The Spectrum of Human Possibility: A Day with Weaving Earth
“If you found yourself in front of a respected elder, and only had one question to ask, what would that question be?”
The question lingered in the air enigmatically as those huddled around the campfire paused to contemplate it. The entire scene, in fact—the crackling fire, the 20 some illuminated faces of those surrounding it, and the vast starry sky above—felt like something of an enigma, profound and deep and so out of the ordinary.
Despite the novelty, this scene, with its depth of conversation, crackling fire and expansive sky, is quite typical for this constellation of humans. The people huddled around the fire are participants of the Weaving Earth Immersion.
From their website: “The Weaving Earth Center for Relational Education fosters a learning environment that is inspired by contemporary insights and grounded in ancestral wisdom. Guided by nature, we endeavor to draw out the vital contributions we each have to make to the great work before us.” Located in Sonoma County, CA, Weaving Earth hosts programs and workshop for adults, children and teens in nature connection, applied permaculture, ancestral skills, community building and honoring life’s transitions. The heart of the organization is their nine-month adult immersion program, which meets for three days every week. The days are full of shared meals, intentional time for connecting with nature, workshops, training and reflection time and their nights are full of storytelling, music and camping on the land.
There is also a children’s program that runs parallel to the adult program. While the children have their own program, it is clear that the two are closely interwoven. The morning I joined Weaving Earth, the kids were literally running circles around the adults, choosing whose back to jump on and who would be the next victim for their riddles. It reminded me of that cliché but all-too-true aphorism that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, here it is, a whole village of loving adults, present for the upbringing of a few children.
The value Weaving Earth places on community hints at something larger and more vital to their philosophy: connection. They are founded on the premise that, for most of their existence, humans have lived in tight knit villages and in deep connection to the Earth. The break in that pattern is the root of many larger issues today. “When I look at the world, I see evidence again and again that we are in a profound disconnective state”, says Sam Edmondson, a former participant of the WE immersion and current staff member. “The disconnected state is shown by the way we are plundering resources that we all depend on, and is actually jeopardizing the future of life on the planet. (…)The root of the problem to me is that separation, and that is where we have to go, directly addressing that separation.”
Weaving Earth addresses the need to reweave those severed threads of connection by supporting its participants to cultivate deep and embodied relationships with themselves, others and the more-than-human world.
This is such a vastly different approach to global issues than that taken by almost any organization I can think of. Weaving Earth acknowledges that the notion that humans are separate from nature is actually a paradigm and not a fact. We have, in fact, for most of human history lived in profound connection to the natural world; it is something that is literally stitched into our DNA. But, through a series of developments including agriculture, colonialism, genocide perpetrated against indigenous people, slavery and the Industrial Revolution, humans started to extract themselves from that belonging in nature and oriented towards extractive and dominating relationships. Weaving Earth acknowledges that living in that paradigm is what has enabled us to start acting so destructively towards the Earth, and is working to shift that paradigm.
The program is deeply grounded in nature connection, which is often a launching point for fostering deep connections in other arenas. One of the foundational tools Weaving Earth uses to cultivating a relationship with the natural world is perhaps the simplest, which is a sit spot. “It is simple: it is finding a place close to where you live, it could be out your front door or the park down the street, and making it a daily practice to go and sit in that one spot to build a relationship with what is there and to see how it changes over the course of the seasons”, explains Edmondson. “That builds a really powerful ecological awareness.”
Fostering a deep ecological awareness naturally spills into self-discovery. “It often brings up a lot on a personal level. For me, it has become a sanctuary. I go to my sit spot when I am feeling overwhelmed by the world and it is an anchor point for me to breathe and relax and quiet my mind. It has helped me again and again to see what is the right next step in my life.”
This self-discovery, or inner tracking, is another major aspect of Weaving Earth’s programs. Inner tracking is learning to read one’s inner landscape—our emotions, our relationships, our past, the arc of our journey—like reading the land when tracking, learning to interpret its shape, imprints and movements. Becoming in touch with one’s own story is essential to the heartfelt response Weaving Earth imagines for the world today. “People come into the world with a purpose, a set of gifts (but) we don’t necessarily know what that is. In the modern experience, I don’t think that we live in a society that does a good job of pulling those unique gifts out of people. What (Weaving Earth) is doing is to put people in touch with that sense of: ‘What is the thing that I came here on this planet to do?’ We are encouraging people to look for that gift and give it. And, when we do that, the world can only become a better place.”
While participants in the Weaving Earth Immersion program are learning to tend their inner landscape, they are also learning to tend the outer landscape of the earth. Training in applied permaculture is a key aspect of the program. “Permaculture is a world view that is the exact opposite of the dominant one we are living in: a paradigm of extraction and unlimited growth in which certain people and ecosystems have become expendable. Permaculture is the orientation that resources can stay where they are so that there is a self-renewing health and fertility.”
Participants also receive training in tracking and ancestral skills. These skills both foster a sense of connection to nature, but also one’s self. “To go out and harvest the materials to make a fire and then to build that fire is such a profoundly empowering and transformative experience for people.” It helps in building inner resilience, confidence and a deep sense of safety.
The impacts of such a practice are profound. “We as human beings exist on a spectrum of possibility. There is the spectrum that goes from cooperation to competition. The competitive side of things, the domination side of things is what has been emphasized in the last couple thousand years. But that is not necessarily who we are. There are lots of examples of culture and powerful Indigenous wisdom that shows other possibilities. Weaving Earth is really about investigating those other possibilities and looking at what a strongly Earth connected orientation can be (…) so that we come back to a sense of interrelationships and start to make different decisions about the world.”
I cannot say again how important this work is, of remembering that full spectrum of our possibility. Gratitude to my many friends over at Weaving Earth, for reminding us of that spectrum and inviting us to orient towards connection.