The Rising Earth Immersion program was an excellent choice for me as my first gap year experience post-undergraduate graduation. Like many of my peers, I came out of school still carrying a ton of questions about how to navigate my life path and contribute effectively to social and ecological wholesomeness. This 10-week residency helped dissolve many of my anxieties and clear up my intuitions by opening me up to the transformative powers of intentional community and its dynamic, emergent processes of growth and learning.
From preparing meals as a group, to practicing Nonviolent Communication techniques, to learning principles of the New Economy (regenerative, creative, just, and resonant with Buddhist ethics), to implementing the fundamentals of permaculture design in the garden, to having intimate circle discussions about gender/privilege/dreams/fears/what holds us back, there were so many opportunities to deepen my values, let go of my "agenda," and find a deep sense of meaning and well-being as a present-minded student and community member. I was really impressed with the level of care and ethics embodied by the program facilitators and instructors. I felt like I had an abundance of role models to look up to as I reflected on my transition into full adulthood and maturity. For the first (sustained) time in my life, I felt like I really belonged somewhere, and that many of the layers I usually put on to present an idealized version of myself to others could be shed. I knew I would be accepted and empathized with in my full emotional complexity, and it was such a heart-warming experience to show parts of myself I tend to hide.
The Eco-Institute itself is a gorgeous backdrop for an alternative semester / rite of passage. With a sizable, biodiverse, permaculture-infused garden that supplied many of our meal ingredients, scenic yurt lodging in the forest (highlights of which include coyote and owl calls in the night), a huge pond for swimming and dock-chilling, and a well-equipped, beautifully designed barn (with a modern kitchen, open-mic stage, living room, and yoga studio), it is a place of vibrant inspiration and rich sensory immersion.
I would recommend this program for any young adult curious about taking sustainability seriously, interested in how environmentalism can effectively merge with social justice, eager to find a real sense of community, and questioning what their deeper purpose may be in these times of great transition. As someone who has passed to the other side of it, I can say that I feel more stable in my identity, confident in my dreams, and appreciative of the gifts of this human life than ever before.