A Map of Connection Based on the Cycles of Nature

Katherine Ewen
BrightSky Community
6 min readApr 28, 2021


An interview with Rebecca Card on the 8 Shields Model and how it can transform our communities

Rebecca Card is a Wilderness Rites of Passage Guide and Cultural Mentor. She has been involved in organising and facilitating 8 Shields programs and is a grief tender. I chatted with her last year about her role as a grief tender, but this time I wanted to find out more about the 8 Shields model, and its use as a tool in our personal lives, community and business. In BrightSky we build the organisation of the central team around the principles of 8 Shields model.

What is the 8 Shields model?

The 8 Shields model is based on patterns in nature. Many people are aware of medicine wheels that follow the seasons, and it’s the same but with four more directions. The system is based on the observations of a man called Jon Young, who lives in California. He works alongside indigenous elders and different earth-based communities, including the San Bushmen in Africa and people from the Lakota tribe in America. He noticed that what seemed to be creating healthy cultural ties in these communities was a deeply connected network amongst themselves and with nature. With their permission and blessing, he used this knowledge to build a map that became the 8 Shields model.

It is a map of connection based on the cycles of nature. For example, in the East is beginnings, is the sunrise, early spring and Equinox. Looking at the 8 Shields model, we ask: What is the energy, the quality of that? Then you bring out those attributes and apply them to your personal life, your community or your team.

The direction attributes specifically came from the Lakota tradition, and I want to honour and name these traditions and some of what they’ve shared. If you look at the archetypal energy of what is happening in nature at that time of year, this forms the bedrock of the map.

This knowledge can be used in teams, like the Brightsky team and is called the acorn layer. Members of a group take on particular roles so that no one person is doing everything. The fact is that each person has a quality that is very similar to what is happening in nature because we are part of the natural world. If individuals are encouraged to bring that quality through, the whole has more chance of being itself and can then be more regenerative.

Is this a map for organisations to use to build their structures?

Not specifically, people don’t need to use the acorn map part of the model. They can focus on the nature aspect. For example, grief tending sits in the North West of the map, just before winter, which is in the North. Grief tending is a cultural healing practice, so if the North West is deep autumn — the place where the decomposing is starting and if you liken that to grief tending, it’s the ‘letting go’ time of year and part of all our cycles. It teaches us to become elders.

Another example is the South, which is all about focus and detail. A person who sits in the South might be good at is doing the spreadsheets and getting us all organised. In the East, which is about childhood, it might all be about the nature connection, so someone might be a forest school teacher. The model applies to all areas of life. It might be a working business team, an event, or your life’s purpose. South West is all about physical care, what’s happening with the food, with the fire — if one or two people focus on that during an event, then no one else has to think about it. Maybe your passion is massage or bodywork, and that sits in the South West. If you map what’s happening in your community, you could find people in all of the directions.

In terms of economic and work life or even personal life, what is the benefit of the western world moving towards using this structure?

The 8 Shields model supports connection practices. A simple example of how things could change is when we look at a practice of gratitude. Gratitude is woven through many earth-based cultures. What would it be to start a meeting by saying something that you feel grateful for? It builds a connection with ourselves and others, and we feel empathy for someone else’s experience.

If we were bringing in patterns of connection to our working lives then our whole world would be a different place, I think. Often, what is happening in the workplace is there is no connection, and people are coming away from their day disconnected. When I am having a meeting with anyone I know from the 8 Shields community, I come away feeling more connected than when we started. We still go through the agenda but it is all done within the container of connection, and that is a very different experience. If I am welcomed, (that’s in the East), then I feel safe. It is a fundamental need for us all, and our culture hasn’t taught us to welcome each other or even ourselves. How are you? How was your journey? These questions orientate us to the meeting.

Most of the times these fundamental human needs are absent from our business meetings. Our culture has forgotten how to connect with ourselves, each other and the natural world. The 8 Sheilds map creates these basic level benefits. Then we are ready to look at the agenda because we feel connected and safe, and there is something much more resilient around that than just going straight into it.

What if I don’t know where I fit or what I’m good at? Can 8 Shields help me find that out?

It could get you closer to that, within the context of community. It has the potential to let us see where we fit. Once you get to know the map, you can see where you feel comfortable. You can also see where you’re not so strong. You can bring yourself into wholeness, knowing where you feel strong and where you feel weak. You can meet your edges and work with them.

If we did adopt the 8 Shields model, how do you think our world could change?

Our biggest wound is our separation from nature. At the very foundation of the 8 Shields model, it is about nature and getting us back into connection and direct relationship with nature. That is the best thing we can do as a culture. Remember that we are nature. The model supports that.

Thank you to Rebecca for participating in this interview. If you would like to know more about her and what she does visit her BrightSky profile here:

If you would like to find out more about 8 Shields work in the UK you can email: peter@8shields.org or visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/NatureCultureNetwork

Here’s how we are working with it as a way to structure BrightSky as an organisation:

Each Shield also represents a certain quality, which also relates to an area of business. All Shields together represent a healthy community.

It is a beautiful challenge working more naturally in the community and business. To be developing a community informed by nature, which grows, is self-sustaining and supports people for generations to come, the structure needs to enable people to be adaptable, integral, spiritual, practical, visible… and so much more.

It is a work in progress, and the process of evolution we make is helping us to grow and deepen our understanding. It helps us to address where we are missing something valuable. It helps us to be in balance and therefore more nourished.

If you would like to find out more and join BrightSky visit our website here: https://brightsky.community/