What is Mentoring?

by Jeannine Tidwell

What is mentoring? What is a mentor? What is a mentor relationship? These terms are being used more and more in the world today in a variety of contexts and environments. Here we offer our unique mentoring model that is rooted in the heart of nature and has the power to facilitate individual growth, deep connection to nature, and cultural change. Let's take a closer look.

What is Mentoring?
Be sure to take a look at the bottom of this article for a complete listing of nature based mentoring articles, as this page serves as a gateway to a whole variety of other diverse articles, all focused on the art of mentoring.

What is mentoring?

What is mentoring? Mentoring is a dynamic, multi-layered experience in which one person (the mentor) facilitates a journey of discovery for another person (the student). The student is facilitated by the mentor as the guide and is propelled to learn and grow. But that's just the beginning.

What is mentoring? Mentoring is a symbiotic relationship in action.

What is mentoring? It's time spent with the guidance of an individual who has experience in a particular subject of learning. It's an often sophisticated and artful medium which creates that relationship of learning from one person to another. When it's happening in a thriving and regenerative community and it fosters the growth of every community member, there's no doubt then that each individual is both mentor and student at different stages in the human journey we call life.

What is mentoring? The holistic mentoring process is akin to the way an old growth forest continually regenerates. The oldest trees form the canopy, holding space for all the younger trees to grow. The unique needs of each tree in each phase of life are met by the greater community of more mature trees surrounding it, and even the dead trees which have composted back into soil providing nutrients for the living trees.

Mentoring is this way, too. A mentor holds space for a student, guiding them in their journey of discovery. Eventually, the student becomes the mentor and guides the next generation. Even when the mentor dies, the teachings imparted live on in the hearts of the living. Then the cycle begins again.

What is mentoring? Mentoring is most powerful when it occurs over a long period of time. Long-term mentoring is when many years are spent together and the student and mentor are building rapport and trust with one another over a long period of time. Deep bonding, deep trust and deep resonance occur over the span of the mentoring relationship. Human beings are multi-faceted people who, like all other organisms, grow through time and cycles. Thus, long-term mentoring is the most impactful and supports how humans have originally been designed to learn and grow. When we trust this time tested recipe, long-term mentoring relationships can become like extended family relationships over time. The student lives in the mentor's heart, and the mentor lives in the student's heart.

What is mentoring? Mentoring is self-exploration with guidance. We want the student to pursue what they are passionate about learning. We want the student to own their own journey of discovery, to be self-empowered. And when they do, out comes genius and the discovery of their best gifts because they have a burning desire to learn.

What is mentoring? When mentoring is happening, the mentor is helping the student grow in self-confidence on their learning journey. Over and over again the mentor is guiding the student to a precipice where they'll learn to step beyond their comfort zones into new footholds of learning and personal growth.

What is mentoring? Mentoring is the original human blueprint for learning and connecting. It hasn't been that long in our human history that we have been without mentoring systems and relationships woven into cultures. With the onslaught of westernization and consumerism, the modern western culture has come to produce superficial relationships instead of intimate mentoring relationships, and it has come to value rote information over experiential learning.

What is mentoring? Historically mentoring has been a part of traditional cultures around the world. It was built into the fabric of how societies functioned in a seamless and complex manner and largely is what created community. It joined people together and created meaningful bonds and relationships. It facilitated the transition from one life stage to the next with support, meaning and purpose.

What is mentoring? Mentoring is often invisible. What's happening behind all the activities and interactions of a holistic mentoring culture? Behind this seemingly invisible veil is a mentoring approach that amplifies the student's passion and discovery of learning before providing them with all the answers. The aspiration for expanding the student's awareness all stems from a need for them to own their learning and figure it out for themselves.

What is mentoring? With all this in mind, when mentoring is built into a culture and a community of relationships, people are growing more holistically and are nourished by a web of connections that propel everyone to support one another. Mentoring creates cords of connection.

What is Mentoring?

What is a mentor?

While I've been primarily referring to the human aspect of mentoring from one person to another, a mentor can be anything which teaches and offers knowledge, wisdom and experience. A mentor is a guide for helping the student to engage powerfully with the world. They are highly connected with nature, community and themselves. These are their life sources that guide and inform their mentoring. They are also being mentored as well as mentoring others.

A mentor walks the edge of a student's awareness, guiding the student on a journey of connection. The student often times may think that they themselves were responsible for their own discoveries. This is one result of good mentoring. It is a selfless act that values long term over short term gain.

If the heart is a midwife for experiencing our humanness then it's important for a mentor to connect with their own heart and with the heart of their student. This is basic human protocol. We can't connect with something in someone else if we aren't connected with it in ourselves first. The mentor will thus be able to identify the student's passions, fears, anxieties, the hidden contexts that they live from, noticing their gaps, fears, places where they are willing to take risks or not and see what they see or don't see.

This is all in the effort of helping them to reach beyond what they think is possible. In the end the student has the opportunity to seize a greater awareness of choice and realize who they are and who they are becoming. A greater inner freedom is available that was not there before which leads to greater power and self-realization of identity and purpose.

A mentor is one who "shows up" for their student. This doesn't mean that they are a parent or the paramedics, holding the student's hand through all their everyday activities or a crisis. Rather they are supporting the student to feel or sense their presence and their gifts as an offering of support.

The mentor is helping to bring about the development of self-esteem, empowerment, opening the heart, critical thinking skills, and the ability to initiate change in the student. What results is an understanding of their humanness and an inspiration for creating actions for a peaceful, connected world. All of this happens in many different ways. Some of them include:

  • asking the student stimulating, provocative questions never before considered
  • supporting the student to identify their range of available tools
  • guiding the student to discover what other tools are needed
  • helping the student to find what is newly emerging each moment
  • providing the student with powerful immersion and direct experiences

Mentors are essentially personal growth and human development facilitators. Regardless of whether a mentor is teaching you how to weave a basket or lead a group in a leadership context there is a facet of personal growth taking place in the midst of sharing knowledge and gaining experience.

Indicators of a good mentor relationship

There are many indicators of a good mentoring relationship. Over time, the student and mentor can feel that they are both being authentically pulled into greater awareness from learner to lifelong learner, from self-esteem and confidence to vision and purpose. They can feel that the mentoring relationship is not isolated in a linear journey but rather a cyclical journey. Their relationship with each other reveals many facets to the diamond of mentoring.

What is mentoring? Within our mentoring lineage, there are seven indicators or what we call "symptoms" of a quality mentoring relationship. The indicators themselves can be the outcomes of good mentoring. They are signs that both mentor and student are exhibiting along the way that confirm there is powerful mentoring taking place between them.

Inner quietness

There is an old creation story about the first humans who inhabited the Earth who were real talkers and boy, were they loud. The Creator said, "Okay, now tone it down," As they did they got to a whisper. Creator then said, "Okay, now talk." This is the kind of awareness of inner quietness that comes from the practice of it. As a result, our senses are tuned and worries released because we are truly present. This leads to inner peace.

Placing those we love in our hearts

In our modern world today it can be very easy to place barriers around our heart as a way of survival and protection. When we place those we love in our hearts we are inviting ourselves to feel our humanness, our vulnerability and most importantly our love for those that are important to us.

Deep care for all living things

There is a powerful feeling of care, thoughtfulness and compassion for all living things. The circle of those in our hearts has widened to include all living things. This is a natural outcome of being aware and connected to other people and things around you. We personally have a gift to love and care for life around us.

Being truly helpful

From inner quietness and a care for all life comes a natural tendency to help all those in need and thus, a deep satisfaction and fulfillment permeates our spirit.

Feeling fully alive

Jumping in a cold river at the break of dawn we feel the shock and tension filling our whole bodies. Immediately after all tensions are released and the mind is cleared. Feeling fully alive means we are living in the present moment with our awareness, our thoughts, our energy and our actions. Like that cold river the elements and situation in front of us are the perfect conditions for awakening to living life to the fullest.

Heartfelt joy of a child

We recognize that our childlike spirit never grows old and retains youthfulness. With that joyful childlike state we have the power to become one with our thoughts and actions and accomplish anything.

Sacred state of health

In a sacred state of health our mind is connected with our hearts, bodies and spirit. We have strength and power in our lives to walk our path. All aspects of ourselves are connected.

Wrapping the Mentoring Bundle

Answering the question "What is Mentoring?" would not be complete without the following. One of the best indicators of a high quality mentoring relationship is when both mentor and student feel pushed to the edge of what they know into what they can sense and feel. From this extraordinary place of envisioning comes the self-confidence, inspiration and brilliance to manifest that vision in the world.

This is mentoring. We are committed to this level of high quality, long term, nature based mentoring here at Twin Eagles Wilderness School. We're grateful to our mentors who have passed this lineage on to us, and to our students for receiving this mentoring with open hearts. May the circle be unbroken.

List of Articles on Nature Based Mentoring

We invite you to check out our articles below as you continue to explore the question "What is Mentoring?" and enjoy building deeper connections with those around you. Enjoy!

Can Mud Make Us Cleaner?

Can Mud Make Us Cleaner?

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A Perfect Moment

A Perfect Moment

Take a glimpse into "a pefect moment" experienced by on one Twin Eagles Wilderness School's longterm students during a wilderness survival solo at Twin Eagles Overnight Camp for Teens.

Nature and Culture

Nature and Culture - the Wisdom of Learning

Discover how culture and nature have long been interwoven, resulting in authentic learning. Modern brain research, indigenous wisdom, and deep nature connection mentoring all agree that nature and culture are meant for one another.

What is a gap year?

What is a Gap Year?

Discover the answer to this and other questions like why take a gap year?, address concerns people have, and discover valuable gap year possibilities and resources.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Giving and Receiving Feedback

The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback. Feedback is a powerful tool for deepening relationships. But how to give feedback? How to receive feedback? Think of it as gold dust for personal growth.

Summer Camp Benefits

Summer Camp Benefits

Summer Camp Benefits - The Very Best of Childhood We all want the very best for our children. Summer camp benefits kids in profound ways that impact their bodies, minds, hearts, and souls.

Outdoor Games for Kids

Outdoor Games for Kids

Great Outdoor Games for Kids! Don't you just love great outdoor games for kids? Here is our list of some of our best outdoor kid games from Twin Eagles Wilderness School. Have Fun!

Fun Outdoor Games

Fun Outdoor Games

Fun Outdoor Games for Kids! There is nothing better than fun outdoor games, and we all need some new ideas from time to time. Here we offer a guide to some of our most popular fun outdoor games for kids. Enjoy!

Kids Outdoor Relay Games

Kids Outdoor Relay Games

Kids Outdoor Relay Games! Everyone loves playing kids outdoor relay games! Get a collection of the best and learn how to play them all right now, as shared at Twin Eagles Wilderness School!

Native American Mythology

Native American Mythology

Traditional Native American mythology elicits a deep connection to place and brings us back to our roots. Come sit around our fire and learn how mythology is an essential part of the answer to the question, "What is Mentoring?"

Native American Legends

Native American Legends

Traditional indigenous culture is like a basket, and Native American legends are the warps, the skeleton, and foundation of the basket. They bring us back to our ancient, earth based roots.

Interested in being personally mentored in Nature Based Mentoring, on a transformational journey of connection to nature, community, and self?

Check out the Twin Eagles Wilderness Immersion Program.

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