If you’ve been to the Ranch, have you fumbled for words to describe to your friends and family what it’s like there? I have.
First as a guest at the Ranch, later as a Feathered Pipe Foundation board member, and eventually as a guide for one of our summer programs, I’ve labored to string words together that convey the ineffable qualities and spirit of the place.
There are many elements that make for a memorable experience for our guests. The special ‘somethings’ that persuade them to return and to tell their friends about this unusual sanctuary at the end of Colorado Gulch Road, outside of Helena, Montana.
Some ‘somethings’ are obvious: a solid program that delivers on its promises; an infrastructure that supports and ministers to their needs and desires for clean and comfortable lodging and great food; and a setting that is beautiful. Those elements exist at plenty of retreat centers.
But what kept me coming back year after year to Feathered Pipe, however, had a lot to do with less tangible qualities. Something that existed beyond the food, the room, the teacher.
Built with Heart
Feathered Pipe was birthed on a noble foundation. It didn’t get started because someone was eager to cash in on the growing popularity of yoga in North America in the mid 1970s. We came to be because an eclectic group of service-oriented souls came together with a vision to provide a place for other humans to be the best versions of themselves.
Today, many of the original founders and players on the scene are on the Ranch each season, generously telling stories of those wild and wooly original days to our guests.
The unexpected twists and synchronicities of the stories of the early days end up being a revelation about the world we’re in. Younger people may have ‘heard’ about the wild days of the ‘60s and ‘70s and the birth of American counterculture. For them, of course, it’s an abstraction. So often the visionaries and rebels of those times are reduced to caricatures. But when they come to the Ranch and hear the stories and memories of our elders first hand, they come to learn that there’s so much more to those vital years of a sea change in American culture.
When our guests used to sit down with India to hear her tell ‘the story of the Ranch,’ that period in American life came to life. There was a living breathing person, who was easy to love, talking about the days of her youth as a seeker, the bizarre serendipity that landed her in Montana, and how her act of deep compassion for Jermaine Duncan eventually put a large ranch into her surprised hands.
Hers and others’ stories create tangible connective tissue between the past and the present. A bridge that helps us all understand where we’ve been and the trajectory we are on. How simple life choices based on blind faith and a commitment to service can be profoundly consequential, changing thousands and thousands of lives.
Love All, Serve All
The mission of the Feathered Pipe was forged by people whose mission was to love more and love better. And they made it happen. Risks and grim prognoses about viability be darned. Love was going to win.
And it did.
Our elders’ stories are gateways to understanding their dreams. Their wishes and cravings, their failures and triumphs. This is how we begin to understand the nature of life and the full tapestry of bitter injustices that coexist alongside unexpected gifts and ‘crazy miracles.’
If you find your way to the Ranch this summer. I suggest you take some time to listen to the stories of our elders.
And see if it doesn’t put you in a Feathered Pipe state of mind.
With love and heart,
Feathered Pipe Foundation Board President