by Jodi Gold & Carole
Some years ago, while teaching a workshop overseas, we
took time off to visit a Hmong village in Thailand. At
daybreak, the first women awoke, tended their fires and
began preparing food. A baby cried and a mother strapped
him on her back. Another woman brought her baby to her
breast. Meanwhile, the morning washing began. Women
washed the youngest children, and older children helped.
Men gathered their tools to go out to work in the
fields. Young boys of the tribe stood at the village
gate looking on. Their adolescent brothers, meanwhile,
helped the men gather their tools, then went with them
out into the fields.
Later that afternoon, we sat with several small
children, watching as a girl of about fourteen wove
magnificent strands of cotton--magenta, fuchsia, yellow,
and turquoise--for the garment she would wear at her
In the course of the day stories were told, simple
rituals performed, children were scolded or disciplined,
and occasionally tempers flared. Choices were made and
people laughed at jokes. The young helped with various
tribal tasks and paid respect to the elders. Older
children mentored and taught younger ones.
We listened to tribal laughter as families gathered
at dusk to share the evening meal. And when the dinner
was done, we joined the entire village, sitting in a
circle to tell stories, in a room lit with a single
kerosene lamp. As the evening came to a close, the women
danced their ancestral dance, one that had been danced
for hundreds of years, a dance telling the story of the
tribe and its lineage. The dances let them know that
their lives were woven into a much larger fabric, a
continuum stretching far beyond what they could
immediately see or even fully imagine.
Clearly, there is something we all share with these
ancient villagers who live on the mountain in Thailand.
It is a sense of personal linkage and community--tribal
connection--that so many of us are seeking in our
families, corporations, in the privacy of our own
In modern life, the absence of tribe causes a hunger
we all will eventually feel, one that can't be fulfilled
by those palliatives of modern life--more activity, more
or other individual relationships, more gadgets to
entertain us, more or higher goals achieved.
Along with losing our tribal vocabulary--us, we, our,
offer, share, open, collective, creation, receptive,
receiving, patience. We have lost much more; we have
lost our connection to each other, to humanity, and to
the planet. We cling to the vision that life is about me
and mine, about here and now. We are alone, isolated
from the eternal flow of life.
Tribe offers us a very different perspective on our
relationship to the present, the past, and the future.
When we can see ourselves part of a larger whole, one
that extends beyond our own lifespans into the infinite
continuum of the cosmos, our singular lives take on
meanings that connect us to that continuum that
spiritual teachers urge us to seek--our relationship to
the life force itself.
Without tribe we see our own, singular
accomplishments as the be-all and end-all of our lives.
But tribe allows us to see our part in the eternal flow
more clearly, to be awed and inspired by it, to be shown
how our lives have meaning far beyond the reach of our
own years. In the context of tribal learning, we find
ourselves part of something larger than ourselves, not
just a part of God, which is so difficult for us to
imagine, but part of a work in progress that mirrors the
evolution of human consciousness.
We make assumptions about what it means to know
our neighbors. In modern life, to know someone is to
know their name, to recognize their face when we meet
them on the street, and perhaps to know their work or
profession. But tribal experiences of knowing teach us
that it's much more than that.
There is a wonderful story about a tribe in the
Kalahari Desert who was visited by a reporter. He
intended to live among them, and get to know their ways
and customs. One day he asked one of the tribe members,
"Do you like your neighbor?" The village man
replied, "Do I like my neighbor?" And left it
at that. Many days went by, until at last the tribesman
gestured to the reporter, "Come with me." And
with that he took the reporter across the dirt path to
his neighbor's hut. There he sat for the better part of
the day, talking, laughing, sharpening his weapons. Day
after day, the tribesman would take the reporter and
they'd visit the neighbor. Some days they would hunt,
some days they'd stay in the village. This went on for
many months, until finally, the tribesman sat down with
the reporter and said, "You asked me if I liked my
neighbor...there, that is how I feel about my
What a wonderful story this is! Where we might expect
a short answer--yes, I do, or no, I don't--we were
instead invited in to experience the actual beauty of
that friendship. I don't know my neighbors. I have met
them, we are friendly, I like them. But I do not know
them. The boundaries of our homes are clearly delineated
by our walls and shrubs and property lines. I have never
cooked with the woman next door. Never watched her
discipline her children or comfort them when they cry.
And since I do not know my neighbors, I have no access
to who and what they truly are. We can't learn from one
another, pool our resources or our wisdom.
It is not only property lines and walls that break
down our bonds with one another. For example, millions
of children growing up in the cities and suburbs have no
concept of how the food they eat is grown, or how it
gets to the market. In the fast-food world in which we
live, many people don't even know how food is prepared
Ask a Kalahari tribesman where his food comes from
and he'll probably take you out on a hunt with him, or
suggest that you spend the next few days gathering wild
melons, herbs and native root crops with the women. In
the process, you'd learn about the terrain, when things
were ready to pick, when they were not, how to harvest
what you needed without damaging the plant or
surrounding environs. Mostly, you'd learn about the
close relationship between hunter, gatherer and the
Earth. You'd touch the sacred each time you harvested a
vegetable or fruit, or tracked, killed and dressed out a
game bird or other animal.
There is plenty of evidence that tribal consciousness
is universal, that it endures in the human soul
regardless of its diminished external expressions.
Regardless of how we might view the politics behind such
events, we see it manifest in the Million Man March, in
new forms of urban housing and co-housing, and even,
some might say, in the violent youth gangs of the inner
city. We find it in increasing numbers of mother's
groups, in support groups that help us through difficult
life passages, addressing issues as far ranging as
addiction and conscious dying. We find it in corporate
team management trainings that emphasize spiritual
values in the work place, in self-help housing groups,
Native American groups, political activism...the list
Clearly, many people feel this instinctual tug for
tribe, yet aren't drawn to one of these tribe-like
groups, perhaps because we have no addiction, aren't a
black man, aren't a mother, or aren't in group therapy.
So we need to ask, what is the common solvent, the needs
and values that all of these groups share?
As a society we are desperate for something we cannot
even name. But we must name it. Our very survival
depends on it. Western culture has come to a major
turning point. We know this both as individuals and as a
society. Our values are changing. Something is going on
deep within our collective consciousness. We are
entering anew phase of our being. Like all creatures in
transition, we must let go, surrender to the incoming
phase of our being. The time is here to invent a new
model of tribe.
Our sacred re-tribalization for the new millennium
doesn't require us to go back in time to simpler, more
elemental ways. But it does demand a willingness to meet
life head on, to take our places in society as
contributing members, to be responsible for the impact
of our choices on those around us, and on our planet. It
means getting to know the sacred values that are at the
heart of all existence. It means traveling a path toward
greater receptiveness and a new definition of power.
Above all, the tribal consciousness evolving out of the
mist rouses us from our innocence and asks us to open up
to the mysteries of life. It starts with making new
kinds of decisions, not ones based only on what's most
convenient, profitable or efficient in the short run but
on how the actions we take will serve the continuum, the
flow of life that extends even beyond our own lifespans.
We know that tribal consciousness can be created in
every aspect of our lives--in our marriages, in the work
place, in our families, and in the larger communities to
which we belong. What we create in our individual lives
can extend out into tribal connections that embrace our
entire planet and that, in turn, embrace us
individually. What we're describing here is a shift in
perception, with a new focus on the sacred.
Sacred values are those which link us to the deeper
meanings of our lives. They connect us to the mystery of
the life force itself. The sacred is the magic, the
alchemical ingredient that uplifts and elevates us,
inspiring us to move beyond the limitations of our
ordinary lives. Throughout the ages, in myths, folk
stories, and spiritual teachings, we have been linked
with the sacred through a tribal process that extends
back to time immemorial, weaving the magic of sacred
The sacred is our link with the mystery, with the
original intention of a power greater than ourselves.
Without this link with the sacred, we invent values and
goals that take us further and further from our source
and we find ourselves wandering alone in the universe.
The sacred is our opening to a life lived with the
qualities of the awakened heart...compassion, innate
harmony and balance, having direct access to the healing
presence of unconditional love. The sacred provides us
with a map to the universe, to God, one that existed
long before we came into this life, and will exist long
after we are gone. Tribal life, and the connections it
gives us with the continuum that stretches way beyond
our own lifespans, teaches us that human life is one of
the expressions of the sacred mysteries, and human
beings enacting sacred tribal values is the thread that
leads us back home to God.
We can explore ways to renew this sense of awe, this
reverence for the mystery, not by returning to a more
primitive lifestyle, or necessarily by living
communally, but through finding in ourselves the spirit
of devotion and communion with life, remembering that
living is not a problem to be solved but an unfolding
mystery to be experienced.
Modern society offers an endless array of goals--the
house in the suburbs, the "happy" marriage,
the perfect job or profession, the dream of living
without having to experience the discomforts of anxiety,
grief, conflict or doubt. If we just stay on track and
do it right, or do it enough, we will be rewarded with
the gold ring at the end of the game.
We imagine there is a payoff that will make all our
sacrifices, all the miseries we've endured up to
that point, worth all the effort. One day, at last, we
tell ourselves, we'll have enough love, enough money,
enough self-esteem and enough achievements. But will we
quell our longing for the sacred that tugs at our hearts
as this century comes to a close?
When the values of the sacred tribe are missing, and
the sacred values are either neglected or unknown to us,
our lives easily become meaningless, a string of
individual acts, with no link to a deeper guiding force.
A wonderful question to ask yourself is, "At the
end of my life, looking back at all that I've
experienced, what is it that I have valued the
most?" The very question itself rings us
into the realm of the sacred. What is the unseen force
that connects and gives meaning to all of life's
actions? The sacred is the magic, the alchemical
ingredient that lifts and heightens us, inspires us to
move beyond the limitations of our ordinary lives.
Sacred values are the values that link us to deeper
meaning, beyond the temporal boundaries of our physical
existence, connecting us with the great mysteries.
We long to have our lives count, to feel that we
matter. While we have never met a person who hasn't
experienced this yearning at sometime in their life, we
have met people who long ago stopped believing it
possible. Some people forget this feeling or deny it to
themselves, thinking that it is something that only
"special" people enjoy. But inevitably, with
only a little nudge, even those who are loudest in their
denial, reconnect with their desire for this sacred
intent. Sometimes all it takes is a question: "How
am I participating in my life? What am I creating,
bringing in, contributing?"
Our yearning for the sacred in daily life is the
connective tissue that holds our lives together. We know
that the sacred exists everywhere in daily life, even
though we may not see it or experience it. This is the
invisible reality that forms the very foundation of all
existence. This is the essence of tribal consciousness.
Tribe is not the creation of an association of like
minds but an exploration of our diversity and the
universal bonds that exist beyond that diversity.
Slowly, through this process of acknowledging our need
for tribe, we get our humanity back. We begin to see how
we are all parts in the circle of life. We heal the
sense of separation and alienation that has created our
longing. We remember that we are connected to everything
that exists, the eternal flow of past, present, and
future. We take our places in life, reclaiming the
promise of full, rich, livingness now...within
ourselves, shared with others.
In our undefined hunger for the tribal connection we
know that life has some invisible, connective tissue. We
instinctively know that there is more to life than we
can see and measure in external events, goals, and
accomplishments. From the feelings that are raised as we
think about tribe comes a very essential question:
"Why bother to do my life at all if it doesn't
serve a larger cause, if it doesn't make a contribution,
if it doesn't add something that can make life for all
of our planet a little better? Why bother if in my life
I feel increasingly separate from my soul, my family, my
community, and from the earth itself?"
What is tribe if not that wondrous container that
mirrors back to us all the sacred parts of ourselves?
Tribe helps us to remember our love and our important
place in life. It helps us know and understand and live
in harmony with life, with what life calls us to do,
with the fact that there is a greater purpose than
ourselves. We can each begin to take steps to humanize
our lives and restore tribal consciousness as part of
all of our lives--embracing the realization that this is
our rich inheritance of being. Through our humanness we
build what the ancient teachers called the
"unseen" or "invisible"--the powers
of the emotional and spiritual realms that none of us
can escape from, and which are the deep well from which
each of us can draw for the nourishment of all life.
© Copyright Jodi Gold &
Carole Kammen. All Rights Reserved.
holds a Masters degree in Education, with a focus on
Instructional Design, and has practiced her specialty in
group process and curriculum design since 1986. As a
workshop facilitator, she uses her skills as an educator
to provide dynamic and powerful presentations
is a visionary teacher and lecturer. She holds a Masters
degree in Psychology and has worked in the field of
transformational arts since 1980. In addition to
bringing her extraordinary talents to the role of
teacher, she provides consulting and mentorship to
private and corporate clientele.
Both Carole and Jodi have
traveled widely, participating in cultures where the
sense of tribal relationship is still a vital part of
daily life. Through the course offerings of the Pathways
Institute, as well as their book - Call to
Connection: Bringing Sacred Tribal Values into Modern
Life - they have made a significant contribution to
the human potential movement, bringing ancient
philosophies to contemporary lifestyles.
is a life-long learning academy in the human arts. In
all cultures throughout the ages, mystery schools appear
at times of extraordinary cultural, societal and
technological change to help ordinary men and women
bridge the resulting chasm between the inner sacred and
outer mundane life experience. Like the mystery schools
of old, Pathways Institute revives ancient wisdom and
practices relevant to today's challenges.
Pathways Institute, founded in
1986, is dedicated to the exploration of human
consciousness leading to your personal, professional and
spiritual wisdom, skills and fulfillment. Learn more
about them by calling 1-800-352-4037, or visit their
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