Belonging, Connection, Creativity

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By Root Cuthbertson

I give gratitude for those who have gone before us, on whose shoulders we stand, who have held true to their visions, who have activated their hope, and continued walking a path of peace.  They inspire me, in these troubled times, to be courageous, to celebrate the many gifts we are given, and to strive to be truly helpful in creating a more connected world.  

Thank you for reading this!  I hope our hearts and minds will grow closer.  I write to you from northeastern Scotland, where the days have become long, the barley fields shimmer with green, and the temperatures soar into the 20s.  

Long ago, I’ve been told, we humans lived on this island differently than we do now.  Before the Romans named this place “Britannia,” we settled in villages, hamlets, and crofts.  Our culture was intact, and we lived within our means with a great appreciation for the natural world.  While we still suffered from disease and disaster, warfare and small-mindedness, we had a greater sense of connection.  We felt connected to our families and communities, our kith and our kin, all the flora and fauna who share these shores with us.  

Maybe, in recent times, you have felt disconnected?  Maybe you have begun to notice a lack of empathy, or even an apathy, prickling at the edges of your awareness?  Something you can almost see out of the corner of your eye?  A sense that business-as-usual may no longer be what’s most needed?  That the quick-fix solutions may not be the purported panacea for all of our ills?  I fear this feeling has become quite commonplace, as many of us have become more disenchanted and disheartened.  

Jon Young, the American tracker, author, and speaker, and the founder of the 8 Shields Institute has said that western society is “facing a great Connection challenge.” He points to research that children are more and more frequently diagnosed with maladies like Nature Deficit, Clinical Depression, or Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as an alarming increase in teen suicide rates.  Elders are frequently abandoned and alone, parents of young children are overburdened, midlife crises result from a loss of meaning despite “having it all.”  Young goes on to link our societal problems with our environmental ones.  We humans have created “means of production” which separate us from nature, and this disconnection results in more extinctions, more resource depletion, more toxic waste that we can’t seem to get far enough away from.  Too many fragile ecosystems have been unable to adapt to our rapid, heedless, heavy-handed progress.  

Nonetheless, Jon Young says, there’s hope.  Our neurobiology has evolved in connection with nature, and if we give it a chance, it can recalibrate.  Our senses can come alive again, as can our empathy, and we can learn how to re-Connect.  He recommends foundational development in nature, intergenerational transfer of skills, and the reestablishment of a regenerative culture based on nature connection.  He proposes a process of re-Connecting, both to humans and to nature, which he says can lead to culture repair.  According to this definition, we westerners haven’t experienced a healthy culture, whose primary function is to provide for Connection, for a very long time.  Instead we’ve accustomed to a disconnected business-as-usual, with little thought for what we may have lost, what might be missing.  

In 1983 Young began running experiments in connection, small anthropological studies, if you like.  These led him to further questions, and to elders who helped him develop a program.  By 1995, with a much larger team involved, the program had grown into a week-long summer camp called the Art of Mentoring.  These have continued to spark people’s imagination, catching and spreading internationally.  2011, 2013, and 2014 saw Art of Mentoring camps held in Scotland.  I myself attended the camp in California last year, and there are more scheduled for Devon (UK), Vermont (USA), Washington (USA), British Columbia (Canada), and New South Wales (Australia).  

So what is it like?  It’s a temporary village, gathered to re-learn healthy connective practices.  It has a kid’s program (or several) integrated with elders, and two or more simultaneous adult programs.  There’s sometimes a rite of passage for the teens, and evenings are spent around the fire listening to archetypal stories and singing soulfully heartbreaking songs with impossibly talented musicians.  There’s a wealth of time to connect with nature through wandering, tracking, resting and playing games, alongside sharing practical ancestral skills like weaving, cordage, basketry, knots, woodcarving, and reading the landscape.  There’s space to listen deeply to each other and to be asked questions which invite us to show up even more fully in our gifts and genius.  

The Art of Mentoring camp also provides an opportunity for our neurons, our sensory perceptors, to expand to their fullest capacity.  This can feel a little unusual for some.  When immersed in nature, our five physical senses begin to provide us with more information than we are used to handling, and it can be slightly overwhelming.  Additionally, our hearts can become quite full, and our sense of empathy can become quite large.  And these vibrant ways of perceiving can sometimes make our other mundane lives seem quite dull.  So be warned!  The Art of Mentoring camp can result in feeling more alive, more abundantly energetic, more loving, more able to focus, and more authentically helpful than you’ve ever felt in your entire life.  This can be a problem for continuing business-as-usual, and may result in dramatic life changes which lead to ever more connection.  If this sounds like just what you’ve been looking for, I recommend signing up for the camp nearest you!

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Jon Young himself will be presenting at the Art of Mentoring camp in Devon, UK.

July 23-29, 2017    http://ww.artofmentoring.life

California Art of Mentoring 7-13 August – http://8shields.org/events/art-of-mentoring/

British Columbia Art of Mentoring 21-27 Augusthttp://www.wisdomoftheearth.ca/art-of-mentoring-2017/

Video of an Art of Mentoring – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdHwSIkgnnU

Video of Jon young talking about Art of Mentoring – https://youtu.be/0yMiOW25pNU

The Art of Mentoring was created by Jon Young and the 8 Shields Institute, as part of their mission of creating nature connected communities worldwide. For more info visit – http://8shields.org/

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