I’d like to share stories from our family’s summer Native Stone Age Camp. I must admit, I didn’t grow up as a Girl Scout and I’ve spent my entire life studying Tibetan Buddhism and yoga with a lot of lengthy texts and meditation practices. So much of that training was helpful, but now I’ve finally discovered what all of the interest was with native arts and shamanism. Most of the spiritual development I’ve done has been in a shrine room or in a classroom, and I now see, that I have longed more for the earth, and needed mostly to be “grounded.” I have spent too much time reading, thinking, contemplating and reflecting, rather than getting back to our roots.
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However, this week I took my daughter to a rare stone age survival skills camp where we learned how live right in nature, and survive with only what nature provides. We learned how to: make fire, to create simple cutting tools called flint-napping and later the creating of bows and arrows and tomahawks, and the crafting of a handmade bow and native survival archery and hatchet tossing for sustainable and conscious hunting. Hunting and fishing generally go against our Buddhist vows of non-harming, however, I now feel that in survival settings, I think its possible for humans to consciously and respectfully use animals and animal products for nutrition and tools like the natives have done, since time immemorial. This is far more enlightened than our current factory farming, so I’m okaying for my family to learn to fish, and at least know how to hunt with a bow and arrow.
We worked with an amazing wild herbalist/ botanist/ survivalist named CatTail Bob. We learned how to identify edible wild herbs and plants that grow in our state and what is medicinal and what is poisonous, and what can be used to make fire, generate warmth and even sew! We ate outdoors and spent the week in the sun and on the earth and together in community around the fire. We were taught how to do pioneer soap making from ash lye and animal fat, how to do wool drop spindling and many other skills that have been for the most part, somewhat lost to humanity.
The first day we got there the Native American trained camp teacher who is proficient in bow making took my daughter and trained her on how to become an expert marksman and perfect her shot. She sanded her own bow, routed and strung it, and then, coated it with bear fat, how brazen! His teaching was extremely compassionate and precise, and he carefully guided her with handling the bow and arrow, it was par with a personal, martial arts training and she grew in confidence from this. We also allowed her to safely carry her own sheath knife and use that to whittle a spoon and make natural pencils from sticks!
I was able to take the afternoon off and I found a beautiful hammock underneath some pine trees by the river and I just fell asleep with the summer sway of the hammock and felt completely healed. My experience there learning these primitive skills was deeply healing and nutritive. I watched the girls do leather crafts to make a fur and leather quiver to store their bows and arrows. They were able to get off the computers, cell phones, off of media and out of the cities back to our more organic roots. Our minds became sharper and clearer and more present, we were able to bask in the sunlight and eat healthy and simple food. We learned how to work together in community and feel alive again.
I think for us to reconnect to the earth itself, sunlight, grass, herbs, water and use natural tools, these ancient arts that are being lost to humanity, is the essence of spiritual development directly connecting with nature, the elements, the earth animals and each other. It’s such a rare privilege to think that if society falls or if there’s a huge storm or if we ever wanted to become homesteaders, that we would know how to use our elements around us and start a fire. What a gift to learn to survive by using what’s simply in our natural environment like the Pilgrims did and people have done since time immemorial.
What a strength to feel that, with some training, we don’t have to rely on cities or the electric grid or supermarket for us to take care of our families and survive. I highly recommend everyone to learn and relearn and develop these skills, these wilderness programs aren’t just your average summercamp. Here are some resources below, and this winter, we want to learn how to build a snow shelter and survive in the snow! We had the privilege to study with some of the best people like ROBIN BLANKENSHIP that have been on the Discovery Channel and written foremost survival skills books. Please consider re-connecting with the elements and with nature, sacredness in it’s raw form. One becomes more grounded, all of the human dramas and problems of politics and money and emotional things that keep us depressed, just naturally fall away in the warmth of the nutritive sun, the gentleness of the wind and our bare feet on the raw mother earth.
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