Timberlake Earth Sanctuary is 165-acre nature preserve, ceremonial gathering space, center for education and spiritual retreat center overlooking Lake Mackintosh in Guilford County, North Carolina and has been home to the Toben family for 50 years. This powerful land has been a heart-hub of community and eco-spirituality for nearly two decades.
Timberlake Earth Sanctuary was founded on the premise that loving Earth can heal our world; cultivating a relationship with Earth is our doorway to recovering a sense of the Sacred and to realizing Oneness.
Our purpose and mission is to heal the wound of separation by returning to the heart of Nature, listening to the teachings of Mother Earth, cultivating a context of belonging, and nurturing and restoring the health of our relationships to each other and to Earth.
We strive to live from the highest ideals of:
Unconditional Love, the practice of compassionate awareness, deep seeing, and acceptance of others’ beliefs, values, culture and lifestyle. Unity, the practice of placing oneself in a wider perceptual context, feeling oneness with all living beings and viewing them as part of the whole. Integrity, the practice of conscious choice with oneself and all beings – in thought, word and deed. Transparency, the practice of open and honest communication, helping to break down barriers of the heart that stand in the way of our union.
Timberlake Earth Sanctuary is a place of wild beauty graced with sunlit meadows, shimmering ponds, and woodlands of tulip poplar, dogwood, oak, and pine. The land is encircled by Lake Mackintosh, held and protected by the waters. Veins of trails and bridges covered with moss and quartz, create a mystical passage through the thickets of the woods. Hidden sacred spaces for rest and contemplation abound throughout. Lose yourself in the sounds of nature – the humming of cicadas, birds and bees. It is here where mists rise off ponds in the early morning, where one can witness the majestic flight of a blue heron overhead, and where barred owls can be heard speaking through the night. This is home to our brothers and sisters… hawk, deer, squirrel, raccoon, and many other wild ones who make unexpected appearances. This is a place where the natural world inspires creativity, evokes wonder, and fosters healing of body, mind, and spirit.
Purchased in 1967 by Boyd and Carolyn Toben, the land became a source of life for their family of three sons as they cleared fields, put up fences, remodeled the old farmhouse, and learned to care for and respect the Earth. Over time, Timberlake Farm, as it was called, became a place of deep love for the Earth and of honoring the sacred. During the last 13 years of his life, Boyd Toben created a trail system with walking paths, bridges, and overlooks. After his passing in 1999, the land was placed into an easement with the Conservation Trust of North Carolina and the name changed to Timberlake Farm Earth Sanctuary. The following year the land became home to the Center for Education, Imagination, and the Natural World where children and teachers learned to fall in love with the earth. The Toben family has now opened the land to groups and individuals seeking the healing and sustaining presence of the natural world for renewal of body, mind, and spirit.
“Always see people with vision, not judgment.”
Carolyn Toben is a spiritual teacher, educator, counselor and creator of new social forms with a spiritual dimension that foster cultural renewal. Her background includes degrees from the University of North Carolina Greensboro (Phi Beta Kappa), extensive postgraduate studies in spirituality, world religions, and depth psychology, and teaching in both secondary and college settings with an emphasis on alternative and interdisciplinary education. In 2000, Carolyn founded what is now the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World, which offers children and teachers a new understanding of the human-earth relationship. This work was inspired by renowned priest, author and cultural historian, Thomas Berry, whom Carolyn spent many hours with engaged in deep discussions about his foundational thinking on the human-earth-Divine relationship. A grandmother of nine, she currently creates programs, retreats and events for individuals and groups seeking spiritual renewal and reconnection with the natural world here at Timberlake Earth Sanctuary.
In 2012 Carolyn published Recovering A Sense of the Sacred: Conversations with Thomas Berry, a thoughtful and poignant memoir recounting her own spiritual journey with Thomas Berry and based on her personal notes, practices and reflections from her conversations with him.
“This book is an exquisite gift for those of us familiar with Thomas Berry’s writings and for those still new to his work. For here we meet the man himself in the context of an evolving relationship where, in different settings and moments over the last decade of his life, he shares his vision of a living universe and the immensity of meanings it holds for him. And here, in between their conversations, Carolyn Toben explores how his message is altering her own perceptions of the natural world and of herself. Their warm-hearted companionship invites us in as well, to come alive to the creative mutuality at the heart of all that is.”
— Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self
Our team is committed to creating an accessible and safe space for people of all walks of life – culture, race, gender, sexuality, and faith – the entire visible light spectrum of humanity! We celebrate what makes us different, what makes us whole, and recognize the divine light at the core of every being. We are One Earth family and our responsibility is to live and align our work to the highest ideals of truth, unity, peace, and love. We treat every living presence with dignity and respect. We welcome you here as a part of our family.