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NEWS From the Field

9: MSI Needs your Support

A View from the Mountains
Seasonal Newsletter of The Mountain Spirit Institute
Published seasonally

#4: Winter, 2009

Greetings from MSI, and from New Zealand!

During this time of change in the world economy and global climate, now more than ever, our unique mission of helping to connect people with themselves, each other and the environment is relevant.

We've had a very successful season with our programs, The USA/Peru Music Exchange, and Sunapee SunFest, to name a few. We also have new programs on for this summer and fall: Peru, India, Journey Within Wilderness Retreat in Utah, and the popular Solo and Wilderness Experience programs. What makes our programs innovative? We combine experiential learning with the acknowledgement of the spiritual aspect in what we do and experience. It's not just adventure for adventure's sake, but to push our comfort zones in unfamiliar settings and cultures. We promote and educate holistic and sustainable lifestyles.

Our programs are fun, impactful and can be life changing. As I write this from a mountain hut in New Zealand I'm reminded of how important it is to get out in nature. But we've also recently run a program where traditional Peruvian Folklore music was the focus in New England. That too, fulfills our mission. Sometimes it's hard to understand exactly what MSI is. Check out this newsletter, our website and blog, and I think you'll start to understand our mission, which has motivated me all these years.

Come join us on one of our unique educational programs which help you get back in touch with yourself, your fellow community members, and the natural world, that begs us to come outside. Join in by supporting MSI by making a donation today. It will directly help make the world a better place.

With Warm Regards,

Randy Richards
Founder, Director,
Mountain Spirit Institute
From The Matukituki Valley,
Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

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Where and When

Peruvian Cultural Immersion
July 12,
12 days


#1. Peru Cultural Immersion, Cusco, Lake Tititcaca, Machu Picchu

We've been taking people to Peru since 1998. Our goals for the Peru program are unique. We strive to have participants come away with a better sense of another culture, and their relationship to the Peruvian people. We also incorporate a service project to help give back to the communities we visit. We treat this adventure as expeditionary learning, where all the group members participate in making the two weeks a success.
We still have space available

What you'll do:
-Visit with local families
-Learn about local textiles and cultures
-Trek in the Andes near (and visit) Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
-Learn about local customs, spiritual aspects of Inka and Peruvian Life
-Have local Guillermo Seminario, Richard Cari, and others as your local guides and connections
- Randy Richards as your group facilaitator
- Experience some solo time, time in Cusco and the hills around Ollantaytambo, Lake Titicaca
For more information see the webpage.

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Where and When

Southern India
Thiruvannamalai, Southern India
Sept. 19, 2009



Mt. Aranachala in the small village of Thiruvannamalai, Southern India is well known as a place of energy, a mystical mountain. Travelers and Indians alike, are drawn to this special place. They walk around or up the mountain, meditate, study and just be in the energy of this place of grace, and follow their independent spiritual journey.

"The birds have vanished into the sky
and now the last cloud drains away
we sit together
the mountain and me
until only the mountain remains."

Poem referring to Mt. Aranachala
Author unknown

Says Amanda Hamilton, coordinator of this program, "If you're open to an independent spiritual experience, you'll love this place and the spirit of this program." Before going to India, Hamilton had been reluctant to travel there because of the concerns she had felt about the challenges and poverty of India. But after having been there, she is motivated to show other people the magic of Mt. Aranachala. Says Hamilton, "I don't want others to miss this place because of similar reservations they may have about India." She adds, My role will be one of logistical support, as well as to introduce you to people and places for your experience.

The trip will be tailored to meet the group dynamics and individual interests, and will include stays at ashrams near the mountain, walking, hiking and cycling on and around the mountain, workshops, sittings with spiritual teachers, yoga classes, visiting local communities including the notable Pondicherry, and local temples.

"This hill is said to be Wisdom in visible form"
Sri Bhagavan, renowned Indian teacher

Where and When

August - Oct 2010
Utah, Colorado & New England
Chimu Inka's Web Page


#3 Peru/USA Music Exchange A Success

This was one of our most successful programs yet. Mario Montalvo, Guillermo Seminario, and Augusto ("Wachi")Taype, of Cusco Peru were at the center of our impactful music exchange program in the North Eastern US during September and October, 2008. The program exceeded everyone's expectations. Under Guillermo's leadership and warm stage presence, the band's message of spiritual connection through traditional folklore music and Peruvian culture was wonderfully conveyed to the people of New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Audience members became friends of these incredible ambassadors of grace and love.
They played at Universities, Schools, libraries and opera houses and town bandstands. Seeing the faces of school children, and adults alike, light up when they played their handmade instruments, such as the Zampona or Flutes, often made the performance an electrifying experience for us. They'll be back too. We have plans for them returning to the USA in the fall of 2010.


This was the band's first visit to the US to perform and educate about traditional Peruvian Folklore music. MSI secured the Performer's P-3 Permit from the US Government and provided sponsorship for three's visas.

The group performed and taught from Montpelier, and Bennington Vermont to Gorham, New Hampshire and Sturbridge, Mass. They even squeezed in a quick trip to New York City and saw the statue of Liberty before heading back to Peru. They were based in Sunapee, NH for their month and half stay in the USA.

Guillermo Seminario, the musical director of the band said "I did as much teaching about their Peruvian instruments and the history and culture of Peru, as we played the music."
To keep abreast of their plans see our blog and their webpages:
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Background: SunFest
For Inforamation on Sunapee SunFest:




#4 Sunapee SunFest available for New Underwriters/Organizers/Sponsors

The board of Mountain Spirit has decided to pass on the sponsorship of the Sunapee SunFest for 2009 to anyone interested in running the event. MSI was approached three years ago to be a sponsor/beneficiary for a holistic health fair in Sunapee which had been planned as a fundraiser. The original proposers moved on to other interests, and MSI has been the sole sponsor and organizer of the event for the past three years. We thought we'd try for a few more years since our name was attached to the event. Because of the workload and difficulty finding community support, we have decided to pass the Sunapee SunFest on to any other interested group or individuals in the area. We will be happy to also pass on much of the documentation, and contact information that will help those interested in planning the event.

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Where and When

Southern Utah:

New Hampshire :
Solo Webpage

Journey Within Wildnerness Retreat
Journey Within Webpage



#5 Programs on the front burner
Solo and Journey Within Wilderness Retreat Programs

e decided in 2009 to pursue building a more solid financial foundation by focusing on fundraising, administration and board development, But still, we thought we'd share a few programs that are ready and in the wings when the demand and marketing funds are available.

Solo has proven to be a popular program and we will offer this during the coming months in Utah and New Hampshire and Peru if there is interest.

Our society has few formal rites of passage. The Solo is for those participants of any age interested in a powerful experience that comes from being alone with nature and few distractions. We do not copy Native American traditions or ceremonies, rather, provide a group framework for participants to create their own experience with the leadership, guidance and safety of an experienced facilitator. This shorter program starts on a Friday afternoon and wraps up on Sunday evening and is organized on a mobile concept where we meet at a trailhead.


Journey Within is a 3 ½ day retreat in the beautiful mountains of Utah. It is intended to captivate your heart and ignite your mind, facilitated by one of most gentle, intuitive, and bighearted and experienced facilitators around.

This "inward bound" exploration of self will be spent rediscovering one's deepest parts, through igniting and awakening your life's passions. Experience all of this through playful and simple body centered learning in a backcountry wilderness setting.


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For More Information

About Mountain Spirit Institute
























#6: Our mission, in a Nutshell:
by Randy Richards, Founder

Even the board of directors had a challenging time, at first, understanding my vision of Mountain Spirit Institute. Because the mission has organically grown over the years, of seeing a need and addressing it, it seems clear to me, but not always so evident to others. Once they got it, they really got it!

My vision grew from putting miles on the trail with Outward Bound, wondering how I could improve on OB founder Kurt Hahn's groundbreaking ideas on experiential education.

I wanted acknowledge and bring more heart and spirit to wilderness experiential education. Oh, it happens all right, with OB courses, but it's not mentioned anywhere in the literature, or made a focal point. It seems to happen haphazardly, depending on the makeup of the student group, and staff pairings.

A natural outgrowth of bringing heart into the wilderness seemed to address broader spiritual and ethical issues that affect our world. That of course led to a hybrid organization, where we also run "frontcountry" workshops, and even lecture/author series. It's all an outgrowth of spiritual experiential education.


Here are a couple of visuals:

The Hybrid Model: A Continuum:

Experiential Wilderness Education jf doifu doifu doOIOIO Holistic Learning Center
Expeditionary Learning --------------------------------------------------------Spirituality


Concepts Behind Our Mission:

We run mountaineering and backcountry ski programs, we sponsor music from Peru. We will run a wilderness Inner Work program. We have been on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation, and run a film series. A Peruvian shaman taught a two-year study program in the US.

All our programs have in common experiential education and spiritual components. Sometimes there are equal elements of both, at other times, the focus may be more on a weekend retreat workshop or film series rather than the wilderness..

There appear to be an abundance of those who profess spiritual discipline, but fail to clean up their campsite, or fail to commit to deeper personal relationships with their fellow participants. Other groups achieve the summit but either fail to really see nature, or consider the group a team. The teacher and author Sun Bear once said, "If it doesn't grow corn, I don't want to hear about it." This is the need that we address, and is what makes MSI a hybrid organization.

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For More Information

MSI's Blog


#7 Our New BLOG

Our blog seems to be getting good reviews! Don't miss it! It's been up for over six months.
It has resources and information as well as articles and commentaries, plus some interesting reading.
Titles recently: Rock Flour = Turqoise; Mountain People Who Inspire, Global Climate Change, New Zealand's Backcountry, Bald Eagles in Sunapee, The Guiding Life in Alaska and South America.

If you'd like to see news on programs, updates on travels, learn about current issues on sustainability , holistic living, resources for a more sane life, visit and read up.


#8 Two of MSI's Touchstones: Nature Deficit Disorder & Peak Oil

The board members are continually reminded of two important touchstones that have emerged in the recent years. As mentioned in a previous newsletter, Nature Deficit Disorder, made widely known by Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods outlines the basics of how our youth no longer spend unstructured time in nature. We feel it's a top priority for MSI to help bridge this gap. Government funding is coming available to help address this problem. We will be looking at youth programs locally and internationally to help bring more balance into young people's lives.

Peak Oil, has also been put on our radar screen. Society as we know it may be very different in the years to come, and hopefully for the better. The recent DVD Escape from Suburbia brilliantly follows and explains the Peak Oil situation, and what we as individuals and families can to in our own lives to make the transition a sane one.

We at MSI are not only addressing this issue in our programming, but we encourage you to share the aforementioned DVD with your local town or city government officials, friends and family.

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#9 How you can help support MSI

MSI needs your support to be a sustainable organization. Here's how you can help!

  • Make a donation, (no amount too small or too large) either by *mail or on our Support webpage. Your donation is tax-deductable. *(POB 626, Sunapee, NH, USA 03782)
  • We need professional help, no not that way! Marketing and development help, as donations in kind or as someone serving in an advisory role.
  • Help us get the word out about fundraising: Please forward this newsletter to your friends and family.
  • We have a great PowerPoint slide show you can show your friends about our programs and our unique mission. Show this worthwhile presentation to your friends.
Do you know someone that might donate to MSI? Let us know and we'll contact them.


The Mountain Guide's Half Hour
By MSI Founder Dexter R. Richards

In mountain guiding, the term "Guide's half-hour" is the short time the guide takes for himself at the end of a long day, after the clients have been cared for, their meals cooked, equipment is organized, and the assistants are briefed for the next day. It's a time to unwind, go bouldering, do a short climb or to sit under the stars. Here' the founder's half-hour of editorial:

Our first program was a Cultural Immersion Mountain trip to Peru 11 years ago in 1998. In some ways, MSI is still a start-up though. We're still looking for capital to market our unique programs that blend experiential community and self development with the spiritual path. We seek funds for permits, insurance, administration and program support and operations.

As I reflect on the past year, I remember all the positive responses we had about our third annual Sunapee Sunfest , and all the great interactions I observed at that event. The Peru Music program touched many lives in New England. Then, my mind wanders back to our Lakota program in South Dakota, the highlight for me on that program was taking our participants on an sunset hike up a sacred mountain, which reminded me why I do this work in the first place.

More recently, getting some positive feedback about my teaching snow shool at Mt. Brewster here in New Zealand, (from where this Newsletter originates) reminded me that I love to teach and share the freedom of the mountains with people of all ages.

We've survived for eleven years without any outside grants, funding, or major donations other than program fees. It's not that we're not interested in fundraising, it's a challenge as a one man show to run the programs, marketing, website/ blog and books. Surviving that long is success, especially with the smiles, warm hearts and positive impact we've had on our participants.

Sometimes, I forget that the journey, not the end, is the adventure. Sure it will be great when MSI is completely sustainable, and that time is right around the corner. I can feel it. But for now, I'm enjoying the successes we've had this year, and those still to come.

I hope you'll join in our dream of connection to self, each other and the environment.. Sign up on one of our programs, or support MSI with a donation today. It will directly help make the world a better place. I'll close with a quote that reflects our persistence here at MSI.

"What we may be doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
--------- Mother Theresa

With Warm Regards,

Randy Richards .
Founder, Director,
Mountain Spirit Institute
From The Matukituki Valley,
Aspring National Park, New Zealand

PS: Many thanks to Betsy Sofish, PhD for serving as President of MSI, "you're always welcome back any time you're schedule clears again!" Also many thanks to our current board, Bob Stremba, PhD, Brenda Dowst, Cindy Heath, and Craig Cimmons for your many hours of meetings, travel and support." DRR

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Published by R. Richards, Founder,
Executive Director,
Mountain Spirit Institute



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MSI is a fully insured, Non-Profit 501-(c)-3 Educational Organization
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MSI staff are also members of:
-Association for Experiential Education
-American Mountain Guides Association
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