A Youth Council of All Beings - Fall, 1998
by Ruth Rosenhek

The youth of today show an extraordinary awareness of the destruction to nature and the social ills of our times.

Today, I was fortunate to facilitate a 2 hour Council of All Beings workshop with Youth ages 11-14 at the Upland Hills School in Oxford Michigan.

Here’s how it went.

First I rapped a bit on deep ecology, how we modern people have become disconnected from the Earth, how we think we are on top of this pyramid (and here I stood up tall to illustrate our sense of largesse) when really we are part of a web, interconnected.

Then I asked, "What happens when you tear out a strand of a web?"

"It weakens the whole web!" someone called back. .

"Yes, it does, and when you pull out too many strands, the whole web is threatened." I said. And that's what we're doing when we log the trees, poison the waters, that sort of thing."

We discussed the value of rainforests.

"Why are rainforests important?" I asked.

"For medicines", says one.

"For the many species of plants and animals that live there."

"That’s where our oxygen supply comes from" says another.

Then we introduced ourselves from our Ecological Self. First my rap that "when you identify with someone, perhaps a friend of yours, then you listen and you empathize. Like if your friend is telling you how he got stood up on a date the other night and you say "Yeah I know what you mean. That sucks!"

"On the other hand, if this is someone that you can’t identify with, instead you find yourself thinking about what’s for dinner or how much homework you have."

"When you identify with someone, you empathize, you care about them, you don't want to hurt them. Likewise, when you identify with the Earth, with the trees and the ferns, the insects and the animals, then you don’t want to hurt them."

"So now let’s introduce ourselves from this place. Sure we all know each other here, but this is a different way of getting to know each other. Our Earth Self or Ecological Self is in each of us ready to be shared with each other."

Then we went around the circle sharing something that "I love/like about Nature". Responses varied from running in the woods, to freedom, solitude, trees, snakes, and the clouds.

Next we moved on to some Milling exercises including the evolutionary hand journey and sharing a nature experience. When I introduced touch, I suggested that we think about the kind of touch we use when we pet an animal such as a cat, keeping it gentle.

Back in our circle, I talked about how indigenous peoples (Can you name the indigenous peoples who used to live here?) have always done rituals and ceremonies to keep their connection with the Earth. That this is one of the things that we can remember to do and so now we will do a ritual called the Truth Mandala. (Anyone know what a mandala is?)

I spent a bit of time talking about emotions, the taboo in our society ("If you're at a party and you share with your friend about your neighborhood trees being taken over by a development, a good chance your friend might say, "Hey did you hear about the football game? or good food eh!"...")

"Does that sound like how it is to you all?" I asked the group.

"YES!" the group shouted back at me.

I explained the quadrants of the mandala. The teacher, Ted, asked about whether there would be any room for positive emotions. I shared about really carving out space for these other emotions right now, room for the others later, and then one of the students piped in as if on cue, "If you don’t feel your pain first, you can’t feel your joy!"

Lots of questions. good ones. I suggested that people could come into the center or talk from the outside of the circle.. that this does not have to be as intense as the adult version which I explained as well. And that if no one came into the circle or spoke we would find another way to bring it out, by say, going around the circle. I reminded everybody of our intention, to feel our connection with the Earth and each other. We toned for a brief moment together and then away we went.

32 youth and 2 teachers plus myself. And almost everybody participated.

"I’m sad about the developments that are taking over the woods I used to play in."

"I’m sad about the loggers who can cut down those ancient old growth redwoods."

"I’m sad about leaving school and what I will do next."

"I’m afraid for my children and my children’s children. What kind of Earth will they be living with? How will things be for them?"

"I’m sad for the developers who don’t know any better."

"I’m sad for the kids who can’t have these types of experiences in nature."

"I’m angry at how the indigenous people who used to live here have been wiped out."

I’m worried that the animals who are in my backyard now won’t be around soon."

"I’m sad about the loss of rainforests."

"I’m confused about what to do."

And so on, until finally because we had so little time left that I brought the circle to a close having heard from almost every person.

I then shared the story of the oxygen pollution crisis of some 3,000 million years ago as a lead in to the systems game. Which we then played. In this game, we see the effects of toxins on a system and then extinction.

The vision quest was short, 5 minutes of quest followed by 5 minutes to make masks which were already pre-cut, paper plates with eyes and mouth. just needed colors. Everybody reported back from their vision quests without being called and quickly moved onto the mask making with much energy. A delight to watch. The teachers didn’t participate in the vision quest because they were going to come to the Council as human beings, on behalf of the human species.

Drum drum drum our way up to the Council of All Beings which we moved indoors due to the heat that was starting to overwhelm us.

The two teachers were asked to wait outside while we other Beings entered the room and took our places. Then Frog, that was me, called in the human beings to the center of our circle as our invited guests, to come and listen to our words. just listen please.

Everybody called out who they were, a little too quickly perhaps, but the room felt full of the spirit of these Beings.

Frog asked everyone how things are going. Everybody said "BAD BAAD, things are bad."

Wind claimed that she sees all that is going on and that humans are destroying things.

A few more chimed in along these lines.

And then the human male wanted to speak in his defense.

"NO NO" everyone cried out until one very wise Being suggested that we listen to what the Human had to say for a moment.

The Human spoke, saying that Wind wreaks havoc as well as Human, that it is not just humans.

A number of beings responded that it is the spirit behind the actions that is different, that the way humans destroy is wrong and is different from Wind.

Snake told the humans that he wants a share of the power, a snake nation please. And then later he shouted out "How about Kentucky!" and then still later "Well, how about sharing some of the power, we could divide the power up between us."

Darkness crouched in the corner, the night; saying we should all be grateful to him.

Posion Ivy, in a low grovelly voice shared that he sees fear in the eyes of the human beings.

Mosquito explained that he needs blood to live so the bipeds shouldn’t think so badly of him.

Then we showed the humans how we like to have fun by drumming for a little bit.

Then, Frog suggested that we each reach back into our ancestry to find the gifts of our entire species who we are here representing today and that we offer our wisdom and gift to the humans at the center.

Butterfly offers change and transformation.

Aspen offers oxygen.

Frog offers adaptability.

Black raspberry offers sustenance.

Spider offers bug control.

More drumming, raising the energy.

Are we ready to be humans again? Yes, and we removed our masks.

Closing circle. I thanked everybody, reminded them about the importance of sharing this experience and their feelings. And off they raced to lunch.