Soren Talks about “Meetings With Mentors
“This book is directed to, but not exclusively for, young adults (those between the ages of seventeen to twenty-nine). I focused the interviews to this age group because I started the project at the age of twenty-four with the intention of offering a book to my peers.
Many of us reach our twenties without initiation rites, mentors, contact with nature, or community support. We grow up with confusing messages from the media about success, happiness, and beauty. Few of the stories we hear speak to our inner longings, our inner quest. Finding the stories that speak to us often requires a quest. We must seek out the stories, uncover them from hidden places, excavate them from ruins, and ask for guidance along the way. Meetings with Mentors is my quest for such stories and teachings.
While the interviews are directed toward young adults, I realized in the process of compiling the book that the subjects we discuss extend beyond any particular age group. The interviews, at their core, are about relationships — to oneself, the Earth, youth, elders. I recognized that we all are at times elders, teachers, students, and mentors, depending on the situation and what is asked of us. While at times we need support, we must equally be able to provide it. In this sense the interviews are for everyone interested in this quest, and I hope they speak as much to the elder members of our community as to the younger ones.
I conducted the first interview in 1992, but the book had been in the making for much longer. Early visions of it lingered in my mind as a youth while growing up in West Texas when I was introduced to many of the people I later interviewed through their books and audio tapes. Some years later in my late teens and early twenties, I met many of them while living and working for a year at the Esalen Institute, a center in Big Sur, California for the study of bodywork, transpersonal psychology, and related subjects in the field of human potential.
During this time my friends in Texas, who were pursuing more traditional forms of education, often inquired about my experiences at Esalen. Never feeling that I could adequately explain what I was learning, I often wondered how I might better share some of my experiences with them. This book is partly my way of doing that-my “notes to friends” along the way.
Another experience that shaped this book was the year I spent on a global environmental walk in the United States, India, Pakistan, and Japan. This profound experience ignited my interest in ecology and peace-related issues. Walking through these countries, I saw the enormous rate that technology is spreading, and I wondered how cultures could develop technologically without losing their connection with the Earth and sense of community. Spending many months on the road walking fifteen to twenty miles a day, I saw first-hand the environmental destruction happening throughout the world. It became strikingly clear to me during this time that, if we are to survive, we must balance material and technological progress with spiritual progress and environmental sensitivity. We must not only go forward, but also backward, to the old traditions of storytelling, mentorship, and rites of passage. For a sustainable vision, we need to encompass both the ingenuity of today and the wisdom of the past. This book is my attempt to offer pieces to this vision.
The interviews cover a wide range of my interests-in spiritual traditions, ecology, conflict resolution, mentorship, rites of passage, psychology, death and dying, and various other social issues. Underlying all the interviews, though, is the quest for story. I sought not only to know about the philosophy or work of the people I interviewed, but what event or events moved them in a particular direction-stories that I could reflect on for my own life, and that could possibly assist others in their own search.
Rather than list the interviews in chronological order, I arranged them in four subgroups: Spiritual Practice, The Earth, Social Action, and Service and Spirit. The variety of people interviewed — psychologists, monks, witches, shamans, environmentalists, philosophers-reveals my attempt to provide a wide range of viewpoints on these subjects. The discussions, however, are not intended to provide answers, but to encourage questions. The creation of an Earth-based culture, of appropriate rites of passage, and of healthy mentor relationships will take all of our voices and hearts. I hope the following interviews aid in this movement and give food for thought to the questions we must ask over and over. Please join me as I meet some of the people who have affected my life.”
Soren Gordhamer is the author of Meetings with Mentors, 2.0 Wisdom for the Creative and Constantly Connected. (Harper One, 2009). He is also co-founder of Zooleo, an Interactive Audience Engagement Platform that brings forth the primary interests, concerns, and wisdom of groups. As a Project Director for Richard Gere’s public charity, Healing the Divide, he organized the Healing through Great Difficulty conference, which brought His Holiness the Dalai Lama into discussion with formerly incarcerated teens and adults. He is the founder of the Lineage Project, which offers awareness-based practices, such as meditation and yoga, to at-risk and incarcerated teens in New York City. The project won the Mayor’s Voluntary Action Award from former NYC mayor Rudolph Guiliani.