The Step to a New Life

This is a selection from the book “The Seven Paths of the Anasazi Way” published by The ANASAZI Foundation. This is one of the most beautiful stories that I have ever read.

"A Lone Man" - A sketch by Jon McNaughton.

When the heavens stopped beating down on me and the sky finally cleared, I collapsed to the earth in exhaustion. How long I slept I do not know. It might have been hours or it might have been days. But I did not rest in my sleep. I walked far.

"Climbed" - A sketch by Jon McNaughton.

And I awoke desiring to step anew.

For in my sleep I met a legend among my people–a man long revered, with a name so sacred it is spoken only in praise or song. In my dream, I climbed the slope of a mountain. My father climbed with me. I did not know the purpose of our journey, but it seemed as if he did. I say “seemed” because we didn’t speak. We walked in silence, although not the warring kind I had known in my youth. It was rather the silence of reverence. After what seemed like both a long time and barely a moment, we reached the summit. My father stopped, and with an outstretched arm invited me to proceed beyond the next bend.

I did as I was bidden.

As I turned the corner, I was overcome by the presence of an incredible being–a being that I instinctively knew to be the holy one from our legends. I recall that he was in some sort of conversation with another person. But as I turned the corner he turned towards me, and I was given to know that ht was waiting specifically for me. He radiated an incredible light, yet the light was neither blinding nor harsh. It was inviting, soft and loving. Nevertheless, it was bright beyond description.

"Embraced by the Creator" a sketch by Jon McNaughton.

I felt in that moment love as I had never known it. It drew me to him. I rushed to him and we embraced. I think that I fell at his feet, but I can no longer remember for sure. I shall never forget that embrace, however, nor his eyes, for they were pure love. But amid the glory of the experience, there was an element that left me trouble. For while I knew by instinct that I was in the arms of the holy one, I remember wondering while we were embracing whether it really was him. In that moment of uncertainty, I knew that something in the way I had been living my life held me back from experiencing his fullness, and my heart shuddered in anguish.

Then I awoke.

"Anasazi" by Jon McNaughton

My young friend, I wish you were hear me so that you could see the conviction in my eyes and hear the feeling in my voice. I truly saw what I have described to you. It was a dream yes, but so much more of a dream than any other dream I have known. I had never before experienced such joy, and have never before felt such pain. When I had collected my thoughts, I lifted my voice to the sky, thanking the Creator that I had been given another day to leave behind what had held me back. For you see, I was carrying in the pockets of my heart mementos of a life lived in backward walking.

If I was to move forward, I needed to leave all that was backward behind.

I did that that very day, and have had to repeat the offering many times since. Perhaps in this regard, as well, you and I are alike. Perhaps there are aspects of your life that need to be started anew. Make an offering of all that is old within you. Whatever you carry that invites a backward walking, leave behind.

The embrace that awaits is too sweet to miss.

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ANASAZI and Me

My first day at ANASAZI Training. What did I tell you? Chubby nerd.

In September of 2007, after being led on a horrendous, five-mile hike through everything that I could possibly be allergic to, I laid underneath my simple shelter on the ANASAZI trail in Arizona and wrote, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m not cut out to be a TrailWalker.”

So began my first week as an ANASAZI TrailWalker!

For those of you that don’t know, ANASAZI Foundation is a wilderness therapy program for troubled youth and struggling young adults. ANASAZI offers a 42-day, wilderness-based, residential treatment program and outpatient services rooted in the belief that all people—regardless of their struggles or at-risk choices—possess an inherent “seed of greatness.”

Because of my father’s line of work, I had known about ANASAZI Foundation for years but never really understood what they did. After significantly painful and difficult experiences in my own life, my parents suggested that I enroll in ANASAZI and participate in the program. After learning that it was a wilderness therapy program, I believe I said something like: “Ah heck no!”

Attempting to “bust a coal” (build a fire) during my frist week at ANASAZI.

But for whatever reason, the idea participating at ANASAZI worked on me….little by little….until, a year after my parents had suggested that I enroll in ANASAZI, I printed off an application to work there.

Okay, first of all, you need to understand a few things about me: I hated being a boy scout. Is there a way to emphasize that…without using expletives? I HATED being a boy scout. Camp outs, tying knots, being “outdoorsey”….? No. Not for me. No. No. No. I was a chubby computer nerd fully satisfied with his lot in life.

So again, for whatever reason in 2007, I printed off an application to work at ANASAZI Foundation, a wilderness therapy program. I honestly do not remember my thought process at the time. I cannot remember filling out the application. And I barely remember the drive down to Arizona to start work. (I vaguely remember a phone interview from a member of the office staff: “You do realize that you won’t be walking on marked trails, right? You’ll be climbing in canyons and bushwhacking.” “Oh yeah, sure,” I lied. Truth be told, I literally did not know what the term “bushwhacking” meant. Literally.)

Getting the hang of it at ANASAZI in 2010. :)

Suddenly, I found myself in the ANASAZI office going through training. I was learning how to build a fire with sticks and pack my trail pack using a tarp and something they called a “burrito.” I thought to myself: Why am I here?

Soon after that, I was out on the trail, curled up in the fetal position under my tarp, sweaty, sore, tired and bruised. I couldn’t control my allergies and I couldn’t sleep. I was physically and mentally miserable. Again, I thought to myself: Why am I here?

But I kept working at ANASAZI. And as I did so, a change came over me. ANASAZI became a major turning point in my life: working with amazing individuals (the staff and the participants), learning about the ANASAZI way, having personal awakenings and strengthening my relationship with the Creator were experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. ANASAZI rejuvenated my soul and taught me to “walk forward” with a “heart at peace.” I often describe this period of my life as if I were “seeing color for the first time” because there’s really no other way to describe it.

In October of 2010, while working with a Sinagua band (participants over the age of 18) I found the answer for which I had been searching since 2007. After telling them my background of coming to work at ANASAZI, I said “I can’t remember why I applied to work here….but I now know why I came.”

Ronnie, Myself and Noell on my last day on the trail in 2010.

The simple principles taught at ANASAZI (the fundamental belief in a Creator, Forwards and Backwards Walking, having a new beginning, a Heart at War and a Heart at Peace) can, and have changed the lives of thousands of participants. I am constantly amazed by the caliber of the staff and the miracles which take place in that blessed program on a daily basis.

More than that, I marvel at the healing which takes place in the families that participate in ANASAZI.

For these reasons and more, I have quietly pledged in my heart to consistently support ANASAZI. I hope and pray that you too will discover the peace and joy that comes from living the ANASAZI way.