If you want to live like an animist, you might want to learn like an animist. The process is totally different.
The way you use your brain shows what you value and influences what you see. So, if you want an indigenous birds eye view, you have to get into the bird’s head. Here’s what I mean.
Researcher Peter Gray wrote about his observations of extant hunter-gatherer tribes in his book Free to Learn. He found that:
Children are Sovereign
Animism is about sovereignty. This extends to children. Unlike in western societies, kids are not monitored 24 hours a day. They don’t have structured learning where they sit all day and focus on specific topics for one hour at a time. Indigenous children can choose what to pay attention to and for how long they want to do it. So learning is a choice. It’s driven by their interests and is completely individual.
Children Learn Through Play
The last time I learned by play in school was in kindergarten. We had “Housekeeping Corner” where we could pretend to vacuum, cook, sew, and be a Mommy. Indigenous children spend their entire childhood and beyond learning by watching someone who can do what they want to do. Then they practice by playing. It’s somewhat like an apprenticeship, but less structured and more fun.
So they really hunt, really gather food, really make tools, and really tend to children. They learn survival skills as well as social skills in this way.
The attitude of play is adopted throughout life, not just childhood. Adults solve problems in this way so that they can maintain peace and sovereignty. So adults model play. You see it throughout folk tales and mythology because life revolved around it.
Ages are Not Segregated
Western society likes boxes. Two year olds go here. Twelve year olds do this. There is a line for everything.
Real life is not like that. It’s a web. Everything intersects with everything else. In indigenous societies, everyone is a learner. Everyone is a teacher because everything is connected. We’re all related. Learning moves in all directions not just from teacher to student.
Adults Guide and Mentor Children
When children ask, adults show them what to do. This isn’t restricted to their parents or a designated teacher. All adults give to all children.
Learning is Real World Not Abstract
Come on. Be honest. A lot of what you learned in school hasn’t really helped you in life, has it? While it’s really nice to know about literature (for example), we can all see the impact of rearing generations of children who can’t cook or change a tire. I’ve had many clients who earn high dollars, but are mental basket cases because they can’t manage their emotions, relate in healthy ways with others, and don’t have basic life skills. They are taught how to make money, but they aren’t equipped to have happy or meaningful lives.
Animism is a lifestyle. It’s not just what you believe. It’s how you live. At Pan Society, we incorporate our values into everything we do. However, if you don’t have the eyes to see it, you might miss what’s in front of your face. For instance, a recent conversation with someone made it really obvious that, although he knew about the practice of beginning a ritual by smudging the space, he had no idea that the purpose was for purification. Further, he didn’t know why purification was important.
Animism is not about prescribed activities, saying specific prayers, or things like that. That’s why we don’t have a book or checklist. It’s about what’s behind those things. If the mind isn’t in alignment, the practices won’t be.
So, we invite you to our facebook community where you can join the tribe and engage in conversations. If you’d like to deepen your animist practice and want a mentor, take a course with us. In the process, you will learn like an animist so you will begin to think like an animist.
Tips to Learn Like an Animist
- Keep an attitude of play. Don’t ever make learning so serious that it stops being fun.
- Learn what you want to learn, not what you think you should learn.
- Focus on the experience not the end goal.
- Ask useful questions.
- Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Wait until you’re asked. Maybe someone isn’t ready for the answer. Maybe they are working it out.
- If you make a mistake, own it. It teaches you, and anyone who is watching you, humility and the growth mindset.
- Go at your own pace.
- Find a mentor who can help you through the rough spots. Life’s a lot easier when someone blazes a trail for you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
- Look for the teachers and the lessons in every day life. School is always in session. The whole world is your teacher.
- Find your tribe. The journey is more pleasant and productive in the company of others. And think outside the box. They don’t have to look like you. Choose based on shared interests.
- Learn by doing. Get involved. Observe. Copy. Adjust.
- Be a cheerleader. Surround yourself with cheerleaders.
- Invest in your tribe. Invest in yourself.