Seattle Yoga News interviews India Supera of the Feathered Pipe Foundation. The Feather Pipe Foundation is a retreat center that hosts an unlikely convergence of avant-gardists, artists, industrialists, seekers, and teachers who somehow come together to create, nourish, and draw wisdom from sacred land near the Continental Divide in central Montana. The foundation was created over 40 years ago in 1975. Over 10,000 people have studied with some of the greatest teachers of our time at the Feathered Pipe workshops.
In the mid-sixties as a free-spirited, young woman, India Supera hitchhiked across the country to New York, took a flight to Europe and after many strange and unexpected adventures ended up in India. Her wandering eventually brought her to Satya Sai Baba’s ashram (monastery) where she would spend many years and befriend Jermain (Jerry) Duncan, who would buy the Feathered Pipe Ranch. Jerry had dreams of starting a conscious living center to foster the next generation of leaders but was soon diagnosed with terminal cancer.
India, who had come back from India to have medical treatment, stayed on at Jerry’s request to care for her through the final days. On her death, Jerry bequeathed the Ranch to India. At the time, India intended to sell the land and give the money away, but was encouraged by Sai Baba upon her return to India returned to Montana with a mission.
In June of 1972, India returned home from India. With her friends, Liam O’Gallagher and Bob Rheem living just up the hill at Sky Farm, she launched, with a bunch of “just crazy enough” friends, what is known today as the Feathered Pipe Foundation.
The full history is all on the Feathered Pipe Foundation website.
Get to know India Supera in the interview below.
#1 How has the retreat center evolved since your inception of the ranch?
In many ways it hasn’t evolved, the vision that came to us was about the evolution of consciousness, and that has remained our goal. All our work has been perfecting this original vision.
#2 What can an individual expect when they commit to a Feathered Pipe Foundation retreat?
People can expect to have their mind, body and spirit in an aligned place. Everything that’s offered at the ranch – the teachers, delicious whole food, the pristine environment surrounded by 100,000 acres of national preserve all contribute to the experience. You are 15 minutes from town and you could spend 15 hours hiking in the wilderness and never see another body.
Several years ago a student went walking in the woods and got disoriented. It was a warm night, she had a jacket on. We didn’t know until morning that she wasn’t in – she did not show up for breakfast. Then my neighbors brought her down. She was always very close by but did not think to hike to the ridge where she would have seen the ranch immediately. She was a little shaken and cold so she and I got in the hot tub together and we talked about vision and vision quests and when we got done she felt like she had been on an honest-to-God vision quest. I think her inability to find herself that night was a gift from spirit – she had to stay and do her vision quest. The remarkable thing about this woman was that she knew what had happened and valued it. She had registered to take a raft trip and after our hot tub she jumped up and headed out in absolute ecstasy about her experience.
#3 People come from all walks of life to the Feathered Pipe Ranch. What is one bit of advice you can give to attendees to ensure they make the most of their experience at the Ranch?
Leave your computer at home and come without expectations so that you can receive what is here for you. An experience at the Feathered Pipe experience wakes you up. We mostly go through life asleep. When you are nourished your body with good food – you are taken care of. When you’re in a safe and pristine environment – you can awaken your own truth.
One time, a client was sitting outdoors at a picnic table and a deer came up and licked his face. The deer never lick anyone’s face or even go near people. The unique experience thrilled the man.
#4 What sets Feathered Pipe apart from other retreat centers and programs?
We offer one program at a time in one of the most beautiful, accessible to all (you can even limp in) places in the world. We are always focused on the educational part of our programs, making our curriculum impactful and life changing.
We have never been guru oriented; you don’t have to be a devotee of anybody to study here. You don’t have to be into Indian philosophy to study yoga here. We were the first yoga center in the US that did not focus on a guru.
#5 How can yoga teachers come host a retreat at Feathered Pipe?
Yoga teachers can contact us and we have a discussion about teacher fees, number of students, etc. We do some promotion for teachers; we handle registrations and all logistics. They have to be able to draw sufficient students. Teachers can also rent the whole place and do their own registrations. We are always looking for great teachers and sometimes we invite them.
Have any renowned yoga teachers held retreats at your center?
Many well known teachers have held retreats at our center, such as: Rodney Yee, Erich Schiffmann, Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, Dr. Andrew Weil, Baron Baptiste, Lilias Folan, Patricia Walden, Judith Hanson Lasater, John Schumacher, Jason Crandell, Marla Apt, Baxter Bell, George Purvis, Mary Dunn, Seane Corn, Brant Secunda, Ramand Patel, Manuso Manos, and many more.
#6 Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s been the most lovely experience of a lifetime to be able to build my work and my life around the foundation and all the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet. It’s been my right livelihood. In my forty years whenever I meet someone who’s been to the ranch they always tell me some kind of deep story about their experiences here.
The ranch has been run for the development of people’s consciousness. The ranch is still doing the specific thing that it always did. We have sort of come full circle with our new “Mindful Unplug” initiative. When we first started the ranch, we didn’t have phones or TV – we had the last pay phone in Montana up here – it’s always been a place to unplug.
The original vision of what the Feathered Pipe Ranch was meant to be – a place for people to find direction – is still the center of energy here. I don’t think it’s changed a bit. And, we feel that we have succeeded tremendously. When we started, in 1975, we were the first yoga retreat in Montana and one of the first in the country. We provided the venue for dozens of the finest yoga teachers and from those classes with the greats
many, many students left here to start their own studios and retreat centers. Our biggest source of students has always been our yoga teachers telling people about the Ranch.
We have been a big part of the spread of yoga across the US. Up until very recently, every yoga studio in the country was one degree of separation away from us. At a recent Yoga Journal conference four years ago in New York, I found that was still true.
Teachers who started at the ranch were still teaching, were still effective. We were still having a big impact – most of the panels were made up of people who had studied and/or taught here. In a room of 200, 10 of them started their work at the UN because of consciousness raising experiences at the ranch. Even for me that was mind-blowing.
The core of our mission has not changed.
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