Photo: Elsa Young
Every year O's favorite life coach, Martha Beck, spends several weeks on a 35,000-acre game reserve in South Africa, leading safari retreats for people who want more meaning in their lives. Busy teachers, overworked doctors, jaded executives—they come to Africa for five days of eye-opening, world-rocking nature at its most awesome. This summer we asked Beck to keep a journal of one of her retreats. In between leopard sightings and rhino tracking, she happily obliged.
Mon. 5:30 a.m.
I just woke to the sound of tiny people running around on the roof of my cottage screaming, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" through kazoos. After a confused second I bolted out of bed and rushed to the window, because of course the tiny people were actually vervet monkeys. And the "Hey!" was their word for "leopard."
I think I saw the cat through my bathroom window: two dark ears on a compact golden head, gliding through the grass. I got the electric jolt I always feel around leopards. They're magical, appearing and disappearing at will in their charged silence. A tracker once told me that if you see a wild leopard, it isn't because you find the animal but because it decides to show itself to you.
Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa is one of the few places on Earth where that happens often. Maybe it's because leopards are the shaman-healer's magical assistant, and Londolozi is all about healing. Once a bankrupt cattle farm, the land was restored to a thriving ecosystem by two teenage brothers who inherited it when their father died suddenly in 1969. They named it Londolozi, a Zulu word meaning "protector of all living things," and by God, they healed it. Now Londolozi seems to return the favor by healing the humans who visit it.
I realize this is an odd claim. I could best defend it by bringing you here, something I do for the small groups that accompany me to Londolozi for what I call Self-Transformation Adventure Retreats (STARs). I once read an interview with a sangoma—African shaman—who was described as a "lone leopard" and who said his job was "to clean people so that they shine and find their true jobs in this world." Though I'm no shaman, the STARs share that lofty goal. In case you don't get the chance to join me on one of these retreats, I'm keeping this journal, hoping to pass some of the trip's healing energy on to you. And I must say, starting day one with a visit from a four-footed lone leopard feels like a blessing from nature.
Next: The coaches have their first meeting
We Hear You!