Retreat, Lecture, and Workshop Topics


Jake presents many retreats, lectures, and workshops throughout the year at various locations in the United States.  His topics include World Religions, Contemplative Practices, Mystical Theology, Sacred Wisdom, Environmental Connection, Sacred Gardening, Religious Figures, Seasonal Reflection, and Poetry/Creative Writing.



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The Power of Place

Explore how our total environment affects the depth and quality of our life.  We will look into where attendees have lived and traveled to, their hometowns, where they live now, places they might like to move to and how their specific dwelling place, local neighborhood and greater town or city all contribute deeply to who they are and what they are experiencing at this moment of their life.  We will also look at where various artistic and spiritual movements have sprung up---and why.  Attendees will never look at place the same again.


Tasting the Wine of the Beloved: Rumi, Hafez and other Mystical Poets

Rumi and Hafez are two of the most widely read poets in the world, yet their words seem to be a puzzle to many Western minds. In this class we will attempt to look deeper into the metaphorical messages of love and connection blossoming within the lines of these two beloved mystical poets.

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Focusing on Thomas Merton: Living the Contemplative Life

Thomas Merton is one of the most famous and influential Christian writers who ever lived.  In this class we will study the spiritual evolution of his life, which includes excerpts from several of his books and documentaries on his life.  We will see what we can learn from his early bohemian life, to his years as a Trappist monk, to his questions on community, his travels, and studies in Zen.  Through his journey---we shall inquire into the nature of our own journeys.

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Focusing on Henri Nouwen: Cultivating Solitude and Community

This retreat will utilize various books and sermons by Henri Nouwen in order to guide us into a deeper understanding of how we can cultivate a balance between solitude and community, and that actually, the solitude and community are inseparable to the health of each other and every individual’s spiritual journey.


Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

This class will journey along with John Steinbeck and his French Poodle, Charley, as they travel across America together.  We will look deeply into the concepts of community, regionalism, nostalgia, home and place within the 21st century American landscape and mindset.

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The Way: An Introduction to the Flowing Teachings of the Tao Te Ching

This is a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism written by Lao Tzu, which strongly influenced other schools such as Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism.  Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters and gardeners have used the flowing poetic lines of the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration.  In this class we will look at key passages and lessons in order to see how this knowledge can be applied to our daily lives.  We will also look at similarities between the writings within the Tao Te Ching and those of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels.


The Music of Place

Music is the universal language.  Yet it is born in places.  This class will look at where various forms and styles of music were born and took shape before being shared with the rest of the world through recordings and technology.  We will see how landscape, culture, community and spirituality contribute to the music of place---we will also listen to and delve into some wonderful music.

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The Spiritual Vision of Kahlil Gibran

This class will introduce students to the spiritual literary work of the famous Lebanese writer and poet Kahlil Gibran.  He is most well known for his influential book, The Prophet, yet Gibran wrote many other books that delve into the depths of spiritual wisdom and his own unique take on the life of Jesus of Nazareth.


Joseph Campbell: Utilizing the Transformational Properties of Myth

This class will delve into Joseph Campbell’s pioneering studies and teachings on the mythology of different cultures, religions and spiritual systems in order to evolve beyond the conditioned societal thoughts regarding them to what is vital and transformational within these myths that can be utilized to evolve the depth of our daily lives.


Great Guides of the Beloved: Female Mystics and Spiritual Teachers

We live in a world that has been and continues to be dominated by male religious figures and hierarchies, as well as masculine ideas of the divine. This retreat will introduce guests to the works and teachings of several female mystics and spiritual guides from various faith traditions. It will also provide retreatants with feminine archetypes of the divine. This retreat will create a space for people to break free from the bondage of their conditionings with regard to what they have been taught to believe about religion and "God". For as the great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart stated, "The Ultimate and Highest leave taking is leaving God for GOD, leaving your notion of God for an Experience of That which transcends all notions."


Spiritual Formation in the High Desert

This retreat will utilize both the desert landscape and desert mythology as tools to go deeper into our own spiritual journeys.  There will be Native American, Christian, Sufi and Taoist books, poetry, and mythology utilized in this retreat.  We will establish a deep connection with place and ourselves in order to open up to the wonder of our present life paths.


Sacred Gardening: Yielding to the Call of the Land

Paul Jacob spent two years developing a sustainable organic garden/orchard for a family on Cortes Island, off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.  This program is a combination of both visuals (photographs that document the creation and evolution of that garden/orchard and the community that developed through it) and a lecture about how to start listening to and tending the land no matter where you live.


Jack Kerouac and The Beat Generation

Jack Kerouac was an influential American writer who was part of a group of writers, artists, and musicians who became known as The Beat Generation.  There are many stories, legends, attitudes and theories about The Beat Generation, yet the best way to try to gain an understanding of what they were trying to accomplish with their literary, artistic and spiritual work during the 1950's and 60's  is to delve deeply into that work and contemplate their ideas.