By Kate Robertson, C.S.
At camp each summer we still celebrate a most cherished Cap Andrews tradition, “Alone with Your Thoughts.” As you may remember, camp activities come to a stop one evening each session, and every staff member, counselor and camper – regardless of age – takes an hour alone in nature. No books, no media, no cameras, no inspirational material – just time alone with your thoughts.
After discovering that he, himself, was ill-equipped to be alone with his thoughts and keep them focused on good, Cap spent time during his night watches on a WWII submarine strengthening this practice. When he returned to the states and started Sky Valley Ranch for Boys, this was a vital element of every summer’s program. And it still is today.
Without question this practice is for me the most important tradition we have at camp. Decades of camper evaluations attest to the fact that it is the activity most remembered by campers. And it is the camp activity that has the most lasting effects on our lives, year after year.
This time alone in nature encourages a relationship with the divine that can only be found in the “quiet sanctuary of earnest longings” (Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 15). It reminds each of us that wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, we can resort to this place – this kingdom within – to find peace, comfort, direction, encouragement, joy. Whether we are on a mountaintop or in the depths of despair, we can find refuge in this stillness.
For me, this is the place of our most basic beingness. This is the place where God’s name, “I AM,” makes perfect sense to me. This is the space where we find the power to bless. This is where we are at one with all creation. This is where we share a common inner landscape – a landscape that we can’t escape. An in-vironment that we all must navigate – regardless of spiritual practice.
Deepening my relationship to this space is the most valuable gift I can give to myself, my family and my neighbors. I think that this is Cap and Marianne Andrews’ greatest contribution to the world: to have had the foresight to nurture productive time “alone with your thoughts” in girls and boys who will go out to contribute to and bless humanity. It simply takes my breath away.
As much as I love our horse programs, rafting adventures and mountaineering expeditions, they pale in comparison to the profound effect I have seen “Alone with Your Thoughts” make in the lives of campers and counselors – year after year.
Those wonderful adventures and activities are simply the laboratory for deepening one’s relationship to this space of spiritual stillness. This is the great interiority – the real place of unlimited adventure. This is the enduring part of camp we all take home, no matter where we live, no matter who we are with. This sense of camp is always with us.
The boy-king, David, must have felt this sense of “camp” when he wrote the 23rd Psalm. It must have been the place where Mandela really lived while isolated in a prison cell, and where Jesus companioned with angels in the wilderness. And it is always there for us – at any moment.
I am grateful that – as a child – I was exposed to this practice. I am even more grateful that our children have been nurtured at camp in a love for the importance of time “alone with your thoughts.” It is a vital component in navigating the course of our days. Knowing that wherever you are, whatever decisions you must make, whatever guidance you are seeking, whatever challenges you may be facing, you have a place where you can retreat for answers and solutions – this, this is everything.
Kate Robertson, C.S., is a member of Adventure Unlimited’s National Alumni Board.
“…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matt. 6:33
Adventure Unlimited’s 2015 Metaphysical Theme