Buffalo as a totem provides sacredness, great strength, abundance, and gratitude; it provides meaning and significance to life.
I have been reflecting after the Prairie, Possibilities, and Purpose Retreat; it has taken me quite some time to put the power of the experience into words. As soon as we left the lowlands on Friday and headed up the ridge on our final few miles of the drive I felt as if the entire landscape was opening its arms to us—to embrace us, nurture us, to love us. My two fellow car companions felt it too.
As we came atop the ridge we turned East, the Direction of Illumination and Clarity, and my enthusiasm for what was to come swelled in my heart. This would truly be a special weekend! My eyes were filled with sensory-rich beauty; the rolling hills—a patchwork of prairies, forests, and ponds—sloped north/northeast, all laid out before us. The blue sky encircled us, providing a soothing crown of comfort. Clouds ambled over us gently reminding us that all things come to pass. I felt embraced.
Soon after settling into our cozy cabins the entire retreat group convened on the expansive porch of the Lodge. The Buffalo auspiciously made their appearance on a distant knoll, moving as they do, grazing their way into the wind. I felt at home knowing they were there. Perhaps they awakened in me the knowledge of this land when Buffalo were the center of the Native Americans’ life, providing food, clothing, and shelter.
Gathered around a large circular table in reach of the full splendor or nature, we introduced ourselves and began our journey of spiraling closer and closer together sharing experiences open-heartedly, trustingly. Our stories unfolded, each rising and falling like the hills we looked upon. Laughter, tears, encouragement, revelations, and ever-expanding appreciation for each other grew. We were no longer separate but sisters journeying together … Meg (1), Pat, Janet, Meg (2), Barb, Kristi, and me.
I was especially thrilled when Bruce, the owner/manager of Prairie Sky Ranch, drove us to the Buffalo herd. Seeing these majestic animals made me realize the courage, strength, and trust it took to rely on the herd for one’s well-being. Sitting in the back of the pickup—mere feet from the moms, the calves, and the protective bulls—I saw the continuum of time connecting past and present to our hopes and dream of the future. On some level we were helping each other appreciate the intricate weave of our own life tapestries.
During those two days we looked back at our past to see what to glean and bring forward. What does it tell us? How can it inform us now? Where might we go from here? We saw common threads, such as loss of our innocence, loss of loved ones, loss of relationships, loss of a lifestyle once enjoyed. We found joys and laughter in the highs of our lives—for some it was college, for others it was having children, and others a satisfying career and sports and hobbies. The elations were numerous.
We found our strength in our own words and through awareness from meditations and reflections. We found encouragement in discussions, others’ observations, and celebrations of breakthroughs past and current.
On Saturday afternoon some went horseback riding and some stayed back to enjoy serenity and solitude. The Megs, Pat, Kristi, and Barb reacquainted themselves with a past love of riding; it was confidence building. Janet and I took the time to be at peace with ourselves and with our own thoughts and in the shade of a majestic pine we found a sacred place to come together for healing.
Before having the evening meal, which was prepared tastefully and artfully by Brent, Barb had us draw Angel cards to find the best word to describe our essence. Words like Love, Delight, Beauty, and Enthusiasm appeared. In turn, each of us shared how our word reflects who we are. One by one we helped each other learn and deepen how truthfully the word represented us. In our interactions we touched each other deeply and the Divine touched us, as witnessed by how the words accurately chose us!
We had come to this South Dakota oasis to reclaim ourselves. The land, the food, the time together brought us to a fullness that can only be achieved from within. We were truly able to sit at the feet of our lives and let our lives teach us what it is we are seeking to know and understand.
The orange glowing sun dropped beneath the ridge while we gathered at the fire for storytelling. As the flames dwindled the comfort of sleep called us all. The sounds of the nighttime prairie tucked us into our own thoughts and desires; succumbing to sleep we let them rise heavenly like the fire’s smoke, weaving into the dreams chastened by Spirit’s presence. Here I felt at one with Nature, myself, and with God. My promise that night was to make this oneness part of my daily being.
Sunday, we rose to a sunny day. Throughout Yoga and meditation the clouds and a cool breeze blew through reminding us that we would be leaving, spiraling away. I was honored to close the retreat with each of us selecting a totem animal whose qualities and attributes we could draw upon as we reentered the world. Kristi helped us capture the light within us and the light of being in a Retreat Community. We had each crafted our own gift to take home, letting us shine on in our own worlds.
We gathered on the prairie and with a singing bowl, rang our possibilities and purpose to the prairie sky, and said our goodbyes. We were reminded that at night, each at our own homes alone, it is not wise to withdraw totally lest we find ourselves lonely. This retreat reunited us and reconnected us to who we are and where we are going. And it is good!
On my return I spent much time in deep reflection, and continue even now. At times I am full of reverence, at others sad about my current reality of being in such great flux. I remember what the land whispered to me: “You are alive. Rejoice! You are love. Give it freely just at the sun gives warmth each day. Heal and be healed.”
Mesmerized by the entire experience, we are already planning the next retreat, one that can be equally powerful for those who return and for anyone new who joins. There is much in us waiting to be realized; it is from our Being that we become aware. What in your Being is waiting to be known? What unanswered question would you like to explore? What type of retreat would facilitate your exploration?