Mirroring the Four Shields of Human Nature


The Art of Story Telling and Listening


October 24 – 27, 2019


Sponsored by Vermont Wilderness Rites


Hosted by Metta Earth Institute, South Lincoln Vermont


                               For wilderness guides, psychotherapists, counselors, coaches, clergy,                                                                                      and others looking to deepen their work.


Through this retreat you will have the opportunity to:

  • Explore human nature through the lens of the seasons and cycles of nature – the Four Shields
  • Learn to evoke personal story through the mirror of nature.
  • Discover personal meaning through the telling of your story from nature and receiving the mirror of others.
  • Practice hearing and mirroring the Four Shields of Human Nature in another’s story.
  • Participate in and practice the Elder’s Council, a powerful incorporation practice of self and group empowerment.


The four seasonal directions of human nature, in their complex, yet simple, interaction, form the basis of an eco-psychology which redefines traditional psychologies that are based on human experience apart from nature.  The shields of human nature turn with the experiences of life, from the smallest cell to the great seamless whole of the biosphere called earth. It begins with the body (summer), turns into psyche (fall), becomes activated form (winter), which dissolves into spirit (spring) -- which is born again in the body (summer). We will use the work of Stephen Foster and Meredith Little, founders of the School of Lost Borders, to guide our exploration.


Telling one’s own story is an ancient art. Nowadays, we have forgotten how to listen and how to tell. Yet the very survival of our species depends on our ability to communicate with each other in such ways as to be mutually enriched by the telling and the listening. If we cannot tell with expression, our life is mute. If we cannot listen like a mirror, we cannot reflect back the wholeness of the four shields -- the body, soul, mind and spirit of the teller. The best stories are about human nature -- that is, the human of us which is, after all, nature in her basic manifestations as physical, psychical, rational, and spiritual. One of the best ways to create a four shields story, if not the best, is to put people in contact with nature in the raw.


What comes forth in the story is the stuff of self-transformation. Even as we “myth” ourselves into experience, so we express ourselves into existence. Our stories about our natural selves, and our means of expressing them, lead us to courage, determination, commitment, hope, wisdom, and the will to survive, to transcend the difficulty, to go beyond ourselves. Those of us who work with people must know how to listen and respond to the stories our people tell, so that we can help them create a life that is deeper, richer, and of greater benefit to our community and the earth. 

Program Description:


We will meet together outside as weather permits and inside when necessary.  We will learn about The Four Shields through discussion and sharing each morning; afternoons we will go on solitary walks into the surrounding forest and mountains that evoke the four personas in our own lives. Trainees will forgo companionship, food, and shelter during these times. In the evenings, we will tell and listen to stories that empower, learning to see the mirror that nature has given each of us. 


Program Cost:  $650 - $950 Sliding Fee Includes overnight accommodations, meals, and training program.

  • Participants can choose between shared space in yurts, shared space in bedrooms in the community building, or camping.   All accommodations are offered at the same price which is included in the program cost.
  • Meals are vegetarian and are prepared with seasonal, mostly local and 100% organic foods.  Special dietary needs can be met with advance notice.
  • Participants are asked to help with preparation or clean up of one meal during the retreat. Program time will not conflict with meal preparation.


To Register Contact Fran Weinbaum  vermontwildernessrites@yahoo.com



Retreat Staff

Emerald North, Lead Guide

Visionary, painter, sculptor, gardener and poet, Emerald North, brings years of vital and vibrant experience to the School of Lost Borders. She teaches from the depth of a full and rich life with humor, vision and love. Emerald values the personal relationships that are forged through ceremony and aspires to create what a recent participant described as “the safest, softest, permeable, transparent, and transparent container that could be so.”   Emerald has been with Lost Borders since 1993 and co-directed the School with Joseph Lazenka from 2001 through 2005. School of Lost Borders: http://schooloflostborders.org/  Art Website: http//www.earthtonesart.com


Fran Weinbaum, Program Coordinator


Fran Weinbaum has guided wilderness rites of passage and retreats since 1996.  For the past 10 years, her commitment has been the weaving of soulful community in North Central Vermont through community-created and held ceremony including rites of passage.  Fran has trained with The School of Lost BordersAnimas Valley InstituteThe Institute for Spiritual Development, Earth Island Expeditions (now Metta Earth Institute), and The Newfield Network.  She is a life coach, guide, and celebrant for ceremonies that honor life transitions including birth, marriage, rite of passage, and end of life.


Assistant Guides


Susan Atwood has guided for the Central Vermont Women’s Wilderness Quest since 2013. Her work in various capacities as teacher, mentor and guide has been to “en-courage” individuals to connect with their deepest aspirations and interests. Susan has trained with Fran Weinbaum and with School of Lost Borders. In 2015 she completed the Yearlong Soul-Craft Immersion Program with Animas Valley Institute led by Bill Plotkin. She has a MA in Education with an emphasis on teaching writing and is currently enrolled in the Clinical Mental Health Master’s degree program at Northern Vermont University. Susan has been a student of Buddhist practice for over twenty year

Ken Crocker has guided rites of passage outings for boys and young men and participates in restorative justice circles with youth offenders.  He is a mediator and parent/teen mediations are his favorites.  While he had an earlier career in high tech, his favorite career was as a stay at home dad for his two daughters who are now amazing young adults.  A majority of Ken’s energy is now focused on climate change, including serving as the board chair for the Geos Institute www.geosinstitute.org, which helps communities respond to the threat of climate change by building resilience.  Ken is a student of the Diamond Approach.  https://www.diamondapproach.org


Russell Comstock is the Co-Director of Metta Earth Institute. He holds an MA in Contemplative and Ecological Leadership and a BA in Human Ecology. A practitioner of yoga for more than twenty years, he is certified in both Interdisciplinary and Jivamukti Yoga. Russell has extensive experience directing programs in wilderness, adventure, and experiential education. He has trained as a quest and wilderness guide with Earth Rise Foundation, School of Lost Borders, and Outdoor Leadership Training Seminars. He has been a nationally certified Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) and maintains a Wilderness First Responder certification. He has recently completed a handbook called: Metta Earth Yoga – Contemplative Ecological Practices for a Sustainable Futures.