What is 8Shields?
The 8 Shields model is a cultural framework developed by Jon Young and the 8 Shields Institute. It takes inspiration from numerous land-based indigenous cultures from around the world, as well as patterns we see in nature. The metaphor of the compass is used to describe a cyclical spectrum of phases, energies or archetypes linked to different cardinal directions. For example, north representing winter, east representing spring, south as summer, west as autumn.
At Land in Curiosity, we’ve been trying to integrate some of 8 Shields’ ideas into the creation of the Yearlong project and the structure of our community. We recognise that a whole spectrum of elements or energies are necessary for a group or project to be sustainable.
Not just the ‘doing’ of work, but the playing, resting, harvesting, integrating, stillness, solitude, reflection etc.
The fact that these elements are so often overlooked in western cultures contributes to the frequency of burnout. We want to practice undoing the conditioning which prioritises the ‘doing’ or being productive (hello, internalised capitalist ideology!) over other important stages of activity. The 8 Shields model offers a great framework for this .
In nature, and especially in the turn of the seasons in a temperate climate, we can see a perfect analogy illustrating the importance of changing and shifting perspectives and energies.
Of rest, stillness and dreaming in the winter,
of emergence, play and curiosity in the spring,
of long days, focus and celebration in the summer
and of harvest, gratitude and reflection in the autumn.
An example of implementing 8 Shields: Roles
The responsibilities of the community are shared into roles, (for example, Route team, Food team, Firemaker, Group Facilitator, Listener, Dreamer etc). We rotate roles every few weeks, helping us to shift power dynamics and meaning that as well as taking on jobs that people feel comfortable in, they can also push into areas that feel new or edgy. Each of these roles reflects an element of the 8 Shields model and so silently invites the group to hold an awareness of the full spectrum.
Ideally, no one role is seen as being more important than another. There are some roles which are more specific and practical such as Firemaker. Others, such as the Group Facilitator, requires more of an oversight and has an almost managerial (for want of a better word) quality. Some roles might even be perceived as not being important at all, for example the Dreamer. This is open to interpretation of the person in the role, but usually involves taking care of their own personal needs for a day and doing exactly what they want (within the group agreements). This is important for the whole group because it may give permission to others to take responsibility for their own self care. It also may be necessary and helpful for somebody to know that they will also have this opportunity in order to relax into their current role or responsibilities.
Of course, there are limitations with the model too. Things don’t always go to plan, hierarchies do emerge in a group, certain behaviors become habitual without conscious intent, or circumstance forces us to act in a way that might jar with the cycles that 8 Shields proposes. This is okay! We see 8 Shields as offering a framework, not a load of strict rules to follow; the challenge is to take this model and apply it to Land in Curiosity in a helpful way. So far, it seems that holding the full spectrum of cultural ingredients in mind helps us to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses, give insight on what might be missing or not working, helping us to see our work beyond the tasks and outputs.
With gratitude to the 8 Shields Institute for the inspiring work they are doing and sharing.
Written by Lauren Goodey
In August this year, Land in Curiosity joined Classroom Alive for their second bootcamp, a space to organise and plan walking-learning journeys. Whilst at the bootcamp, we met Alan (<3) , a founder of Open Masters, he told us about Emergent Strategy (ES), written by adrienne maree brown (amb), and highly recommended that we read it. So as a group, looking for clearer ways to work together, we made a commitment to do so. This blog post explores parts of how emergent strategy fits into the year long walk that LiC is organising starting May 2019, questions about how we could use ES, and examples of how we have used ES within past walks and working together.
"To see our own lives and work and relationships as a front line, the first place we can practice justice, liberation, and alignment with each other and the planet." amb
What is Emergent Strategy?
- “Strategy for building complex patterns and systems of change through relatively small interactions”
- “Plans of action, personal practices and collective organising tools that account for constant change, and rely on strength of relationship for adaptation.”
Land in Curiosity’s walking journeys involve living outside and studying whilst on the move, so by their very nature, involve having to adapt to constant change.
For example, changes in resources, landscapes, the local communities, weather, group numbers, abilities, and seasons. Land In Curiosity designs group roles (eg. facilitator, learning coordinator, food team etc) so they are open to change and regularly have new people taking them on. amb speaks of ‘intentional adaptation’ as opposed to change. This question of intent is profoundly important. How do we meet constant change and stay in touch with our deeper purpose? We agreed that sometimes our purpose, or the purpose of a discussion, might need to change. That’s okay, but it’s important to acknowledge. (eg. we come to a discussion to process a conflict, but what is really needed is a space to grief. We acknowledge this, change purpose, and can come back to process the conflict at a later date).
“I'm talking about the combination of adaptation with intention, where in the orientation and movement towards life, to is adaptation. this is the process of changing or staying in touch with deeper purpose and longing.”
Conflict circles, daily check-ins, sit spots, learning together, play, awareness around dominant structures, embodiment through walking; these are some of the collective practises that help us to adapt.
Education is free and accessible.
Education is malleable to an individual’s or a group’s needs.
Learning is influenced by our passions and sparks.
Learning is guided and supported by our commitments,
harvested and shared by it’s application in the world.
People learn at all ages.
Learning can be our purpose.
We are learning how to learn.
We are learning what to learn.
Education that isn't certified is valued and acknowledged by proof of the person, projects or applications created
We have learnt beautiful ways of living together, constantly
deconstructing violent ways of being inwardly and outwardly and with the natural world.
We play, love, work, enjoy, collaborate,
meet conflict together.
We recognise our interdependance.
We support each other in 1000 ways.
Humans are not seen as separate from nature, but as a vital part of a beautiful and intelligent ecosystem.
We aim to live harmoniously,
we have full and meaningful perceptions guided by nature.
We are in a vital collaboration.
We do not abuse nature, suppress or exhaust their resources.
Nature is teacher and a refuge.
It can also be cruel. We respect it all the same.
The term nature doesn’t exclude technology.
It’s not opposed to cities, buildings or human-made systems.
Nature exists in all of those things.
Likewise, ‘living harmoniously’ doesn’t need to exclude things like flying in a plane, cutting down trees, eating animal products, etc.
What it does mean is that we need to pay close attention to the impact our tools and systems
have on ourselves
and the web of beings we are are connected to,
and adjust when the bad outweighs the good.
Examples of how LiC uses Emergent strategy
“Many of us have been socialized to understand tha constant growth, violent competition and critical mass are the ways to create change. But emergence shows us that adaptation and evolution depend more upon critical, deep and authentic connections, a thread that can be tugged for support and resilience. The quality of connections [is] between the nodes in the patterns.” - amb
LiC started with around 40 people on a mailing list, mostly friends of friends who had shown interest in the project. We were told, and we thought, that we needed to grow, to ”up our game.” We would need thousands of followers to make this project a success (hello constant growth and critical mass!)
Through reading ES, we are realising that the connections we create as a nomadic community - between the organisers, with those who join, and with those we meet along the way - are deep, authentic, and critical, making them more meaningful and more in line with our purpose than the amount of likes on Twitter.
Land in Curiosity has been massively supported and inspired by the folks at Classroom Alive. They have beautifully modelled a collaborative relationship and we have learnt a lot from them (and continue to do so). In the current capitalist paradigm, it would be easy for us to see each other as competition; but by collaborating, we both deepen our relationships, our understanding, our knowledge, potential, and learn to recognise the unique value and quality of the two organisations. When we drop the competitive narrative of “my idea” or “my territory” and step up as leaders in collaboration and decentralisation, we support each other to move together towards shared goals. Pleased to say that LiC will continue to collaborate with Classroom Alive during the year long walk.
See also: Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organisations.
Relationships and connection between the core team has become central to our perception of the project working. Our interactions, our ability to ride and swim in waves of conflict, to determine how this project will run, rather than a solely focusing on how much work we can get done. We’re thinking that how we work together and structure this project is what will make the project successful or not, and will affect how LiC will ripple out into the world.
Leadership > interdependence
“When Canada geese are migrating, they take turns at the front of the V, being the leader, the weight carrier, being the follower, the rester.”
I have seen us do this beautifully so far: in planning for the year long, as each of our capacities and workloads change, as one person takes on more paid work, or needs a month to rest, others pick up the parts they can no longer do; as someone finds themselves short of cash, others will pay a greater share. So far It seems to be a fluid and natural way of working together. There is not one leader, between the five of us organising, the balance of leadership moves and shifts like waves.
We were considering setting an amount of time to commit to working each week, this was suggested to us by a mentor. I think what would be more beautiful and connective would be to open up a conversation about how much work we are each doing or not doing and how we feel about that and the impact it has on us as individuals and the project, and to recognise what each other is bringing when we have less space to work.
How to we create pleasure when we meet, on walks:
Dancing, singing, playing games, making music from the things round us, walking, embracing our rhythmic bodies, following seasonal cycles, hugs, sitting by fires, looking at the stars, swimming in Oceans Lakes Rivers, living outside, being always a part of nature, making delicious food, eating together, following out curiosities and learning always, learning as our purpose.
I asked my fellow organiser Sam how we could bring more pleasure into our work. This is what he said:
Sam: Personally, I find pleasure is abundant when I let it be. Not pleasure from stuff I want (like chocolate). More pleasure from life in general (like, well, anything really: the wind, people, a piece of string, etc.). Sometimes I forget this, and think that pleasure comes from the things that have previously given me pleasure. But this is a mistake. It shuts me down to further experiences of pleasure - making it something that is no longer abundant - rather than opening myself up to all its sources. I don't always open myself up to pleasure because I think I have better things to do. Sometimes this is true, but not always. I find that making room for pleasure - by simply doing nothing - can be a great thing to do. So, for me, in answer to your question about how we could create more pleasure when we meet, or as we walk together, I think we need to a) acknowledge that pleasure is abundant when we let it be, and b) make room for it by having time to do nothing.
I am left with many questions to explore in our organising and living together as a nomadic community:
How do we want to be in the world, and is this reflected in the way we work?
I think that reviewing dominant ways of working weekly, could help us bring into awareness how we are working, and keep these questions and explorations alive. It also feeds into our commitment to work towards liberation from dominant structures.
As my meditation teacher and amb say:
Onwards and onwards and onwards.........
Exploring LiC's part in apocalypse
Written by Lauren Goodey
I have never really thought about apocalypse, i have felt like my world has ended before but i never framed it like an apocalypse.
Apocalypse comes from the Greek word apokalyptein and translates; uncover, disclose, reveal. In the Cambridge dictionary it is defined as "a very serious event resulting in great destruction and change."
Autumn and adrienne talk a lot about skills and practices that inform and enable survival, how tradedy tends to bring people together rather than pull them apart and against each other (until the state steps back in that is).
I've been thinking about Land in Curiosity and apocalypse: What will our role be in the coming (and already happening in many places in the world) apocalypse? I am pretty certain now, there are many more to come. We are facing such an extreme global ecological crisis and a mass extinction.
I've been thinking about "survival skills" (Bear Grylls style), how different that feels to what LiC is all about. We are learning not just practical skills, but skills that bring us together, that build trust and community and grow deep respect and acknowledge the inherent interconnection we have with the natural world and our fellow species who also (are struggling to) inhabit this earth.
I've been thinking about what it means to live wild for a year:
to establish a nomadic community,
to sleep under the stars, the clouds, under simple structures,
to carry everything we need,
to cook on fires made with wood collected from the forest floor,
to learn to identify, responsibly harvest and prepare wild food,
to be constantly on the move, moving, walking,
to be meeting change consciously, daily, as a norm,
to engage with and be inspired by those we meet,
to be deeply affected by the land, by animals, plants, trees,
to build deeply interconnected relationships with our fellow travelers,
to sing together, to be woken by song each morning,
to swim and wash together, naked bodies belonging,
to create our own learning pathways,
to follow our inspirations, our flame, our passion,
to grow our capacity for honesty, accountability, conflict, care, community,
to learn what we want to learn, what we love, away from institutions,
to sleep through frozen nights, together warm and snuggled.
I am grateful for this re-frame, for the apocalyptic voices of the Brown sisters, my view is twisting from one of zombies and guns to one of opportunity, abundance and collaboration. My view is twisting from the Cambridge definition of apocalyptic disaster, to root of the word: uncovering, revealing.
I feel resilient learning and growing with LiC, I feel I am growing skills for life whether apocalypse comes or not.
And who knows... we might have to keep walking forever.
Big thanks to Lauren Goodey for putting the video together.
Created by Chloe Lund
Check out this video full of memories from our journey in Sweden, created, filmed, and edited by Chloe as part of her learning intentions for the walk.
[Sorry, technical problems! Video will be uploaded again soon]
Collated and Illustrated by Lauren Goodey, Joana Esteves and Chloe Lund
Written by Tom Morgan
Nov 24 2017
Before setting out on the trip I had set myself all sorts of intentions and personal practices and goals to deepen my connection with nature as well as ideas of ceremonies and processes and games we could do as a group. The intention to explore creating a culture with nature connection at its heart.
I don't think I am only speaking for myself when I say that I wildly overestimated the amount of free time and space I would have once all the practical business of living outside and in community was seen to.Its amazing how much time it takes to collect wood and prepare fires and food and make camp and to have time to be together as a group and share practical matters. I want to reflect on all the things we did do to honour the spaces we lived in. I should say as a disclaimer that we were a group of 13 (a number prone to fluctuation) and I can only speak from my own perspective. Never the less....
Having now rejoined the fast paced whizz and whirligig of cities and smart phones and emails and flushing toilets and kettles. I feel I am in a good position to reflect a little on the "culture" we created living close to the land.I have come to see that those practical tasks I speak of, eating up all our time, actually offered such a wonderful and immersive opportunity to connect to nature. If we wanted a cup of tea we needed to find a river or a spring, suitable dry wood, a safe place to have a fire and some herbs or chaga to brew. If we wanted to have a poo, we needed to find a suitable spot which might be in need of some fertilising, dig a hole with our hands like a badger (some of us may have used the trowel but I usually didn't have the foresight or time to locate the toilet bag) and find a soft patch of moss to wipe our chilly bums. If we wanted to wash we needed to pluck up enough courage to plunge ourselves into the nearest icy cold stream, lake or ocean and endure the burn long enough to for the water to wash away some of the stink from our pits. And then bask in the sun or create our own in the hearth to warm and dry ourselves. If we wanted to wash clothes we were dependent on the sun and enough time to dry (which is why most of us explored the limits of how many days/weeks it's appropriate to keep wearing the same pair of pants). If we wanted to have something other than rice and lentils for dinner we would have to go hunting for tasty mushrooms, wild salads and yummy berries, remembering little by little the long lost art of gathering wild foods.
Each of these tasks offered an opportunity to immerse ourselves in our surroundings, to accept her gifts, an opportunity also for gratitude.There were other ways in which we honored the land, ways that might be considered more "cultural". We often had gratitude circles where we shared things we were grateful for. Singing became such a beautiful part of our group time, one of us would volunteer each morning to do the morning wake up song, of the songs that became favorites, most of them contained prayer and praise for the natural world or the elements. Most mornings before setting off on our walk we would make space to each spend some time In silence and solitude to thank our camp and other than human hosts. On several occasions we made mandalas and spoke out our intentions and gratitude to do with our relationships to the land.
Most of all, the way I see it, we praised the land by living upon it in such simplicity, by accepting it's gifts; it's delicious berries, ice cold water, the stunning light shows in the tapered ends of each day, contrasts of colours, bright red lingon berry upon ashen green lichen, it's songs and it's silence and its delicious array of fungi to feast upon.
By living this way I can say for myself I have continued to rekindle an age old connection, It is the simple things in life where there is the most beauty to be found and in sharing this with others comes the kind of culture I hope to live in. If there is something I have gained from this experience it is a deepening of that very simple understanding.
Here's a praise to all the beings over the 2 months that have fed me, body and spirit and to all the human beings who's companionship kept my heart warm in the frost.
Nov 20 2017
So here is a culmination of some of the many magical stories, adventures and images that came to me, inspired by the land, people, birds and animals and the magical mystery in between us all.
These are all based on true stories.
Håkan and the huskies
The alarm stopped and the huskies turned around and headed back to bed. Håkan was safe once again.
Me and tom also turned this one into folk song, i'll try and find a recording!
The Three Trees
Loz and Chewy were hungry. They had been delivered a pot full of delicious food earlier that evening, by an old man with long grey hair. They looked everywhere for the pot, but it was nowhere to be found. "Maybe he tricked us?" "Maybe he took the food away?" "Maybe he wasn't real!" they confusingly proclaimed. They decided to find the missing food. They walked through the forests, it was dark and the moon shone faintly. They crossed the great river, large fallen trees and made their way through spiky bushes, but they couldn't find the food anywhere. They headed back along the gravely track and heard a quiet noise deep in the pine forests. They walked towards the noise and saw a tall tall tree they knew very well. They gently threw their arms around the tree and held it silently, and the tree wrapped it's branches around them. When their arms fell, they found themselves still and tall and rooted. They could feel the moonlight on their bark. The forest was black and still and silent, apart from a faint noise in the leaves, a gentle rustling and snuffling. A large boar slowly appeared in a patch of moonlight, it snuffled around what was once their feet, and noticed nothing of the three trees that stood silently tall.
Hours and hours had passed and the moon had moved across the sky, when one of the trees moved it's arms and shoulders and stepped onto the forest floor, continuing on the quest for the missing food. The other two trees gently wrapped their branches around each other and stared up at the moon. They leant against each other, breathing, their roots holding them tall.
By the lake in Mora
When the sun rose that morning the man was gone, just a slither of moon could be seen as hundreds of jackdaws took to the skies.
Written by Hana Vacková
Nov 17 2017
Thank you to nature for being so plentiful and giving during our entire trip. For all the colorful and juicy berries, the foraged mushrooms, the edible flowers and salad greens, the plenty of wood, dry kindling and birchbark, the soft moss carpets to sleep on, all the springs, streams, rivers, lakes for providing us with water to drink from and wash in, the songs of birds, the wind, and the sea. What an incredibly generous host!
Thank you to our (most of the time) healthy bodies for carrying us through 2 months of sunshine, rain, wind, and snow. Mine impressively carried a 60-liter backpack with very few bruises or blisters. And it did not even get sick from the massive temperature shocks of the Swedish saunas and icy seawater. Bodies are incredible.
Thank you to all the libraries (and librarians!) during our trip - from Mora to Malmö - providing us with quiet spaces for planning, group meetings, journaling, creating blackout poetry, charging our electronics, drying our wet tents (don't tell anyone!), having bathrooms to fill our bottles with tap water and so much more. I am so grateful!
P.S. I am finishing up this post in the public library in Helsingborg and love how full of life it is even on a quiet Friday afternoon.
Thank you to everyone who picked us up when hitching. To the young woman with a month-year old baby and not much space in her car. To Bilal from Pakistan for giving us a free ride from Malmö in his luxury taxi. To Bonnie in Höör who kindly offered us a ride from the supermarket when we were struggling to fit 6 days worth of food into our 2 backpacks. To the 2 Syrian men who taught us the Swedish and Arabic words for cold and friends. To the young Syrian man driving from Simrishamn who lost his entire family in the war. Each LiC participant could add many similar stories to the list. With each successful ride, I became more and more hopeful and trusting of people, so willing to help once you reach out to them.
Thank you to all the people who showed us their curiosity, care, and kindness and wished us well on our journey. To Ingrid, a teacher from Bergetskolan in Orsa, for such a warm welcome and sharing her passion for teaching and embodying the values of respect, freedom, and love in her everyday work with the students. Peter from VaraVild for kindly offering his workshop on intuition tracking. To Andy from Change of Nature for holding our group together in a difficult time and sharing his love for nature. To the man who stopped to chat with us when he saw us sitting by the road - just because. To the young boy who did not bat an eyelid to fill up our water bottles from his tap. To the waitress in a bakery in Kåseberga who gave us delicious bread and pastries that would otherwise be fed to the pigs. To the couple who stopped on the beach to admire the story of our journey drawn in sand. The list could go on and on. I seriously believe walking might be one of the best ways how to restore one's faith in humanity.
And most importantly, thank you to Chloe, Chris, Håkan, Joana, Jonny, Karl, Kit, Lauren, Marie, Tom, Sam, Sarah - the 12 (+1) brave souls who chose to dedicate their time and share their cheeky smiles, germs, and love for the outdoors. Sharing the past two months with you has been both a pleasure and a privilege. Thank you!
Written by Karl Griffiths
Nov 10 2017
We divided the responsibilities into teams. A route team, a food team and a group and learning facilitator. This was to allow people the opportunity to step up into a role they felt called to and so energy in the group was spread between different tasks. There were up to three people in each team which allowed decisions to be make quicker than having input from the whole group.
The route team decide which direction we are heading in, where we will camp. They take on this responsibility for two weeks. A key consideration for camp will be if there is a water source nearby and consider when there will be an opportunity to shop for food (or is there a bus stop\ hitch hiking spot near by, or will be pass through a town?).
The food team would have a budget of £6 per person per day and have full autonomy over what we eat. The only consideration is that we have three vegans and a vegetarian diet was decided as the group diet from the outset.
After arriving at the portuguese corner the core team decided to stay there for a week. This was becuase we had recieved lots of learning offerings from the group and the Skattungbyn community. We had also had group discussions that we hadn´t finished whilst walking. The Skattungbyn community had offered a visit to an eco house project, a sustainable living course, an opportunity to share our travels with a school in the neighboring town of Orsa, and community music events and saunas. For some the offerings from Skattungbyn were a great opportunity, for others there was a longing for time further from society. We were all learning how to be a part of the LiC project, dealing with differing needs and to navigate and find our place within it. Bearing all this in mind the route team comprised of Chris, Håkan and Hana were trying to balance the needs of the group.
In the Week I spent in Skattungbyn the changes in the seasons were becoming more apparent. The leaves were falling more freely and it did seem colder. I heard others in the group speak that they were struggling with the cold at night. Questions arose around the quality and quantity of individual group members kit. Did people have adequate waterproofs? Would they be warm enough with sleeping bags and enough clothing? Was the Vasaloppsleden trail we had been following for the past two weeks wild enough? Different expectations for the project were highlighted to juxtapose our cultural immersion in Skattungbyn.
I was not envious of Hana, Håkan and Chris. There efforts to take into account all the considerations of the group left them feeling rushed to make a decision. They Had done lots of research and considered lots of different factors including night temperatures, wind speed and elk hunting where the risk of being shot became a possibility. Locals in Skattungbyn were wearing hi-viz jackets which made it all the more apparent in our minds.
Joana did a little nod of surprise and acceptance.
Kit was screaming silently with joy in the corner.
Karl was dead pan with one eye twitching.
Marie lifted one eyebrow in surprise and confusion.
Sarah´s eyebrows were in her hairline with a face that read many obscenities.
For some it was said to be the biggest decision the group had made to date, for others it was not. There was a sense of relief that we had a clear destination and the decision would now be realised. The following days would be spent heading to Mora by foot and hitchhiking in preparation for the coming colder weeks.