Transforming the Journey:
Mentoring Lives Through Magic and Myth

Mentoring Environments

Communities of Practice

Mentoring environments engage in the " practices of hearth, table, and commons."46 This is hands-down my favorite role in mentoring students. Hearth includes spaces where individuals are "warmed in both body and soul, are made comfortable, and tend to linger." Whether in an office, a department lounge, or a favorite gathering site, indoors or out, such places "invite pause, reflection, and conversation."47

I know that I am singing alleluias to the choir here in this regard. You know well what Parks is talking about when she speaks of the practice of table: "It's the practice of the table [that] prepares us for civitas . . . we learn to share, to wait, to accommodate, to be grateful . . . we learn delayed gratification, belonging, commitment, and ritual."48 Above all though, the table like the hearth is a place of dialogue and conversation, where dreams are shared and images are explored among peers and mentors.

The practice of commons affords opportunities of "interrelatedness, belonging, and learning how to stand--and stand with--each other over time."49 Such places "confirm a common, connected life, and in common with various forms of story and ritual, it can become the center of shared faith and grounded hope."50 In essence Parks is describing what Oldenberg51 identified as third places, where individuals can relax for extended periods of time, free from the stress of daily pressures and open to dialogue and deep conversation around life's questions. I have fond memories from my own graduate education of places like these, where faculty and students gathered informally and often to critique ideas, to hear good stories, to enjoy fun moments, to solve world problems, have a beer. . . or two. . . or three, and renew a sense of purpose and commitment to it all.

In summary then, powerful mentoring environments and powerful mentors, whether in the workplace, the family, a religious community, a college, or a graduate program, offer mentees " a network of belonging, big enough questions, encounters with otherness, important habits of mind, worthy dreams, [and] access to key images, concepts (content), and practices. . . ."52 These are the defining tasks and qualities anyone must aspire to who wishes to serve others well in a mentoring capacity.

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46Parks 154. return

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50Parks 157. return

51Ray Oldenberg, The Great Good Place (New York: Paragon House 1989). return

52Parks 135. return

© 2003 by The American Benedictine Academy / www.osb.org/aba/