Ghost Ranch: A "Thin Place"
Editor's note: SDI's next spiritual journey unfolds in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico in May. As Valerie will be leading the retreat, I asked her to briefly try to capture the essence (and the opportunity) this remarkable area presents. Karen Lee Erlichman, DMin, LCSW, will co-lead the retreat with Valerie.
Sacred, spiritual, deeply inspirational places have voices. They say: ‘Pause, notice, breathe.’ They pull us out of mundane preoccupations and into timelessness, awe, and wonder. Sometimes they are stripped down, elemental landscapes, where we feel an immediate connection with the land and with Spirit. From time immemorial, people have journeyed to these places to pray, to be, to be transformed from the inside out.
I came to Ghost Ranch, 21,000 acres of wilderness in northern New Mexico, in the United States, in the summer of 1978. I tooled around Albuquerque on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle, exploring Santa Fe, Taos, and surroundings and came upon the red rocks and the painted desert of Ghost Ranch made famous by the iconic American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe. The ranch touched a spark, something inexpressible within me. I remember feeling an internal shift and stripping away of everything except the land, an intimacy with nature—down to bare essentials.
Since then, I’ve returned to the ranch as a place of renewal, beauty, and healing. I’ve worked at Ghost Ranch as a farm hand, planting 40 pounds of garlic, studying herbs with a local curandero, and leading spiritual retreats for hundreds of people, sharing the enchantment of this 21,000 acre wilderness ranch.
Ghost Ranch is a place that gives voice to ‘your whole self’, to ponder the big questions of life purpose, meaning, and direction. Ghost Ranch is a place of attunement to the land, the people, the mesas, deserts, arroyos, and canyons, offering the promise of prayer, paradox, and possibility.
The quote above comes from "Eagle Poem," by Joy Harjo from her book In Mad Love and War (1990).
Valerie Brown, JD, MA, PCC, an international retreat leader, spiritual director, author, accredited leadership coach, and Principal of Lead Smart Coaching, LLC, specializing in application and integration of mindfulness and leadership. She is a Quaker and an ordained member of the Tiep Hien Order by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 2003. As certified Kundalini yoga teacher, she helps leaders discover the wisdom of the body.