Note: The current 2012-13 course is a Family Wilderness Guide Program. Click here for a description of the program, or go the Family Yearlong Blog .
The upcoming yearlong will be the Guardian Yearlong for 2013-2014. Scroll down for a description of this particular yearlong experience coming up!
About the Wilderness Guide Program
is the cornerstone of this 11-month wilderness immersion experience. Participants live day-to-day in a native-modeled encampment, learning and practicing the essential qualitative skills of communication and cooperation, along with all the skills needed to build, maintain, and live in a North Woods
native camp. This includes first aid, weather forecasting, nutrition, personal hygiene, food procurement, and many other skills. You learn how to drink wild water, how to make your own shelters and skin clothing, and which plants to use for wounds and intestinal cramps. At times, you gather most of your food by foraging, trapping, snaring, and fishing. You'll be walking silently and seeing more than you ever knew existed. You learn first-hand the spiritual life of the native. You'll know, from their direct teaching, the ways of wolf and raven, of the elder trees and healing herbs. (And you'll be gaining evolved skills and deeper awarenesses that are not possible to describe here in this limited space.)
For nearly a year, hours and minutes, weeks and months, cease to exist, as do accustomed standards of measurement. Time is told by the moon and how long it takes to paddle across the lake, and length is determined by finger, hand, and arm. You greatly advance toward being earth-sufficient rather than self-sufficient, toward living rather than just surviving, toward dwelling in attuned immersion rather than merely observing and dreaming.
In this one-of-a-kind program, just as with a native group, the agenda is set by the needs of the camp and individuals involved rather than by a teacher. The teachers (known as guides
) work one-on-one with participants to gear the experience specifically to individual needs and interests.
The location is Nishnajida
, the school's 80 acre preserve adjacent to the Headwaters Wilderness in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and located 6 miles from Nadmadewining
, our administrative center and support community. Participants hike or paddle to Nadmadewining every new moon for a day of research (there are no books at camp) and communicating with family and friends.
What draws someone to take part in such an experience? Imagine you are a Wolf and have lived in a cage all your life. You have yearned to learn the natural ways of your ancestors, of your wild and free kin. One day the cage door is opened and there to meet you is a guide who stays with you for the next turn of the seasons. He helps you get in touch with your deepest self and heal through the pain and numbness of your caged life. You learn how to walk honorably and respectfully on the Earth--how to re-attune your senses, forage, and find shelter. You regain your intuitive knowledge of how to find your way, forecast the weather, and readily adapt to a wide variety of climates. Awakening to your true self, you soon gain the confidence to share your gifts and talents with your campmates.
When it is time for your path and your guide's to separate, you are ready to rejoin your pack and walk in balance with your plant and animal relations. You no longer dwell in your ego, but in your heart-of-hearts: that place of inner balance where senses, intuition, intellect, and feelings meet. Carrying the flame of the Old Way within you, you feel empowered to go and ignite the fire in others.
No prior outdoor experience is required. In fact, previous training could get in the way, as you would likely have to unlearn much of it in order to learn native ways as they are actually lived. The only admission requirement is to come honorably, with hunger (what we call an empty bowl) and an open heart.
If you are serious about doing the WGP we ask that you come during the current program and visit for a week to get a real feel for what you will be doing at Nishnajida. We require prospective Seekers to do this so your decisions are based on experience; we encourage folks to come early in the decision making process. We don't allow visitors during the months of May and March, the first and last months of the program.
About the Upcoming Yearlong Experience: Guardian Yearlong 2013-2014
Imagine you are a member of a Wolf pack and you are venturing outside of your home territory. Normally you would stay within your bounds, where you know the terrain and feel secure. However, you now need to find more food for the fast-growing pups, who have just gotten old enough to travel with the pack. You move cautiously.
Approaching a willow-rich river bottom that says "Moose," you fan out to better intercept a scent trail. Stopping abruptly, your head female sniffs the air, and then the ground. The stench of a wounded moose tickles her nostrils. By going back and forth on the trail, she quickly determines his direction of travel. Silently she turns to trail him down toward the river.
Attuned to each other's movements, you each pick up on your matron's actions and fall in behind her. Together as one, you move swiftly yet deliberately, so as not to lose the scent or alert the animal before catching up with him. Surprise is key to a successful hunt. Your Leader's courageous mate is right at her heels, while your caring, mild-mannered aunts and uncles take the middle of the column with the pups. The wary and keen-sensed act as Guardians by flanking the pack and bringing up the rear.
"Wouw!" yelps the last Guardian as he spins around, while the rest of you freeze in your tracks. He lowers his head and tail and shrinks slowly backward. Your lead couple sprints to the back of the line. With hackles raised, teeth bared, and thunder rumbling from their pulsing chests, they take commanding positions to defend the pack.
Facing you across the small opening is the pack whose territory you are infringing upon. In both camps, tension screams. Pups instinctively pull together, Nurturers surround them, and Guardians shy back, taking positions at strategic spots around the periphery to pick up on any surprises. Without losing focus on the threat, the front pair remains acutely keyed in to the Guardians. Like set traps, your Guardians are ready to shift position or rush in the instant they are needed. What matters most to all of you is the safety of the pups--your future. The calm, stable presence of the Nurturers keeps the wolflings quiet and contained.
You are infringing and in the wrong--you know that--so you each take your cue from the elder pair, who maintains an imposing stance while gingerly backing away. Too fast and you could trigger a rush by the other pack; too slow and they might swarm across the neutral zone and battle would rage. Pups would surely die.
Your Nurturers keep the frightened pups in tight formation, while the Guardians take outer positions to catch a stealth attack from the side. Two Guardians scout ahead to chart the safest way back to your home turf.
Which role did you feel most comfortable with: Leader, Nurturer, or Guardian? If it is the latter, I would like to invite you to the Guardian-Warrior Camp, a yearlong training intensive which will begin on May 1, 2013. It will be held at the Teaching Drum's primitive camp adjacent to the Headwaters Wilderness. As in the Old Way, the camp is open to both females and males.
The first thing you need to know is that there will be no typical hand-to-hand combat training--none of the macho stuff you see in movies, and no mystically enshrouded teachers promising you a superhero makeover. Rather, the focus will be on cleverness, stealth, and illusion--techniques that actually work in the real world. You will gain effective skills that will empower you rather than your ego. You will learn how to become invisible and move like a shadow, how to access strength beyond what you can generate, how to see beyond the reach of your eyes, and how to know someone else's thoughts and feelings better than your own. You will find out how to function well for long periods without food or water, and how to find it when you need it. You will learn a way of sleeping that will give you the deep rest needed for sustained activity. You will train yourself to respond in an instant--even from a deep sleep--with no warm-up or preparation needed.
The physical training is more immersion-based than yoga and generally more effective than martial arts. Let's take running, one of the training methods, as an example. You will learn a way of running practiced by Native people that increases limberness and gives you a total body workout, along with sharpening your senses and reflexes. It will allow you to outperform your old self not because you have grown stronger or faster or younger, but because you'll know how to breathe, use your feet, and engage your entire body as a synchronous unit. You'll learn how to pace yourself to conserve energy, and how to draw upon the energy of the spirit wind.
The Guardian Way is not a profession, but a way of life. By living it, you will grow dispassionate and empathetic, so that your emotions do not blind you, and so that you can rise above belief and prejudice and serve the greater good. You learn how to resolve conflict by seeing the truth behind the fear. Rather than being selfless and loyal, you will learn to be generous and reverent. Like Native people nearly everywhere, you will grow to consider the plants and animals your sisters and brothers, so that you may serve all of life with honor and respect.
These are the ways of the Guardian--the multifaceted person of hunter-gatherer cultures who serves as scout and emissary, provider and protector, along with being a guide and inspiration for the young.
Entertain no illusions about Guardian training. You will be learning nothing new--you already have the innate skills and abilities. They have just atrophied for lack of use, and they have not been honed for lack of training. Instead, you will be shown how to venture out on your frontier--that place of unknowing where you will meet your deepest fears. The experience will first make you feel sick--all of your comforting beliefs and self-protective behaviors will be challenged. You will be left naked, stripped down to your essential self. For the first time in your life, you will truly know who you are.
Now your fear can no longer control you. Instead, you can befriend it and it will become your guide. It will help you see that the only way to receive is by giving, and that true power lies in humility. The world is changing fast--it is time for the Guardians to step forward and serve.
If you have an interest and have any questions, please send an email along with your name and phone number to balance (at) teachingdrum (dot) org
. The course is now open for applications. Everyone participating will receive preliminary materials and suggested readings, and will be invited to join a forum so we can begin coming together as clan several moons before the experience begins.
- Begins May 1st, 2013. Ends March 31st, 2014.
- Tuition: $10,200. Allow up to $1500 for incidental expenses such as craft supplies and canoe rental.
For more on the Wilderness Guide Program, we invite you to browse our photo gallery
and general information
on the Teaching Drum and read the testimonials of our graduates
Read the ongoing Wilderness Guide Program updates at the Family Yearlong Blog
and previous years at the Wilderness Guide Chronicles