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Hilltop Retreats

Whidbey Institute founders Fritz and Vivienne Hull are offering something wonderful in their small private cabin near Legacy Forest. Read more about this opportunity for solitude, reflective space, and the inspiration that immersion in nature can provide.

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Hilltop Retreats at the Whidbey Institute: a unique day-use opportunity

Many of us yearn to get away by ourselves, to go somewhere and reflect on our lives . . . to slow down, read, think, and feel renewed. This is, of course, an ancient practice in many cultures.

Here is your opportunity to build this reflective practice into your life! Come to the Hilltop Cabin at the center of the Whidbey Institute land for a day of contemplation.


  1. Create your own day, for writing, thinking, meditating, reading, walking, or whatever stirs your heart and imagination!
  2. Choose one of five guiding themes for your day. Materials will be prepared for you, and will include readings, reflective exercises, poetry, walks on forest trails, and time at the new stone wheel. These are described in greater detail below. Select from:
    1. Practices of the Heart—Inspiration for Your Spiritual Life (with a little help from the Celtic tradition)
    2. The Contrary Way—Wisdom from the Celtic Christian Tradition
    3. Looking for a New Way to Believe—The Life Wheel Program
    4. Thomas Berry—The Man, His Writings, His Message
    5. Earth & Spirit—Nature Intimacy and the Human Future
  3. or, choose a guided retreat with Fritz or Vivienne Hull, one of whom will join you at the beginning of your day to explore your selected theme, including conversation about your personal, spiritual, or vocational journey.

Logistics and Details

Hilltop Retreats is a new program directed by Fritz and Vivienne Hull, Whidbey Institute founders, in collaboration with the Whidbey Institute.



The cabin is small—just 200 square feet—and includes a selected library of books, a writing table, a sofa, a kitchenette, and a large deck. Bring your own food! Water, electricity, and internet access are available, and there’s a portable toilet nearby.

The location is quiet, with a large grassy area surrounded by a beautiful forest and scenic outlook. Parking is available near the cabin unless otherwise directed. The cabin and surrounding 5 acres are owned by the Hulls and completely surrounded by the 106-acre Whidbey Institute conservation forest.

You are welcome to wander the Whidbey Institute’s 4-mile trail system and use the Labyrinth and Sanctuary, so long as they are not reserved for use by a Whidbey Institute program.


Reservations and Payment

For reservation inquiries, contact Fritz Hull

Payment is due at the start of your retreat. We accept cash and checks made out to Fritz Hull. A donation box is on the table. We suggest a donation of $75 per day for a self-guided retreat, and a donation of $125 per day for a retreat facilitated by an opening with Fritz or Vivienne.

If you prefer a weekday retreat and don’t see it available on the reservation calendar, please email your request. At this time, there is availability on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.



We recommend that you arrive around 9 am, and conclude sometime between 5 and 9 pm.



For more information or to discuss the possibility of overnight camping, email Fritz at [email protected]. You’ll hear back from us in two to four days.

Five Guiding Themes

Practices of the Heart—Inspiration for Your Spiritual Life (with a little help from the Celtic tradition)

For your reflection and inspiration, here are twelve Practices of the Heart drawn from the Celtic spiritual heritage, a life-affirming and earth-honoring wisdom that helps us understand our interwoven place in a sacred universe.

The Irish say that it is your heart that guides your way. It is our hope that these suggested spiritual practices will be helpful as you nurture and strengthen your inner life, and that they will support you to live on behalf of the well-being of the Earth community and the future of our wondrous planet home.

Included are prayers, poetry, and blessings from the Celtic tradition as well as contemporary inspirational writings.

The Contrary Way—Wisdom from the Celtic Christian Tradition

Here are resources to guide your day. Most are compiled from Vivienne’s writings about pilgrimages and retreats on the Island of Iona in Scotland, known as the home of Celtic Christianity. Included is an overview of the main premises of what we might call “the contrary way” in the Western spiritual tradition. This is a deeply flowing underground stream that affirms the dignity of life, the sacramentality of the natural world, and a cosmology where the presence of the unseen worlds interpenetrates our own, offering wisdom and guidance to our unique lives.

We hope this day offers both inspiration and challenge. It is an opportunity to reflect upon what you have chosen to believe and what guides your spiritual life, as well as what brings you joy and wonderment on this blessed journey of life!

Included are prayers, poetry, and blessings from the Celtic tradition as well as contemporary inspirational writings.

Looking for a New Way to Believe—The Life Wheel Program

A course called Integral Spirit was offered for several years here at the Whidbey Institute. It encouraged participants to engage their spiritual instincts and religious backgrounds, and search for a “post-religious” spirituality that lies beyond old forms. The course content is offered in a binder kept in the Hilltop Cabin for use on your own personal quest. It is based on a wheel with 16 spokes that will help you reach deep within for a new kind of faith and out to the world in generous service. It sees our lives as part of the sacred universe story, lived in vital kinship with the living earth and attuned to demanding issues of the day including equity and justice. You are encouraged to compose your own beliefs or faith, and live into the great mystery of being alive as part of the Earth community.

You will require more than a single day in the Hilltop Cabin to engage the entire program, but one day will give you a good start. The day will include outdoor experiences such as time at the new stone wheel.

Thomas Berry—The Man, His Writings, His Message

Thomas Berry has had a profound effect on our understanding of humankind’s relationship with the natural world and the cosmos beyond. Here at the Whidbey Institute you hear his name often because we named our gathering hall in his honor, and in respect for a man we knew and who came here to teach. Who is this man? Why did we place his name on a building? What might his writings mean for your personal life?

Intrigued? The binder in the Hilltop Cabin, including a DVD, will open Thomas Berry up to you and get you started on a journey of the mind and heart that could help frame how you see the world, the universe, and life as part of a whole-Earth community.

Though Thomas Berry died in 2009, this is your chance to “meet” him.

Earth & Spirit—Nature Intimacy and the Human Future

We humans have come indoors and dramatically cut ourselves away from the beauty and power of nature. What have we lost? How can we regain a vital reciprocity with the living Earth and cosmos beyond? Can we grasp that this is essential to our own health, our spiritual wellbeing, and the future of human life on the planet? How do we learn a new kinship with life and feel what it is like to be at home with life all around us? This is all possible! It is about relationship and intimacy. So much is at stake for our own personal lives and for the Earth.

In the Hilltop Cabin, you will find a binder filled with materials to help you discover a new way to be in nature, to draw from its power, and to establish a relationship of integrity and joy. You will find yourself in a beautiful forest ready to meet you.

About Fritz & Vivienne Hull

Vivienne Hull

Vivienne is co-facilitator of Hilltop Retreats. Born in Northern Ireland, she is the author of Iona: A Guide to the Sacred Isle, where she writes of the rich heritage of Iona and the Celtic Christian tradition. For over 40 years, Vivienne has led groups on pilgrimages to Iona and led workshops on Celtic-inspired spirituality. Vivienne is a founder of the Chinook Learning Center and the Whidbey Institute. She is a Lindisfarne Fellow and a recipient of the 2007 Thomas Berry Award. Vivienne holds a bachelor of arts degree in English and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Washington.

Fritz Hull

Fritz is co-facilitator and director of Hilltop Retreats. He is the author of Iona Report: Story of an Enduring Vision and editor of Earth & Spirit: The Spiritual Dimension of the Environmental Crisis, published in 1993. He was the director of the Spirit of Legacy program, a founding director of the Whidbey Institute, and a founding director of the Chinook Learning Center. Fritz was born and raised in Seattle. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he served as a campus minister at the University Presbyterian Church in Seattle from 1963 to 1972.  Fritz holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Washington with a major in history, a master’s of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, a certificate of study from the United Theological College in Bangalore, India, and a doctor of ministry degree from San Francisco Seminary with a dissertation on Spiritual Consciousness and the Natural Order. He is a recipient of the 2007 Thomas Berry Award.

In 1966, Fritz and Vivienne purchased land on Whidbey Island where, in 1972, with a group of friends, they established the Chinook Learning Center, which later evolved into the Whidbey Institute. Fritz and Vivienne live on Whidbey Island. Their son, Timothy, is a musician and songwriter.

Questions about Hilltop Retreats? Reach out via email!

Finally, check out this January 2020 blog post, Hilltop Reflections: Greeting the New Year in Legacy Forest