Relational Leadership: Five Week Summer Intensive

Do you feel a calling to connect with others, yourself and nature in new ways, to go deeper, to explore, to expand? Are you ready to answer that call?

img_1219Then join us in the high peaks of western Montana for Inner Wild’s sixth annual five-week Relational Leadership Intensive, July 13th-August 19th (2018). The program is an innovative cross-disciplinary exploration in leadership development for adults (21 and over) who wish to deepen their relationship to self, earth, and community through a four-week backpacking trip on The Sacred Door Trail.

Through the art of pilgrimage, contemplative and reflective practices, nature connection and individual and group development work we will explore the wilderness within. What does it mean to be fully human during these turbulent times of personal and planetary transformation?  What are your gifts? How can you use them to serve both yourself and the planet in more creative and expansive ways?

Using the experiential container of a pilgrimage and the cross-cultural initiatory structure of a rite of passage, participants will embark on a 200-mile backpacking trip circumnavigating the Sacred Door Trail (SDT).  The SDT is an interfaith pilgrimage trail which celebrates spiritual unity and our connection to Earth and community.  Located in southwest Montana the SDT explores some of the prettiest mountains, lakes and rivers in the continental US.  During this five week intensive participants will be exploring their relationship to self, earth and community while at the same time strengthening and or discovering their unique gifts, and leadership skills in an effort to better understand the transformative work they wish to cultivate in the world.

Click “follow” above to stay updated on our course offerings. Much more coming to the East coast and possibly internationally.

000034Program Goals:  With an emphasis on individual, group and leadership development in a prolonged wilderness setting, we seek to deepen participants’ relational awareness while at the same time empower them with interior and exterior knowledge, tools and skills that nurture a path of fulfillment and inspired social action in the world.

*Relational Awareness: We define relational awareness as an embodied understanding of the interconnected relationship between self, Earth, community, and the numinous (ancestors, descendants, the great mystery, etc).

Subjects, Themes and Experiential Theories Addressed:  Deep ecology, holistic community development, social and environmental justice, contemplative practices, systems theory, leadership development, nature connection, wilderness survival skills, local ecology, rites of passage, adult development, group development and integral theory.

What We Look for in Participants:  Inner Wild’s five-week summer intensive seeks participants that have a demonstrated track record and commitment to self-inquiry and personal growth, and who have a passion for cultural transformation rooted in the values of environmental and social justice and interconnectivity. This program is perfect for individuals who are ready to explore their own development in a way that can only be done through a collective, community-based container that works in partnership with the land. Our expectation for participants is that they arrive in a space of compassionate openness, willing to challenge their own core beliefs and explore their own blind assumptions. It is through such a space, of openness and curiosity, that genuine transformation and authentic community connection become possible.

Inner Wild’s Commitment to Safety and Diversity:  Inner Wild’s goal for our five-img_1193week intensive is to create a container filled with a diversity of backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and interests. Through our collective journey, we seek to explore and create an authentic nomadic community that operates in right relationship to the individuals, the collective, the land, and the spirit of the trail.

In order to do this correctly, safety must be our number one priority. It is our expectation that each participant within the group speak and act in a way that serves, honors, and protects the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual safety of all involved, including the land. Any safety issues that arise on any of these levels will be addressed immediately by the facilitators in partnership with the group.  Our first action as a group when we gather in Montana will be to create a community charter, that includes the values, and tools we need to have in place to feel safe and held as individuals as we embark on our journey together.

Preparation:  The ceremony begins the moment you commit to it.  We take this notion seriously here at Inner-Wild, which is why the moment someone signs up for a program they can expect a call from us.  These are mentor calls.  They are designed to stir the inner-soil and support participants in the preparatory stage of the process.

Each participant will have two mentor calls before the experience and one three months after the intensive is over.  The purpose of the calls before is to support the individual in all that goes into getting ready for such an experience on both an internal and external level.  This includes introducing the individual to the rolling questions which they will be exploring on an individual and group level through the entire process of the program.  A few of the rolling questions are: what does being a “Man” or a “Woman” mean to you, are there things you’d like to let go of in yourself, what beliefs are holding you back, what are your gifts, what does community mean to you, what is happiness, how do you feel let down by western culture, how do you feel empowered by it, how are you/how could you serve the greater good through a deeper embodiment of your gifts and passions?

Program Structure: The power of this program lies in its holistic structure which is grounded in theories and research around adult development, self-organizing systems and the power of peer-to-peer learning and mentorship.  The first step in the program is the initial mentor calls which get set up upon registration for the program.  Once the intensive begins the first four days of the experience is heavily shaped by the trip mentors in an effort to empower the group with the skills, knowledge, and wisdom needed to allow the participants take control of their own experiences.  Once on the trail the mentors will slowly handover leadership responsibilities to the group placing the experience in the hands of participants to shape through juggling the various roles of leader, teacher, student and support system for one another, creating their own nomadic community along the path.


Base Camp-Bridger Mountains.

Week 1-Base Camp: Community Building and Logistics. Upon arrival to Bozeman, Montana the group will head into the Bridger Mountains and set up camp on a private in-holding within the National Forest.  These first few days are dedicated to setting the group container and introducing various themes and theories that are engaged throughout the trip.  In addition to this community building work we also take care of food purchases and rationing for the trip, learn how to set up, take down and patch tents efficiently, work backpacking stoves, hang bear bags, role play first aid scenarios, go over maps and food drops and make sure everyone has all the right gear.

On the final night before embarking on the trail there will be a fire and community gathering.  Each member of the group will have an opportunity to share with the larger community who supports the program why they have chosen to undertake such a journey and what they hope to get from it.

Once on the trail the day to day structure and schedule will be determined by the group.  Some questions the group will explore include the following: what is our basic schedule (when do we wake up, start hiking, eat lunch, etc.), how do we handle conflict, how do we handle leadership, when do we hike alone, when do we hike as a group, how do we learn from each other?

Every six days the group will be met by the mentors and community support members for two layover days and a food re-rationing.  During these days the guides will check in with the group and each individual, help address any concerns or problems arising and generally offer support and advice where ever needed and or requested.  Additional short group sessions on certain theoretical topics will also be held during these layover days.

The Solo Fast: Once the group has finished the trail they will return to our base camp outside of Bozeman to embark on a three-day solo fast.  The solos offer participants time on their own for the purpose of self-reflection and contemplation.  They will explore what they have learned on the trip and what it is they wish to step into and claim for themselves as they move forward into the next chapter of life beyond the trail.

The day to day life on the trail is in many ways consumed by movement, tasks and chores.  This time at the end is an opportunity for participants to settle into the stillness of nature to see what may be revealed.  Solitude and fasting in nature quiets the mind and body, awakens our dream world and creates subtle shifts in our perspective that allows for deeper awareness and insight to surface.    

IMG_1892Reincorporation:  After the trail and solo experience is complete there will be around four days of reincorporation work needed to wrap up logistics, ground the experience, reflect on it and share it with others.  Over this time there will be another community gathering which will offer participants the opportunity to share their experience with the wider community (participants family and friends are welcome).  Also if time allows a day trip into Yellowstone Park or a float trip on the Yellowstone River may be in order.  This reincorporation period is the most important aspect of the trip.  If rushed or skipped over many of the insights gleaned on the trail will not have the time needed to simmer and integrate.

The final mentor call will occur six months after the intensive is complete and is designed to follow up on and support the reincorporation process.  How are the lessons learned being integrated?  How are you seeking support from your own community to integrate your lessons, are you finding mentors/anchors around you to help support the process?

The Application:  To apply for this program write a one to two-page essay explaining a bit about who you are and why you feel called to do this program.  Once completed email the essay to:  Expect a response from us confirming the receipt of your application.

Inner Wild Testimonials.  

To apply or if you have any further questions please contact Weston Pew at

Lead Mentors, Weston Pew and Shannon Ongaro:  


Weston is the founder and director of Inner Wild and is also the founder of the Sacred Door Trail.  Weston grew up in the mountains of Montana and has been working with youth and young adults in the wilderness since he was 18. He is an alum of the National Outdoor Leadership School’s semester-long program and has backpacked all over the world.  For the past 8-years, his work and studies have focused on rites of passage, pilgrimage, and individual development through wilderness settings, which lead him to the creation of The Sacred Door Trail and Inner Wild.  He recently wrapped up a master’s in experiential education from Prescott College and is currently getting his Ph.D from Pacifica College in depth psychology with a focus on community, liberation, and ecopsychology.  He is also looking forward to the launch of a new leadership program for high schoolers he is founding in Brooklyn called Mavericks Education, which will open its doors in the fall of 2017.

shannonShannon holds a Master’s Degree in History for Montana State University and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Naropa University, in addition to her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Humboldt State University. Shannon has taught professionally at the college level, and has spent summers training river guides and working as an instructor at Montana Whitewater Guide School. An avid backcountry skier and outdoor enthusiast, Shannon has traveled extensively all over the world – including Central and South America, New Zealand, Africa, and Europe. Over the past spring and fall of 2016 Shannon has worked supporting refugees in Greece through the NGO Refuge Support Europe.  She also works for the Tandana Foundation, a non-profit organization that oversees service projects in Ecuador and Mali, West Africa. Additionally, she is  a co-founder of a local arts project BOOMA (Benevolent Order of Mountain Artists) through which, she organizes twice-yearly collaborative community art projects.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s