What I’m writing about here inspires me deeply. Like a birth of a child, or winning a wished-for prize. Like that. Big WoW!
Tuesday Shabda and I drove north for over an hour to what used to be Camp Makama. I was last there in 1974, doing a Zikr hadrat with Murshid Hasan from Jordan, the man who gave me my name, Tamam. That time, Shabda was asked to play an enormous marching-band drum with two drumsticks. Boom-ba Boom-Boom-Boom-ba Boom…. I can still hear it. This time Shabda brought the Dances-of-Universal-Peace to this college-age LEAPYEAR group in their brand-new meeting-hall. I played the djembe drum, he played Bazooki. It was fun. I did a couple spoken-word pieces. There was laughter and delight present. The silences after the dance were like jewels. But what I want to share here most, are the stories of how these young people are leaping out into far-off places, bringing their service, energy, and enthusiasm. How they open to new experience.
LEAPNOW. A brilliant organization created and founded by Sam Bull, in 2002 as “a system of education to create a transformation experience to usher young adults gracefully into adulthood.”[See below for more info on this global school.] Each group of students is given a name. We were with The Rumi Group! Shabda is a regular presence each year.
I interviewed Aaron and Tiffany, mentioning I would post this on a blog. They politely smiled. No cell phones, computers, I pads, Radio TV. Whoa.
Aaron Jones is from Washington DC. I keep asking him about stuff while he was trying to finish his sandwich. What do you like about Leap Year? Initially I was interested in a program for internal growth as well as external opportunity – turning the world into your classroom. That’s about it.
Another question: So the first semester you went with some of the Leap Now folks to India. What was that like? In the fall of 2012 we began in Nepal then crossed the boarder and went to Varanasi and then Rishikesh. From there we trekked in the nearby Himalayan Mountain area for six days or so then we rafted down the Ganges for 3 days, camping by the river at night. I body surfed some rapids. After that, Delhi for 2 days then I returned home to Washington DC for two months. Now I’m here with the group again. Next week we all spread out and I go to Brooklyn, where I’m entered in the Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Center. I was into filmmaking and I always wanted to do something to help the disenfranchised youth in my DC neighborhood. I’d like to strike up awareness around those issues. Film is a good way to do it.
Aaron told me his mother was a DC Social Worker, who raised him while a single parent. I’d say she did a terrific job. He’s applying to UC Colorado, Boulder and is inspired by the words of a mentor: “Always strive to be a Global Citizen,” He said modestly, being 18 years old and all, “ I don’t know if I’m (one) yet.” <> <>
Tiffany Wu, from Seattle, Washington was next. I asked her: Where did you spend your time this fall? Can you share something about that? I was in North India too. We’d raft the Ganges for up to 6 hours a day and camp out on beaches. [a note here: the part of the Ganges where they traveled is way upstream, clean and cold water, not like Varanasi.] The mountains on both sides of the river reminded me we are part of something bigger. The Himalayas. At night it was cold so we would sit around the fire telling stories and singing songs. Here’s one: She sang … the river is my sister—- the river is my brother, we sing together, we sing with one another. [Time out.] Tiffany and I are sitting in the sun by the river outside the main buildings at LEAPNOW now in Sonoma County. Her pretty voice, and the sweet moment made it impossible for me to write down any more of the song. It was just one of those moments.
Next week Tiffany is going to Mana Retreat Center, on the Coromandel Peninsula, North of Auckland New Zealand. It a peaceful and heavenly place. We taught at Mana about a decade ago. She said, “I wanted to help out there, but Sol Peterson, Director of Mana suggested I concentrate on learning about Structural Integration, Somatic, Body-related, Movement therapy, so that’s what I’ll be studying.”
Others had individualized global plans as well. For example, one of the Rumis will offer care at a place dedicated to primates in South Africa; one plans volunteering in a woman’s clinic in Guatemala; another, teaching English and studying Martial Arts in Beijing; then there’s working at a horse ranch in Patagonia; learning midwifery skills in Bali, and walking The Camino de Sandiago (30-40 day pilgrimage) across the top of Spain, to name a few.
LEAPYEAR meets in the fall then goes in groups of ten or so to say, South America and India. They return home to their families for 2 months, return to Sonoma and go further into the work, then they complete a rite of passage (this weekend) and are ready to go solo out into the world to a couple months of service and education. They meet back here in May. We will join them once again and hear about their experiences.
Sam writes me:“As a gap year counselor, every day I could see the glaring shortcomings of our traditional system of education, and I didn’t really have a good program that I could refer students to, that would give them everything they needed to successfully navigate the huge transitions involved in the passages from high school to college, family to independence, and adolescence into adulthood.”
In creating LEAPYEAR, Cassie [his wife] and I wanted to create a transformation experience to usher young adults gracefully into adulthood. The intent was multi-faceted:· To be an antidote to a system of education that flattens out student’s dimensionality, that robs them of their innate love of learning, that teaches them that education is something that is “done to them” rather than the coolest thing we can do, and that focuses on content rather than giving a context for a live well lived.
· To give students a chance to reclaim their wholeness, before doing the rest of their education.
· To give college credit for real learning in the real world. We are currently accredited through Antioch University Seattle.
· To incorporate “mystery school” elements, so that students could contact their multi-dimensionality and a connection with mystery.
· To reconnect students to how amazing it is to be a human being.
· To build in formal rites of passage involving the parents, so that students would be mentored into a conscious adulthood, rather than initiated through unconscious college rites.
We have graduated over 350 LEAPYEAR students, as well as three groups of LEAPYEAR 2 students. Cassie and I are committed to using the organization itself as a learning laboratory for the transition into adulthood. To this end, we created the LEAPYEAR2 program, where students return to our campus, run our kitchen and work on the land and in the office, and in the process learn to hold the container for future generations of LEAPYEAR students. Tuition is offset by work-study, and LEAPYEAR2 students can earn another year of credit through Antioch.
Our website is www.leapnow.org, for a link from the blog.
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