Personal & Cultural Development
Everything can begin with you.
You are the foundation of any change that will happen in your society.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
As adults, how many of us feel comfortable in our own skin? Do we feel like we have our own backs in our vulnerability? How many adults do you know who live with a sense of meaning and purpose? When we look in the mirror, are we living in a way that inspires our young people to grow up into adulthood?
Many adults enter the Springhouse community and say, “I want to go to school here.” You can! The Springhouse mission is to reimagine the purpose and practice of education by fostering holistic development in youth, young adults, and adults. We are a true learning community where we are all seeking to grow up into who we came here to be.
Being human is vulnerable and growing up is rigorous work that does not happen with just the passing of time. To become who we are requires great courage, guidance, skill, and support. When we ask teens why they don’t want to grow up, they often say it is because they do not see many healthy, inspired adults around them. To many young people, it doesn’t look inspiring to become an adult, and, to be clear, they are not looking for adults who are always happy. They are looking for authenticity, strength to face what is difficult, and what it looks like to live a meaningful life. To us at Springhouse, maturity means learning how to navigate the vulnerability of being human as a community, so that we can live authentic lives and be in meaningful service to our communities.
There are many developmental road maps to use as we grow. Dr. Bill Plotkin, author of Nature and the Human Soul, offers us one framework that gives us markers along the way as we develop. He writes, “What, then, is adulthood, true adulthood?...Adulthood is a stage of life that has become progressively rare in the Western world over the past few millennia. It is not meaningfully defined in terms of the acceptance of 'mature' responsibilities, or in terms of raising a family, contributing to community, earning a living, or honing a craft or vocation. All these achievements are fully realizable (and, except for raising a family, ordinary) in a healthy early adolescence….true adulthood is the stage of life in which one consciously recognizes and embodies the unique life of one’s soul.” Poet David Whyte defines the soul as “the largest conversation you can have with the world” or “the truth at the center of the image you were born with.”
Avoiding personal developmental work does have cultural implications. Michael Meade, storyteller and mythologist who works with youth, tells us that young people are in trouble because of a lack of elders who can guide and support them on their journey.
This deep work we talk about is often called shadow work and Springhouse offers doorways for shadow exploration to young adults and adults. Stepping through these doorways means stepping more fully into who we are, not only for ourselves, but for our young people as well. Through challenges, loss, and, eventually, as we approach death, as adults we are continually invited to wake up to who we are. If we are conscious of our experiences, and open to growing, adulthood can be a powerful time of entering the shadows to know and recover our wholeness. At Springhouse, we invite young adults and adults into their inner lives through unique and dynamic programming, a loving community, and a steadfast commitment to cultivating healthy community and culture. There are many reasons to do this work. If we are coming up at a loss for a reason, let it be so that we can better love, guide, and learn from our young people.
Head of School, Dr. Jenny Finn, supervises the young adult and adult programming at Springhouse Community School. Dr. Finn holds a Masters in Social Work from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in Sustainable Education from Prescott College. Her dissertation, Befriending the Dark: A Creative Exploration of the Shadow, delves into the shadow through the stories of adults who are committed to guiding this work in creative and courageous ways. Dr. Finn has worked in the areas of trauma and grief, cancer and hospice care, nonprofit management, K-12 and higher education, expressive arts, spirituality, and community organizing. She is committed to this work personally and also to guiding others into the deeper places within themselves so that they can live with greater clarity and compassion in their lives.