CULTURAL IMMERSION TRIPs
Ours is a world of wonder. Its sights, its sounds, its smells, its creatures. There is nothing like being in a new place to renew the spirit of awe and wonder within our souls. Nothing so sparks in us an awareness of the richness of this creation or the wonderful diversity it contains.
Every destination holds within it a unique beauty and an opportunity to delight. Customs, traditions, folk tales, dance, art, language, nourishment. And every destination holds within it its own spirit, its soul, its way of understanding, its place in eternity.
Cultural Immersion Trips offer an invitation to come and see and taste and experience a piece of this glorious reality. Through intentional spiritual practices and exploratory travel, we seek to connect more firmly both to this world and to the very ground of our being. By reveling in the intricate and unique work of the hands that fashioned and shaped this universe and through interaction with the diverse people with which our world has been populated, we find God and Goddess has always been in, with, between and among us.
There are many ways we can travel in this world. Vacations offer us exotic locations and respite from the demands of our daily life. But too often we are only observers as we move from place to place, seeing the sights that attract the tourists, protected from the harsher realities and the deeper spirituality of the lands in which we move.
Mission trips offer us an important opportunity to serve and to work side by side and hand in hand with brothers and sisters of a different culture. We move beyond the shelter of resorts in order to be exposed to the harsher realities of the lands we visit. But these trips usually limit our experience to one particular place and consume our time with one particular task. Moreover, the service rendered can be "forced" by the need of the server to be "helpful" rather than arising out of a genuine desire to serve.
A Cultural Immersion Trip, in contrast, seeks to walk a middle road. We have the opportunity to visit a variety of places and to meet with and learn from local residents at each destination. In the process we become participants in the culture we are exploring, rather than onlookers or do-gooders. We take the time to be fully present in our surroundings and to contemplate what meaning we might discover as each situation unfolds before us. It is also possible that service among those we encounter may naturally emerge as we begin to connect with and care about others on our journey.
In order to get the most out of the pilgrimage, we intentionally address the five pillars of human development: Physical, Cognitive, Spiritual, Psychodynamic, and Ethics.
Physical: Each day we engage our physical body in our experience. Everyday includes walking and eating local foods. Depending on the location there are a variety of other ways in which we may engage our body in movement and sensory experiences of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell.
Cognitive: There is always so much to learn in a new place. Local guides will help us to understand the history and current climate of the places we visit so that we might put our experience in context, gain knowledge, and be able to draw comparisons with our own culture. Readings may be suggested before, during and after the trip.
Spiritual: Every day will include engagement in spiritual practice or ritual. At a minimum this will include dedicated silent time committed to meditation or sitting in intentional contemplation. Everyone is also encouraged to practice being totally present in whatever situation we are experiencing while also developing insight and wisdom and connecting with their personal, unique vision. Thus, participants are encouraged to bring their personal "spirituality" with them and continue their spiritual practices while on the pilgrimage. Opportunities will be offered to share these practices with other participants. It is assumed that the pilgrimage will offer, and perhaps demand, an examination and transformation of each participant's attachment to their spirituality.
Psychodynamic: The tour group assembles daily for community reflection. This time of sharing allows each person to gain from the insights of others while also allowing them to see their own experience from a new perspective. As the trip comes near to completion, discussion will involve how we might use our experience in pilgrimage to continue our spiritual growth at home and how we will share our experience with those who await us there.
Ethics: Integral Ethics is the interplay of inward morals and outward action. Morals provide our standard of conduct, judgment, and justice while service is something done or a duty performed for another; an act of giving assistance or advantage to someone else. On a Cultural Immersion Trip, it is likely that one will lead to the other and move the group to considering how it might offer itself in the land it is visiting. Opportunities for service, while not a planned part of the itinerary, will no doubt present themselves. As they emerge, the group will examine them and make thoughtful decisions about what to do and what not do.
Odds and Ends: In order to optimize each person’s individual experience and the experience of the traveling community, the size of the group is limited to 6 to 12 persons. This is an active tour requiring participants to be in good health. Participants also need to expect quiet time and be able to comply with group ground rules regarding respectful conversation with individuals who may not share their beliefs, customs or agendas. While each day will include a structured plan of activities, we recognize that the Spirit may break through and guide us in other, unstructured directions as well. Participants will be invited to continue in electronic dialogue after returning home from the trip.
Ultimately, the Cultural Immersion Trips are a spiritual journey of discovery and growth.