Be careful what you wish for, says Landmark Graduate David Usner. It might come true. By any measure, David and his wife Pat were extremely successful people. They lived in a huge, beautiful house in Philadelphia where Pat was vice president of a prominent hospital. Eventually, she quit this job and became extremely successful as a private consultant.
Their passion, however, was far away, deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle. In 1989 they had made their first trip to the Ecuadorian part of the rain forest and were immediately enchanted. It’s a place where very few outsiders have ever visited. There are no phones, running water, electricity or any means of contacting the outside world. “There’s something otherworldly and primal about the rain forest,” says David. “Something vibrates in the jungle at the same rate as the core of who I am. Though I was clearly out of my element, somehow I had the sense of being home.” David and Pat returned the next year and became so connected to the native community that they became godparents to two children whose grandparents were powerful shamans.
A few years later, Pat attended a lecture on the Amazon, and by an amazing coincidence, the presenter showed slides of many of the people she had met there years earlier. Pat and David wanted to make a difference in that community and stayed in touch with the presenter, John Perkins, but there was no organization that any of them knew of that was working in that part of the world.
In 1996, Pat and David participated in Landmark’s Self-Expression and Leadership program, which reawakened their commitment to making a difference in the Amazon and discovering what kind of organization Pat could create to support the indigenous people—It became her project in the program. They returned to the Amazon for a third time. When they returned John Perkins put them in touch with the newly formed Pachamama Alliance, founded by Lynne Twist, whose mission was and is both to preserve the Earth’s tropical rainforests by empowering the indigenous people who are its natural custodians, and to contribute to the creation of a new global vision of equity and sustainability for all.
The Usners became contributors to the Pachamama Alliance, and wondered over the next couple of years how they could bring this message to the east coast where they lived. Pat had dreams of working for the Alliance, which clearly shared the same vision for the rain forest that they had, but it wasn’t until her 2004 participation in Landmark’s Power and Contribution Course that the opportunity to have this be her life’s work got pushed onto the front burner again.
A course participant forwarded Pat an email that said the Pachamama Alliance was looking for a Development Director. She applied without even seriously thinking she would move across the country to San Francisco to where Pachamama is headquartered; it seemed at the time that it was just an action she needed to take. One day, an hour before she happened to be going for San Francisco for her course, Pat received a phone call from Pachamama requesting an interview. She met with them in the next few days and they decided to hire her. The Usners suddenly realized their dreams were coming true. They gave up their successful careers, sold their huge house and moved to a small apartment in San Francisco, eventually ending up as caretakers of a home in Pacific Heights.
The Pachamama Alliance has flowered since Pat began to work for them. They work with seven communities of people that cover 5 million acres of the some of the most pristine and bio-diverse land on earth. They have provided funding for many capacity building tools, including airplanes (since there is no road access that deep in the jungle) radios, GPS mapping, and legal support in their stand against oil development. They have gotten 90% of the land titled to the indigenous peoples, and in a region where every square foot has been parceled out to oil companies for development, not one oil drill has hit the ground.
Meanwhile, David became a facilitator of the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, which represents the fulfillment of the Northern half of the Pachamama Alliance strategy: Bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet as the guiding principle of our time. Since its inception in 2005, nearly 8,000 people have gone through an Awakening the Dreamer symposium in 11 countries. More than 350 people are trained as facilitators of the symposium. People are stepping forward to bring it to other countries, translate it into different languages, adapt it for use in businesses, adapt it for young people in high schools and colleges, and forming alliances with other organizations to bring this to their constituents globally. The Awakening the Dreamer Initiative has become a self-generating phenomenon. Pat and David’s vision having the work of The Pachamama Alliance spread outside of San Francisco has clearly been fulfilled. There have been four major fund raising events in Boston and Philadelphia, both of which are now thriving Pachamama communities.
Pat and David have followed a huge dream on a winding path to fruition. Using what they learned through Landmark Education’s programs, they demonstrated the courage to overcome any obstacle in their desire to make a difference in the world.