What is a true adult?
Bill Plotkin, who has worked with the transition of youth into adulthood for many years, says that a true adult is someone who understands themselves as a member of the earth community; has had a revelatory experience of her/his place in this world; and embodies their unique place as a gift to their people.
One of the crises of the times we are living through is that true adulthood, what has been called “soulful psychological maturity,” is actually uncommon. Too often, people reach their adult years having missed the development into a fully human adult as nature has designed it. As a result, they may end up arrested adolescents at fifty, never maturing into the elders they were meant to become. They find themselves hindered in their contribution to their families and society. Relationships, child-rearing, education, business, politics, and even spiritual connection suffer the consequences.
We all know we are in a time of great transformation on this earth, a time of danger and opportunity.
Thomas Berry says that these times call for a “comprehensive change in consciousness.” The world desperately needs adults who are living from a place of connection, creativity, and inspired action. How do we get there? Few of us outside surviving healthy indigenous communities have personal involvement within a sustainable culture that has known the ways of nature-centered child-rearing, initiation, mentoring and eldership over generations. We don’t have the lived experience.
But we do have a vision.
And we are asking that we take on this vision as a community. No one of us can do this alone nor, one hamlet (local Sacred Fire Community), medicine path group, or even the volunteer leadership of our larger community organization. It is going to take a movement by all of us together. Hamlet by hamlet, individuals bringing themselves to their communities and working together to create a new way of living, one that reestablishes an ancient yet wise and practical perspective on living.
The world desperately needs adults who are living from a place of connection, creativity, and inspired action. How do we get there?
Nature has designed us to move through the cycles of our life development, supported at each stage by family and community. That way, we learn the lessons, meet the many challenges, and offer the gifts of each stage, which prepares us for the next. All too often in our modern world, the natural stages are interrupted, suppressed or hyper-charged, and we miss out on rich, soulful, nature-centered development.
Imagine living in a way where children have plenty of time and space for wonder and innocence, time to imaginatively play and explore nature. They are not pushed into growing beyond their years or experiencing trauma in their families that disturbs the very core of their being. Imagine adolescents who are well supported in exploring beyond the their family to investigate peer relationships, where they can begin to create an authentic social presence. Picture living in a way where young people receive powerful initiatory experiences and skillful mentoring, and adults have the juice of family, intimate relationship, friends, colleagues, and community to support their life purpose and to mature toward elderhood. Where older people are able to take their seat as leaders and vision-holders for the community, instead of being “put out to pasture” as too old to contribute any longer. Imagine a world where it’s normal for people to have meaning and purpose in their lives and feel at home in the world.
We call this way of living Life Cycle Living.
Life is cyclic. It’s unavoidable. That’s how the world works. And there are great benefits to understanding how to move with these cycles in a way that can dramatically improve our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Life Cycle Living is a way of synchronizing our being so that our energy, our growth, our connectedness, our entire being is moving with the seasons of nature. In this way, we are supported by life rather than fighting it.
The LifeWays programs that Sacred Fire has offered in the past have been a movement in this direction, and now we are broadening the context of this work so that we more fully explore how to live life day by day, season by season, life stage by life stage, to create a sustainable way of living that will allow our people to meet the crises of our time – and thrive.
We will need to discover and create this together. Many of us know it in our bones but our culture has not provided the “how” or the support to make it a reality.
In order to begin, Lifeways needs community involvement.
We are initiating three actions to get the ball rolling:
First, we are developing a short, introductory program, which Lifeways providers will bring to the hamlets to give people a place to open to this awareness and begin the deep contemplations and discussions that will make this a reality. This should spark interest and dialogue with the hamlets, and give rise to groups interested in exploring the aspects of a particular life cycle, and the overall cycle of life itself.
The cycles of nature are always present within and around us, but the cultural perspective in which most of us were brought up ignores that our lives also are cyclic.
Second, we are providing further training to the men and women who hold gender fires to incorporate an awareness of this Life Cycle Living perspective into what they do, so that they can hold a space at their fires where all the men and women of the community can get in on the conversation.
Finally, we will create a space for holding community forums focused on cycles of life and work with interested people throughout the larger community to bring the learning from their local hamlets and groups to the awareness of all the community.
In a recent conference call where Bill Plotkin spoke to a group of millennials, someone asked the question, “Where do healthy cultures come from?”
His answer was, “They come from what happens when a large percentage of the adults of the culture have had a profound initiation experience – and how they go on to create their lives and their work in community based on a deep connection with the wisdom of nature.”
We are going to need our young people to bring their dreams, and their passionate energy, their visions for the future. Adults – some who have had initiation through a healing path or other means – will need to offer their creativity, focus on family, leadership and accomplishment of meaningful work through inspired action. We need our older adults to offer their wisdom from a perspective of caring for the whole. And of course we will be inspired by the innocence and joy of the children. We all need to move into action together.
As I sit writing on February 2nd – the ancient festival day of Imbolc, or Candlemas – I’m aware of being halfway now between Winter Solstice and spring equinox, aware of the longer days, fronds of narcissus beginning to shoot up through the earth, a hawk calling in the distance. The cycles of nature are always present within and around us, but the cultural perspective in which most of us were brought up ignores that our lives also are cyclic.
The vision of Life Cycle Living will help us actualize a world…
…where we are deeply connected to the community of nature and humanity, where we are supported in growing and maturing naturally – throughout our lives – so that the web of life that spans generations is maintained and flourishes. In fact, it may be that creating communities in which we support each other in doing just this is what Nature is calling forth at this planetary moment in order for us to survive through to the 7th generation and beyond.
It’s a long game, but one that we all share a deep calling to embark upon.