The Grace of This Moment — 2023 Gratitude Report

The Grace of This Moment — 2023 Gratitude Report

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If you are inspired by the Grace of This Moment, please consider making a donation. Our annual GiveBIG fundraising campaign is active throughout May. 

May 6, 2024

WILD IDEA – The Whidbey Institute Story by Fritz Hull

I recently had the honor to sit down with Fritz Hull to talk about his latest book, “Wild Idea.” Published this past year, “Wild Idea” tells of how a seemingly crazy idea became a sizable force for good – the Whidbey Institute. We met at his family’s Hilltop Cabin in Legacy Forest. Built 10 years ago on 5-acres of land that is part of the original 1966 farm purchase, the cabin provided us with a peaceful setting to explore some of the ideas he shares in the book, the inspiration of the early Chinook days, and what the future might hold for the land and those who visit it.


What were the origins for this book?

About four years ago I felt the need to write the story of Chinook/Whidbey Institute, and so I began a long and fairly demanding task. I wrote it for those who have had significant experiences here, who want to remember the earlier times, and want to see their time here in the larger sweep of the organization’s journey. I have been asked a lot about the early community, those who were with Vivienne and me, who formed the early work, led workshops, proceeded always by consensus, and set the whole enterprise in motion. Who were they? What held them together? How were they inspired? I love these questions because I feel a growing respect for those who built this place and steward it so faithfully. But I wrote it even more for those here now, and for those who are coming. This long 50-year story had never been written and I felt it was essential that I could hand people the story, for now it is also their story as they build the future. Read More →

April 30, 2024

A Conversation with Brian Thomas Swimme – The New Cosmic Story

We at “The Center for Knowing Home” (a new educational project of The Whidbey Institute launched by Fritz Hull) are excited to welcome Brian Thomas Swimme back to the Thomas Berry Hall at the Whidbey Institute this Summer! 

My name is Marilyn Strong, I live adjacent to the Institute and was a member of the covenant community that supported the early work of the Institute, (formerly known as The Chinook Learning Center) and for six years was Director of Education here. 

Brian and I first became acquainted in 1986 when I took time away from Chinook to attend Matthew Fox’s Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality in the Oakland, California foothills to get my master’s degree and deepen my knowledge and skills in working with adults in spiritually based education. Brian’s class, called “Cosmos as Primary Revelation,” was the highlight of my nine months of study. The course was based on Thomas Berry’s twelve principles of the universe, and because of Brian’s infectious enthusiasm and joy as a teacher and as a human being, my life was irrevocably changed. 

Fast forward to February 2023, Fritz Hull had just published his book, Wild Idea: The Whidbey Institute Story, and we were heading into the Whidbey Institute’s 50th Anniversary. Brian had just published Cosmogenesis, the first of his books in which he has told some of his own story in relation to the story of the Universe, (combining autobiography and cosmology) and how the impact of this New Cosmic Story “deconstructed his mind and then reassembled it.” Some of his stories took place during the years that I was on staff at Chinook, 1982 to 1988 and many of the characters that he talks about I had had the privilege to know, study and work with. For me, reading the book felt like coming home, full circle, and I wanted to reconnect with him. To my delight, he and his wife, Denise, agreed to come to The Whidbey Institute to see the beautiful new campus, to visit and become reacquainted with Fritz and Vivienne Hull, some of the staff and board of the current Institute and those of us working to bring “The Center for Knowing Home into being. From that visit, a new collaboration was born. Read More →

April 30, 2024

A Conversation with Michelle C. Johnson and Rashid Hughes

The Whidbey Institute is excited to welcome Michelle C. Johnson and Rashid Hughes to the land for their Rest and Refuge Retreat on August 8-12. Spiritual teachers Michelle C. Johnson and Rashid Hughes will be guiding participants through a transformative experience focused on deep rest, restoration, and connection with nature and the elements. Michelle, an author, activist, and racial equity consultant, brings her expertise in dismantling racism and creating ritual in justice spaces to the retreat. Rashid, a meditation teacher and restorative justice facilitator, will share his rest-centered meditation practice, the Four Pillars of R.E.S.T., offering a path to rediscovering belonging and meaning in the present moment. Together, they will lead sessions in movement, self-study, meditation, and yogic teachings, providing a unique opportunity for participants to find peace, wakefulness, and harmony in a supportive and contemplative environment.

Michelle and Rashid shared with me a conversation they recently had to learn more about their work and what they hope to offer participants through their Rest and Refuge Retreat.

Michelle: Rashid, do you want to share first about who you are and what you’re up to in the world? 

Rashid Hughes: I’m Rashid Hughes, and my pronouns are he/him. I kind of consider myself to be, I guess, an intersectional contemplative practitioner and someone who loves to explore what it means to be well and happy and engaged in the world. For me, contemplative spirituality really provides this approach to tending to our inner wounds while also accessing a sense of wholeness through touching into something more expansive within ourselves, beyond the wounds and trauma. Something a little truer and maybe more primordial, I guess, is who we are other than the wounds and where they hurt, not disregarding the wounds and where they hurt, but we are also more than that. For me, contemplative spiritualities provide this lens, this motivation, this conviction that it’s important that this inner awakening, this heartfeltness, also shows up in how we live and are in the world as well. So that’s a little bit about what I’m curious about and what kind of makes me happy to think about.  Read More →

March 29, 2024

An Interview with Larry Rohan, the Whidbey Institute’s new Forest Steward

I recently had a chance to sit down with Larry Rohan, the Whidbey Institute’s new Forest Steward. Larry embodies a deep-rooted passion for the natural world, cultivated over a lifetime of exploration and study. With a BS in Forestry from Purdue University and experience with the US Forest Service and Alaska native tribes, Larry brings a wealth of knowledge to this new role at the Whidbey Institute. His work is driven by a profound understanding of the interconnectedness between forests, soil, and climate and his dedication to conservation and environmental stewardship is not only a testament to his commitment to creating a better world for future generations.

Please describe your role at the Whidbey Institute.

I am the Forest Steward at the Whidbey Institute. As far as I know, this is a new role for the organization. In the past, people have taken up bits and pieces of what I’m doing, but to my knowledge, this is the first time that the forest steward role exists.

A big part of my job is looking after the 106 acres of land, including the building envelopes, which contain the structures of the Institute and the Whidbey Island Waldorf School. Most of the forest land here is in a conservation easement managed by the Whidbey-Camano Land Trust (WCLT). The conservation easement contains specific rules as to what is allowed and what’s not allowed in the forest. Their role is to protect and enhance the conservation values of the forest, wetlands, and the diversity of native plants and wildlife.

Read More →

March 1, 2024

Deepening Our Distributed Leadership During a Time of Transition

By Ananda Valenzuela, Interim Co-Executive Director, and Jenna Ringelheim, Board Member 

Leadership transitions are often a challenging time for nonprofits, and the Whidbey Institute is no exception. In the wake of the pandemic and the departure of long-time leaders, our team lost its footing. It became clear that we needed to pause and find steady ground in order to strengthen our distributed leadership structure. In distributed leadership, decision-making power is spread throughout the organization instead of concentrated in the hands of one or more senior leaders at the top. Maintaining a structure that departs from the classic hierarchy requires proactive investment of time and energy from everyone involved. So when we engaged in a leadership transition, we realized that we needed to recommit to our self-managing organizational culture and structure, and reexamine what diversity, equity, and inclusion work entails.

For those unfamiliar with the Whidbey Institute, we are a non-profit retreat center that has been nurturing the conditions for transformational learning for over fifty years. We have an incredible lineage of leaders committed to Earth, Spirit, and the Human Future, bringing people together to learn and take action on 106 acres of conservation forest. With overnight accommodations for 42 and multiple gorgeous convening spaces just an hour outside of Seattle, we have had the honor of hosting an incredible array of programming over the past five decades. In 2014, it was a natural extension of the Institute’s dedication to transformational learning to deepen our commitment to alternative ways of running our organization. Leaning into the insights shared through Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations, the Whidbey Institute chose to adopt Holacracy, a particular approach to self-management that organizes roles and responsibilities into circles following a prescribed set of guidelines. While Holacracy supported our work together in many ways, the learning curve is steep. As our time and energy were stretched through a capital campaign and significant facilities construction from 2016-2020, it became challenging for everyone to engage in this way of thinking and working together.

Read More →

January 12, 2024

A warm welcome to Rose Woods, the Whidbey Institute’s new Programs Host!

Rose has quickly made herself an invaluable member of our team – assisting program leaders and their participants, greeting visitors to the land, and helping to create an atmosphere that supports the Whidbey Institute’s mission and purpose.

Rose is not new to this place. With the help of the Hull family, her work here actually began with an imagination for the Storyhouse Stage and the creation of an outdoor Shakespeare Festival in the space.

I had a chance to sit down with Rose in her new office overlooking the Westgarden. It seemed rather fortuitous, listening to Rose recount some of her history with the Whidbey Institute and the island and about her hopes for the future as we look to commemorate the past 50 years and embark on the next.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to the Northwest?

Read More →

January 10, 2024

A Conversation With Dan McKee – The Warrior Monk Retreat

We are excited to welcome Dan McKee and the Warrior Monk Retreats back to the Whidbey Institute! In anticipation of his upcoming program, November 1-5, 2023, I took the opportunity to learn more about his work and his approach to holding Warrior Monk retreats, particularly at the Whidbey Institute.

I know you and your programs have been associated with the Whidbey Institute for a long time. When was the last time you held a retreat here and was that a Warrior Monk Retreat? 

Yes, it was another Warrior Monk Retreat in early 2020, not too long before the pandemic-induced hiatus.

We’ve been holding this retreat almost yearly – sometimes twice a year – at the Whidbey Institute since the early 2000’s so it’s wonderful to be coming back.

Can you describe the Warrior Monk retreat, perhaps for someone who has never attended or has little to no background on your work?

Read More →

October 2, 2023

2023 Whidbey Spring Gathering by Marta Mulholland

The second weekend of April, people gathered in Thomas Berry Hall to convene the Whidbey Spring Gathering, our first community program of this kind since the 2020 Winter Gathering. There were both returning and new faces; curious, excited, anticipatory, and in some cases wary, uncomfortable, not knowing what to expect, but drawn to the land for various reasons.

Special thanks to my co-facilitators Victoria Santos, Diana Sandoval, and Gayle Karen Young. It was an honor to partner with them in this inaugural event. Over the course of three days, they convened, held, and honored our time together with skill, finesse, and grace. Participants were invited to explore and embody questions that are essential for our times: How do we want to live our lives going forward? What might be possible for ourselves and for our communities? What will sustain us and the future we dream of? How do we tend to ourselves and to the collective?
Read More →

May 26, 2023

Hope and Gratitude – 2022 Gratitude Report

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May 9, 2023