March 2014 Young Leaders & Activists

I still feel both buoyant and buoyed by the time I shared with a group of about 30 “young leaders and activists” at a unique Courage to Lead® retreat with Parker Palmer and Marcy Jackson. It was an amazing group of people who I felt so lucky to share a couple days with, reflecting, sitting in silence, discussing, laughing, pondering, and just sharing special, precious time.

I continue to describe the retreat as “compassionate,” not referring to any particular activity we did, but to the pace, and cadence, and tone of the gathering, so splendidly guided by compassionate facilitators.

Many people reference “planting seeds” when referring to the impact of an experience with ambiguous or un-scientifically-measurable results.

For me, the retreat didn’t plant seeds. It did something that is even rarer these days — it built soil. I feel aerated and enriched and ready. The seeds that I am going to plant remain somewhat unknown, but it’s clear to me that if I had tried to plant any before taking the breath and pause that the retreat offered, they would likely have been slower to take root or grow, if they germinated at all.

I have a hectic spring ahead of me, but I feel so much more prepared for it because of the retreat. At the beginning of the gathering, Parker mentioned, almost as an aside, that “burnout” is not just giving too much, but trying to give what you don’t even have. This little comment sings at me now, beyond our candle-lit, poetry-woven circle. I want to be able to compassionately and thoroughly give what I have.

I feel so much more confident about what I have after taking the time to reflect on and celebrate who I am, and who we all can be, when we care for community, and ourselves within it.

Katie Blanchard is current Bush Fellow who lives in Minnesota. She works as a regional coordinator with a national student-led non-profit, organizing for more just, sustainable food systems on college campuses and in communities.

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