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Essence of a Mentor

  • Category: TRIBE
  • Published on Wednesday, 29 September 2010 17:53
  • Written by Michelle Gonzalez
  • Hits: 1501

This is an article from my life and business partner, Robert Leaver.  Mentoring is more than a leg up for women, there is a huge legacy in this and it needs to be appreciated as an art form, not as a tool--which many "business" (read mechanistic) organizations lead others to believe as one pursues a mentor for advice and advancement.   There is more Soul at work here!

The Essence of a Mentor
Based on the Teaching of Mythologist Michael Meade
Robert Leaver, New Commons

A mentor is an elder that has already experienced things that you, the learner, are drawn to better understand. A mentor is like a tree of knowledge with strong intellectual roots in the ground. She knows the depth of her tree and lives and practices the ideas she is called to carry in the world. The pain of living is evident in the mentors face. As a learner, hungry to absorb the mentor’s experience, you see this flame in their heart and surrender to it.

The mentor is never overtly chosen, but arrives unannounced in your life for a short or long time. And when a mentor arrives, you must decide: yes, now, come back later or no. Even if the visit is short, the seeds the mentor helps uncover in you grow forever.  Mentoring is not done to you, but rather draws out what is already inside you. It is an act of chemistry, even alchemy. Together, you and the mentor combine forces to become a temporary third “being” in the world – something larger than either is alone. 

When the mentor arrives
As the mentor arrives, both the mentor and mentee acknowledge the mystery and marvel in the unknown that is unfolding before you. The mentor’s role is to awaken hidden qualities in you that will travel with you throughout your life. You take in these seeds of change to evolve your intellectual tree, rooted in ideas and service that matter to you and the world.

As a student, you fear the intensity of the mentor and you long for it. Your hunger for learning drives the mentor to bond with you. Learning from a mentor is often achieved through colliding and grinding, thus the mentoring process is not smooth. Yet, each pulls the other into the learning. Although the intensity may feel more than you can handle, you cannot run from it. The mentor has already lived the life you want to experience. The intensity of such purposeful living is what you long for. Thus, the mutual bond is set.

The mentor knows she is called to serve the world in a distinct way. The mentor is artfully dedicated to deep passion for her work in the world, which is often beyond description. It has indescribable, mythic qualities. It is often the mentor’s life questions or ideas that draw you to her. Like making Noah’s ark, she pursues big opportunities you are drawn to pursue too. The mentor uses her skills and whole being to be in love serving the world beyond her self. 
You want to know the mentor has survived psychological turmoil.  She holds, or has access to, inner resources you are yet to discover and know you need. In part, the mentor teaches you survival training. It is a relationship of deep questions, then reflection, then more questions. The questions you pose in the conversation with the mentor are the source of your quest. Remember question and quest hold the same root so having the right questions carries your quest in life to understand how you serve the world?
The process of mentoring
The mentor helps keep you on track when the process of living and learning inevitably derails. The mentor, through inquiry and reflection, helps to put you back on course or chart a fresh course. The inquiry is about digging into what is holding you back from contributing to serving the world? The effective mentor (either man or woman) speaks from a deep feminine space about the importance of being connected and in community to fuel your quest.
The mentor helps locate your seat of power and the seats of power of other allies and agents that are vital to help ground you in the world. Access to power often comes, in part, from being betrayed. The mentor helps you locate and name past betrayals and better prepare you for the next ones. Betrayal opens you to living more fully with your authority, because experiencing by revisiting past betrayals reveals the essence of how to handle authority, both yours and in relationship to others. Keep in mind that authority and author have the same root.  When you are “authorized,” you are creating, like the author of a book results that matter, independent of other people.

Betrayal is a wound. And the wound is the source of your bliss. Joseph Campbell told of the power of “following your bliss.” Blister and bliss have the same root. So to follow your bliss you have to know your wounds – the blister – and get inside their muck a bit. Entering the wound is one piece of the work of you and the mentor do together as you engage in conversation about the meaning of life.

(c) New Commons, September 1994

[1] Michael Meade is a mythologist who, along with James Hillman and Robert Bly, served as the teachers in the men’s movement I participated in from 1986 to the mid 90’s. This paper is based on lectures Michael delivered to the men 


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