If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, you are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagner

Do you feel a calling to expand and deepen your connections? Are you ready to answer that call?

If yes, join us in exploring the wilderness within through the art of pilgrimage, reflective practices, nature connection and individual and group development work while backpacking along The Sacred Door Trail in the high peaks of Western Montana from July 4 - August 11, 2019. Together, we explore what it means to be human during a time of planetary transformation, and how your gifts can be of service to the larger living systems of which we are a part. Inner Wild’s sixth annual 5-week Relational Leadership Wilderness Intensive is an innovative cross-disciplinary exploration in leadership development for adults (22 and over) who wish to deepen their relationship to self, earth, community, and the numinous (mystery, wonder, imagination).

DSCN0161.JPG.jpeg

relational leadership program

Our Goals:  During this 5-week intensive, participants will be nurturing their relational awareness—an embodied understanding of the interdependent relationship that exists between self, Earth, community, and the numinous. Amidst developing these connections, you will also discovering or strengthen your unique gifts and leadership skills toward furthering the transformative work you wish to cultivate in the world. With an emphasis on individual and group leadership development in a prolonged wilderness setting, this unique program offers introspective transformation at the same time as learning tools and skills that nurture a path of fulfillment and inspired social action in the world.

To say it was a good experience is being awfully humble since it changed my life.
— Peery, 2016 participant

Program Structure: The power of this program lies in its holistic structure which is grounded in theories and research around adult development, cross-disciplinary design, self-organizing systems and the power of peer-to-peer learning and mentorship. The first step is a preparatory mentorship calls to register and initiate one’s commitment. The first four days of the intensive experience is heavily shaped by the trip mentors in an effort to empower the group with the skills, knowledge, and wisdom needed to allow the participants take control of their own experiences. Once on the trail, the mentors will slowly handover leadership responsibilities to the group placing the experience in the hands of participants to shape through juggling the various roles of leader, teacher, student and support system for one another, creating their own nomadic community along the path.

Themes and Theories:  Deep ecology, holistic community development, social and environmental justice, depth and ecopsychology, contemplative practices, systems theory, leadership development, nature connection, wilderness survival skills, local ecology, rites of passage, adult development, group development and integral theory.

I have gone to therapy off and on for about 15 years and nothing has given me this profound cellular change as walking in nature and receiving the messages needed in order to heal.
— Jamie, 2017

Tending the Shadow: At Inner Wild we don’t use wilderness and wildness to escape but rather to reconnect to the wisdom and understandings that can help participants play a bigger role in the healing of our social and planetary systems. Part of what that work entails is an exploration of shadow. How are we complicit in systems of oppression that operate both internally and externally? How can we use our gifts to counter and replace those systems with worldview, practices, and structures that promote healing and generative transformation? This exploration also applies to the program as well, in the sense that we run the program on stolen land. We bring this reality into the program, we address it in dialogues and explore how that history can be transformed into healing in an effort to come back into right relationship with the land and the land’s original care-takers.

  Black bear tracks in the Pintler Range, Northern stretch of the Sacred Door Trail.

Black bear tracks in the Pintler Range, Northern stretch of the Sacred Door Trail.

The Place: Using the experiential container of a pilgrimage and the cross-cultural initiatory structure of a rite of passage, participants will embark on a 200-mile backpacking trip circumnavigating the Sacred Door Trail (SDT). The SDT is a non-denominational pilgrimage trail which celebrates spiritual unity and our connection to Earth and community. Located in southwest Montana the SDT explores some of the prettiest mountains, lakes and rivers in the continental US.

*A note on the history of the Land: The Big Hole Valley was a shared hunting and travel corridor for many indigenous tribes, but primarily the Selis (Bitterroot Salish) and the Newe (Shoshone). The land is also home to part of the route the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) traveled in an effort to reach Canada to avoid U.S persecution. Sadly, they were stopped 40-miles south of the border and placed on a reservation in north-central Idaho.


AdMissions overview

What We Look for in Participants:  Inner Wild’s 5-week summer intensive seeks participants that have a demonstrated track record and commitment to self-inquiry and personal growth, and who have a passion for cultural transformation rooted in the values of environmental and social justice and interconnectivity. This program is perfect for individuals who are ready to explore their own development in a way that can only be done through a collective, community-based container that works in partnership with the land. Our expectation for participants is that they arrive in a space of compassionate openness, willing to challenge their own core beliefs and explore their own blind assumptions. It is through such a space, of openness and curiosity, that genuine transformation and authentic community connection become possible.

Preparation:  The ceremony begins the moment you commit to it. We take this notion seriously here at Inner-Wild, which is why the moment someone signs up for a program they can expect a call from us. These are mentor calls. They are designed to stir the inner-soil and support participants in the preparatory stage of the process.

I wish I was better with words so that I could fully express how grateful I am for the opportunity to be a part of such a powerful experience.
— Samuel, 2016 participant

Each participant will have two mentor calls before the experience and one three months after the intensive is over. The purpose of the calls before is to support the individual in all that goes into getting ready for such an experience on both an internal and external level. This includes introducing the individual to the rolling questions which they will be exploring on an individual and group level through the entire process of the program.  A few of the rolling questions are: how do you tend your relationship to the masculine and feminine in your life, are there things you’d like to let go of in yourself, what beliefs are holding you back, what are your gifts, what does community mean to you, what helps shape meaning and purpose in your life, how do you feel let down by western modern culture, how do you feel empowered by it, how are you and how could you serve the greater good through a deeper embodiment of your gifts and passions?

  Upper Slag’O Melt Lake, just below the Continental Divide, week-two on the trail, Beaverhead Mountains.

Upper Slag’O Melt Lake, just below the Continental Divide, week-two on the trail, Beaverhead Mountains.

Inner Wild’s Commitment to Safety and Diversity:  Through our collective journey, we seek to explore and create an authentic nomadic community that operates in right relationship to the individuals, the collective, the land, and the spirit of the trail. Inner Wild intends to diversify the group container of our Relational Leadership Intensive with participants of unique backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and interests.

iStock-888343182.jpg

In order to do this correctly, safety must be our number one priority. It is our expectation that each participant within the group speaks and acts in a way that serves, honors, and protects the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual safety of all involved, including the land. Any safety issues that arise on any of these levels will be addressed immediately by the facilitators in partnership with the group. Our first action as a group when we gather in Montana will be to create a community charter, that includes the values, and tools we need to have in place to feel safe and held as individuals as we embark on our journey together.


Itinerary

  Basecamp, outside of Bozeman, MT

Basecamp, outside of Bozeman, MT

WEEK 1 – Base Camp Logistics & Community Creation:  Upon arrival to Bozeman, Montana, the group will head into the Bridger Mountains and set up camp on a private in-holding within the National Forest. These first few days are dedicated to setting the group container and introducing various themes and theories that we will engaged throughout the trip.

In addition to community building, we also take care of food purchases, rationing for the trip, review maps and food drop locations, inspect our gear, role play first aid scenarios, and practice basic survival safety, such as setting up and taking down tents, patching tents efficiently, working backpack stoves, and hanging bear bags. On the final night before embarking on the trail there will be a fire and community gathering. Each member of the group will have an opportunity to share with the larger community who supports the program why they have chosen to undertake such a journey and what they hope to get from it.

Much like a river, the trail was at times patient and smooth, other times wild and turbulent though always moving, never stagnant.
— Sean, 2016

WEEKS 2, 3, 4 – Relational Exploration: Once on the trail the day to day structure and schedule will be determined by the group. Some questions the group will explore include the following: what is our basic schedule (waking, start hiking, meal times)? How do we handle conflict? How do we handle leadership? When do we hike alone? When do we hike as a group? How do we learn from each other?

Every six days, the group will be met by the mentors and community support members for two layover days and a food re-rationing. During this time, the guides will check-in with individuals and the group as a whole to help address any concerns and generally guide wherever needed and/or requested. Additional short group sessions on theoretical topics will also be held during these layover days.

2017-07-16 16.18.23.jpg

WEEK 5 – The Solo Fast:  Once the group has finished the trail they will return to our base camp outside of Bozeman to embark on a three-day solo fast. The solos offer participants time on their own for the purpose of self-reflection and contemplation. You will contemplate learnings from the trip so far and imagine what you wish to step into and claim for yourself moving forward into the next chapter of life.

The day to day life on the trail is in many ways consumed by movement, tasks and chores. The solo fast period at the end is an opportunity for participants to settle into the stillness of nature to see what may be revealed. Solitude and fasting in nature quiets the mind and body, awakens our dream world, and creates subtle shifts in our perspective that allows for deeper awareness and insight to surface.    

WEEK 5 – Reincorporation:  After the trail and solo experience, we will spend four days doing reincorporation work, such as reflecting and sharing, grounding our experience, and logistical next steps. Over this time there will be another community gathering which will offer participants the opportunity to share their experience with the wider community (participants family and friends are welcome). This reincorporation period is the most important aspect of the trip; if rushed, the insights gleaned on the trail will not have the time needed to simmer and integrate. If time allows, a day trip into Yellowstone Park or a float trip on the Yellowstone River may be in order.

Three follow-up group calls will occur over the six months after the intensive program. The purpose of these calls is to support each other in the reincorporation process and continue to tend the relationships made during the intensive. How are the lessons learned being integrated? How are you seeking support from your community to integrate your lessons? Are you finding mentors or anchors around you to help support the process? Are you following through with next steps towards goals set while on the trail?


Application process

We are currently accepting applications for 2019. To apply write a one to two-page essay explaining a bit about who you are and why you feel called to do this program. If you are in need of a scholarship, please let us know that on you application. Once completed, email the essay to: innerwild.org@gmail.com. Expect a response from us confirming the receipt of your application and next steps. Our application deadline is February 20th and we will notify you by mid-March if you are accepted into the program. Please understand that not everyone who applies gets accepted. Participant spots will be confirmed upon receipt of a $250 deposit.

Program Cost: $2,800 for those enrolled by April 1st, $3,000 for those that enroll after April 1st. Submit your application by January 15th to be eligible for a $150 early bird discount. There are two half scholarships and one full scholarship available for this year. Do not let the price tag stand in the way of applying. We have never turned anyone away due to financial limitations. If you’re the right fit for this program and willing to put in the work, then we will help you get the money needed to make this program a reality for yourself.

To apply or if you have any further questions, please contact Weston Pew at innerwild.org@gmail.com.


Weston and Shannon are incredible teachers and within the community they built I learned more than I thought possible about the environment, wildness, people and even myself. They provided a creative, free and fun landscape in which we could all grow into wiser and more loving human beings.
— Elizabeth, 2016

Lead Facilitators

weston copy (1).jpg

Weston Pew is the founder and director of Inner Wild and is also the founder of the Sacred Door Trail.  Weston grew up in the mountains of Montana and has been working with youth and young adults in the wilderness since he was 18. He is an alum of the National Outdoor Leadership School’s semester-long program and has backpacked all over the world.  For the past 8-years, his work and studies have focused on rites of passage, pilgrimage, and individual development through wilderness settings, which lead him to the creation of The Sacred Door Trail and Inner Wild.  He recently wrapped up a master’s in experiential education from Prescott College and is currently getting his Ph.D from Pacifica College in depth psychology with a focus on community, liberation, and ecopsychology. He also launched of a new leadership program for high schoolers he is founding in Brooklyn called Mavericks Education, which opened its doors in the fall of 2017.

shannon.jpg

Shannon Ongaro holds a Master’s Degree in History for Montana State University and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Naropa University, in addition to her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Humboldt State University. Shannon has taught professionally at the college level, and has spent summers training river guides and working as an instructor at Montana Whitewater Guide School. An avid backcountry skier and outdoor enthusiast, Shannon has traveled extensively all over the world – including Central and South America, New Zealand, Africa, and Europe. Over the past spring and fall of 2016 and 2017 Shannon worked supporting refugees in Greece through the NGO, Refuge Support Europe.  She also works for the Tandana Foundation, a non-profit organization that oversees service projects in Ecuador and Mali, West Africa. Additionally, she is  a co-founder of a local arts project BOOMA (Benevolent Order of Mountain Artists) through which, she organizes twice-yearly collaborative community art projects.