In this initial stage, a deep commitment is made to the identification and unconditional acceptance of the emotional wounds participants have accumulated as by-products of traumatic or deeply painful experiences they have suffered over the course of their lives. Unconditional acceptance is an ideal rooted in its counterpart, unconditional love, and is dependent upon the recognition and acknowledgment that emotional scarring for one may be foreign to another and vice versa. For this reason, an expansive capacity for empathy must be cultivated as an order of the first priority

Many young participants come to the Project, having never been fully heard. Still, others find themselves trapped in a prison of unyielding emptiness and have not given a moment's consideration to the origins of their overwhelming sense of disconnectedness. Whatever the case may be, the responsibility of the program’s first healing principle begins in service as guides on the path toward freedom, in providing a safe and loving space to find the voice lost in a world of apathy, and in the provision of an authentic experience of communicating the darkness within. The principle of healing hearts is the foundation upon which the entire nine-month Radical Freedom Program is built.


What does the Healing Hearts principle look like in real terms, as participants enter the Crestone Freedom Project facility and commence their journey? The initial phase begins with Love & Acceptance Programming sessions, where each participant will be loved unconditionally and accepted as they are.  These sessions lead to Trauma Recall Writing and Radical Forgiveness classes. Here students begin the process of expressing themselves in written form. For those who find speaking in groups to be intimidating, writing can be a more private and contemplative form of acknowledging their deepest emotions. Papers produced in Trauma Recall classes will eventually be shared by participants in group settings to be processed and openly discussed.


At this stage, incoming residents are also introduced to a variety of healing modalities, which fit each individual‘s needs and preferences. Treatment schedules are tailored to best serve them in their recovery. Needs assessments are based upon a personal understanding of the student’s life, mental and emotional health, and the nature of their substance use disorder. Direct input from each new participant, regarding the balance of their treatment plan, is highly encouraged. The Project’s goal is to heal, not to force an agenda. If any part of the programming feels forced, the Radical Freedom Program loses its power and overall impulse toward complete and lasting freedom. This fact is particularly true of treatments used to aid in recovery from traumatic or painful life experiences.


It has been long understood by the experts that the manner in which an individual perceives their circumstances is primarily responsible for that individual's overall mental health. In turn, one's mental health has a significant impact on critical life choices – peer-group, education, career and etc. One's perception is the real difference between an expectation of poverty and one of wealth. Perception in one individual may be at the root of all faith and hope, while in another, being the cause of hopelessness, dread, and despair. What we perceive and believe, brings us to embrace subjective reality as objective truth.

​The perceptions we habituate are the most critical choices humans will make in the course of life. Unfortunately, almost all of them are made with little or no conscious awareness. The vast majority of lives are lived as a by-product of untended subconscious thought processes, which have been influenced by the negativity of ungoverned environmental signals. The solution is conscious awareness and the deliberate downloading of affirmative thoughts. It is with this understanding that the Radical Freedom Program™ dives into the "Changing Perceptions” principle. If unconscious and arbitrary thought-forms have created a failure of catastrophic proportions, the remedy can only be the changing of those thought-forms through conscious and deliberate action. 


The critical work of this phase opens and hinges upon mindfulness practice, skillfully introduced and mastered throughout the program, as a core element. The ancient mindfulness tradition of Vipassana meditation is organized and carried out by practitioners with years of experience. A rigid practice of this tradition effectuates a slow, yet certain peeling away of the many layers of perceptual slag. As a higher consciousness is revealed, darkness gives way to light, defeat surrenders to confidence, and hopelessness is consumed by a new vision of a more revealing truth – a truth about who and what the student is, at his or her core.

The Reverend Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith is widely known for the following life-affirming statement, echoed throughout our program at every level and held by all involved with this program to be an absolute truth: “I believe that you're great; that there is something magnificent about you. Regardless of what has happened to you in your life, regardless of how young or how old you think you might be, the moment you begin to think properly, there's something that is within you, there's power within you, that's greater than the world. It will begin to emerge. It will take over your life. It will feed you. It will clothe you. It will guide you, protect you, direct you, sustain your very existence ... if you let it. Now, that is what I know for sure!"

The changing of perception is a multifaceted undertaking, one that the Crestone Freedom Project will address using a wide array of tools. In addition to mindfulness practice, the Project will implement a program in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. Working with wild animals, in and of itself, requires a dramatic adaptation of attitudes and approaches. These necessary adaptations promote healthy mindsets of cooperation, teamwork, and success that replace old ones of manipulation, separateness, and certain failure.


During this phase, participants also begin to join the Project’s Community Work Program. By reaching out to the surrounding population in a positive way and receiving a positive reward in the form of praise for selfless service, perhaps for the very first time in their lives, those in treatment gain new ideas about themselves. Also, during this stage, participants begin to develop outdoor living and survival skills through the Project’s Earth and Wilderness Education program. Valuable certifications in real-world-applicable trades are made available through Career Development & Reintegration Programming.


The deep healing brought about by a loving and connected environment leads to an ability to open to new thoughts, new concepts, and more evolved paradigms. These changes make it possible for students to enter the final phase of treatment, where they will create and set in motion a new and specific vision for themselves that is destined for manifestation.


Helen Keller once stated, "The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." Benjamin Franklin likewise said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." The final portion of the Radical Freedom Program™ is categorized as “Revisioning Lives.” It is during this final phase that participants end their history of wandering blindly through lives with no guiding vision, bumping into every possible obstacle, and tripping over the same revolving cycles of self-sabotaging behavior patterns. For possibly the first time, the participant will encounter their own desires. It is here that life ceases to happen by accident!

Wherever one happens to find themself, however pleasant or miserable, they have arrived there because of the thoughts they have entertained. What we think about, we bring about. There is no way to avoiding it, but there is a way of becoming its master. The answer is conscious awareness or awareness of consciousness. The problem with an unguarded mind is that it is predisposed to the pursuit of random messages incoming from the environment. This is the basic human condition, and because it describes just about everyone, life commonly chooses an individual when they are very young before they have the opportunity to choose for themselves. In this final phase of the Radical Freedom Program, participants confront the mind through the use of methodically direct and deliberate elements. The Program quite literally takes control of the flow of incoming information, rewrites the old script, against which the ego has propped itself for years, and calls upon the laws of nature to manifest a new reality – one the student may have never dared to dream before.


The Project equips each client with tools that provide them with the necessary skills for making better life choices. Stage three begins with an introduction to Dewayne Vanderford's unique and powerfully effective Vision Journaling™ technique, developed and tested by him and his students over the last six-plus years. During Vision Journaling, each individual will explore new altitudes of higher consciousness and begin to uncover their true will and purpose. As the process of daily visioning and journaling commences, details are added to each participant's developing vision, during one-on-one counseling and peer-group sessions.


The technique combines writing, visualization, affirmation, mindfulness, and high-conversation into a single fluid action that is hyper-focused on one thing, the creation of a new life, chosen deliberately, under the influence of the rarely-accessed superconscious mind. Vision Journaling helps students conceive of real solutions, map a route to it, and play a mentally recorded video of themselves attaining it. The process plays itself out on a daily loop. It is as simple as that, and it works!


Finally, at the conclusion of stage three, seven and a half months into the program, Project participants will find themselves faced with their greatest challenge yet – the Forty-Day Wilderness Experience, conclusion project, known as a Yaumny Quest™. After having been equipped with an arsenal of resources and working to perfect them under direct supervision, candidates for graduation will pack a rucksack and, along with their wilderness program facilitator, head deep into the Sangre de Cristo or San Juan mountains for forty days. There, among the fourteen-thousand-foot peaks, participants encounter the content of what they have learned and what it means to practice under one’s own initiative. The combined effect of a connection with nature and self-reliance is a powerful one.

A sudden shift of environment brings into sharp focus the occurrence of dramatic changes that have gradually taken shape in each student. Their individual growth becomes evident, and in the silence, a clear vision for a new life begins to solidify and become the new reality. A knowing of their true nature has risen. It has emerged to reveal itself. It is here in the isolation of pristine wilderness environments that a final “YES” may be breathed into the heart of those who now seek lasting freedom. The wilderness provides a space where the final decision to permanently and progressively evolve may spontaneously occur.