John Philip Newell Launches Schools of Celtic Consciousness in California, Colorado, New England, and Virginia

Iona SunriseJohn Philip Newell has launched an exciting new initiative, the School of Celtic Consciousness. Its purpose is threefold.

  1. To extend the study of Celtic spirituality
  2. To deepen spiritual practice
  3. To nurture reflective community and enable action for change

The School of Celtic Consciousness (SCC) will convene with John Philip Newell as teacher four times each year:

  • The California SCC (Winter)
  • The Colorado SCC (Spring)
  • The New England SCC (Summer)
  • The Virginia SCC (Autumn)

Each school will be on an individual three-year track. Participants are welcome to join at any point (starting during the first year, for instance, is not necessary). In 2017 the dates and locations will be as follows:

(Each of the regions will also host quarterly gatherings to nurture study, spiritual practice, community, and action.)

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John Philip Newell

For many years now John Philip Newell has been regarded as one of the most prominent teachers of Celtic spirituality. In a statement to Heartbeat he said, ‘We hope that the School of Celtic Consciousness will be a legacy of Celtic wisdom for today, to further enable the sacred work of healing and transformation in our lives and world.’


Reflections from The Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage: A Walk With the Earth

IMG_4524 “We turned an awe-inspiring place into a thin place.”

This was the reflection from Eric Conklin of Portland, Oregon, USA, one of the pilgrims on Heartbeat’s recent Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage. A group of 10 walked over 40 miles together along the Pacific Coast of Northern Oregon over the course of five days. We made our way through rainforests, fog, wind-driven rain, and across sunny beaches that seemed to stretch forever. The group studied John Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God, which provided a foundation for learning and discussion throughout the trip. Prayer practices were based on Celtic Treasure: Scripture and Daily Prayer as the group always began periods of silent walking with the ancient Celtic prayer:

The blessings of heaven

The blessings of earth

The blessings of sea and of sky

On those we love this day.

And on every human family

The blessings of heaven

The blessings of earth

The blessings of sea and of sky


The combination of relationship, experience of the earth, and spiritual practices further deepened the pilgrimage. Emily MacDonald of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada said, “The Pilgrimage was an amazing, beautiful experience. The times of silence and connection gave us an opportunity to meditate on a particular topic, and do some reflection about our thoughts with another participant. At all times I felt safe and secure with the group as we had meaningful discussions about various topics, such as Love, Healing, and Connections to the Earth.”

The pilgrimage also provided time to contemplate deeper life questions and opportunities to hold areas of brokenness or pain in our lives. “I was deeply touched by the honest, caring approach to the members of the Pilgrimage. I felt safe to express some of my deepest hurts and struggles… I feel stronger to continue my work as a palliative care nurse, and hope to continue to develop the skills to be the person I want to be each and every day, and still have self care and compassion for my own needs,” said Deb Banfield of Sutton, Ontario, Canada.

The pilgrimage was an important reminder of the wisdom that the Celtic World holds for our world today in helping us nurture our connection to the earth. Our “walk with the earth” is a response to the misunderstanding that we can somehow be well while ignoring the earth’s wellbeing. One of the most important aspects of our walk is the discipline of walking in silence. Alex Tish, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA said, “The unbelievably serene beauty of that nature we were in connected me with the rhythms of the earth more intimately. The crashing of the waves were a constant source of relaxation, as well as the deep fog that enclosed us on some mornings. When we would walk in silence, meditating on various concepts, looking around would inspire me to contemplate a connection with the earth further. “

On our last day of walking there was an extended time of silence and each pilgrim was asked to sit with the question, what role do I have to play in the healing of the earth? It’s heavy question to hold. But our intention is that the pilgrimage would lead each of us to some sort of transformative action.


The answers are many and vary from person to person. One of the pilgrims, Matt Smith of Portland, Oregon, USA, drives an electric car to work every day. He and his wife are on a minister’s salary, but the added expense was a sacrifice they were willing to make because it helped them live out their values. Eric does not even own a car and rides his bicycle wherever he needs to go, often with his five-year old son in tow. Deb is a gardener and shares her homemade jam with friends and neighbors, only asking for the glass jar to be returned when it is finished. Whether reducing carbon emissions by using an electric car, choosing bicycle transportation, or growing food in the backyard, each of us felt a call to answer this question with our lives.

The first step is relationship… spending time walking, singing, and in silence; wrapped in the beauty and power of the earth. And just like any other true relationship, the next step is to do something about it. Re-engaging this cycle is how an awe-inspiring place can turn into a thin place. It is how we find our part in the story and it’s our hope for the healing of the earth.


photoBen Lindwall is the Executive Director at Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing. Ben lives in Portland, Oregon USA where he and his family are caretakers in residence at the Arbor Lodge Urban Farm. He has been leading group experiences in various capacities for over a decade. Ben has been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell over the past few years and is a certified Spiritual Director. He has been the Executive Director at Heartbeat since 2013, working with people from all over the world to advance a vision of healing, transformation, and peace. Coming from an evangelical Christian background and now like many of his generation, Ben considers himself spiritual (and a Christian) without any formal church membership. He and his wife Jen have been married for 13 years and have two young children.

Sow Some Seeds With Us!

09954c71-de22-4b14-822e-c622f6067aa2It was a remarkable week at Ghost Ranch this year as John Philip and Ali Newell co-led a retreat, Celtic Wisdom and Native Wisdom with Navajo teachers Dr. Alta Begay-Piechowski and Terrell Piechowski. Their intention was to identify similarities in these earth-based spiritualities and foster relationship throughout the time of learning. It was such an inspiring time that they hope to provide a similar offering next year. And this is where you come in…Each summer during John Philip and Ali Newell’s retreat at Ghost Ranch, we have a tradition of gathering outside Garden Cottage to celebrate the blessings of the week. We tell the Heartbeat story and give everyone an opportunity to make a donation towards scholarships which enable others to attend the same event the following year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to partner with Ghost Ranch and collectively come together, in the spirit of generosity, to sow seeds for the future.

And guess what? This time a very generous participant made a pledge to match up to $8,000 towards our Ghost Ranch Scholarship Fund! This would allow us to send 20 Heartbeat scholars to Ghost Ranch in 2017. 

This fund helps us diversify the demographic of participants in the retreat, enhancing the experience for all involved. We have a thorough application process as we seek to find people working for healing and transformation in our world. The award covers all program, meals, and lodging expenses during the weeklong retreat.

Next year we will specifically be looking to support some of our Navajo partners, young families, and young adults as Heartbeat Scholars. Our intention is that this experience will be a life-changing week for the successful applicants – providing rejuvenation, deepening their spiritual life, and grounding their work in spiritual practice. We’ve had hundreds of applications for Heartbeat scholarships, but we need your support to help more people!

We can’t let this opportunity pass us by.

Will you join this important effort and make a donation today? We have until August 29 to reach our $8,000 goal. We can do this! A gift of $10, $30 or $50 will sow hope-filled seeds in the lives of next year’s retreat scholars.

You donate online or send a check to:


5432 NE 20th Ave

Portland, OR 97211

We’re so honored to be on this journey with you. Thank you for your support in every form.

Project Hope by John Philip Newell


Eplis’ refugee support team and solar powered charging station.

I have just returned from the island of Lesbos in Greece where thousands of refugee families are living amidst loss of homeland and massive uncertainty about the future. It felt a great privilege to be close to these men and women and children. They have made long and perilous journeys from many countries, Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya, Sudan. Many of them have horrific stories to tell of treacherous sea crossings and loss of family members en route. I have been asking myself again and again these days, what does it mean to belong to the human family, to be brother, sister, father, mother to one another, both as individuals and as nations?

Our little refugee support team from Edinburgh consisted of six of us. Ali and I were there as the ‘elders’, supporting this collaborative initiative from Heartbeat and the University Chaplaincy. Alex and Sam, students of Environmental Sciences at Edinburgh University, were there as the ‘inventors’, having designed a solar paneled unit that can recharge cell phones without electricity supply. They have launched Project Elpis (which in Greek means Project Hope) to implement this vision in the refugee camps of Greece. And Joseph and Sybilla, postgraduate students of Islamic Studies and Arabic, were there as the ‘translators’, to allow us to more effectively communicate with refugee families.

I have been asking myself again and again these days, what does it mean to belong to the human family…

With the financial support that has been raised through Heartbeat we were able to place a solar unit in Kara Tepe, a camp for nearly a thousand of the most vulnerable refugees. A second unit has already been installed on the mainland of Greece near Athens at Camp Malakasa where electricity supplies are sparse. Heartbeat enabled the construction of these first units. This means that Project Elpis is now fully up and running with a crowd-funding campaign underway that will enable another four units to be built by the end of the summer.

International refugee crises can seem overwhelming. Where does one start? Heartbeat chose to enable a very specific project, enabling refugee families to recharge their phones so that they can more readily be in touch with family members and other sources of information. This is just a small niche but as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the movement for democracy in Burma, says in relation to the enormity of crises facing us today as nations and communities and families, ‘Just start somewhere’. Otherwise we end up feeling paralyzed by the enormity of the task.

Solar Panelled Unit in Refugee Camp

International refugee crises can seem overwhelming. Where does one start?

Heartbeat chose to ‘just start somewhere’ and, thanks to many of you, we’ve enabled Project Elpis to get off the ground. This initiative reflects our threefold vision at Heartbeat. It is solar, respecting the sacredness of earth’s resources. It is interfaith, harnessing the relationship between religions to work compassionately together. And it crosses boundaries, in this case not only the boundaries of nationhood and religion but the difference between generations. The birth of Christianity was characterized by a prophetic conviction that the dreams of the old and the visions of the young could be married. This is what we experienced on Lesbos. Heartbeat’s dream of transformation in the world came alongside the genius of two young men and their vision of hope was born. I invite you to continue to support our refugee fund.

It is making a difference.

IMG_8579 - Version 2John Philip Newell is the co-founder of Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing. He is an ordained Church of Scotland minister with a passion for peace among the great wisdom traditions of humanity. His PhD is from the University of Edinburgh and he has authored over 15 books, including Christ of the Celts, Praying with the Earth, A New Harmony, and his most recent visionary title The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings.

NW Coastal Pilgrimage Registration Begins June 21

Click here for more information.

Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage: A Walk With the Earth

September 15-19, 2016 | North Coast, Oregon USA

The NW Coastal Pilgrimage is an experience for grounding in contemplative practice, reconnection to the earth, and learning from the early Celtic Christian world through the writings of John Philip Newell.


REGISTRATION IS FULL. To be added to the waiting list, please sign in here.

Walking 40 miles from Astoria to Oswald State Park in Northern Oregon, this pilgrimage will traverse seaside foothills, sand dunes, and many miles of picturesque beaches. Beginning with the rising of the sun in the morning, our group will walk 10-15 miles each day by way of trail, beach, and some roadside walking (depending on the high tides).

Included in the registration fee are guided walking along Oregon’s North Coast, guided contemplative exercises, spiritual accompaniment, meals, lodging, and van shuttle to the coast and back from Portland, OR. Lodging will include yurts, a hostel, and a church community room (showers not available on the third night). Most of the meals will be prepared by the group (gluten free and vegetarian options available upon request).

Through John Philip Newell’s writings we will learn about the early Celtic Christian world and explore themes of interrelatedness, connection to earth, and the sacredness of all things. A copy of The Rebirthing of God will be provided as an introduction. Our days will begin with morning prayer before settling into a rhythm of sharing meals, holding space for contemplative practice, group discussion, and walking.

Registered participants will meet in Portland, OR at 12pm on September 15. A van and trailer shuttle will be provided for ferry to the coast, making some food and supply drops along our route. Our walk will conclude at Oswald State Park and we will shuttle back to Portland, OR on September 19, returning around 11:00am.



photoThe NW Coast Pilgrimage is led by Ben Lindwall, Executive Director at Heartbeat. Ben lives in Portland, Oregon USA where he and his family are caretakers in residence at the Arbor Lodge Urban Farm. He has been leading group experiences in various capacities for over a decade. Ben has been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell over the past few years and is a certified Spiritual Director. He has been the Executive Director at Heartbeat since 2013, working with people from all over the world to advance a vision of healing, transformation, and peace. Coming from an evangelical Christian background and now like many of his generation, Ben considers himself spiritual (and a Christian) without any formal church membership. He and his wife Jen have been married for 12 years and have two young children.

“A pilgrimage is always an opportunity to be re-born. I’ve seen and experienced the impact of leaving behind the safety and comfort of home on a quest for deeper understanding, awareness, and connection. The act of moving our bodies, moving our feet gently upon the earth in unison can be a kind of soul-march. It reminds us of our true identity, our oneness, and creates liminal space to hear and know our calling. In co-leading this pilgrimage I hope to cultivate an environment for each of us to learn and grow.”  -Ben Lindwall

Additional expenses and expectations

  • Any gear needed to complete packing list.
  • Access to restrooms will be minimal while walking – trees, shrubs, and beach grass may at times be the only available coverage.
  • While usually sunny this time of year, the possibility always exists for high winds and rain. Our group will be expected to walk rain or shine unless dangerous conditions are present.
  • The route consists of approximately 60% beach walking, 30% state park trails, and up to 10% roadside walking on scenic Hwy 101.
  • Some of the hiking will enter forested areas with steep ascent/descents.
  • Creek and stream crossings will be necessary.
  • To maximize walking during low tides, some mornings may begin as early as 5:00am.
  • Each participant will be required to purchase travel insurance and provide proof of coverage prior to departure (check out some of these different options).
  • Each participant will be required to carry up to 3 lbs of group food and supplies in their backpack.
  • Each participant must be able to walk up to 15 miles a day and must train beforehand with a loaded pack.


Packing list:

*Please be mindful that the packing list includes what you will be wearing (for instance, you will wear one pair of socks and pack two— three total). You may plan to leave some luggage locked up in the trailer to avoid excess carrying on the trail.

Socks (3) light wool for hiking

Sock liner (3) prevents blisters (optional)

Underwear (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)

Shorts (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)

Pants (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)

Shirts (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)

Long sleeve shirt (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)

Lightweight hiking shoes

Light sandal (like these or these)

Rain jacket


Moleskin (or other blister treatment)





Laundry detergent

Toothpaste (small tube)

Soap (small all purpose bar for body and hair, if possible)

Water bottle (at least 900ml/32oz)

5 clothespins

Plastic plate, bowl, fork, and spoon

Hiking towel (small quick dry)






Pen or pencil

Camera phone and waterproof container

*sleeping sheet bag liner and blanket (for first and last night’s accommodation)

*Sleeping bag and sleeping pad (for third nigh’s accommodation)

*items will be dropped at a specific site and will note be carried in backpack)

Cancellation policy

A full refund is available up to 45 days before the event. After the 45-day deadline, a refund will be available if the spot can be filled.

In case of injury or fatigue

If you are unable to walk with the group for any reason, transportation to the next destination on the itinerary will be arranged at the participant’s expense. If for any reason a participant needs to leave the group, transportation to Portland, OR will be arranged at the participant’s expense.

Before registering please have emergency contact and personal insurance information available.

REGISTRATION IS FULL. To be added to the waiting list, please sign in here.

Refugee Project Update

Below is a repost from the Elpis Facebook Page:

Elpis is moving forward!
Thanks to all of you for the amazing support so far, we wouldn’t have made it to this point without you all helping us spread the word, and taking part in our initiative to bring solar-electricity to refugees in Greece.The University of Edinburgh just confirmed funding for our team’s travel and accommodation costs in June. Our partners in Greece have also started producing our first solar-unit thanks to support from Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing.

Together we can keep on building this momentum and make a real difference. We are starting our crowdfunding campaign next week and need your help to make a true impact on the refugee crisis!

As students, we are happy exams are nearly over, so please stay tuned as we are coming back stronger than ever!

With lots of hope,

The Elpis Team

— with Adi BhashyamAlexandros AngelopoulosSybilla Kitsios and Sam Cortese.

The Way of Faithfulness

John Philip Newell, Celtic Treasure, Daily Scripture and Prayer, 2005 (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids) 196

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