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The Student Pathway

The Student Pathway: Circle of Four Directions

A circle is an ancient symbol of wholeness, unity and continuation.  A circle divided into four quadrants is found in cultures throughout the world.

At Open Sky, we use a version of this archetypal symbol to guide the stages of the program.  Our interpretation of the Circle of Four Directions synthesizes wisdom from native cultures, modern psychology, and our own meaning, developed over time.

These teachings are the map that guides students on their journey through Open Sky: South, West, North and East, as well as the entry stage, Gateway, and the reintegration stage, Gateway Return.  Each stage carries metaphor, symbols, and qualities rooted in the natural world to help us understand and expand the experience of life and of being human.

Each stage corresponds to specific therapeutic goals and objectives designed to both challenge students and provide opportunities to experience success.  In addition to the Student Pathway, our treatment team works to tailor creative and individualized assignments to support a student’s issues and needs.

As certain tasks are mastered, students advance through the stages.  Progress is marked with ceremonies that incorporate symbolism and metaphor to support the student in making meaning of their growth and learning.

Gateway: Crossing the Threshold

Gateway is the beginning stage, before entering the Four Directions.

In Gateway, the new student has time to reflect on what brought them to Open Sky.  They orient to the basics of self-care, the program, and what it means to be a functioning member of the group.

Gateway is a time to “land,” observe, and begin to build trusting relationships with peers, guides and therapists.

South: Basic Needs

The South is the stage of childhood in the human life cycle.  It is a time of simplicity, meeting basic physical needs, and learning new things.

In the South, students learn how to make fire, make shelter, and take care of their physical needs.  Along with learning how to make actual fire, students develop awareness of their “inner fire” by focusing on themselves: their issues, strengths, and goals. They learn and develop skills to be a positive member of the group.

The South is a time of stretching to meet new challenges while beginning to assess unhealthy habits and patterns.

West: Road of Trials

The West is the life stage of adolescence in the human life cycle.  It is a time of mystery, introspection, and transformation.  The West is a time to let go of old patterns and make way for new and healthier ways of being.

In the West, students explore the emotional pain they have accumulated through their lives.  They sit with their pain and allow it to work its way through.  In doing this, space is created to deepen understanding of self, others, and life.

Compassion and loving kindness arises as well as objective understanding.  Students begin to look beyond themselves and see their place in relation to their group, family, and larger community.

North: Leadership

The North is the stage of adulthood in the human life cycle. In the North, students are challenged to live the truths they discovered in the West.

In the North, students do the hard work of taking responsibility for themselves and for living their values.  Growth is demonstrated in both words and actions.  Students become higher functioning individuals: more grounded, strong, and dignified.

In the North, the quality of introspection and ability to take responsibility deepens. Students demonstrate the ability to make positive choices regarding both self and others.

East: Mentorship

The East is the stage of old age in the human life cycle, and the time for contemplation, reflection and sharing one’s wisdom.

The East is a time to reflect on one’s accomplishments, develop trust in one’s abilities, and show courage in the face of the unknown.

In the East, students focus on their imagination and envision their life the best it could be, with vision and purpose.

Gateway Return: Preparation for Re-Entry

Gateway Return is the final stage of the Open Sky program. Gateway Return is about having time to reflect on lessons learned, discoveries made, and hopes and goals for the future.

In Gateway Return, students prepare to say goodbye to their support system of peers, guides and therapists and work on tasks to support a successful transition out of Open Sky to the next life stage.

As in the East, Gateway Return is a time for envisioning life the best it could be, with vision and purpose.