months and years, working, cleaning, being with it, a few friends would come down from yoga class and we’d spend the weekend and work on different projects. And we’d sleep in the back of a pickup truck under the stars and inevitably somebody had a guitar, they’d take it out and play some music. And it just started shaping and forming.
And one weekend after that had been going for a while, I looked up and we had like 25 people back there. It was like a large gathering before Gray Bear was Gray Bear. And we were just there, gathered around and we did some yoga and just told stories and sat around the campfire and shared who we were and what we were dreaming of and working with and being challenged by. And this community started forming. And that evening was the night, I’m like, wow, Gray Bear’s being born right now. And that’s when it started really becoming something. And so then we just started developing on that. We’ve done this to this day, when you come to Gray Bear, it’s not that we’ve brought in big bulldozers and cleared out large swaths of areas.
We more try and mold and merge with the land. So we’ll kind of tuck our little cabins into a little empty place in the forest. And, you walk into this, you know, 12 x 16 cabin. We’ve designed all the cabins so that you walk in on like the low side of the roof, which may be eight foot tall, and it goes up into a 12 foot ceiling. So you’ve got this deep slant, and on the other wall I put large six or eight foot windows.
Andy Vantrease (00:18:39):
Adam Schumaker (00:18:39):
So when you step inside to the building, it immediately draws you back out and it frames nature. So your, your back window is just this beautiful forest. And Patricia Walden was sleeping in her cabin one night when she was there. If you know Patricia, she’s a yoga teacher extraordinaire. And she laid in her bed and it was like a queen size bed. And she said, Adam, I laid in that bed and looked up at the stars in those large windows. And she goes, I’ve felt something I’ve not felt since I was like a seven year old girl. And just feeling a connection to earth and to stars and to beauty in a way I just had forgotten.
I want us to be comfortable, but not ever lose connection with knowing that you are visiting the forest. Know who’s visiting who. You know, when Diann and I were creating Gray Bear, we said like our little vision and our mission statement as I was like, Well how large do you want Gray Bear to be? And I’m like, I always want to have more trees than people.
Andy Vantrease (00:19:43):
That’s a really good marker.
Adam Schumaker (00:19:45):
<laugh>. That’s kind of the thing. I feel like many, many, many of our life problems and political issues and struggles could really truly be shifted if you sit by a little creek and watch the salamanders and the frogs and just watch a leaf fall and drift down and just quiet and listen to that. There’s a true, true magic that puts things in perspective.
Andy Vantrease (00:20:12):
This idea of who’s visiting who, I was at the Feathered Pipe, I think it might have been this, the first full summer I was there in 2017 and I was doing kind of an exchange with them where, um, I would go to the retreats and I would write about my experience there, and I would interview the teacher and some of the guests. And my background was in freelance writing and professional writing. So I would shape an article and try to get it published, cuz it was at a time where they were really wanting to build up an online presence. But in between doing that, I would do some weeding just around the property. India was always like making up ways for me to be able to stay. You know, Hey, maybe you can help us with this and help us with this. I was like, weeding in one of the areas and there were all these aspen roots. You know, the aspens just have their connected roots basically all over the property, underneath the whole lawn. And so there’s always these tiny little shoots of aspens popping up everywhere. And of course, if your job is to weed that, this is like the bane of your existence.
Adam Schumaker (00:21:22):
<laugh>. Right. Right.
Andy Vantrease (00:21:23):
I’m just like exhausted. One day after weeding, I’m sitting right outside of the chalet and Crystal’s husband, Johnny, was sitting down and I sat next to him and he is like, How’s it going? And I said, you know, I think I’m done for the day. Gosh, these aspens, they’re just so invasive. And I just went on this whole thing about these aspens. They’re not supposed to be here, we have this lawn and blah, blah, blah. And all he said was, Well, they were here first I think we’re the invasive species, you know. And it was just like, Ohhh yeah, you’re right. It’s this interesting dance and this interesting relationship that we have with nature where it’s like, you know, we can clean it up, we can design with it, we can “manage it,” try to. But really when it comes down to it, it creates the home. We’re just in it.
Adam Schumaker (00:22:21):
What I think I would also add to what you’re saying and what I think complements it is that science is still fledgling on the level of the tiny, tiny microcosms, all the little flora and all the little pieces of the earth that are so critical to activating minerals and to activating things in our gut and our biome that are so, so needed on these tiny, tiny little levels to the point that we simply can’t even yet to begin to understand them. And I don’t think we even on some levels need to in a certain sense. Our job is to not be separate from. And so I heard someone say once it’s like, you know, the next great deficiency is just the nature deficiency, of people realizing not being connected within it enough starts to create physical, physiological, and mental and spiritual depressions and challenges by just getting too distant from it.
Andy Vantrease (00:23:19):
Adam Schumaker (00:23:20):
Andy Vantrease (00:23:20):
Adam Schumaker (00:23:20):
So yeah, I think that when you do have that connection and when you’re kneeling out there on the earth and you’re pulling up some weeds and being with it and present with it, it’s like a friend of, it’s actually one of Diann’s mentors, a man named Paulus Berensohn. He was a sculptor and a dancer, just an amazing human being in the mountains of North Carolina. And he just taught us so, so much, just a wonderful person. And he used to say as he would walk, he goes, our footsteps and our imprints were shaping the earth’s clay. As a potter, he goes, we’re working with it. Every time you step on the earth, it’s giving you a feedback signal and a loop to know how to interact with earth as a deep ecologist. And so: listen. Let that feedback always inform you. And of course that’s Qigong, always opening up that loop and that cycle. And that’s what we’re doing with prana and with the work. And that’s what we get. We just walk with and sit with and pull those little weeds. You end up getting this amazing cycle of life connected back with us. That’s critical to keeping us healthy. And these other life problems that get so huge in our mind, you know, that cognitively impact us and get out of proportion. They start to go away. They start to fall back into perspective, and all of a sudden this sense of like something being larger than life itself and this event and this piece we’re navigating. Like, you know, on second thought, if I—just like the interconnected roots—you put it in a new perspective, that problem is no longer as big as we thought it was. And like the great sage Winnie the Pooh said, you know, Sometimes I accomplish a couple of impossible things before breakfast.
Andy Vantrease (00:25:06):
Adam Schumaker (00:25:06):
And so that’s what we do. Something so impossible. So ridiculous. We go, wait, here’s a way to navigate this.
Andy Vantrease (00:25:13):
Yeah. Yeah. And with the help of mentors and guides and friends along the way. Right? You know, you just mentioned one of Diann’s mentors and I’d love to hear a bit about your relationship with India Supera. There’s a connection decades ago of when you were first starting Gray Bear and coming to the Feathered Pipe and meeting India. And it sounds like she really took you under her wing in a way.
Adam Schumaker (00:25:39):
Absolutely. Lovely segue and directly connected. She was rooted, she was connected, she was with that land. And you know, that alone is everything we’re talking about. But where her influence was profound with me is on those early days sleeping on, you know, what is Gray Bear now, on just on the earth. And I would think and peruse, I had the old Feathered Pipe catalog way back in the day when my teacher would speak of Feathered Pipe as one of the grandfathers of this whole movement. One of the holders of the seeds. And so it was on my bucket list. Like I wanna get out there and see what they do and how they do it and how it speaks to me. There were a few retreat centers: Omega and Esalen and Kripalu and Feathered Pipe.
And Feathered Pipe was the one that really I wanted to get to. Diann and I went to the Omega Institute. An amazing place and love it. Absolutely. And they’ve been what I would call like the college campus of opening up a whole lot of this, showing, and just amazing what the programs they do and the teachers and all those pieces and holding the space. What I also found from going with Omega is I’m like, Gray Bear’s not gonna be Omega. Did I want a cafeteria where there were several hundred people having a meal? I knew I didn’t. That wasn’t, again, you know, more trees than people. I knew that simply wasn’t our calling. And that took me back to Feathered Pipe. The size and the scale from everything I’d heard was just right. And so, JJ Gormley is a dear friend and had come to Gray Bear and we just love her energy and her sparkle and her insight and who she is.
And she was like, Hey, I’m gonna be out at Feathered Pipe this summer. You should join me. And I was like, I’m down with that. I would love to create that. And so Diann and I were taking a little sabbatical. We took our Subaru, loaded it up with a few fun little pieces, including Diann’s hula hoops, and we traveled out west and just went state-to-state on a big fun adventure as we were making our way to Feathered Pipe. And India and I had already corresponded and between the time when I was coming and what we’d been doing. And so when we got there, she immediately, I mean without hesitation, just pulled us into the embrace of the space, gave me a lovely tour and walked around, and even to the point she’s like, here’s the kitchens and here’s how we cook what we’re doing, and here’s how we store our sundry goods and everything, you know, just to really show this is how a retreat center becomes a retreat center.
So it was both the vision, the energy of the space and just the practical matters. Like, do you have enough coffee cups? I’m like, oh yeah. Right. That’s a thing. <laugh> Right?
Andy Vantrease (00:28:32):
Adam Schumaker (00:28:33):
Yeah. That was what was so phenomenally supportive of me, especially at that time as we were just getting up and going and doing what we were doing. India said something that I’ve always held dear. She just said, We need places like Gray Bear and like Feathered Pipe. She goes, We need them. And she goes, If you are starting something and you’re the generation bringing this up, all the wisdom and all the experience I have, I wanna share with you. She says, feel free to call. And she was like, here’s our budget, here’s how we do what we do. Just everything.
And it was really lovely. Matter of fact, at one point too, I was like, Well, what can I do to help? Just kind of, I wanna show some gratitude. She goes, do you know how to sweep a yoga room floor? And I’m like, well, yes I do. <laugh>. On a very practical level, and I love that. And so, Diann and I would sweep the floor and keep it all nice and neat. And for decades I had the picture of Diann at Feathered Pipe laying over a bolster. It was a picture we had on Gray Bear’s website of like how to relax and renew yourself. And that was a shot we had of Diann there doing it. And one of the things that I really took home from India, from Feathered Pipe was that she shared her stories. It was a lovely part of her connecting with everyone who was there.
We’d sit down, gather around, and she would just share stories about what had happened in her journey, and like cobras crawling into sleeping bags and all kind of amazing, amazing things. And I remember talking with Diann, I was like, you know, it’s wild when you really think about it. A lot of the great teachers, that’s what they did. You know, they would teach their passion and their program. Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Buddha, everyone, what they would do is share their stories because it’s really life teaching life. It’s us connecting with each other. It’s outside of the boundaries of any tradition, outside of the boundaries of any particular discipline. It’s us relating to life, humanity, souls connecting through our stories.
Andy Vantrease (00:30:48):
Adam Schumaker (00:30:49):
And she really, really inspired me with that. And, to this day, that’s an anchoring part of Gray Bear. We bring in these luminaries, these amazing teachers to teach some subject, and many, many, many times, the greatest gift we get is while we’re walking through the forest, sharing about some story and how something’s unfolding within us and that lights the light bulb that we need to like, oh wow. I needed to put some light on that inside of myself.
Andy Vantrease (00:31:19):
Adam Schumaker (00:31:20):
Right. That’s the piece. That’s it. But you have to have space and time to do that.
Andy Vantrease (00:31:27):
I was just thinking that because some of my most profound understandings or profound ah-ha moments have happened in nature either at the Feathered Pipe. I mean, I’ve had many just in the mountains in Montana, but it’s like this cascade of events that, you know, we’re always just grabbing a little seed of an idea here from this person and then we talk to somebody else. Oh wow. Well they said that this is what they did and this is what they’re learning from their experience. Okay. Let me just take that little piece. And then all of that is in here somewhere, you know, it’s being filed away. It’s being like archived and then having that space. Like, I love how you say the greatest teachings are walking to the yoga room or at the Feathered Pipe Ranch, I think of just how people lay around on the lawn or they lay on the dock of the lake or, you know, I’ve gotten really good ideas laying on this new nature deck that we built two years ago that overlooks the lake. And it’s like all of these little bits from other people’s stories just align in like the perfect moment. And there’s space for it to land. There’s space for that idea to really come into full being.
Adam Schumaker (00:32:46):
Exactly. And in particular, cuz I think you’re also circling something so critical. You have to hold enough space inside there, like leave room. One of the challenges we’re facing in today’s world is that we pack every moment.
Andy Vantrease (00:33:05):
Adam Schumaker (00:33:05):
It’s like the schedules are so tight, it’s like, oh, there’s 13 minutes between this and the other. Well, I can send out so many emails, texts, etc. but it’s like every moment is too crowded with it. And somehow we’re being sold on this concept that multitasking is really where it’s at. And it’s taking us away from the simplicity. Again, it’s one of the things I saw from Feathered Pipe that I loved: leave space. And so sometimes in today’s world, it means we literally schedule time where there’s nothing scheduled.
Andy Vantrease (00:33:43):
Yeah. I feel really, really protective over my do-nothing time. I just so cherish time with the ocean, time at the beach, time with the sunrise and the sunset. Like, it’s just these, these living moments that I am not doing anything except for being present. You know, funny enough that’s not doing nothing <laugh>.
Adam Schumaker (00:34:07):
Andy Vantrease (00:34:08):
You actually are a lot of times more engaged and more present when you’re doing nothing than you are when you’re like deep into, you know, multitasking or trying to juggle a bunch of things or write emails or whatever it is.
Adam Schumaker (00:34:23):
Yeah. If we can gather at a place where we limit or restrict or just take a break from, a little fast, from the static of confusion, of busyness. And we just take a little space… Okay, I can set down my cell phone and take two or three days and just be away from it. I’ve actually started, you know, we always open every circle with a check-in at Gray Bear. And one of the things of late I’ve been asking is like, How many people in this circle have gone in the last three months, three days and not touched your cell phone? It’s amazing to see that number shrink down to zero. It’s happening. And as human beings, we aren’t designed to be on call 24/7. Right. This is not how we function so well. And so when we can create these pauses and we create a space to go, I need to have, like you say, the scheduled free time. You know, that’s how this practice and how our life is rich and connected.
Andy Vantrease (00:35:33):
I think this is a good chance for me to ask this question that I’m really curious about. You know, you’ve had Gray Bear for what, almost 30 years now, right? And have welcomed in a lot of people and shared stories with a lot of people. I’m sure that you have heard from people of what their challenges are, what they’re going through, what they’re seeking. What have you seen as far as behavior change or just human evolution? Are people seeking the same things that they were seeking 30 years ago? Are they coming in differently than they, than they were 15 years ago, 30 years ago? I’m just so curious from your perspective of, from where you sit, like what you have learned about kind of where we’re going. <laugh>.
Adam Schumaker (00:36:25):
Great question. What I’ve seen that’s shifted over time is initially people would show up and it was a brand new concept to simply trying to think about, you know, what a downward dog might look like or the concept of taking time for oneself, to taking a break. That alone was its own new concept. We would hold courses on how to remake your kitchen and how to have healthy things in your pantry. You know, why white flour may not be the best thing to be putting in our bodies all the time. And you know, the benefits of vegetarianism, things of that nature. So we teach a lot of really, really basic courses on how and why. That’s begin to shift, cuz certainly all that information, we can access that information easily now. And so that part of it is like, okay, that’s not as, as needed in today’s world.
You know, we can Google that in a moment. The gathering of some of those building blocks of information aren’t as critical. Okay. But the pieces that totally empower us to use them, the inspiration, what motivates us to live the best life we can, that part is like the thread that runs current through all of this to today, from the very first day to now. We’re hungry for ritual and connection. We’re hungry for authenticity. We’re really wanting that. It’s almost like we’ve reached this point that the selling, the commercialism, which we need—I understand—but the selling of so much of it ends up that a lot of people purchase a lot of items that are effectively Styrofoam for their lives. They aren’t nutritious. It’s like when they’re trying to consume something that after the consumption, they’re like, I don’t feel that vitality. I don’t feel that drive. I don’t feel that need to go out and connect and be alive and be engaged. And the falseness of that has really woken up in our society.
Andy Vantrease (00:38:35):
I think so too.
Adam Schumaker (00:38:36):
Yeah, yeah, people are going, I can’t pretend like this is normal. It’s not okay. I love to quote one of the great prophets of our day, Lily Tomlin, she has this bit where she says, You know, the problem with the rat race is whether you win or whether you lose, you’re still a rat.
Andy Vantrease (00:38:55):
Right. It’s like being back in right relationship with these things.
Adam Schumaker (00:39:00):
Yeah. And so that’s what I see: People showing up and when they get to Gray Bear, it’s like a deep remembering. It’s like we shake off some of the crustiness of living our modern lives, where things aren’t quite landing or penetrating in this fertile soil. And instead you wake up and go, Wow, I need more simple things as a part of my living. Simplicity isn’t broken. People are really, truly wanting and craving that.
Andy Vantrease (00:39:32):
Something that you’re really trying to provide for people is the opportunity to unplug. What’s available as far as technology there and what are you kind of hoping people do with it when they’re there?
Adam Schumaker (00:39:49):
We built a little dedicated Zoom room and it’s about a quarter of a mile from our main lodge and it’s up a steep hill, like literally. And so yeah, no exaggeration at all. So when you need to get online, We’re just like, put your hiking shoes on truck on up the hill! It’s beautiful. We’ve got a little orchard behind it. We’ve put nice large windows in it. We’ve had several teachers, JJ and Mary Pafford have taught classes there, and so they can do a Zoom class while they’re on the spot and our guests can go use it at any time they want to. It’s beautiful, quiet. Matter of fact, the last time I was speaking with her, with JJ actually, she said, Adam, she goes, Would you pause for a second? I love hearing all the whippoorwills and the nightlife behind you right now. They were just so loud and abundant, kinda like your roosters were. It’s just a beautiful piece. So we have that for the practicality of needing to do those things, but around the main lodge, we don’t.
Andy Vantrease (00:40:48):
Adam Schumaker (00:40:48):
So we don’t offer wifi, we don’t make it available. And my standard operating is like, even once guests pull in, often I will just simply disconnect the whole router <laugh>. So it’s just like I unplug from it too and just turn the thing off and just simply take a break. Because where we are is rural enough by design that there’s tiny, if any cell phone service. You walk back up to the Zoom room and you get cell phone, no problem. It’s like we have enough trees, like plenty of them that it just naturally blocks any signal from arriving. Now, I’ve shared this story before: There was one point I saw a young man walking around with his iPhone out in the courtyard area around the main lodge. And I walked out and I said, You know, what we do, we try and ask for digital silence. I appreciate you not having your phone out. And he was so kind and so cool. He goes, Oh no, I actually just wanna make sure that I didn’t have a signal. And that’s where I wanted to sit down and spend some time for a while. <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (00:41:51):
Yeah. That’s really cool. You know, it’s so funny because in a lot of my travels, like I have been really wildly surprised by where cell phone service and wifi service reaches these days. Still to this day, there’s places in the US like rural places in the U.S. that I have found have less service than like being on a mountaintop in the Himalayas.
Adam Schumaker (00:42:19):
Andy Vantrease (00:42:19):
There’s a lot of places in Montana still. And I think that’s a reason why I love it because there’s so many stretches of road—which is like kind of dangerous— but there’s so many stretches of road where you don’t have any cell phone service. You can’t get in touch with anybody. Most of the hikes that I would do around Bozeman and Helena, no service. So, there are places that you can go like this guy where it’s like, No, I’m making sure that I don’t have it, because then I’m not available. My brain just like, it leaves my mind as even an option. And you can tell people like, hey, didn’t have service.
Adam Schumaker (00:42:54):
Andy Vantrease (00:42:55):
It really helps with this obsession with availability that I think runs our society these days.
Adam Schumaker (00:43:03):
And the instantaneousness of it, right? If someone doesn’t hear from you in three minutes, they hit the panic mode.
Andy Vantrease (00:43:10):
<laugh> I felt so bad for what I was having, like how often I was contacting you just to even set this up cuz I was like, I’m about to go into silence. I really wanna do this interview. And I was watching my own behavior in that communication and going like, okay, this is something that we’re actually gonna talk about today. And it’s interesting cuz it’s happening all the time, and how we’re scheduling things, how we expect people to write back, what is appropriate amount of time. Like how that’s different for everybody. I mean, being in Mexico for the winter has been really interesting because the pace of life here is completely different than the pace of life in America. And my brother just visited for five days, and he’s been to Mexico a couple times, never to this town that I live in.
It was just funny to watch, like, you know, we sit on the beach and get a little umbrella and we’re posted up there for a couple hours and the server shows up maybe 20 minutes after we arrive and is like, Hey, do you want anything <laugh>?
Adam Schumaker (00:44:16):
Andy Vantrease (00:44:17):
And then we get our drinks, I don’t know, 10 minutes later and then he disappears and we were cracking up because we had ordered something like 20 minutes ago and we’re like, Did they forget? We’re like really trying to figure out like, Should we ask again? Do you think this is appropriate amount of time? Do you think they forgot? And here comes our server with snorkel gear. He just like takes his shirt off and puts his snorkel gear on <laugh> and goes and gets in the water.
Adam Schumaker (00:44:46):
I love it.
Andy Vantrease (00:44:46):
And my brother’s like, Well there goes our server <laugh>. We still hadn’t gotten what we ordered and we were cracking up! And there was frustration, there was confusion. Like for me, I’ve been here long enough where I was like, whatever, we don’t have anywhere to go. Like we have water. We’re not gonna, you know, die if we don’t get these drinks. Like, one thing I really love to do at the Ranch is to watch… so people are there from Saturday to Saturday, usually a week long and you just watch people settle in.
Adam Schumaker (00:45:20):
Andy Vantrease (00:45:20):
First day, you know, there’s some nerves. Most people are coming from bigger cities, obviously, traveling there to get some, you know, find some peace and tranquility. There’s a buzz, there’s excitement, there’s nerves, there’s whatever. People are kind of taking a bunch of pictures and then you watch their nervous systems shift really…
Adam Schumaker (00:45:41):
Andy Vantrease (00:45:42):
Into parasympathetic and then by Tuesday, Wednesday, definitely Thursday people are napping in the middle of the lawn. They’re on the canoe. You’re not seeing phones out. You know, people aren’t even taking as many pictures because they’re really just being there.
Adam Schumaker (00:46:01):
Andy Vantrease (00:46:02):
And it’s so beautiful to watch. And the tone and the cadence of their voices change. You know, they’re doing yoga, they’re getting in the sauna, they’re sleeping well. Everything about people changes once they’re settling in and they’re off technology.
Adam Schumaker (00:46:18):
Yeah. That’s it. We’re walking around exhausted in modern society and just over multitasked. Diann always says, It takes a day or two to get the city off of you. That’s the way she likes to phrase it.
Andy Vantrease (00:46:32):
Adam Schumaker (00:46:33):
We’ve lost the ability to sit with some of the questions right now because of the Google, grabbing the phone and doing it. Curiosity and sitting with something and pondering it and letting it sift through us and our awareness and like maybe spin it around three or four ways. You know, look at it the way that your friend sees it, maybe who has a completely opposing viewpoint to yours, but see how she or he sees it. Give it time, let it settle rather than look it up, have the instantaneous answer then toss it, it’s gone. It’s dismissed. So being in a place which is a little more quiet allows that introspection.
When you get on Gray Bear’s website to this day still, you can’t just click and sign up and pay for a retreat. You enroll, but then I’ll correspond back with whoever the person is and sometimes it takes me a while, it may take a couple of days. We send the little thing back that says, Hey, thank you, we’ll get back with you. Part of why I’ve done that is just to make sure that we’ve got a good fit. You know, in today’s world people can click and sign up for something. And they may be signing up for three things on the same weekend to see which one they choose to go to or whatnot. And then it may be that they’re enrolling in something and they sign up for Gray Bear and they go, Oh wait, you know, I don’t have TVs in my rooms and we don’t have internet, etc.
I’m like, Nope, that’s not what we do. And we do no alcohol personally, we do that at Gray bear. So they just know, this is who we are and what we do. And so I have the time to correspond with that person individually. It takes a little effort, but it ends up meaning that this group of like-minded souls and kind people from around the country show up in the same place at the same time and relate to each other. It’s like this tribe is formed. And so, it allows me to hear that person where they are. You know, if Gray Bear feels like a good time for them to be there. There was this woman I spoke with who was an Iyengar teacher from Atlanta, Georgia, and she was signing up for one of our teacher trainings.
And when I spoke with her it was obvious she was busy and wide open. Just wide open. And that’s cool. And you know, when you’re in the city, things are moving. That’s where you’re at. I get there some too. But I intentionally was like, Sit with it for a moment and just asked her a few questions, making sure that it all lined up. As I was asking questions, I could feel her. I could hear her just like, Hey, I’ve got my credit card, I’m ready to pay. And I’m like, okay, well lemme ask another question. And she went, Hey, I’ve got my credit card, I’m ready to pay. So okay, We’re all cool. It’s all fine. And later in closing circles, she goes, I was such a basket case, I was just like screaming in my mind going, Adam, take my credit card. I’m ready. I’m ready, I’m ready. And it’s the opposite of what most of our culture does. Give me your credit card, pay, done, gone, click, invoice over.
Andy Vantrease (00:49:31):
Adam Schumaker (00:49:32):
I both want Gray Bear to be a place which is progressive. And so we’re embracing new ideologies and where things are going. And I wanna stay rooted to like the steadfastness. These are simple time-honored practices that bring us back to who we are.
Andy Vantrease (00:49:51):
I know that you’ve had a really impressive lineup of programs and of teachers with Rodney Yee, and I think you mentioned Desikachar even came and visited. Say like this season, what’s the diversity of programs that you’re offering? Is it primarily yoga or is it kind of across the board of different offerings that just connect people to themselves and to land?
Adam Schumaker (00:50:16):
Because we have such a background in yoga, it’s definitely a through line that runs with this. It’s like, we’ll offer yoga courses quite often, but it is definitely a large smattering of programs. So like, one of our courses that we have coming up now is there’s an MD who is helping to work with other MDs, other doctors through America at how to look at holistic means of like say opioid withdrawal and like the wrecking of lives that it creates, and understanding the psychology, the physiology of it, the withdrawal process of it, how it affects patients and their own lives. And so she’s put together an amazing program that helps really truly realize that yes, we can change pain thresholds, we can change the way we interact with these diseases and these addictions through mind-body means very specifically.
So that’s one of the courses we’re doing. We’ve got a gathering where like attorneys will come to Gray Bear, and we’ve had like this one yoga teacher attorney who has come into Gray Bear for years. She’s developed a course of how in the practice of lawyering, you don’t wanna lose your soul. You don’t wanna lose your kindness because you both need to have that tiger and that steeliness that comes up, but you don’t wanna lose relating to beauty and lightness and gentleness and remembering that we all want the same thing at heart.
Andy Vantrease (00:51:49):
Adam Schumaker (00:51:50):
It’s a process and we lose that. So she’s specifically working with attorneys to like, here’s how to care for yourself and to keep that spark alive. We strive to bring in these amazing, amazing human beings who’ve done their work. You know, they embody these teachings.
It’s not someone, and again, not to lighten this or disrespect it, it’s not someone who’s taken a weekend training course and now they’re teaching a subject. It’s someone who’s had decades of, you know, Kenneth Cohen, who’s taught Qigong and lived the practice for 40 years, who’s traveled around the world with it. It’s deeply, deeply scholarly, embedded in the being of who they are. They know these subjects and it’s like the wisdom of them were deeply rooted. So we bring in these teachers’ teachers, and then we all get to benefit from studying and being with them and the wisdom that they share with it. And it helps to craft who we are.
Andy Vantrease (00:52:45):
Adam Schumaker (00:52:45):
And I remember one of the most powerful retreats we’ve done to this day, it was a group out of Memphis called Loving Arms. It was an HIV support group for African American women. And this was in like 97, 98, I believe. And they had hired an instructor. It was a Native American mask making retreat. So they did drumming and dancing and mask making. And the part of the process was that we would do plaster. And so each person would partner up and you would lay down these plaster pieces and sculpt your face and then remove that and then look at yourself, you know, while you knew you were going through this journey of having HIV. And look into your own self, paint and create that process and be with you now and who you are, your dreams, your visions, all of it. It was such a powerful process.
Andy Vantrease (00:53:45):
I can imagine.
Adam Schumaker (00:53:45):
The women were anywhere from 20 years old to, you know, in their forties and fifties and sixties, the whole range of society. And to be with them and to be with this process. It took every other life issue you and I are struggling with or the pieces we’re going through and shrank them. It put them on this tiny little place as these women were just saying, this is who I am now. Like one of the women had on the altar that we had at Gray Bear. She goes, This is the man who gave me this disease. I barely knew him. And it changed the course of my life. She was releasing any of the holding of that, any of the bitterness or the anger of that. Just letting it go cuz it didn’t serve her anymore.
Andy Vantrease (00:54:31):
Adam Schumaker (00:54:32):
And so we had this powerful process of like dancing and moving. I mean we had these dances that were just like the greatest rave party you’ve ever been to in your life. And the joy of it and the deepest tears in the quietest places. Like a friend of mine, Gary, who was there kind of helping us to, you know, sponsor the retreat. One of the women was short a partner to be the other person, kinda as she was like doing with the mask making. So he helped her cuz part of your process when you’re doing it was to make sure as they laid all these pieces on, you’d have just a wet wash towel and make sure the nostrils stayed open while everything was settling and gelling. So he helped her while she was going through it. And then he got up saying, All right, I’ve helped you. She said, No, no, no. She goes, I wanna do it with you too. I wanna have the chance that I can make sure and keep those nostrils open. And he was like, all right. And so he laid down and as she was sitting on the floor, she was having a little trouble getting comfortable with her body, the way he laid down. And so she just kind of scooped up underneath him and pulled him up and nestled his head in her lap. <laugh>. And then just slowly she would run her—I watched this whole thing happen—she kind of ran her fingers through his hair and she would like wipe the nostrils as things were drying. And she started humming and singing these old tunes.
And he cried and cried and cried, and remembered everything about his mother that he missed, and everything he wished could have been different. Everything that he wished as a child could have been different. He’s a PhD from Harvard, actually calls himself “the most overprocessed man in America.” <laugh>. He had the greatest teaching in that moment from that retreat. And he was there trying to hold the space to help to hold the container. And as he shared, which is my summary too, he said, We started creating Gray Bear as a way to help others learn and to grow. And I’ve realized how much it’s just created who I am. Who we all are. The process of doing this is the teaching.
Andy Vantrease (00:56:41):
It’s such a personal transformation for you too. I mean, you’re getting to witness people in their process. You’re getting to co-create with nature. You’re getting to build structures and also have structures built and crumble within you.
Adam Schumaker (00:57:00):
Andy Vantrease (00:57:00):
It’s just, there’s so much happening, you know, in these 30 years of having this retreat center and doing this work. I can imagine it’s impossible to summarize, but I’m curious of when you reflect on what the gifts have been and what the personal transformation has been for you, can you begin to describe that?
Adam Schumaker (00:57:23):
<laugh>? Yeah. Again, I love sharing the stories of this cuz it helps me so much. And I remember this moment, we had an opening circle and we’re still in the lodge at the time, and our instructor is a man who does some psychosomatic teaching. He’s like a trainer of therapists, psychologist, psychiatrist. And so he teaches a mind-body way of being. So in our process, like going through the wound to find the healing of who we are as human beings, as a part of his teaching. And so yoga and ecstatic dance and breath work. And he was like, you know, Gabrielle Roth in some way, you know, he’s been doing this for decades and decades and decades. So really a pioneer in the work.
And so we had this amazing circle, sitting and people opening their hearts in profound vulnerable ways and sharing in a way that you just could barely contain the beauty of the moment. It’s just so much your heart feels like it’s going to burst. And while that’s unfolding, you know, it’s evening time, we’re there, it’s like subdued lighting. Diann has this Indian sari over the top of us and these beautiful lights, these Christmas tree lights are shining through—a lovely setting. And as we’re there present, just listening to these people, this instructor leans over and goes, Hey, there’s a possum on your porch <laugh>. And there’s this possum up on his legs and his hands are against the window and he’s just kind of bobbing and weaving and looking into the room <laugh>. And like, you could see this possum totally going like, What are these people doing? Like, what’s going on?
And okay, stop the circle. Check this out. Like, this is nature speaking. And it’s like, it’s funny, it’s bizarre, it’s in the moment, it’s curious. It’s the tension breaker we all need. Everybody starts laughing. It’s all of it. Because even the lovely sharing had gotten so heavy that we could barely breathe.
Andy Vantrease (00:59:36):
Adam Schumaker (00:59:37):
And we needed to take a break and take a breath and remember the lightness, you know, it’s like one of my yoga mentors shared a story, he goes, You know, you should always live your life as if our left foot is in the presence of the most almighty divine God being imaginable. And that your right foot is standing in a fresh cow patty, you’ve accidentally stepped in.
Andy Vantrease (01:00:04):
<laugh>. Yeah. Don’t take things too seriously.
Adam Schumaker (01:00:09):
That’s who we are as people. That’s who we can craft ourselves to become. Honor the moment, be with it and realize the lightness is there too. These things weave within us and that’s a lot of how Gray Bear’s created me and how I strive to live. We wanna stay light enough that we can just laugh and have fun and realize when a moment gets outta control and be present with that and not turn off. You know, so sometimes again, in the middle of, we may be doing a sitting practice and just having a lovely, you know, 10 days of silence doing some Vipassana, having a beautiful piece. Mary Pafford teaches presence and yoga there. It’s a 10 day retreat. We weave a lot of intentional silence and the right piliated woodpecker call or a hawk, listen to that. And we might even draw the whole group and say, listen to that call. Be with it. It brings us right there in the moment. Nature is a teacher.
I’m so glad you brought up animals because I think animals are always, you know, bringing us back into the present moment. Like a bunch of the wildlife kept coming in the season that we were closed and then the following season we were seeing wildlife that we hadn’t seen, that I hadn’t seen the whole time I had been there and hadn’t visited for decades. And so we had this moose that had staked claim on the lake. And I’m doing this Storymapping session and I’m creating this sacred space in the “mouse hole,” which is the little room that overlooks the lake, doing singing bowls around her body and you know, everything’s like really serious <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (01:01:50):
And out of the corner of my eye, I’m watching, there’s a group of people doing paddleboard yoga on the lake. And it’s this group that comes from Bozeman to kick off our season. And I started to see this moose, like getting in the lake and swimming directly towards the paddleboard yoga people.
Adam Schumaker (01:02:14):
Andy Vantrease (01:02:14):
So trying to be present with Michelle and she’s really in it and she starts to tell me about this like, pretty tough thing that she has gone through. And I’m watching people just bail off of their paddleboards, like trying to get away from this moose and everybody’s panicking and freaking out and you know, obviously you don’t want a moose coming at you in a lake.
Adam Schumaker (01:02:38):
Right. Right. <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (01:02:39):
And so they’re bailing, other people are like trying to drag their paddleboards out. It’s just this whole scene. I have to tell Michelle like, she has to see this. So she jumped up and was so excited, jumped up and looked out on the lake and we both just watched from our ivory tower, like this entire scene unfold. And it completely shifted the session.
Adam Schumaker (01:03:04):
It’s so wild how we can sometimes be so trying to be present, we lose being present.
Andy Vantrease (01:03:09):
Adam Schumaker (01:03:10):
It’s the journey of doing this. And so by trying to avoid the moose and not do it, you’re actually not taking this beautiful, lovely life gift that was right there in front of you. <laugh>. One of our dear, dear friends was at Gray Bear, his partner and he lead some of our juicing retreats we do. And he’s an accomplished builder and an amazing visionary and quite an artist and really knows the world of creative building. Myself and a couple of friends, we had built a platform for this building, one we call the Falling Leaf Temple. And we’re trying to build a special, lovely dedicated space around it. And we ran the ideas that we had past him.
He goes, Those are going to fail <laugh>. And he goes, that’s not going to work. And he’s like, let me think about this a minute. And he had some life things going on as we all do. And we had this really wonderfully talented Thai therapist who was there at the time, Lucas. And we had this platform we had built. And so I said, why don’t you go get a session with Lucas. It was in the fall, and it was a gorgeous, gorgeous day. He went out, we set up the platform outside and they’re into their session. And I was walking by and I kind of wanted to tell Luke something I thought might be helpful for the session based on what I knew about some history. And as I looked over at them, I was walking towards them. It was one of these life moments where it was October, the air temperature was ideal.
It was just cool enough, just warm enough. The air had this lovely quality to it. The sunshine was coming down. Colors were just exquisite. And when I looked over, I could see they were having this perfect moment. Like, oh no, this is not a moment to walk over and disturb. They’re in it. I could just see it unfolding. And so I stepped away and later my friend receiving the session, it was his first Thai session. He said, you know, I had this thing well up in me about some of my ancestors and my life story. And he goes, I feel I was getting a little overwhelmed with emotion. I opened my eyes and he goes, I saw this one leaf let go of a tree and started slowly circling through the sky and falling. And he goes, It would fall through this beam of sunlight and light up in this crimson red orange burst of color, and then circle through the blue and hit that light and light up again.
He goes, it was the most unbelievable Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas special effect. Like whoa. Just lighting him up. And it fell and fell and ended up landing right on his stomach. And he goes in that second, I knew how to build your building. I knew how to do the roof line. He goes, it just clicked. And so he told me, he goes, I would like to donate my time to do this on one condition: We call it the Falling Leaf temple.
Andy Vantrease (01:06:23):
Adam Schumaker (01:06:23):
That’s when my thought of how to do it, I had to let go of it and it arrived. So learning to trust, this is the process.
Andy Vantrease (01:06:32):
Wow. Wow. I think wrapping on that story is perfect.
Adam Schumaker (01:06:37):
Well, even to refresh you, and this might even be the final, final wrap. You and I, when we were speaking last time, there’s a thing I was about to tell you and I said, you know what, I’ll just share that story next time we talk. And it was a thing from my grandmother. You know, my grandmother told me one time, she said, you know, I always think it’s smart in life to every year, go someplace you’ve never been and go someplace you’ve been several times to see how it has changed and how you have changed.
Andy Vantrease (01:07:22):
Adam Schumaker, does anyone else find his voice and cadence of speech to be so calming? This conversation flowed like a high-mountain creek, a consistent stream of nourishment, a story connecting one topic to another naturally and without hurry. I’ve never met Adam in person, but I felt so easily connected to him in this interview. His ability to listen and affirm my shares and seamlessly weave in his experiences with people, places, and his inner world. This interaction felt itself like breaking the cycle of the rushed destination based conversing as we meandered from topic to topic as if we had all the time in the world, the timeless space that can be created when people are completely present with very little agenda. It was just so beautiful. To learn more about Adam Schumaker, visit graybear.org where you’ll find information about the center’s spring and fall retreat schedule in Tennessee, as well as Adam’s offerings within the space.
A big shout out to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers whose music you hear at the beginning and the end of this episode, as well as Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of the Dandelion Effect and how ideas move through the world.
This podcast is brought to you by the Feathered Pipe Foundation. Help support us and donate at featherpipe.com/gratitude, as well as leaving a review on Apple Podcast with your feedback on a particular episode or this show as a whole. Also share episodes with your friends when you think they can be helpful. This is the most organic way that the show grows, and we even get to meet people at the ranch who first heard about us through the podcast. So keep the Dandelion Effect going. And until the next episode, have a beautiful day!