Weaving Earth has been profoundly influenced and shaped by many people. WE have deep love, gratitude and respect for the elders, mentors, teachers and lineages that have helped to draw out our gifts and give us the tools, inspiration and modeling to bring our work and vision forward in the world. And as always, we give thanks to the greatest mentor and teacher of all, the wild and resilient planet we call home.
We respectfully acknowledge that our lives and work are carried out on territories of the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo (the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria). We recognize the long history of colonization that continues to unfold here, and add our efforts to the many others who wish to see this legacy of destruction replaced by one of right relationship.
A full description of our influences and lineage is too broad a picture to paint here. If we think of Weaving Earth as a watershed, what follows are the headwaters and some of the main tributaries. The lineage story that follows is organized in relationship to the core curriculum we offer.
DEEP NATURE CONNECTION and MENTORING
Humans and nature are part of an inseparable whole. By connecting deeply to our place in the natural world, we remember our ultimate belonging and awaken our vision and unique genius.
The ongoing health of community and ecology depends on cultural elements that deeply connect members of every generation to self, others and place.
Lauren, Dave and Will, Weaving Earth’s co-founders, were all involved—first as participants, then as facilitators—in the Regenerative Design and Nature Awareness (RDNA) program at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, CA. The RDNA program, co-founded by Jon Young, Nicole Young, Penny Livingston and James Stark, brought together the teachings of deep nature connection and permaculture (regenerative design) into one immersive experience. The many facets of the RDNA program have been very influential upon WE as an organization. We begin by identifying the work of Jon Young, a gifted mentor and naturalist whose work on bird language, holistic tracking, regenerative community design, the art of mentoring and other core routines of deep nature connection has influenced tens of thousands of people, perhaps more. Jon currently heads up the 8 Shields Institute.
In 1995, Jon taught the first Art of Mentoring gathering for adults. In the years since, Art of Mentoring has grown into a worldwide event, stoking the fires of creativity, community and connection in multiple countries around the world. Lauren, Dave and Will have been integrally involved in the California Art of Mentoring for the last decade, through which they have had the good fortune to meet and learn from Mark Morey. Mark founded the Vermont Wilderness School (among other organizations) and has been a leader in earth-based learning for decades. His visionary approach to connection practices continues to inspire. www.ifnaturallearning.com
The deep nature connection aspect of Weaving Earth programs includes exploration of bird language, animal and landscape tracking, survival skills, plant knowledge and many other nature skills, games and awareness-building practices. The skills and awarenesses themselves are only part of the story—we are also deeply committed to passing the teachings and skills on to others. This is where mentoring comes in. This bundle of teachings has been and continues to be shaped by Jon’s work in the world, for which we are deeply grateful. Nicole Young, a co-founder of RDNA, as well as Ned Conwell and Ruby Head, the first staff facilitators of the program, have also played major roles in the unfolding commitment and learning journey related to deep nature connection and mentoring that Dave, Lauren and Will embarked upon when they joined RDNA as participants.
Jon’s impact on Weaving Earth has been significant, as has been the influence of his teachers. For most of his adolescence and teen years, Jon was mentored by Tom Brown, Jr., the founder of the Tracker School (Jon was the first instructor at the school). Tom mentored Jon, a budding naturalist, in the arts of nature awareness and respect for the Earth that he had received from his own mentor, Stalking Wolf. Later in his life, Jon encountered British-born Norman “Ingwe” Powell, who was mentored from a young age in Kenya by the Akamba people. Ingwe’s experience and teachings further shaped Jon’s journey, and together, they founded the Wilderness Awareness School in 1984, with the intention of bringing nature awareness and ancient, reciprocal ways of relating to the earth into the modern experience. Countless other teachers and allies who have powerfully influenced our work at Weaving Earth have come through Jon and the Wilderness Awareness School — too many to mention here, but we are grateful for them all none-the-less.
APPLIED PERMACULTURE and TENDING THE WILD
As humans, we have shaped and been shaped by our environments since the beginning. Now, as natural systems face increasing stress, we must ask: do our efforts follow nature’s wisdom or defy it? Permaculture guides our response towards the health of the whole.
Vitality arises out of our direct, reciprocal relationship with the “wild” landscape. As we tend to the health of the ecosystem and wisely gather food, medicine and tools, people and place are both incomparably enriched.
RDNA co-founders Penny Livingston and James Stark, permaculture designers and visionary ecological thinkers, both have had a huge influence on Weaving Earth and our approach to teaching permaculture and to interacting with wild resources. For those unfamiliar with the term, “permaculture” is a design science (and worldview) that seeks to create human systems and settlements that are as resilient, adaptive, healthy and beautiful as intact natural ecosystems.
Penny and James are co-founders of the Regenerative Design Institute (RDI) in Bolinas. RDI is home to Commonweal Garden, a beautiful 17-acre permaculture property directly adjacent to the Point Reyes National Seashore. Their restoration of the Commonweal Garden site was rooted in lessons learned from the regeneration of their long-time home in Pt. Reyes Station, known now as the Permaculture Institute of Northern California (PINC)—a property that Lauren and Dave lived on and tended for many years.
RDI was home to the RDNA program—co-founded by Jon and Nicole Young, Penny Livingston and James Stark—for 8 years. The Weaving Earth Immersion evolved out of RDNA. RDI continues to offer a range of wonderful classes in permaculture and regenerative design, personal ecology, leadership, tracking and more. www.regenerativedesign.org/
We are deeply indebted to Penny, James, the Regenerative Design Institute, and all of the years of work and play that transpired there. Weaving Earth wouldn’t be what it is without the wisdom gleaned from those years.
Because permaculture invites us to work with rather than against nature, it is critical that we know intimately how nature works. The practices of deep nature connection are invaluable in building this awareness—a life-long practice—as is the direct relationship to ecosystems and their inhabitants that we can cultivate through tending the wild. In this regard, our story now moves to another dear mentor, auntie and elder, Jeanette Acosta, an indigenous permaculture teacher, activist, musician and ceremonial leader whose deep connections to place and specifically to the maritime culture of her people have inspired WE staff and participants time and again. We are grateful to Jeanette for her deep work in the world, her friendship and guidance, and the love and generosity with which she shares her teachings.
PEACEMAKING and INNER TRACKING
Healthy relationships are at the foundation of regenerative culture. Weaving Earth works with traditional Peacemaking practices to empower self-awareness, deep listening and the capacity to think and act like a circle.
Just as we can read animal tracks on the forest floor, so too can we track movements within our internal landscape—of behaviors, judgments, dreams and longings. Our ability to see the dance of light and shadow within calls forth our wholeness and gifts.
The practice of Peacemaking comes to us from multiple related paths.
JAKE AND JUDY SWAMP
The late Jake Swamp, a Wolf Clan sub-chief of the Mohawk nation and founder of the Tree of Peace Society, and his wife Judy Swamp had a profound influence on Jon Young. Many pillars of our community practices today are born of the direct influence of Jake, Judy and the example of peaceful governance modeled by the Iroquois Confederacy, including the importance of gratitude. The expression of gratitude is pan-cultural, but the Iroquois Confederacy custom of offering Thanksgiving—the words that come before all else—has had a particularly strong influence on our practice of beginning and ending our gatherings and circles with gratitude for life. Gratitude is indeed one of the primary and most potent tools for fostering peace and harmony within and between individuals and communities.
We are also deeply grateful to our beloved friend, uncle and elder Paul Raphael, an Odawa Peacemaker who graciously visits our community every year to share his ancestral practices of fostering peace, finding and offering our finest words and building unity so that we may each walk in a good way. Paul and Lauren co-facilitate the annual Peacemaking in Practice event during the fall. In addition to practical applications of Peacemaking, Paul has been a great teacher of community resilience and cultural competency. We are forever grateful to him and his entire community for so generously supporting and guiding us.
Inner tracking—a multifaceted process of examining our personal ecology—is a critical skill. We are thankful to RDNA co-founder James Stark for all of the insights, teachings and tools that he learned via his studies at the University of Santa Monica’s programs in Spiritual Psychology. He has truly been a pioneer in applying the skills of tracking the outer landscape to our inner ecologies.
HOLISTIC LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNITY RESILIENCY and CONNECTION TO CREATIVITY
Our current era requires leadership that is born out of the maturation of the human spirit. Such leadership must be rooted in interrelationship, fueled by creative collaboration, and considerate of the health and well-being of many generations to come. Community resilience emerges when leadership is sourced out of respect for the whole.
Creativity is far more than our capacity to make art. It is the key to solving today’s problems with different worldviews than the ones that generated them. When we open a channel for inspiration to move through us, unhindered, emergent solutions and innovations are born.
RITES OF INITIATION
For much of his adult life, Will Scott has been a guide for the School of Lost Borders, an organization founded by Steven Foster and Meredith Little in the 1970s with the mission to bring wilderness-based rites of initiation to our modern society. Will and Weaving Earth have been deeply impacted by the simple yet very profound work of the School and the good work of those who have carried it for many years. Included in the ripples of Lost Borders are Beau and James Shipman, who have dedicated themselves to offering wilderness-based initiations for teenagers for the last 35 years. Both Beau and James were trained in the approach used by Steven Foster and Meredith Little, and the two of them were the first mentors to both Dave and Lauren in the work of honoring transitions, long before Weaving Earth was born. This practice of honoring transitions is ancient wisdom that has sadly been lost in modern times—not altogether, of course, but it is increasingly rare to find the community know-how needed to honor life’s transitions in meaningful ways. To do so is to revive the threads that weave healthy, intergenerational community, and Lost Borders has played a critical role in this awakening for all of us at WE and far beyond.
While training at Lost Borders, Will met Gigi Coyle and her husband Win Phelps. This meeting led to a long and life-changing mentoring relationship, which was solidified when Will joined Gigi, Win and six others on a 9-month international pilgrimage called Beyond Boundaries. The Beyond Boundaries journey sought to bear witness to, offer support for, and cross-pollinate with projects and communities that are making strides towards creating a healthier human presence on the planet. The ripples of the pilgrimage have carried on long after its completion, and the ongoing direct support and guidance of Gigi and Win continues to have a profound effect on all at Weaving Earth. At the forefront of this influence is Gigi’s connection to the Ojai Foundation and her mentorship in the ways of council (check out her book The Way Of Council), which has become a foundational practice at Weaving Earth, reminding us how to think and act like a circle, with and among our human and more-than-human relations.
Council and understanding the importance of honoring significant life transitions are two examples of practices that have the capacity to enliven individual leadership and support community resiliency. We must offer another nod here to Paul Raphael, whose teachings have been invaluable in this realm. He has shared a great deal of his personal and community observations regarding the states of being and feeling that are exemplified when life transitions are honored, as well as when they’re not.
RECIPROCAL RELATIONSHIP ACROSS DIFFERENCE
Community resiliency and individual leadership are also rooted in the absolutely essential skill of connecting across difference. The social and political landscape of the modern world is fraught with prejudice, power dynamics and priority given to individuals who are considered the norm or standard by mainstream culture and the institutions that reflect that culture.
We recognize that we are all influenced in conscious and unconscious ways by the power of these institutionalized systems and the structures that give priority and privilege to some but not others. Regardless of where we fall within these power and privilege dynamics, we believe that collective liberation is dependent upon collective participation in challenging the status quo by calling in with love and creativity a world that grants every single person their sovereignty and dignity. True relational learning necessitates a willingness to build awareness and take responsible action in this realm. We are tremendously thankful to KayLynn Sullivan Two Trees and Matt Kolan, whose commitment to illuminating the nuances of these issues is humbling, challenging, and undeniably inspiring. As individuals and an organization, Weaving Earth is committed to engaging with this work and learning along the way how best we can contribute to the collective liberation of all beings.
GRIEF AND RELATIONSHIP
Equally important for individual and community resiliency are tools that build capacity to work well with both grief and relationship. We are grateful beyond words for our dear friend and teacher Sobonfu Some, whose deep wisdom in these matters has been both stirring and beautifully challenging to the paradigm that many we know were raised within. Her experiential workshops on tending to grief and honoring relationship are always provocative, joyful and moving—full of tears and laughter. And again, we offer big gratitude to Paul Rafael and Jeanette Acosta for the countless ways they have supported us with community tending practices related to these two topics.
ECSTATIC MYTH AND THE WILDERNESS
A number of years ago, the WE team was fortunate to meet Martin Shaw, an acclaimed storyteller, author, scholar of myth and wilderness guide. His passion for oral tradition and his work at the intersection of the modern and the ancient has been deeply inspiring and has offered myth as a big container within which to hold our personal stories of initiation on the land.
Our paths crossed thanks to Lisa Doron, a former participant of the RDNA program and a passionate artist, story-carrier and anchor for Weaving Earth. Together, Lisa and Martin created a School of Myth in Marin County, modeled after Martin’s work in the United Kingdom. The gifts of myth have woven their way into our work of honoring transitions and have solidified our commitment to oral storytelling as a much-needed form of creative expression in the modern era.
A final, ongoing bow of gratitude is extended to Joanna Macy—a true elder and guide in these times. Her contributions through The Work That Reconnects have provided an essential framework and orientation for the foundations of our work at Weaving Earth. Her visits to and support for Weaving Earth have inspired many to face the hard realities of life on Earth at this time—a necessary reckoning if we are to truly foster lasting change and walk forward with eyes that can see clearly the opportunities before us, as well as the creativity needed to engage with them.