The Yearlong Soulcraft Immersion: Cultivating Soul-Infused Artistry and Leadership in a Time of Global Change

Arizona November 13, 2017 - August 24, 2018 Cost: $3910.00 - $5350.00 Venue: Aravaipa Canyon Ranch
Guides: Bill Plotkin, Ph.D., Laura Gunion
Limit: 13
Requires application backpacking divider Accommodations camping
prerequisite     retreat center


The Yearlong Soulcraft Immersion: Cultivating Soul-Infused Artistry and Leadership in a Time of Global Change is an advanced program for people already immersed in their soul-discovery process and who are either in a leadership position or are longing to support radical change in our world through cultivating their most vital, visionary essence. This program is focused on neither healing nor therapy, but rather on the underworld journey of soul encounter and on the development of the skills and sensibilities required for the embodiment of cultural artistry and leadership. This is a courageous journey into the mystical darkness of the soul and the depths of the heart, there to gather the images, symbols, and themes of our individual  mythopoetic identities.

The Yearlong Immersion is anchored by four group sessions, spread out over 10 months and in four stunning landscapes of the American West, with three sessions of five-days each and one of eight.

This year-long highly experiential program allows our personal relationships, our group field, our intimacy with the wild Earth, and our facility with soulcrafting to develop and deepen through extended contact and practice. Our primary goal is to enable and support each participant’s fullest contribution to the Earth community at this time of planetary transformation. During the year, we employ the full range of soulcraft practices, selecting them according to the developing needs of the individuals and the group, as well as the challenges and seductions of the wild. A 3-day vision fast will take place during the third session. Participants work on group and individualized assignments between sessions.

We’ve found that people can reach extraordinarily deep when they have nearly a year to do so, when they are consistently supported by an ongoing group (maximum of 13) and a pair of guides, and when they are steadily assisted to respond to the signs and opportunities that appear during the year. There is an exceptional kind of magic that happens when a group field forms around a journey that has ample time to unfold.

The Yearlong Immersion takes the form of a yearlong vision-fast ceremony or underworld journey. By “underworld journey,” we mean a descent to soul that unfolds in three stages: Severance, Liminality or Sacred World, and Return.

The Severance stage involves the deconstruction of the life you’ve been living, a positive disintegration or dismemberment of the way you’ve been belonging to the world — wiping the slate clean in order to uncover what the soul has in mind for the rest of your life. The sound and fury of one’s current way of belonging (as rewarding and as healthy as this might be) needs first to be quieted before you’ll be able to hear something else — the still, small voice crying out in the wilderness of your life, your true voice, the sound of the one life you can truly call your own.

The Severance is the descent portion of the journey. It begins with the first session and continues for most participants up to and perhaps through the second, for a four or five month-long unraveling, which most everyone experiences as ecstatic and freeing as well as psychospiritually challenging at times. Our second session deepens the unraveling and begins the Sacred World stage: the exploration of the mysteries of nature and psyche. (As Rilke put it, “Now you must go out into your heart as onto a vast plain. Now the immense loneliness begins. The days go numb. The wind sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.”)

During this first half of the Yearlong, we work with a variety of soulcraft practices including cultivating the four facets of our innate wholeness, soulcentric dreamwork, romancing the world, council, self-designed ceremony, soul poetry, and talking across the species boundaries. We explore our sacred woundings, shadows, and childhood survival strategies, all of which reveal some of the hidden roots of our soul’s passion and the gifts we carry for others. We cultivate our capacity to evoke and sustain non-ordinary states as we explore the mysteries of nature and psyche.

When the time of our third session arrives, we meet for eight days, providing the time for a four-day fast and three-day solo, the deepest portion of the Sacred World stage. All prior preparations, including any fasts you might have previously enacted, usher you into this death-rebirth journey, where a fresh vision for your life and your way of participating in the world is kindled and ignited.

Then, from the last days of our third session through our final gathering, the journey is about the Return: learning to embody what you’ve gathered during the year. You live questions such as: Given all I have learned this year about who I am, what are my soul’s deepest desires for this lifetime? How I am meant to participate in this world? What lifestyles, projects, crafts, professions, relationships, and communities shall I participate in? Which “delivery systems” would most enable me to offer my soul gifts to this world, to contribute to the Great Turning of this century? What forms of embodiment and action most resonate with my soul? This is the purpose of the Yearlong Soulcraft Immersion: preparing and empowering you to “carry what is hidden as a gift to others,” as David Whyte puts it, or to become the most effective and fulfilled artisan of cultural evolution that you can become in this lifetime.

Might this Yearlong Immersion be for you? Good question. For most people, the answer would be “no.” This experience is not for everyone but only for those who’ve reached a certain turning point in life: when you feel healed enough in all the ordinary ways of emotional healing; when you are no longer trying to find just the right relationship or job or residence before you really start your life; when the biggest questions for you are no longer about social standing or relationships or job or career, but rather about the mystery that pulses softly at the very core of your life and about your soul’s greatest desires, an appreciation of which, you correctly suspect, will completely shift your understanding of what your life is about.

This is an intense and uncompromising journey, and it is essential you are ready for it. To help you and us assess if you are, we have an application for you to fill out. 

Please download the Yearlong Soulcraft Immersion Application and return to the Animas office at

Optional individual mentoring sessions are available between group meetings.

Session 1:  November 13-18, 2017 Arizona  This five-day session will be held at Aravaipa Canyon Ranch, outside of Tucson. Indoor lodging and camping are available (same cost).  All meals provided.  We will meet the evening of November 13 and officially begin the morning of November 14.

Session 2:  March 4-9, 2018-  Anza-Borrego State Park, California.  This five-day session will be held in the backcountry (some backpacking required although no experience is necessary). Lunches, snacks, and tea are the responsibility of each participant. The group will form meal teams and breakfasts and dinners will be divided among the teams, who will be responsible for planning and cooking group meals. We will meet the evening of March 4 and officially begin the morning of March 5.

Session 3:  May 6-14, 2018- Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.  We will meet for eight days, providing the opportunity to enact a four-day fast and three-day solo, which constitute the deepest portion of the Sacred World stage. This session may require minimal backpacking.  Lunches, snacks, and tea are the responsibility of each participant. Breakfasts & dinners will be divided amongst the group and meal teams will be responsible for planning and cooking the group meals. We will gather the afternoon of May 6, program beginning on the May 7.

Session 4: August 19-24, 2018 –Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.  This final 5 day session will be held in the Gros Ventre Campground in Grand Teton National Park. Lunches, snacks, and tea are the responsibility of each participant. Breakfasts & dinners will be divided amongst the group and meal teams will be responsible for planning and cooking group meals. We will meet the evening of August 19 and officially begin the morning of August 20.



Bill Plotkin, Ph.D.

Bill Plotkin, Ph.D., is a depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and agent of cultural evolution. As founder of western Colorado's Animas Valley Institute in 1981, he has guided thousands of women and men through nature-based initiatory passages, including a contemporary, Western adaptation of the pan-cultural vision quest. Previously, he has been a research psychologist (studying non-ordinary states of consciousness), professor of psychology, psychotherapist, rock musician, and whitewater river guide.

In 1979, on a solo winter ascent of an Adirondack peak, Bill experienced a call to adventure, leading him to abandon academia in search of his true calling. Bill is the author of Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche (an experiential guidebook), Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (a nature-based stage model of human development through the entire lifespan), and Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche (an ecocentric map of the psyche — for healing, growing whole, and cultural transformation). He has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Laura Gunion

Laura believes that humans have tremendous potential, much of it hidden and unconscious. As a mentor, wilderness guide and naturalist, it is both her privilege and responsibility to support others as they encounter their true nature.  She feels it's essential that we grow, not only for ourselves, but also to create cultures that will benefit future generations. She insists on bringing the soulful and sacred into daily living. Her curiosity, acute listening, and precise questioning support people in living boldly and courageously. Laura has been a mentor at Wilderness Awareness School since 2002, and continues to love instructing at their 9-month adult program, Anake Outdoor School. She lives in the woods above Duvall , WA, where she shares land with Bewick's Wren, black bear, and many other wild ones.

Aravaipa Canyon Ranch

Nestled at the foot of Brandenburg Mountain, Aravaipa Canyon Ranch invites you to a quiet getaway for reflection, healing and spiritual renewal. Miles of secluded, ever-changing terrain in the midst of natural, pristine beauty unfold to the accompaniment of the singing waters of Aravaipa Creek, one of Arizona's all-year-round streams.

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