What can we learn from Nature when we immerse ourselves into one of the most magnificent and dramatic landscapes South Africa has to offer – the Drakensberg?
Every year the SI hosts immersive learning experiences, taking participants into some of the wildest places in (and outside) the country, from the Cederberg and Imfolozi, to the Brazilian Amazon and the Himalayas in Nepal. This past October a group of participants embarked on a 5-day hike in the Mnweni region of the Berg, without any contact to the outside world, sleeping under the stars, and carrying with them only the absolute essentials to survive in the wild. Accurately, the immersion was titled “Navigating Home: A trek to ourselves”. Three experienced facilitators, Michaela Geytenbeek of Pathfinders SA, and Shaun Dunn and Jess Schulschenk of the SI, led the group of adventurers both through the physical peaks and valleys of the mountain but also the metaphorical peaks and valleys of the soul. What they found was a simpler life that gifts time for conscious contemplation and deep connection to this wild place and its natural and human history. No one could have anticipated the places this journey would take them, both as explorers of the unknown, yet simultaneously as long lost children coming home to the familiar – to the essence of what life is.
One of the explorers, our Learning Experience Designer at the SI, Sam Hale, shares more about why immersions are such transformative learning experiences.
“Nested amongst the rising peaks of the Drakensberg mountain range is the small village of Mnweni. This is where our journey began. With our first night at base camp Mnweni Cultural Centre, we shared chats about the upcoming path over a meal and map of the mountains around us. With full packs fastened we took to the trails with a special quest: to navigate home. Each day we walked to a new campsite, creating homes for ourselves and each other. Over four days, we ascended up the enveloping valleys to stand at height with the rugged spires that are unique to the Mnweni area. Rolling hills of green, jagged rock and rich earth carried us throughout an inquiry into who we are, what makes us feel alive and what we need to strengthen our relationship to self, others and our nonhuman kin. Each morning and each night we sat in circle to check in, and offer gentle provocations.
We slept in a cave, swam in pools, faced major fears, cooked together in torch light, carried our belongings on our backs, rose with the sun, and shared in both physical and soulful conquests. Most of all, we enjoyed a slower, simple life. What we found was that simplicity allows every moment to be truly abundant. Our journey was initially set out to be five days, but we followed the needs and feeling of the group, and decided to climb down early to spend an extra night integrating at the cultural centre. This is a key part of any experience; your path is determined by who is on it with you.”
“Humbled and grateful. Sharing the Drakensberg mountains with the SI has been a dream of mine for the past few years. Both the mountains and the SI have an incredible way of drawing out consciousness and strengthening our personal connection to self. I truly believe in Mother nature as healer and teacher, and it was pure magic being held by her whilst being prompted in conscious conversation and contemplation. Each journey to the mountains leaves me changed. And the people that I get to share the experience with play a pivotal role in this shaping. I feel so humbled and grateful to have been able to guide this group of souls that dance in the light. A big thank you to the SI for embracing this journey and gathering a conscious community.” Michaela Geytenbeek, Pathfinders_SA
Thank you to Graeme Holliday for the beautiful pictures.