The Four Shields of Human Nature
The Four Shields of Human Nature is the nature-based sense-making system or ‘map’ that we employ on our programmes. The ‘shields’ can be thought of as directions, as each corresponds to a cardinal point, with the self in the centre. Each direction represents a set of qualities, characteristics, and behaviours. A healthy relationship with a shield means that when we rise to meet life’s challenges by shifting in a particular direction, we embody the helpful aspects of the shield. Sometimes though, we can become stuck in one direction or over-identify with a particular shield, which prevents us from growing, resolving situations, or moving forward.
We invite participants to overlay this ‘map’ onto their existing ways of knowing and being in the world for the duration of a programme. We offer it as a useful tool for navigating the symbolic landscape that nature reveals to us as we immerse ourselves in the land. Most people find it easy, practical and fun to use, and not in conflict with any religious or spiritual belief they may hold.
The Four Shields is a simple system which has some parallels with Jung’s notion of archetypes. It provides a way of contemplating and speaking about our tendencies, patterns of thinking and behaviour, and the processes we go through in every aspect of life. Being nature-based, it envisages the stages of and currents at work in our lives as a cyclical process of sprouting, growth, fruiting, dying back, composting, and renewal.
These cycles in our lives form wheels within wheels: some lasting years, others months, weeks, days, hours, and sometimes minutes! As we move through these cycles, we experience those various stages in different areas of our lives: one thing ending, another reaching fruition, somewhere else a new beginning.
Each of these cycles can be considered a rite-of-passage, leading to growth and change as we expand the envelope of our consciousness. The wheels are envisaged as constantly in motion, for without motion, everything stagnates. However, sometimes we can become stuck in a situation, or in a phase of a cycle and it can seem as though there is no way forward. We may lose our way, feeling as though we can’t find our way back to the path we want to be on. Sometimes it might feel as if we’re stumbling around in the dark, other times that something is holding us back or that nothing we try to move forward seems to work.
The four shields teachings can help us to understand ourselves and our predicaments better, and importantly, can help us shift energies, habits, and patterns of thinking, relating, and behaving so that the cycles can continue as they should.