For Earth Day: The Wisdom of John Muir

In celebration of John Muir’s birthday on April 21 and to commemorate April 22 as Earth Day, we hope you’ll take a moment to view a teaching from John Philip Newell on the great Scottish-American naturalist, author, and mystic. The teaching was filmed in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland and is a clarion call to care for the earth at this critical time.

"Muir was a prophet... he was committed to announcing the sacredness of the natural world and called his readers to fall in love with the earth."

-John Philip Newell

Capacitar Tai Chi

Dear Heartbeat Family,
I hope you are coping during this time of COVID 19 and lockdown. My blessings, prayers and thoughts are with you all. I thought this would be an appropriate time to highlight some of the work we’ve done in practicing Capacitar Tai Chi in retreats, which I have co-led with Philip. During these difficult days, it is good to keep exercising and Capacitar Tai Chi is a wonderful way to feel grounded and calm in the midst of all the uncertainties.
Dr Pat Cane, founder of Capacitar became an Honorary Partner of Heartbeat last year. Capacitar is a grassroots organization and international network working in over 40 countries in the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. They are especially committed to communities affected by violence, poverty and trauma. At present many are accessing the Capacitar practices online, through video or through video conference as people support each other through the pandemic.
Here is a resource, which we filmed in the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, before it closed! Even if you have never tried Capacitar Tai Chi with visualisation, the movements are simple and easy to follow. Feeling connected to the healing spring energy and beauty is helpful when we have to spend more time indoors. The movements and the setting sit well with these words from Philip:
Grant us open hearts, O God
open to you
and open to one another
open to the splendour of the earth
and open to its pain and the pain of its people.
Grant us open hearts, O God.  
-Excerpt from ‘Celtic Treasure’ by John Philip Newell
Along with the prayers from Philip’s publications which have been posted regularly to strengthen us, I hope the Capacitar practices might be a useful way too of connecting and supporting each other. This can make us strong for the work of compassion in our world right now. 
Rev Ali Newell
Associate Chaplain, Edinburgh University

A Message From John Philip Newell

Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th-century Christian mystic, said that we need to fly with two wings of awareness. The one wing is an awareness of life’s glory and beauty. The other is an awareness of life’s pain and suffering. If we try to fly with only one of these, she said, we will be like an eagle trying to fly with only one wing. In other words, we will not truly see. 
We are living through a moment in time that invites a new strength of awareness. We are hearing stories from around the world today of terrible suffering and loss. And, at the same time, we are hearing accounts of great beauty of spirit and love. 
I pray for all of us these days that we may be strong in our seeing and in our loving of another. As one of the prayers in Sounds of the Eternal puts it,
           Let us serve love with our strength this day,
           let us serve love with our strength.
           In heart and mind and body this day
           let us serve love.
Many of you have been wondering, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, about the ongoing activities of Heartbeat and the School of Celtic Consciousness. There is of course much uncertainty ahead but for the Spring of this year we have decided to cancel our School of Celtic Consciousness program in Colorado. And we ask that any of you who have registered for the Iona Pilgrimage Week in April should contact the St Columba Hotel directly, if you have not already done so. They will be able to outline for you the options available.
With gratitude for you all and blessings,
John Philip Newell
22nd March 2020

Plant A Seed

In 2009 Drew Cauthorn planted a seed. At the time, I don’t think he would have been able to know what sort of impact that small act of faith would have. It wasn’t a large seed, but it was put in the right place at the right time.
Drew was a member of Heartbeat’s founding board and served in this capacity until 2014. Heartbeat’s very first initiative was to provide scholarship funds for young people to attend John Philip and Ali Newell’s Pilgrimage for Change on the Island of Iona in 2011.
The gift that Drew made is personal for me because I was one of the participants selected to receive that scholarship. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without that pivotal experience. Having grown up in a constricted faith background, I think it took nothing less than a miracle to find myself on such an incredible journey.
Looking back, I’m thankful for the big miracles that start from the smallest of seeds. I’m inspired by Drew and the hundreds of people who have contributed to Heartbeat’s scholarship fund over the last decade. Pilgrimages to Iona in Scotland, the Borderlands of the USA and Mexico, the Camino in Spain, and attendance at the School of Celtic Consciousness have all been made possible for folks like me who otherwise would have been left behind at home. Like many other scholarship recipients, I am still learning from that first pilgrimage experience on Iona. It’s been nearly ten years! It makes me wonder if seeds that are sown as a gift have a tendency to live forever.
We hope to continue to provide the needed resources that make Heartbeat offerings accessible to everyone, no matter the financial circumstances. We’ve set a goal to raise $10,000 by the end of the month for our Scholarship Fund. To make this happen, we need all hands on deck.
Will you sow a seed with us by making a gift today?
Ben Lindwall
Executive Director, Heartbeat
Ps. Please be sure to designate your gift to the Scholarship Fund.
Heartbeat is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit eligible to receive tax-deductible donations.
5431 NE 20th Ave
Portland, OR 97211

The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now – A New Must Have Read by Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev

In challenging times, how do we respond with courage, wisdom, and vision?

Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev – frequent co-teacher and dear friend of John Philip Newell and last year’s Iona Pilgrimage Honorary Partner Awardee – wrote The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now to address that need. In the lineage of liberation theology, this book presents the liberating message of the Hebrew Bible, speaking directly to our lived experience.

The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets shows that exodus, the ongoing journey out of oppression and toward human flourishing, is the true heart of the Biblical story. The book then develops Biblical liberation themes through the writings of contemporary prophets and writers including Martin Luther King, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Martin Buber, Paulo Freire, Gustavo Guttiérez, Beverly Harrison, James Cone, James and Grace Lee Boggs and bell hooks.

Nahum’s book empowers readers of all faiths and backgrounds to understand current challenges through a prophetic lens and to take   their own prophetic action. Learn more about Nahum and his book on his website.

"The two most critical issues facing humanity today, our relationship with the earth and a just response to refugees and the poorest among us, are cogently addressed by Ward-Lev, brilliantly weaving together the two strands. Standing in a long prophetic lineage, he passionately invites us to let the earth bring forth its energies for healing and to summon from the human soul a new vision for justice."
John Philip Newell
Author and Teacher

Other Endorsements

"This wonderfully well-written book inspires us to bring our passion, creativity, and imagination to the sacred work of building a society that supports the flourishing of all."
Parker J. Palmer
Founder and Senior Partner Emeritus
Center for Courage and Renewal
"I finished this book with waves of wonder and gratitude."
Walter Brueggeman
Old Testament scholar and theologian
"We live in an era that is desperate for the voices of the Hebrew prophets. Nahum Ward-Lev’s efforts to awaken us to the prophetic teachings is a great gift at a crucial moment in human history."
Susannah Heschel
Professor of Jewish Studies,
Darthmouth College

Boundless: A Celtic Vision of the Sacred in All Things

In July, John Philip Newell was invited to speak at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. Delivered to a packed house at a free event co-sponsored by First Church of West Hartford and Saint John’s Episcopal Church of West Hartford, John Philip’s talk spoke to the themes of Celtic Spirituality, which celebrates the essential sacredness of all things.

Thanks to our dear friends at Hartford Seminary, the talk was recorded and you are able to view the entire presentation below. We hope you enjoy.

Peregrinación A La Frontera/Border Pilgrimage

Enlace de aplicación próximamente

UbicaciónEl Paso, Texas, EE. UU. / Ciudad Juárez, México
Fechasdel 13 al 19 de noviembre de 2019
Costo de inscripción$650.00
BecasBecas disponibles
Fecha límite de solicitud1 de octubre de 2019

Vive la Experiencia

La peregrinación a la frontera una experiencia espiritual, educativa y orientada a la acción en El Paso, Texas y Ciudad Juárez, México. A través de la oración, el aprendizaje y el voluntariado, el grupo ampliará su entendimiento sobre las comunidades fronterizas, apoyara en solidaridad y se unirá al movimiento por la justicia de los inmigrantes. Nuestros socios experimentados de Hope Border Institute han ayudado a preparar actividades, enseñanzas y diversas oportunidades en ambos lados de la frontera para profundizar en la resolución de abogacía y ayuda humanitaria.

Cada día incluirá un ritmo de práctica contemplativa, entornos aprendizaje e interacción, reflexión guiada y diálogo.


Estamos buscando personas interesadas en la intersección de la espiritualidad y la acción con un enfoque en la justicia de los inmigrantes. Debido a que habrá múltiples cruces internacionales hacia Cuidad Juárez, se requiere un pasaporte válido (válido hasta julio de 2019). Los solicitantes deben tener 18 años de edad o más, deben poder caminar hasta 15 millas y ser capaces de completar las tareas manuales de trabajo moderadas que se requieren durante el voluntariado.


Los participantes aceptados deben llegar al alojamiento en El Paso antes de las 5 p.m. del 13 de noviembre (approx. 20 minutos en automóvil del aeropuerto) para presentaciones, una comida compartida y orientación. El programa y las actividades concluirán antes de las 10 am del 19 de noviembre. Varios ajustes contribuirán a la visión general de este viaje:

  • Formación cultural impartida por Hope Border Institute
  • Visita con migrantes recluidos en el Centro de Detención ICE.
  • Asistir a audiencias de inmigración en el magistrado
  • Voluntario en la Casa de Migrante y la Casa de Anunciación.
  • Conocer a migrantes que viajan a través de la región, así como con defensores de los migrantes y organizadores locales.
  • Visita a Tornillo, TX, sitio del centro de detención de tiendas de niños inmigrantes en el 2018
  • Recorrido por el histórico parque de Hueco Tanks
  • Paseo guiado de peregrinación a lo largo de la frontera.
Sign of solidarity for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX --- "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Because God is always with you." Joshua 1:9

Líderes de viaje


Ben Lindwall es el Director Ejecutivo de HEARTBEAT, actualmente  ubicado en Portland, OR, y ha liderado viajes orientados en espiritualidad durante más de una década. Está certificado como Director Espiritual y también en Primeros Auxilios. En 2011, Ben realizó una peregrinación a la Isla de Iona en Escocia y desde entonces ha sido asesorado por John Philip y Ali Newell.

Ilka Vega es especialista en desarrollo comunitario en Hope Border Institute y originaria de El Paso, TX y Cd. Zona Juárez, México. Las peregrinaciones son una parte esencial de su educación. Ha realizado cinco peregrinaciones formales a Taizé, Francia e Iona, Escocia y trata de implementar prácticas y reflexiones espirituales similares en sus viajes y en la vida cotidiana en la frontera y en su trabajo por la justicia social.

Ilka Bio Photo

Recaudación de fondos para la Casa Anunciación

Annunciation House/ Casa Anunciación, una organización en El Paso con una larga historia de proporcionar atención y servicios a los migrantes, ha solicitado donaciones financieras para apoyar sus esfuerzos en curso. Parte de la misión de la Peregrinación a la Frontera será responder colectivamente a esta solicitud. Los participantes serán guiados para establecer un objetivo de recaudación de fondos, utilizar sus redes sociales e invitar a apoyar financieramente. Es importante tener en cuenta: los fondos no se utilizarán para los gastos individuales del participante. Heartbeat recibirá donaciones y enviará todos los fondos a la Casa Anunciación.

Cómo aplicar

Favor de seguir este enlace (enlace de aplicación próximamente) para la aplicación y completarla. Un maestro, mentor, asesor o líder religioso / espiritual que pueda comentar sobre la capacidad del solicitante para participar en la experiencia y participar con el grupo también debe completar una referencia en línea.  Se requiere una tarifa de solicitud de $ 10 para todos los no estudiantes. Las becas están disponibles según la necesidad financiera. Indique si está buscando asistencia con beca en la solicitud. 

Costos adicionales, requisitos y avisos

  • Cada participante debe ser mayor de 18 años de edad, ser capaz de caminar hasta 15 millas, y ser capaz de completar tareas manuales de fuerza moderada que se requieren durante el voluntariado.
  • Cada participante debe tener un pasaporte válido hasta julio de 2019.
  • El grupo realizará varios cruces hacia Ciudad Juárez, México y utilizará el transporte en taxi. Todos los solicitantes deben revisar las advertencias gubernamentales relacionadas con el cruce a Ciudad Juárez, México.
  • Cada participante deberá traer dinero para el almuerzo todos los días y dos cenas (un promedio de $ 10 por comida para un total de $ 80).
  • Cada participante deberá comprar un seguro de viaje individual (aproximadamente $ 40).
  • Cada participante necesitará proveer información de su aseguranza medica
  • Cada participante necesitará completar una asignación de estudio antes del viaje que incluye leer artículos y escuchar podcasts.
  • Cada participante necesitará traer el equipo necesario para completar su lista de equipaje
  • Cada participante deberá afirmar nuestros Compromisos de Comunidad Peregrina y el Proceso de Resolución de Conflictos, así como nuestros Compromisos del Código de Conducta si se participa en una manifestación, demostración o protesta.
  • Cada participante deberá leer cuidadosamente y firmar la forma de exención e indemnización de Heartbeat.

A New Ancient Harmony

One of our favorite John Philip Newell books – originally published as A New Harmony – is back in print! Join John Philip as he weaves ancient wisdom with lived experience to point the way toward wholeness. 

The journey to wholeness is a return to true center…

Originally published as A New Harmony, this reprinted version is updated with a preface, new cover, and the title always meant for the book – A New Ancient Harmony – which more fully reflects the wisdom within that is at once ancient, and yet new to us at this point in time.

In a world that seems increasingly fragmented, John Philip Newell calls us to a vision of life’s essential oneness. He invites us to be part of a new harmony. In his previous book, Christ of the Celts, Newell freshly expressed the ancient Celtic vision of creation’s sacredness and unity. In that poetic treatment of the wisdom of Celtic spirituality, he pointed the way to a Christianity more integrated with the earth and with the rest of humanity. A New Ancient Harmonytakes the next step forward by articulating a vision and a pathway toward transformation in our lives and world. A New Ancient Harmony communicates across the boundaries of religion and race that have separated us and honors our distinct inheritances by serving what is deeper still—the oneness of our origins and the oneness of earth’s destiny.

Newell explores the ancient harmony that is deep in the matter of the universe, the essential interconnectedness of all things. Everything, whether the expanding light of distant galaxies or humanity’s inner light of mind and consciousness, carries within itself the life of the universe’s shared beginning. With keen insight and sensitivity, he confronts the brokenness of our harmony, as individuals and families and as nations and species. Only by knowing and naming the extent and depth of our disharmony will we find the way forward. Confronting our brokenness, individually and together, is integral to the hope for healing.

Throughout the book, Newell leads us on a pathway of discovery toward transforming the way we understand ourselves. He challenges us to consider the possibilities of a new, yet ancient, harmony in our lives—as individuals, as communities, and as nations—by asking “What is the cost, both personal and collective, of releasing life’s essential oneness in radically new and transformative ways?”

Border Pilgrimage Report

HEARTBEAT’s second Border Pilgrimage cohort has recently returned from a seven-day journey through El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Ten of us traveled to the borderlands with the intention of learning more about the regional community, increasing our understanding of the migrant experience, and reaching out with volunteer work. We prayed. We listened. We witnessed. We worked. And we walked away determined to deepen our engagement as advocates and activists. Leading up to the journey, each pilgrim also made a commitment to raise money to provide respite supplies for migrants who are in the care of the Annunciation House. Thanks to the generosity of many, we delivered a check for over $6,000. The pilgrimage was a meaningful experience, one that showed pain and suffering, but also beauty and resilience of the border community.

“When you go home, we want you to take part of the borderlands home with you in your heart,” said my co-leader Ilka Vega when we first started planning the pilgrimage. Ilka was born in El Paso and raised in Cd. Juárez and is the Community Engagement Specialist at Hope Border Institute, an organization that works to deepen solidarity and transform the region. They provide pivotal research and witness – advocating for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and conducting thorough reporting and media outreach. With the intention of expanding understanding of the migrant experience within the context of historical and current events, each member of our group was required to study Hope Border Institute’s most recent report that documents their observation at the border.

Ilka tells the story of the families, friends, and communities separated by the border wall.

True to the HEARTBEAT pilgrimage model, our days on
pilgrimage in the borderland began with Morning Prayer. We followed the text in
John Philip Newell’s Praying for the
Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace
. Each day was also marked by a theme that
would provide focus for our intentions and learning. Site visits in Cd. Juárez
and El Paso packed our mornings and afternoons. Members of the group took turns
sharing about their migration story (whether from country to country, state to
state, or neighborhood to neighborhood) and how their family came to inhabit
their current home. We learned about each other’s unique approach to
spirituality and how this aspect of ourselves provides grounding for our engagement
and activism. It was also normal for us to find time to observe silence, rest
after long days of activity, and to journal. In the evening there were guided
small group conversations to help internalize the experience and a meditation
in the form of a “review of the day”, a practice originally introduced to us by
Ali Newell.

On the first day of our pilgrimage, Ilka took our group to the border wall in Anapra, near Sun Valley, New Mexico. This is the area where rogue American militia members were recently unlawfully detaining migrants at gunpoint. We parked our van a few yards away from the wall with Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) vehicles stationed nearby. Our group formed a circle and Ilka told us about the construction of the wall and how it not only prevented the natural migration of people, but also the migration of animals. We discussed how moving to a new place is a fundamental necessity of life. I now think of the t-shirt that I brought home from Hope Border Institute that reads, “TODOS SOMOS MIGRANTES”, we are all migrants. Ilka spoke of the families and friends who had been separated by the wall’s construction. She reiterated a noteworthy lament of many people along the border: we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us. The pilgrims in our group took a few minutes to walk in prayer and silence for a few moments. The wall towered above and cast a long shadow. For those of us who traveled from the north and were unfamiliar with such a malicious sight, the wall’s menacing presence would stay with us for a long time.

Border wall dividing the Anapra neighborhood and Sun Valley, New Mexico

Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico

During the next two days on the pilgrimage we visited sites
across the border in Juárez. We met the organizers at La Promesa, an
organization that promotes the arts and culture as a strategy of recovery and
organizing for community life. We heard about how their neighborhood had been
decimated by violence. La Promesa was originally a safe haven for women who
were frequent targets of attack. Eventually they expanded to meet the needs of
young people in the neighborhood, empowering them to paint murals that now
blanket multiple buildings and walls in the neighborhood. Members at La Promesa
also facilitate a T-shirt design business where creating, printing and selling
provide critical income.  We were
inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of these leaders.

Mural painted by youth from the La Promesa Community Center.

Each experience built on the last and enhanced our understanding of the region’s story. And since a HEARTBEAT pilgrimage is more than a tour, we soon found ourselves even closer to the heart of our trip. El Buen Pastor, is a migrant shelter in the notoriously marginalized Juárez neighborhood of Anapra. It is a community that was hit hard by violence from drug cartels and is now scrambling to meet the needs of migrants. With original capacity for around 20 people, at one point El Buen Pastor hosted over 200 migrants. Most of them are waiting their turn in court to claim asylum. All of them work at the shelter during their stay. The husband and wife pastoral team of El Buen Pastor did not set out to open a shelter for migrants and we were inspired to learn that they had simply responded to the needs of those who continued to show up at their door. Providing a safe place for people to eat, sleep, and bath while they prepare for the next leg of their journey is a massive undertaking. Our cohort divided into groups that cleaned bathrooms, helped prepare a new building for remodeling (which would eventually expand space to increase capacity), and met with people staying at the shelter.

El Buen Pastor Migrant Shelter in Ciudad Juárez

Hueco Tanks

Halfway through our time together in the borderland we observed a sort of Sabbath by visiting a protected place, now a state park called Hueco Tanks. This visit provided an opportunity to acknowledge the first peoples to inhabit and migrate through the land, long before the borders of “Mexico” and “The United States”. A little weary from our travel and work, our group sought rest in this place that has long been a sanctuary to moving people moving through the region. “Hueco” (whey-coe), a Spanish word meaning hollow referred to the depressions in the rock that hold rainwater, historically providing a valuable resource for travelers making their way through the region. Pictographs in the caves possibly date back to as far as 6,000 BCE and the Kiowa, Mescalero Apache, Comanche, Tigua and the people of Isleta del Norte Pueblo consider the area to be sacred.

Pilgrimage walk in Hueco Tanks State Park

As we walked the land, we did our best to do so with reverence and respect. We took time to wander on our own in silence and listen the surrounding landscape. There were numerous birds, cactus flowers, striking rock formations, and expansive views. When the sun reached its height we sheltered in a cave for prayer, reflection, and story sharing. If Hueco Tanks provided timeless sustenance and strength for the traveler’s journey, it seemed to swell the hearts of those of us who came to more deeply connect with people who now find themselves practicing migration. We had encountered a thin place and the convergence of the land’s story and our pilgrimage intention struck a deep chord within us all. 

El Paso, Texas, United States

“Your claims do not apply to requirements for seeking asylum and I am therefor ordering your deportation,” the judge told a 19-year old who had just finished explaining his reason for traveling to the United States. He was from a rural town in Guatemala where the MS-13 gang tried to recruit him. His neighbor had already been murdered and fearing for his life he made the decision to leave, rather than join the gang. Our cohort spent two days observing court proceedings. We spent time at the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas and the courts for the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). Migrants who had been apprehended by CPB appeared there to plead their case and learn their fate. Most were very young – in their late teens and early twenties. In the federal court they were shackled around the wrist and ankles. Chains wrapped their waists. All wore orange, green or blue jump suits with bright orange rubber shoes. We observed the judge setting bonds ranging from $2,000-$4,000 – an unspeakable amount for those who had just spent everything in an effort to make the journey. The defendants testified paying their coyote (someone who smuggles people across the U.S.-Mexico border for hire) between $1,300-$8,500. As we sat at the back of the courtroom, tears filled the eyes of some of the members of our group. Others seethed with anger as we witnessed a system that fails the most vulnerable while prisons and detention centers make a profit.

Border pilgrims explore and enjoy the plaza in Ciudad Juárez

As a young and well-built officer escorted us out of the
EOIR compound, he asked what our group had been doing. One of the older women
in our group told him we had spent two days in Juárez to learn about the city.
He scoffed, “Do you know how dangerous it is there?” The pilgrim asked if he
had ever been into the neighboring border town. “No,” he said, “I’ll never go
to Juárez.” The contrast in assumptions and experience was striking and

While debriefing with the Hope Border Institute team, the Deputy Director Marisa Limón Garza helped us understand an additional layer of tension in the region. “Finding employment in security and law enforcement is one of the few pathways to the middle class in El Paso,“ she told us. Federally funded contracts for private prisons have created a system that provides immense financial incentive for increasing the incarceration of migrants. The superfluous and extreme militarization of our border through ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) and CPB provides a rare opportunity for individuals to have stable employment. What we witnessed was a tremendous misappropriation of resources that pits people against people through a dysfunctional system. “The U.S. Immigration system is not broken,” a panelist remarked during a roundtable discussion at an event we attended. “It is doing exactly what it was designed to do.”

Graphic courtesy of The Guardian

From then on, we would continue to witness migrant people’s experience on the Texas side of the border. The Annunciation House network had partnered with the Catholic Diocese of El Paso to set up a temporary shelter in response to the influx of people released by ICE. During the Border Pilgrimage we spent an afternoon and evening preparing the dinner meal for about 90 people, serving food, and speaking with those staying on site. “In every journey there is beauty and there is bitterness,” one man told us towards the end of the meal. Some of us joined a pick-up game of soccer after our shared meal, finding a common language in the dance of working together to move a ball across a small field and into a goal. It was an evening that seemed to stretch on and on. The connections we made were strengthened through the tears, laughter and stories shared. It was another oasis – a thin place for those who paid attention.

Border pilgrims get ready to serve a meal to migrants at the Catholic Diocese of El Paso

Organizing for Change

While we were in El Paso we learned that another child had died while in CPB/ICE custody. According to reports, 16 year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez crossed the border near El Paso with a hired coyote. He died in a hospital on April 30. At the writing of this article six migrant children have died during President Trump’s tenure. I thought of my two children back home and wondered how the parents must be grieving at this loss of life. Hope Border Institute’s Executive Director Dylan Runner explained that the increase in deaths is a direct result of the Administration’s policy that has placed increased pressure on migrants. After extending the border wall, families now must travel into dangerously rugged and desolate landscape for an opportunity to cross. Increased wait times in processing centers adds to the risk of illness while in custody.

16 year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez from Guatemala

I was reminded of a scripture from
the Book of James that I have known since childhood, “Faith without works is
dead.” Our Border Pilgrimage cohort assembled because of our shared resonance
with the vision of Celtic Spirituality and a desire to more effectively resist
the injustice facing those migrating to the United States. I’ll never
forget John Philip Newell recounting the story of his first meeting with the
late George MacLeod on the Isle of Iona as they discussed the dangers and
injustice of nuclear proliferation. “Newell, what are we going to do about this?” he asked. Having witnessed the systems of
oppression and exploitation of migrants as they make their way north, we put
that same question to our cohort.

During our last evening together, we conducted an ‘organizing workshop’. We spent time in prayer and reflected on our journey. Next, we identified meaningful, emotional, and significant moments from our experience. We looked for themes and moved to align those moments with personal core values. Each pilgrim spent time writing about what they wanted to accomplish upon their return home. Some wanted to give presentations to increase awareness. Others wanted to join activist groups. We set realistic goals and deadlines for continued advocacy and action. Finally, we divided into three teams where we could provide ongoing support, community, and accountability for our commitments.

Border Pilgrimage group crosses the Paso del Norte Bridge from Juárez into El Paso

On the final morning of our pilgrimage each of us had our feet anointed with oil, marking the sign of a Celtic cross with a final prayer:

May your feet be blessed
May you have strength for the journey
May you remember the journey of the migrant, the refugee, and the asylum seeker.

The road ahead is long. For some more than others, and in different ways. Ilka relayed a saying that has stuck with me whenever I think of the tall steel beams of the border wall, “the wound is where the healing comes.”

Ben is the Executive Director of HEARTBEAT and has been leading pilgrimage and other spiritually oriented trips for over a decade. He is certified in spiritual accompaniment (also known as spiritual direction). As residents of Portland, OR since 2014, Ben and his family challenge themselves to live sustainably through their energy efficient tiny house and thriving vegetable garden. Ben comes from an evangelical Christian background but now like many of his generation, finds himself deeply committed to spiritual practice without formal religious membership.

The Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage

Program and Scholarship Application Available Now!
September 5 – 9, 2019 | Northern Oregon Coast, USA

The Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage: Recovering the Sacred is a spiritual and intercultural learning experience drawing from indigenous wisdom through Celtic Christian and Native American spirituality. Through the ancient spiritual practice of pilgrimage, we seek to recover our inherent and sacred connection to all living things. We will explore our unique, generative, and creative response to the dominant and violent forces of our time. Guided spiritual practices will invite each pilgrim towards restoration of harmony and right relation with self, Creator, neighbor, and the planet.

This pilgrimage route follows the Pacific Coast Trail in Northern Oregon, and traverses approximately 35 miles of seaside foothills, sand dunes, coastal rainforest and expansive 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 brief roadside walking.

Pedagogy and Program 

Periods of walking in silence, facilitated conversations, storytelling, reflection, observance of nature, and prayer will support the embodiment of the pilgrimage experience. Participants will be required to read Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by John Philip Newell and Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchel as a primer for our learning. Morning prayer and intentions will start each day before settling into rhythms of silence, sharing our stories, and group dialogue. Our intention is to learn from each other, the surrounding natural landscape, and the required readings. This will be our basis for exploring our unique and communal call to participate in meaningful action towards healing and transformation in the world.

Pilgrims will practice together what it means to be a beloved community, making specific agreements about our group norms and way of being together. Differences among group members, whether in ideology, religion, ethnicity, or race will be honored and seen as opportunities for growing in awareness and understanding. Together we will journey towards healing, connection, wonder, and a clear sense of calling.

Required Reading 

Participants will be required to read the following as a primer for our learning.

  • Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by John Philip Newell
  • Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchel

Trip Leaders

The NW Coastal Pilgrimage is led by Ben Lindwall and Stephanie Escher.

Ben is the Executive Director of HEARTBEAT and has been leading pilgrimage and other spiritually oriented trips for over a decade. He is certified in spiritual accompaniment (also known as spiritual direction). As residents of Portland, OR since 2014, Ben and his family challenge themselves to live sustainably through their energy efficient tiny house and thriving vegetable garden. Ben comes from an evangelical Christian background but now like many of his generation, finds himself deeply committed to spiritual practice without formal religious membership.

Stephanie is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and a United Methodist Pastor in the Minneapolis, MN area.  Stephanie has been co-leading the Oregon Coastal pilgrimage since 2017 as well as collaborating on the development of pilgrimages that engage contemporary challenges such as the US Mexico border crisis and the eminent domain plight of Native Americans. She is a former pilgrim from Heartbeat’s 2015 Camino Peace Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Physical Expectations, Training, and Terrain

Pilgrims are required to train with a loaded pack and must be prepared to walk up to 20 miles on any given day. The first day (15 miles) involves walking on firm, flat sand during low tide. The second day (12 miles) includes a major 1000 ft climb up and over Tillamook Head on forested state park trails (pilgrims must be able to walk on uneven, rocky and sometimes muddy ground) with a steep ascent and descent. The third and final full day (8 miles) of walking returns to the beach below picturesque seaside bluffs during low tide. The route consists of approximately 60% beach walking, 35% forested trails, and 5% roadside walking.

The trip leaders will work to find a pace that works for everyone, usually a fairly brisk walk. The element of a physical challenge and willingness to push through discomfort is an intentional aspect of the pilgrimage and we believe this can be an important tool in the transformation process. Sharing such an experience with others and offering or receiving support along the way is a formative opportunity. If pain or discomforts arise, each pilgrim will be personally responsible for expressing their needs and judging their ability to continue.

While usually sunny this time of year, the possibility always exists for high winds, cool air, and rain. Our group will be expected to walk rain or shine unless dangerous conditions are present. Trekking poles are highly recommended and appropriate heavy-duty waterproof rain gear must be packed.

A few other details to keep in mind:

  • At certain times restrooms will not be available and there may be minimal coverage for privacy.
  • A couple stream crossings will be necessary.
  • Group time will be spent sitting in a circle, sometimes on the ground for up to one hour.
  • Each participant should also be prepared to carry up to 2 lbs of food and/or other gear needed for the whole group.
  • A support van will be driven from each night’s lodging location to the next so pilgrims will only carry in their daypacks the items they need for the day.

Cost and Application Process 

There is a $10 application fee, and you must be at least 18 years of age for the entirety of the event to be considered. Those who wish to apply must complete the online application and have a mentor, teacher, or spiritual leader complete an online reference form by July 10, 2019. 

Please have medical history information available for filling out the application to help us ensure that selected participants are physically and mentally able to complete this pilgrimage. Please be aware that the co-leaders of this trip practice spiritual accompaniment, have experience leading walking trips, and are certified in First Aid but are not medical or mental health professionals. There is space for 12 participants and applicants will be notified of their status by July 18. All selected participants will be required to provide proof of insurance and emergency contact information and sign Heartbeat’s Release and Indemnification Waiver, purchase travel insurance (if not included in current policy).

The cost of this pilgrimage is $475 and scholarship funds are available for those with limited income. The registration fee covers meals, lodging, transportation from Portland to the coast (and back), guided walking, and program.

Scholarships are available and successful scholarship applicants will receive a $425 scholarship towards the overall costs and are required to pay a $50 registration fee.

Travel Stipend

If you would be traveling to Portland, OR for this pilgrimage and would need additional funds to cover travel expenses, you may also apply for a travel stipend of up to $500.00. We ask scholarship recipients to consider raising their own funds through their network to cover the travel expenses, but where this is not possible, you are welcome to apply. Only recipients of a program scholarship will be considered for the travel stipend, and you must apply for a travel stipend at the same time as submitting your scholarship application. You can apply for a travel stipend by clicking here.

Additional Costs 

  • Books (see required reading)
  • Necessary gear to complete packing list (see below)
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel to/from Portland, OR (if necessary and/or see above for Travel Stipend)

Meals and Lodging

All meals will be planned by trip staff and prepared by group members. We are happy to accommodate conventional, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diet. Every effort will be made to use locally sourced and organic ingredients. 

The first and last night of the trip will be spent in state park yurts. These are semi-rustic accommodations with bunk bed mattresses (pillow and linens required), electricity, and heat. The second night will be spent at a hostel in Seaside, OR, where bunkrooms with bedding/linens are provided (we have blocked out rooms for our group only). The third night will be spent at a church in Cannon Beach (pillow, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad required). Showers, bathrooms, and a kitchen are available at all locations.


Accepted applicants will meet at the Leaven Community Center in Portland, OR, on Thursday, September 5th at 10:00 am where lunch will be provided. After introductions and orientation, the group will be transported by passenger van to Ft. Steven’s State Park on the coast. Our walk will conclude near Arch Cape, OR, and we will shuttle to Nehalem Bay State Park for our final overnight and group gathering. The group will return to Portland by 11:00 am on Monday, September 9th. 

DAY 1          Meet in Portland, van shuttle to the coast, overnight at Ft Steven’s State Park

DAY 2          Walk to Seaside, overnight at Seaside International Hostel – MILES: 15

DAY 3          Walk to Cannon Beach, overnight at Community Church – MILES: 12

DAY 4          Walk to Arch Cape, shuttle to Nehalem Bay State Park– MILES: 8

DAY 5          Return to Portland, OR

Tentative Daily Schedule 

6:00               Prayer/meditation
6:30               Breakfast
7:15               Depart for morning walk
9:30               Morning break: snack, prayer, and story sharing
10:15             Walk
12:30             Lunch break
1:00               Walk
3:00               Afternoon break: snack, prayer, and story sharing
3:45               Walk
5:00               Arrive at lodging/free time
6:30               Dinner
7:15               Group time
9:30               Light out

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).

  • Socks (3) light wool for hiking
  • Sock liner (3) prevents blisters (optional)
  • Underwear (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Comfortable sports bra (2)
  • 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
  • Rain jacket
  • Hat
  • Moleskin (or other blister treatment)
  • earplugs
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothbrush
  • 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, fork, and spoon
  • Hiking towel (small quick dry)
  • Toiletries
  • Medication
  • Backpack
  • Pillow
  • Journal
  • Pen or pencil
  • Camera phone and waterproof container
  • Sleeping bag and mat (note: these items will be dropped at a specific site and will note be carried in backpack)
  • Feminine Urinary Device (like this one at REI)

Cancellation policy

Registration fees are nonrefundable unless another participant is able to fill a cancellation.