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Go to the mountain. Those were the words I heard in my morning  meditation in January 2011. I didn't pay much  attention to that message until it became more  specific a month later. Go to Easton Mountain.

Well, I honestly was not ready to hear that. I\'d been  living peacefully near the Pacific Ocean in Southern  California for the past year and, despite the call to  go elsewhere, the mountains of upstate New York  were not on my radar. Couldn\'t I go somewhere else? I asked the Universe.

Apparently not. In March, after an email exchange  with Harry Faddis and a phone conversation with  John Stasio, a deal was struck. On June 5th I would  arrive for an extended stay at Easton Mountain as a  volunteer. I was a bit apprehensive. Although I\'d  been affiliated with Easton since 2004 as a  workshop facilitator and retreat attendee, I\'d never considered dedicating myself to washing  dishes, scrubbing toilets, and folding laundry for weeks  on end. And what about living in community with a  group of gay men? There must be endless drama!

Before arriving for my tour of duty, I made a  commitment to myself: I was going to Easton Mountain  for me. I was my priority. I chose to allow myself to be  as silly, wild, withdrawn, grumpy, sexual or celibate as I  wanted, day by day, moment to moment. I also chose  to use my time there to listen and feel into what my  heart was calling me to do beyond Easton. Where did I  feel called to live? Did I want to continue to be of  service as a shamanic practitioner and teacher?

Thankfully, Easton Mountain provides ‘opportunities to  celebrate, heal, transform, and integrate body, mind  and spirit\'. The land offers that. The staff offers that.  The volunteers offer that. The retreat participants offer  that. Men and women are invited to come, shed their  social mask (and clothes), and delve as deeply as they  desire into issues that may be keeping them from  expressing their joy. For four months I was surrounded  by extraordinary men (and sometimes women) who, in  one way or another – and often without their knowledge - supported my commitment and helped  move me ever closer to my goals.

I write this from San Diego, CA, a few days before  Thanksgiving. I feel renewed and refreshed. I am  working in my own business again as a personal  development coach – now with a more refined  approach and with greater conviction. My voice feels  stronger. My inner activist and advocate are ready to  take powerful action.

Two weeks ago I made a video call to Arturo Franco, a  long-term Easton resident who became a fierce ally  and conspirator in all things playful this summer. As  soon as I saw his face I burst into tears. There he was in  the sun room at Easton, huddled near the fire with Chuck, Nomi and Eric. I longed to be there, in the  company of men, fellow travelers on the path of the  heart. For now, I bask in the knowledge that the men,  the memories, and the momentum that Easton  Mountain brought to my life will carry me until my next visit.

Written by Joe Monkman

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