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Soil, Shadow and Spirit Retreat Series 

Soil and Shadow and the Kalliopeia Foundation's partnership explores the intersection of spirit, ecology, and culture.
Our first public collaboration, The Living Altar, was an audiovisual tribute to our planet, the masculine/feminine balance, elder wisdom, and the delights of the senses that debuted at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in 2020.
In 2022, Kalliopeia encouraged Soil and Shadow CEO Nikki Silvestri and Noni Limar (a performer, visual artist, and creative director of The Living Altar) to take time away from caregiving their families and businesses and ask themselves: What is spirit moving through you?
Insights from this inquiry reflected Nikki and Noni's collective experience in environmental advocacy, police accountability advocacy, and community development.
  • Increasingly, humans will be in close quarters with diverse cultures as climate displacement, political instability, and other economic factors shift our locales - sometimes forcefully. As it already is for many marginalized cultures, the intentional community will become a survival imperative. 
  • How rigorously are we attending to the skills required to relate to ourselves and one another in this new context?
  • How must Black communities (and Black women in particular) evolve in our vision of ourselves to survive and thrive in this new context, considering our roles in our families and communities - especially in times of crisis?
Collectively, women of all cultures must also evolve in our understanding of the skills and practices required to build, sustain and evolve intentional communities – how to live. 

The conversation further evolved as Sohrob Nabatian (Kalliopeia Foundation), Sedoo Manu (Kalliopeia Foundation), and Elaine Patarini (Paicines Ranch Learning Center) joined Nikki and Noni to develop a 9 – 12 month cohort experience that would explore these themes and questions:
  • How do we live during this time? 
  • How does healing disconnection between the bodies of womxn and the body of the earth increase the relational skills necessary to navigate the complexity of community building?
  • What practices heal this disconnection between humans and the earth? 
  • What is the bi-directional flow between the bodies of womxn and the “body” of the earth?
  • What energy do we exchange?
  • What does that exchange transform in our relationship to the earth, our bodies, and the earth itself?
  • How does that transformation show up?
  • How does artistic expression contain the wisdom of relational practices in ways that will maintain throughout time?

The Invitation

Join a 9 – 12 month community of practice with a BIPOC majority, Black-centered group of womxn leaders.

Immerse yourself at Paicines Ranch, a regenerative farm and ranch close to Hollister, CA. 

Remember how to be together (“together” includes the land).

Document and be documented in this journey through audio and video modalities.

Explore three engagement tracks of community practice: shadow work, creative expression, and land ritual. 

Create maps to transform ourselves, each other, and the land.

Your Commitment

Participate in bi-weekly calls and activities between gatherings.

Cover the cost of traveling to and from Paicines Ranch for all three gatherings in California - September 13th - 16th, 2023; January 10th - 13th, 2024; March 6th - 9th, 2024.

Paicines Ranch Learning Center and the Kalliopeia Foundation generously donate facilitation, accommodations, meals, and all other expenses.

Community Practice: Shadow Work

This gathering investigates the relationship between radical personal responsibility, feminine power, histories of oppression, “Blackness,” and deliberate disorientation with our existing identity categories.

“In Jungian psychology, “shadow self” describes the unconscious parts of the personality that our conscious ego doesn't want to identify in itself. Individuals and systems can suppress (“not identify”) with what provokes our fear. What provokes our fear can become a prejudice and/or bias. When prejudices are accompanied by power, an exertion upon resource distribution is often found. Remaking resource distribution systems without also integrating our shadows does not work in the long term. Shadow work helps us identify blindspots and short-sightedness that may be interfering with effective relating, both internally and externally.”

~Vonda Vaden Bates, 10th Dot Transformations


As Black womxn: where in our lives have we had power and seen our shadows acting upon our behaviors in ways that impacted those we were responsible for? How can we engage this community of practice as an experience of radical attention to our shadows, an opportunity to work with the shadow of whiteness, of the United States, of colonialism? 

Attendees of this gathering will have experience in leadership positions and be prepared to investigate the complexities of power. How has your shadow work interacted with the conundrums involved with decision-making, resource management, and people management? Where have you felt your values being impacted by the destabilizing force of holding power in a pressured environment? How does a non-duality practice support us with holding power as individuals with histories of cultural oppression? 

Bayo Akomolafe’s work on Vunja has also deeply inspired our orientation toward shadow work.

"'Vunja' is a Swahili word that marks the site of strange ruptures but then invites celebration and dance with/in those cracks. You can think of 'Vunja' as breakdance - the dance that breaks and the breaks that instigate dances. In a profound sense, Vunja is what Blackness seeks: breakages, openings in the coherence and purity of the master, cracks in the veneer of confidence, rifts in the vast territorial 'body' of the Man. We believe these cracks are sites of excess where things spill over, and new forms of becoming together might be cultivated. Vunja is a political and spiritual technology for gathering together, assembling things in a queer way, for performing research.

Vunja attempt to go beyond modern categories and find other places of power.

With Vunja, we find a situated rhythm with no lyrics, something to move to, something to nod to and swing our hips to, something that brings down to earth (and into the cracks!) the atmospheric concepts of 'making sanctuary'."  


As Black womxn: What breakages are we seeking within ourselves? What gifts and strategies can we “materialize” together through radical disorientation of our established identities?  

These and other questions will inform the arc of our shadow journey together. We will break through and hold each other as we meet new versions of ourselves and co-create new self-conceptions that give us deeper access to our power. 

Community Practice: Land Ritual

There are more microorganisms in a teaspoon of soil than people on Earth. This inspiring abundance requires death, destruction, and countless losses to keep the life cycle flowing. Soil fertility reminds us that rapid, sometimes overwhelming, change is the essence of new life. It reminds us that creating nourishing conditions for the life cycle is how to stay grounded. 

Soil teaches the joy of sitting in a field surrounded by sheep, allowing the stillness to seep into our nervous systems. It reminds us to cultivate the ability to lose ourselves in moments of peace and ecstasy, to create the circumstance for those moments to occur whenever possible. 

For the last decade, the soil of Paicines Ranch has held the co-creator of this gathering, Nikki Silvestri, through wife and motherhood struggles, career changes, and personal revolution. Her invitation is to join her in the continued evolution of this land, allowing it to transform you as you transform it.

For us, “ritual” will emerge from our inner wisdom about making everyday acts sacred. It could be the shelling of peas together in a field. It could be silent walks over a stream, whispering our prayers into the flow. It could be contributing to the current flow of animals and microbes, supporting the land to clear blockages where they may exist, and supporting ourselves to clear energetic blockages where they may live. We may leave sculptural artifacts that continue the flow of energy and land resources after we depart that others can enjoy and to which others can contribute. We may enjoy a fermented beverage ritual in the vineyard ;). 

We will create together. 

Community Practice: Creative Expression

Theater is an invitation to play. To observe the self. Both the divine and the shadow. To wonder why we are the way we are and why we do the things we do. What are our rituals? What are our habits? What do we look like when we can’t see ourselves? 

When on retreat, we are invited to stop and take a view of our inner world, to prioritize self-reflection. The invitation to the theater space extends that internal reflection and makes it communal. 

Inspired by the work of Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed and Rainbow of Desires, we will create theater space together, using techniques of improvisational scene study, image sculpting and collective image building, forum theater, ritual gesture, “cops in the head” and other games from within the Boal praxis and beyond. 

We use theater to explore our relationships with ourselves and one another. We are witnessing our shadows and how we show up as oppressed and oppressors. We are engaging the soil and natural elements by bringing them to life as characters with which to play inside the sacred theater space. 

We will ask you to bring stories you want to explore. Circumstances with which you want to work out new outcomes. Situations where you’d like to explore the “why” of how something turned out or your role in both your victories and valleys. 

We will sing while we play. We will move our bodies while we play. We will spend time in silence while we play. We will listen to what spirit is saying while we play. We will open and close the space with prayer. With affirmations. With life-giving. With visions for the renewal of ourselves and the natural world, we are blessed to steward. 

Who is this for?

Individuals who identify as womxn and mothers (the x denoting inclusion of the spectrum of feminine-leaning individuals including gender non-binary/non-confirming). While this cohort experience cannot accommodate families and children traveling with you, we hope that continued expressions of this work will bring all of our loved ones together.

Individuals who identify as Black. This multicultural gathering will include other BIPOC folks and non-BIPOC/white-identifying womxn. Mothers who do not identify as Black will be invited directly, not through this application process. There will be caucus spaces for Black women, BIPOC women, and white women.

Womxn who have experience in leadership positions and are ready to confront the shadow of power, as referenced in the section on shadow work. 

Womxn who are in an era of their leadership and career journey that paying for travel, arranging care for children while you're gone, and the logistics required to be away from home do not represent a barrier to participation.

Womxn who have experience with personal development/therapeutic work. You've done enough personal work to have a good sense of your capacity to be emotionally intelligent in group processing. We will be going deep. We are looking for womxn who are confident in their ability to calibrate their vulnerability in a way that both honors themselves and honors the group.  


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You can read Nikki Silvestri's formal bio here. Her bio for this gathering includes her experience raising and managing millions of dollars and hiring/firing dozens of employees. Her expertise with difficult staff encounters, from being encircled by a staff team angry about a recent employee shift to terminating most of her team after a funding loss.
Her mental/emotional breakdown after discovering that she and her husband could not have biological children. Building a beautiful family and mid-six figures business anyway, through years-long fertility struggles and a pandemic. The thousands of dollars and nights of tears invested in marriage counseling, individual therapy, parenting coaching, and work on intergenerational trauma.
She is proud of her life pacing - she built a business at the speed of a healthy relationship with herself, her family, and her beloveds.

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You can read Noni Limar's formal bio here. Her bio for this gathering also includes her experience running an Arts and Culture Non-Profit organization working throughout South Los Angeles, managing an intersectional tight-knit team at a very young age. Founding a women's theater company that collaborated across the Diaspora and all the complex drama that came with being filmed for a docu-series while trying to connect cross-culturally. Working to keep her integrity and morals while working in the commercial industry for well over ten years. Being an OG and Creative Strategist in one of the largest civil rights movements of all time and dealing with all the interpersonal, internal, and very public scrutiny that came with that. Dealing with the ups and downs of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood after giving birth to four children naturally at home and nursing for over 11 years. Balancing working full time as a Creative Director and managing a production team for a large non-profit while homeschooling in collaboration with her husband.  

She is in the era of re-wiring programming that led her to chronic dissatisfaction, intense burnout, and mental and physical fatigue. For the last two years, she has been devoted to the purification of her soul and realignment with Allah, and she feels really great about it. 


If this cohort experience resonates with you, click on "work with us" and describe your interest when you fill out our intake form.

We will add you to a notification list for the next experience, as this year's applications are now closed.