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Rules of Thumb
Mentors will benefit greatly by following a few basic rules of thumb when leading aspirants on the Hunt:
- Avoid Mentor 'lectures' or monologues. Monologue poisons the questing environment. Its puts the listener's curiosity to sleep; it is, at best, a lazy approach that blinds the Aspirant to other avenues of exploration and deprives them of discovering their own keys to Avalon's Mysteries.
- Request clarifications where and as needed. (Both Mentor and Aspirant)
- Listen intently: It does not matter which Mentor leads the Aspirant to the point, so long as they arrive and remain within Avalon. Hold interjections unless you are sure where the questioning is leading and have a clear sense of what questions will best help the Aspirant. Trust other Mentors to pass the questioning back to you in the proper time, and remember to do the same yourself. It does not matter whose mouth is used in the service of discovering Truth; it only matters that the Truth is discovered.
- Speak clearly: For new Aspirants, just learning the sign posts along the Hidden Ways is hard enough. Using simple, direct language will help to clarify the intended direction of even the subtlest Hunt. Save the riddling and 'bright speech' for those more familiar with the path.
- Follow the map: In posing questions, direct everything toward the intended point. The clearer and more consistent your focus, the easier it will be for others to follow you.
- "All roads lead to Avalon": Stay open to each Aspirant's unique sensibilities. Our object is not to force others to take our routes, but to help them to find their own ways. As when talking someone through directions at a distance, work with where the Aspirant actually is at any given moment (rather than where we think they 'should' be). There are many possible routes, and each question is a prompt toward whichever route is closest and will lead us to the intended goal or focal point.
- Let questions follow an intuitive 'logic' that is transparent to the Aspirant. If the Aspirant gets lost, it is the Tutor's task to refocus the direction of questioning so that they may follow. (Hint: If you leave too much distance between 'mileposts' you will lose your Aspirants, so be mindful: you are leading those who do not know their way.)
- Leave room for Awen: The Gods will often shine their light on our proceedings. When they do, it is generally to deepen the experience of (not to depart from) our intended purpose. Remain open to inspired moments, and consider carefully how they may best be used to achieve the goal before taking action.
- Use bursts of relevant humour and spontaneous flights of fancy to advantage: True, Tutors need to keep the group focus on the object of inquiry, but the creative energy released by a bit of light-heartedness can be a powerful ally in sparking moments of inspired insight. Mentors should remain alive to the potential of such moments and be prepared to point out the relevant jest wherever it occurs.
This method sounds quite simple, yet it actually requires energy, focus, and clarity of mind, the ability to be 'in the moment' while 'thinking ahead', as well as laying aside needing to be 'the expert'. A Tutor/Mentor who 'needs' the approval of peers, or who craves the admiration of Aspirants will soon prove a liability on the Hunt. We must also guard against the temptation to undercut each other's authority, especially in the presence of Aspirants and new members. We must all be willing to accept the subtle cues of our peers when we are off track and learn to perceive the effect of our words and actions on observers (whatever our 'intentions' may be). Those who cannot do so are unfit to tutor or mentor. The "Secret Competitor" often appears wherever secret grudges or resentments remain unaddressed, finding expression through the hope of publicly 'evening the score'. Members harbouring such attitudes should not be allowed to tutor or mentor until the matter is appropriately resolved. The welfare of our community must come first and we are all responsible to prevent Shadow from taking root.
Having acknowledged the gulf between traditional and conventional educational philosophies and methods, and the strong impact of birth conditioning on behavior, it should be painfully obvious that one cannot overcome the effects of these influences purely through intellectual means. Until we have enough experience to counterbalance our birth conditioning, we shall always revert to the 'familiar' (i.e., non-traditional) when under pressure. The only way to counterbalance this effect is by acquiring sufficient experience through continual practice over a lifetime. Thus all ADO Mentors must practice regularly both to prepare and to maintain the facility in the traditional method and skills. This may be done in pairs, as a group, or both, but it must be done regularly to be of real use in the moment.
Assessing Overall Progress
In most instances, while Tutors/Mentors may offer guidance and encouragements, Aspirants and new members assess their own progress on the Path by comparing where they are now in terms of general understanding and practice against where they've been in previous lessons or seasons. The exception, of course, is when members of the Tribes seek approval to begin Druid studies. Acceptance into the Novitiate is based upon both intuitive and objective criteria, which fall into two broad categories:
- Demonstrable self-improvement / self-empowerment
- Demonstrable contributions to the community
The criteria for tutoring and mentoring is the same across our spiritual community in all respects save degree. Beyond required study, a Tribes member may receive mentored guidance in ADO spiritual life and culture simply by declaring and demonstrating that they are honouring the basic Tribes duties to self-empowerment, our spiritual community, the ancestors and gods. Druids share this responsibility, but at a greater level of intensity and commitment. In Avalon, there are no 'solitary Druids'. It is not enough to say, 'my self-improvement is my service to community', to 'send healing from home', or to attend an online lesson once a month. Avalon's Druids serve their communities directly. Thus, members who have not demonstrated even the commitment and consistency required of Tribes members cannot hope be candidates for Druid training.
Expectations during Tutoring and/or Mentoring Sessions
In addition to the general criteria above, there are specific expectations placed upon the aspirant who attends a mentoring session:
- Be prepared: If the lesson centers on the myths, the aspirant should have read, spoken and retold the story aloud before arriving for the lesson. They should have already looked up words that are unfamiliar and studied all of their meanings and nuances, both literal and symbolic. If it centers on hands-on work, they should be prepared both to report their experiences and ask questions about its purpose and meaning.
- Lead with a Question: Aspirants should prepare a 'lead question' and 'follow-up questions' about each endeavor and/or hunt before arriving.
- Be prepared to support all assumptions and/or conclusions: Aside from the obvious (verification within the Tradition as affirmed by ADO Elders), support for conclusions should be offered from three separate outside (non-Traditional) 'authoritative' sources.
- Show progress: Where successive sessions focus on continuing work, aspirants should be able to demonstrate both a deepening understanding and results of applying traditional approaches in their own lives and communities.
- Be accountable: The aspirant is responsible to be prepared. Those who are not, should not be allowed to remain in a mentoring session, but should be released (dismissed) to do the required preparations and exploration.
The criteria and session expectations should be discussed at the first meeting or be posted in a 'common area' accessible to both Mentors and members. When there is a consensus that all parties understand these requirements, mentoring can begin; the rest will develop as living dialogue, and through shared exploration and experience.
The shaping of the mind and the causal relationship between Mentor and aspirant is itself a Mystery; one which may often require much time to properly unfold. Within this context, we value the small step toward serious inquiry above the brilliant performance, the single change resulting from insight above analytical prowess, transformation above performance, understanding above competence, exploration and application above research, and heartfelt questions above answers. We are not 'professors', but Mentors; guides to the learner and guardians of learning. Most of all, we are the 'Master Learners' who provide the example to aspirants; and in this regard, our chief attributes are not our special competence, academic or pedagogical talent, but our desire, willingness, and ability to learn. It is our experience as learners that confers empathy for the aspirants and prepares us for 'the Hero's adventure'; for that is the journey we are all embarked upon in our own ways.
The traditional method is challenging. It is difficult for both Mentors and aspirants, and it is meant to be so. We do no service to ourselves, to members, or to Avalon by trying to make it easier. For what we give to others we can as easily take back; but what they discover by their own effort is theirs forever. While it is true that some lessons are learned only through their consequences, the price of placing the power of Avalon in the hands of one who is unready or unfit is terrible, and risks destroying the very things we most profess to love. Therefore Mentors must never have a vested interest in the outcome of a member's study. We must never 'need' someone else to succeed or fail. Whether from personal weakness or the delusion that we have discovered Avalon's next Hero (or villain), someone so 'important' in the weave that we can only accept one outcome, such 'need' is always fatal. There are no exceptions. We must name this Shadow wherever it appears, as a primary obligation from the moment we choose to mentor another member. Gentle, yes, and compassionate we must be; but also firm in upholding the requirements of Tradition. To do otherwise is to betray all that we hold dear. Where Tradition runs true, it offers a formidable profundity of wisdom. At its best, it encourages reasonably well-prepared aspirants to transcend the immediately apparent issues to consider broader implications, imparts a clear sense of appropriate boundaries, and instills an almost indelible memory of Avalon's nature and Truth on every level of experience. The exchanges between Mentors and individual members will also prompt observers to question their underlying assumptions regarding the objects of inquiry. The experience hones discernment and critical reasoning skills, preparing aspirants to become independent of their Mentors (i.e., to reliably find their own ways to and in Avalon, unguided). Where poorly presented, adulterated, or presented to those unwilling or unable to enter into the traditional mindset, it can foster an unhealthy adversarial relationship between Mentors, Mentors and aspirants, and/or between members of our spiritual community. It is better to release a student from study than to subject the unprepared to ruthless public scrutiny and the resulting inevitable sense of humiliation. Better to release those who for whatever reason are not 'getting it', than to foster feelings of inadequacy before their friends and peers. Better to release a Mentor who cannot abide by the tradition's learning method, or who cannot resist competing and undercutting their peers, than to adulterate the gift of the ancestors and abase the foundation of our beliefs simply to mollify a bruised ego. But the gifts of our Tradition also impose formidable responsibilities. On whom do these burdens lie?
- Who is responsible for defining our Tradition? Not hard: The ancestors.
- And who is responsible for developing our method of training? Easily said: Again the ancestors.
- And how is our method of training preserved? Not hard: It is maintained by tradition.
- And who is responsible to foster and maintain this Tradition? ... Is it you? Is it me? Or someone else entirely? ...
It is easy to point to others and say, "I cannot walk the path because ... or unless ... or until ..." But what does this mean? Not hard: Mind the first two words: I cannot.
If we truly cannot, then (whether by circumstance or disposition) we declare ourselves unfit to walk this Path. If we can, but will not, we declare our refusal to do so ... As the experienced can attest, it is hard enough to climb the Tor without adding additional obstacles. Better to carry our own baggage and walk alone, than to drag a laden, unwilling ass behind us in hopes it will one day look congenially on the climb. And so it is the Mentor's task to respectfully confront the aspirant on such declarations and, whatever their protestations, if after several admonishments there is no demonstrable improvement release them from study. Is this harsh? Ask yourself: "How will it benefit them to stay?" Almost certainly our answer will assume either that we know better than they what they want, or that we can somehow 'improve' them, which in itself implies that the student is somehow inherently inadequate. Such actions can only inspire the student's resentment and hostility at being made to feel 'unworthy'. Now ask yourself: "Will Avalon's gardens and Great Wood be better for the addition of a blighted herb or tree?" (For what are resentment and hostility if not a blight to a safe learning environment?) The traditional healer knows that we each heal ourselves. No one else can do it for us. If a plant is unwilling or unable to heal, what is our duty as stewards if not to remove it before the blight can spread? There will be some who may say, "This way is hard. Can we not try another?" and to them we say, "We have done so, and learned by experience the wisdom of tradition. Shall we subject our Sisters and Brothers to the pain of continually repeating the same error for the benefit of each new person who comes to us? No. It is for you to learn to trust in the process. Over time, the wisdom of Tradition will reveal itself to you, even as it has to us." So it has always been, is now, and ever shall be. You are embarked upon a great work. The well-being of your Sisters and Brothers is in your hands. Do not betray that sacred trust, but show honour and respect as it deserves. And finally, all Tutors, Mentors, Aspirants and Member/Seekers should be intimately familiar with to our Guidelines for traditional learning. By entering into a tutoring/mentoring relationship you are affirming that you understand and agree to abide by these expectations, so please acquaint yourself with these concepts. You are encouraged to ask any questions you might have about these Guidelines by posting to the appropriate thread(s) on the ADO Member Forum. We look forward to sharing this journey with you!