Boulder Crest Retreat features a wide range of evidence-based therapeutic and recreational activities that are designed to offer our guests peace of mind and an enhanced sense of well-being. Each activity has a unique and longstanding connection to warrior culture and a strong track record of success. These therapeutic activities leverage the sacred, safe and peaceful environment of Boulder Crest Retreat and enable our guests to experience the beauty and serenity nature has to offer.
At Boulder Crest Retreat, we know that each person and family is distinct—what works for one does not necessarily work for another. To that end, our goal is to offer guests and program participants an array of activities and enable them to determine which activities are most effective for them. We then connect them with resources in their local area (e.g. local therapists, equine therapy programs, etc.) to help foster their continued healing and growth at home.
Archery is one of the original forms of weaponry, and was used in battle for thousands of years. Our seven-lane archery range connects to that warrior tradition while teaching guests about being present, mindful and focused. As in life, there is a target (goal), but the only way to hit it consistently is by focusing on each step of the process and ensuring that the inputs are correct and appropriate for the moment.
Winston Churchill famously said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Successfully engaging with horses requires a quiet mind, the release of fear and anxiety and open, honest interaction. Our equine therapy work focuses on connection, relationships and building self-awareness. (The Boulder Crest Retreat approach to equine therapy has been featured in a National Geographic story, which is available here.)
With a shape that mimics the winding path of life, Labyrinths have been used for centuries as walking meditation tools. They quiet the mind and allow guests to reflect on important questions or challenges, or simply let go of past experiences and trauma. In warrior lore, it is said that prior to battle, combatants would walk into the labyrinth reflecting on all the reasons they fight—their family, their community, their way of life. They leave their civilian uniform and concerns in the middle, exit the labyrinth, and pick up their sword and shield to head into battle. Upon return from battle, they reverse the journey, having had the opportunity to grieve those they lost and prepare for their return as civilian-warriors.
Tipis are designed to provide shelter and protection from the elements and offer a setting for ritual, reflection and connection. Used by tribes in North America, the tipi also serves as homage to the strong warrior culture present amongst Native Americans, past and present. Our tipi is utilized as a place for ritual, quiet reflection and spiritual connectedness to the earth and to others.
The Wallis Annenberg Heroes Garden serves as the setting for therapeutic horticulture, which involves tending to our plants and vegetables. This activity helps quiet the mind and serves as a powerful reminder of the healing benefits of spending time in nature. With an estimated 70 percent of veterans hailing from rural environments, horticultural activities provide a connection back to their roots.
Cooking can be a meditative and soothing activity that requires both focus and presence. It brings people together and fosters a sense of fellowship and teamwork. Given the critical role that nutrition plays in wellness, it is also important to have an understanding of what goes into our food and how to prepare delicious, healthful meals. An organic garden just steps away from our kitchen gives our guests an immersive farm-to-table experience and practical take-home knowledge and skills.
Fishing is a calming, relaxing and fun activity offered at Boulder Crest Retreat’s stocked pond and at the nearby Shenandoah River. Allowing guests to get to know one another in a peaceful and natural setting, fishing provides time for reflection, develops patience and helps relieve stress on the mind and body.
Physical exercise and time in nature are important and proven therapeutic tools. Boulder Crest Retreat guests are able to experience both through our on-site nature trail and our close proximity to the Appalachian Trail, home to some of the nation’s best hikes. Hiking offers a powerful metaphor for life by encouraging people to be mindful of their surroundings and appreciate each step of the journey. The first man to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (from Georgia to Maine) was Earl Shaffer, a WWII veteran. When asked why he was walking, Shaffer said, “I am walking off the war.”
A flowing river is a powerful metaphor for life. Rivers flow with varying intensity and pace, twist and turn around obstructions and offer many forks and offshoots that mimic the decision points of life. With the Shenandoah River only five minutes away, Boulder Crest Retreat utilizes kayaking as a tool to foster discussions about goals and objectives and help guests clear their minds, engage their bodies and experience nature. Used by warriors through the centuries, the Shenandoah is an ideal setting for kayaking, with its tree-lined banks, clear water and bald eagles flying overhead.
Hans Christian Andersen said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” Music has a special power—it brings people together, it transports us back in time, it fuels us. Music is utilized at Boulder Crest Retreat as a mechanism to build bridges, open the minds and hearts of our participants and provide a soundtrack for life.
Research supports the value of writing for enhancing well-being, understanding our experiences and expressing feelings and emotions. As part of the healing and wellness process, journaling can be a powerful tool that allows for deeply personal and private expression. Participants receive Boulder Crest Retreat journals that serve as a place to capture thoughts and ideas, create a touchstone to their time at the Retreat and enable guests to sustain the benefits of their journaling experience.
Yoga has been utilized for thousands of years to quiet the mind, engage the body and provide a combination of relaxation and physical exercise. With trained yoga teachers on staff, guests have access to on-site classes that are tailored to their particular needs. Introducing our guests to yoga in a safe, peaceful setting allows them to experience this powerful practice and consider integrating it into their lives.
Meditation is an important practice for developing centeredness and presence. It is a proven, centuries-old tool intended to reduce stress, calm the mind and body and allow meditators to reconnect with themselves. The original story of meditation is the story of a warrior in India who used meditation to help cleanse the trauma of battle, and the need for this type of practice is just as great for warriors today.
For 1.5 million years, campfires have provided warmth and comfort to those who gather around them. The relative anonymity in a nighttime fire circle enables participants to engage openly and honestly. The patio behind our lodge offers two extra large fire pits for guests to enjoy time in lively conversation or quiet reflection.
Our programs offer a range of art-based activities (mandala drawing, painting, weaving, bead making) that allow participants to overcome the inherent limitations of language and express themselves creatively. Through the creation of visual displays, long hidden emotions and experiences can be surfaced and discussed, and participants often realize that they possess reservoirs of uncultivated artistic talent.