“Despacho” – Reflection on the 2018 SEF Annual Retreat

October 15, 2018

Contributed by Lisa Sackreiter, The Blake School

Despacho is a tangible expression of gratitude, the making and sending of a care package to the universe.  In parts of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, Despacho ceremonies are used on many life occasions – birth, death, and life transitions – for healing and spiritual connection.  During this ritual, participants give everyday objects, usually natural objects, symbolic meaning and arrange them on a piece of paper or fabric.  The objects signify gifts experienced by and available to that person for which they are thankful. Each is intentionally placed with a breath or a prayer of gratitude.  Slow and deliberate, the process is revealed in the beauty of the unique and evolving artwork. Eventually, the unique arrangement is wrapped into a bundle and released through burial, burning or sprinkling in flowing water as a dispatch to nature and powers that be.

Our final reflection at the SEF Annual Retreat in August was inspired by Despacho. We paused to reflect on our time together in order to see, to name, to articulate to ourselves and to others the valuable gifts that we received so that we can keep track of them and use them going forward. We reflected through the powerful lens of gratitude, which, employed consistently and sincerely, contributes to happiness and well-being.  When we look for and find a world abundant with precious gifts, each of us becomes better caretakers of one another and the world around us. Gratitude is a superpower.

We each created our own Despacho from piles of found and purchased objects: beach rocks, various flowers and leaves, feathers, moss, seeds, herbs, almonds, beans, chilies. Breathing thanks, I chose and placed objects to represent the following gifts:

  • In my small group, hearing the stories connected to objects that revealed our common searches into identity.
  • Being served delicious and nutritious food and eating with young people and adults who are interested in one another.
  • Decorating boxes to consider and capture our complex identities and paths to peace.
  • Receiving new ideas for supporting faculty members learning to use service learning.
  • Being asked to remember the last time I laughed so hard I cried – and hanging on to that question as one to ask others.
  • Listening to an owl as I ran the trails of the Marconi Retreat Center with the sun rising above the hills.
  • Driving to and from the beach with a van load of new friends, singing along to a fun playlist.
  • Discovering the beautiful patchwork of varied succulent plants along the beach.
  • Watching the Perseid Meteor shower with a friend.
  • Sending each participant on their labyrinth experience.
  • Collecting and organizing materials for the reflection activity and the help I had in doing so.
  • Being reminded that the feeling of home can be found far away among new people.

I wrapped these gifts in the cloth upon which I had carefully arranged them and admired them. Bundled up I took them home and released them into my backyard garden. When I return to the garden I remember and further reflect upon this retreat which fed and nurtured me before heading into a new school year and a new position at school – and I breathe another word of thanks.

Lisa Sackreiter is the Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement at The Blake School, an PK-12 independent college preparatory school in the Minneapolis area, where she has also been an Upper School English teacher. Lisa will continue the work that Nan Peterson, the former Director of Service Learning and one of the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s Senior Shinnyo Fellows, and she have been doing together for many years. Outside of Blake she serves as a leader at St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church and the chair of the board for the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation.

Please click this link to view more photos from the 2018 Annual Retreat.