I was excited to learn of the new program being offered at the Whidbey Institute this autumn by Christie Lynk and Kirk Webb, so I invited Kirk to discuss the program with me. Here’s that conversation. —Marnie Jackson
Can you tell us about your background, especially as it prepared you to hold this work?
I suppose, in our culture, that we start by speaking of education. In that light, I have a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, a counseling degree, and a PhD in Psychology. I’ve also done a bit of study at the Jungian Institute in Zurich. For this particular work, I’d say my lifelong love of being in and amongst Nature and seeing it as sanctuary and cathedral has been the best teacher of all. I also have a strong fondness for Celtic spirituality. My studies and experiences within that tradition inform how I think, experience, and participate in the world. Additionally, repeated trips to Ireland, particularly the west coast of that magnificent land, have blessed me richly and informed my encounter with the Earth in ways that enliven and instruct me on a soul-level.
Can you tell me about your working partnership with Christie?
Christie and I have been friends and colleagues for many years. We spent many years co-laboring to begin a graduate school in Seattle for study at the intersection of theology and psychology. We are both quite thankful to have been part of the beautiful and difficult work of teaching, administrating, and creatively leading that educational institution. Our friendship has guided us through many glories and travails of life. We have traveled together on several occasions, with the greatest of those journeys being to Ireland. Walking, pondering, and being quiet together on that western edge of such an ancient land and culture was a cherished experience—one which we hope to repeat and into which we hope to invite many others. Our walks in the woods of the Northwest and along the shores of Whidbey Island are rich, deep, and inspiring. Christie’s ability to enjoy the experience of relating to Earth is delightful. I guarantee that participants in the this seminar will be richly blessed by her.
How do you and Christie complement one another in holding this work?
We both enjoy teaching as well as contemplative practice, and we both take deep solace in Nature and relationship with Spirit and community. My strengths are in teaching while hers are more in assisting others into the experience of encounter with one another, Spirit, and Earth. The weekend will be a nice blend of both of those ways of learning, teaching, and experience.
Is this program appropriate for people with both secular and faith-based perspectives?
Most definitely. Landscape of the Soul is for those who would like to deepen their experience of relating with the Earth in a way that illuminates understanding of the human soul. It is not a religious program so people of all faiths are welcome as well as people who do not consider themselves religious in any way. It is our belief that the contemplative encounter with Nature creates an inner dialogue that encourages rich personal understanding of oneself and enhances the ways that we participate in our relationships with others and the human community as a whole. That truth is not bound by any particular religious perspective. We may quote from a variety of religious thinkers, practitioners, and poets, but we feel equally as available to non-faith-based voices as well. The program will emphasize a sense of spirituality, but it is not confined to any one definition of the spiritual journey.
How does this program relate to environmental stewardship?
We believe that a life-giving dialogue between the human soul and the Earth is essential to understand ourselves as part of Nature instead of rulers over Nature. As we have become increasingly alienated from Earth, we have set ourselves on a course of horrible destruction of the very Earth that sustains us. Without a return to a responsible co-existence with the Earth we are truly lost, both physically and spiritually. Landscape of the Soul provides a way to re-enter that dialogue and enjoy the lessons and insight that Nature offers to each of us, and it is our hope that the program will encourage each participant to continue that dialogue in their personal lives and by being more active in responsible stewardship efforts aimed at healing the damage that we have caused. Landscape of the Soul is not primarily about activism, but the call for responsible stewardship will certainly be an important message within the program.
What aspects of Whidbey Island or the Chinook Land appeal to you as a home for this work?
The Chinook Land which houses the Whidbey Institute is truly one of the “Thin Places” of our world. To dwell on that land is to be thrust into a place of discovery where one can hear the whispers of the eternal both within oneself and in the conversation with Nature and one another. It is a magical place indeed. Not only does it hold the grand beauty of the Pacific Northwest, but it also offers a resonance of the sacred that is so needed to encourage and heal the modern soul.
What kinds of experiences should a potential participant expect?
We will be gathering for group teaching and discussion several times over the weekend. Poetry will a rally point for the teachings and discussions, and we will expect to learn from both the leaders and all the participants. The tone will be casual, open, and friendly. We will enjoy meals together in that same spirit. We will go out into the land to enjoy slow walks through the woods, glens, and wetlands, and we will pause to hear from all that invites us to listen. There will also be moments of quiet set aside for personal contemplation if desired.
Are there questions I’ve not yet asked, that you’d like to answer?
In terms of the type of person that I think would benefit from this program: I certainly think that it would be a wonderful experience for anyone, however, it is designed to be an experience for those seeking a deliberate, open, curious, and quiet encounter with Earth to learn from the great teacher that is all of Creation. Please join us if you would like to learn more about how to open yourself to the sacred revealing that is all around us and how to take that inspiration into your life in responsible and life-giving ways. It is about that essential encounter with Spirit that has the potential to bless each of us deeply and change the way that we “be”.