I have such gratitude for all of my teachers. I could name many others back to the earliest times of my life, but I limit myself here to the teachers who have been central in my work as a guide to soul.
Bill Plotkin, Ph.D.
Bill is a depth psychologist, wilderness rites guide, and ecotherapist. As the founder of Animas Valley Institute, he has, since 1981, guided thousands of people through nature-based initiatory passages, including a contemporary, Western adaptation of the pan-cultural vision quest. Previously he has been a research psychologist (studying non-ordinary states of consciousness), professor of psychology, psychotherapist, rock musician, whitewater river boatman, and mountain-bike racer. His doctorate in psychology is from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 1979, on a solo winter ascent of an Adirondack peak, Bill experienced a "call to adventure" that led him to abandon academia in search of his true calling. He is the author of Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche (New World Library, 2003); Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (New World Library, 2008); Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche (New World Library, 2013); and The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries (New World Library, 2021).
Bill offered me the opportunity to become a guide for Animas Valley Institute in 2000. His friendship and guidance have been invaluable to me in my ongoing development as a guide and a human.
Meredith Little and Steven Foster
Meredith and her husband Steven co-founded Rites of Passage Inc. in 1976 and The School of Lost Borders in 1981 - pioneering the methods and dynamics of modern pan-cultural passage rites in the wilderness, and "field therapy". The essence of their work is captured in articles, book chapters, an award-winning documentary film, and books that include: The Book of the Vision Quest, The Roaring of the Sacred River, The Four Shields: The Initiatory Seasons of Human Nature, and Lost Borders: Coming of Age in the Wilderness. Since Steven's death in 2003, Meredith continues to guide and train others internationally in this work. She also founded, with Dr. Scott Eberle, a new arm of Lost Borders entitled "The Practice of Living and Dying". In this partnership with Scott she hopes to crack open the taboos surrounding death, and to help restore dying to its natural place in the cycles of living.
I had the privilege of participating in the month-long training in vision quest guiding offered by Steven and Meredith in 2000. Their integrity and heart-centered ways helped me to see the path to my own style of guiding. Their excellence in the art of mirroring facilitated my development into one of my deepest gifts.
I have had the pleasure of guiding with Annie for eight years. The depth of her relationship with the land and her keen sensitivity to the larger field of human/other-than-human relationship continues to be a source of learning for me.
Lauren brings a deep sensitivity to the wounding of others, both human and other-than-human. We have guided one vision quest together. Her no-nonsense practicality, combined with her gentle heart teaches me much.
I have guided several vision quests with Geneen. Her ability to facilitate a consciousness beyond one's personal story has inspired me. She has helped me to see how our individual stories are co-joined to the story of the earth and the cosmos.
I came to know Trebbe when she was a guide for Animas Valley Institute. She now guides programs for her own organization, where I co-guided a vision quest with her. Trebbe's deep wisdom about the relationship to the inner Beloved has inspired my own work in that realm.
I have guided several vision quests with Mary. Through her work of bringing body awareness and body practices to soulcraft, I have learned much about the power of movement to facilitate soul encounter.
I guide the Animas program Embracing Soulful Elderhood with Ann. She carries the rare energy of a true elder. Her gentle way has taught me much about humility.
Jade and I trained together at Animas Valley Institute and at the School of Lost Borders. We did our first guiding for Animas together, and over the years we have guided many programs together. Her humor and playfulness have elicited my own. Her passion for bringing people into earth consciousness always inspires me.
I guide Sweet Darkness, the Animas program on shadow, with Dianne. Her expertise in guiding deep interactive imagery has taught me much about guiding people to their deep imagination.
Sabina and I have guided several vision quests together. Her untiring passion for the work is contagious. Her deep relationship with mystery has taught me much.
Program Participants and Clients
My many clients during 30 years as a psychotherapist have taught me so much about the wisdom of not assuming that I know anything about an individual until I have listened long enough, at the deepest level, to their heart, their story, and their soul's longing.
I have learned much about the utility of fear, and the power of courage and love from all of the many people who have participated in soulcraft and Vision Quest programs that I have guided, and in whose circles I continue to sit. They also show me how each individual soul story is so incredibly diverse and unique.
A loving family of origin--parents and siblings, aunts and uncle--gave me the firm foundation of being loved. My son, Matthew, and his wife, Libby, teach me so much about integrity and calm in the face of challenge. My wife, Jan, a true elder, illuminates a path to my own elderhood. My grandson, Hawken, and My granddaughter, Amelia, keep me connected to the realm of imagination. My former intimate partners have taught me about standing up for myself and much about the shadow aspects of me. My friends teach me about loyalty and the work of maintaining relationship.
Finally, and perhaps primarily, the land, whom I call Grandmother, and her beings have been my teachers in so many ways. It has been time alone on her body that brought me into awareness of her as a consciousness separate from myself, and yet inseparably joined to me. She opened my heart to the grief, joy, rage, and compassion that was hidden there. She revealed to me the threads and images of my bigger soul story and the gifts that I bring to my people. She sustains me when I am ready to throw in the towel and feel sorry for myself.