Nine people, three days, a wide horizon

Snapshots: readings, images, reactions

This past July, we gathered with a handful of guests for the third Frontier Retreat: a loosely-facilitated mix of exploration, reflection, and conversation designed to give people space to consider the “frontiers” in their life and work.

It is impossible to give a full report on this experience. So we offer a series of snapshots–images, clips from things we read and discussed, and words from people who were there.

Sunrise at Lost Lake

Ice-age wonder for our first morning in Montana


The comfort of our familiar story can isolate us from possibility
Drawn from the writings of David Whyte

“It’s lovely to have a home, it’s lovely to have rhythms, and it’s lovely to have habits. There’s nothing like your own bed, your own coffee grinder, and your own brand of coffee. Everything is controlled.

“But all of us become imprisoned in a particular epoch of our lives. We all go through natural cycles of discovery, revelation, making a home in the world, and then the home becoming a place that’s locked from the inside. You’ve turned the key. …And the very thing that was initially an iconic invitation to something beyond yourself has taken on a perfect disguise as a doorway to freedom, but it’s actually the doorway that’s stopping you from going forward.

“When that beautiful home becomes a prison, when you can’t really see anything out of the windows any more, or anything beyond the establishment that you’ve made for yourself, then it is time to walk out of the door, to listen for the knock on the door.”

Free-writing by an ancient waterfall

Overhearing ourselves thinking through art-based reflection

What was the impact for you?

What an attendee had to say

“I realized that I had suppressed or left behind a lot of “me” over the past decade or so. I had made a series of trade-offs in my life that had ultimately gotten me to where I am now (life-wise, career-wise). As such, the ‘me’ that was showing up wasn’t as passionate, creative or as full of fire and energy as I once remembered being. The retreat helped me to remember a bit more about who I am and how I once was. It also helped me to think about courage in new ways, both walking towards new horizons with courage as well as walking away from some current or past realities with courage.”


Do our “problem stories” keep us from moving forward?
Drawn from the writings of Peter Block

“Certain conversations have the power to create a future that’s distinct from the past. We live in a problem-minded world. And so I have created myself as a problem, since I live in a world full of problems, and I can lose sight of the fact that they are all fiction. Even my own story, the story I tell about my past, is made up.

“Healing is reconstructing the story about what got you here and the future you want to live in. I know I need to reconstruct the story about what got me here in the context of forgiveness. Most of my old story was blaming someone. I thought my parents had something to do with how I turned out.

“So we say we want to help people complete the old narrative. ‘What are you unwilling to forgive?’ is a beautiful question.

“What is the alternative to this old narrative, to the problem-based story? The alternative is gift-mindedness. What opens the world to an alternative future? Focusing on what my gifts are.

“If you ask me what leaders do, they confront people with their gifts. They engage peers in talking about what gifts they receive from each other This culture doesn’t want to talk about gifts. The only time you talk about gifts is when you retire, and when you die. It’s called a eulogy. You’re going to miss it by a couple of days.”

What was the impact for you?

Two people said…

“I came home with many important realizations and ah-ha moments:

  • Your biography is not your identity.
  • Say no to the periphery, so you can attend to the center.
  • Attention is a form of transformation; change the way we pay attention, change ourselves, change the situation.We can learn to have friendship with not-knowing.
  • Am I in conversation with the world?”

“I have told several people that this was a life-changing experience, one that reinvigorated and re-energized me. I came back to work feeling zen and more like myself than I had felt in years. I had more patience and more empathy, more passion and focus. If anyone is yearning to feel those things, to connect with others or reconnect with themselves, this retreat is a great way to do that.”

Situation Modeling

Building the “balcony view” of a complex situation and its transformation


Frontier identity and “beautiful questions”
Drawn from the writings of David Whyte

“The way we listen to the world, the way we look at the world, shapes our identity. Where there’s no looking, where there’s no real listening, there’s very little identity.

Attention is a form of transformation. Just by paying attention. Just by listening, just by seeing, just by overhearing ourselves speak the revelation of the world into the living air.

The more we live at the frontier between what we think is ourselves and what we think is the world, the larger the horizon outside of us becomes. But also, the surer the foundation and the larger the horizon inside ourselves at the same time.

The frontier identity, the frontier life, consists of attention to profound and generous questions.

I often think one of the art forms in life as you mature is to be able to ask yourself more and more beautiful questions about life.

… to leave yourself alone, and to learn how to uncover yourself in a way, and to learn how to hold a conversation that actually leads you somewhere inside yourself. And to think about the world in a way which is good for you, and merciful to you, and enlarging and revelatory all at the same time.

What story am I telling myself at the moment? Which one am I insisting on too much?

What if my current story wasn’t true anymore?

One way to save your life is to ask yourself very fierce and liberating questions. And to ask them in an invitational way that you would want to actually hear them. To ask them in a merciful way.

How would you create an internal conversation that is an invitation to the part of yourself that you want to encourage into the world?

A great question, a beautiful question you can ask yourself is, “How much surface area do I have to meet anything other than myself?” And where is that contact point? Is it in the social sphere, where I’m constantly saying this and that and hello and goodbye, or is it deeper inside me in a part that needs more silence around it? Where is the real contact point? Where is the real path? Where is the place where my feet are actually touching the ground?

So it’s a great question to ask yourself. “What am I in conversation with? What kind of circle of friendship do I have? What kind of surface area do I have? What kind of invitation am I making to life? Am I actually listening for any invitations that are being made to me? What is knocking on my door? Where is the door even?”

Am I taking in from the world?
Am I putting the world in conversation with my insides?
Am I sourcing my response, my creativity, my work, in that conversation?
Am I in creative conversation with the world?

Sunset on Frenchman’s Ridge

Ending our time with a hundred-mile view of prairie and mountains

Join us in 2018!

If you give us your email address here, we’ll send early notification when we are ready to announce the 2018 Frontier Retreat.