How to walk the 8 Compass

If you’ve read my Master’s Thesis, you’re familiar with Mick Dodge, the Barefoot Sensei, and with the 8-Compass, that leads us from Sity, to Hut, to Wild, and back again.

If not, go ahead and download it for a good read, or just keep on here for the Cliff’s Notes version.

What is this 8-Compass?

During my training with him, Mick Dodge described his creation of the Compass to me:

The map came to me after making my way through three mountains ranges, the Olympics, Cascadia and the Sierra Nevadas.  I would train in mountains, train through the Open Fenced Lands, and then enter into the Waste Land of the cities, some times on the road some times making like a coyote.

In time it became apparent that there were three basic terrains that i was footing my way through.  In the last of the wild places, i trained with the elements and other animals.  In the Open Fenced lands, i trained with many wonderful people that were making their way off the grid – growers, old hippies, gatherings of all sorts. And then in the city i always entered with one vision in mind, to observe and listen to stories.  Not being an expert, just a Barefoot Nomad that was on a quest to see the world from my new set of soles.  It was down in Lake Tahoe while training with the Washo tribe that the Map became apparent to me.

I had been doing the form for some time, scouting and tracking.  The Map is also a compass.  That i can use on the path and ask myself how much sitting shit is in me, how much hut, how much wild.

There are four key foundations to the 8 Map or 8 compass that can be used to guide a set of feet in training.

The Gated wild represented by the mountain:  I call it the gated wild because there is no free land any more.  Myself and others have tried to live in the wild, but always the guns and badges show up run you off. During my Nomad training i hooked up with a Black Foot Woman.  She was a wild one, gave birth to her son in the mountains of Oregon, shortly after her giving birth, living in a shack well off the grid.  The cops came in and burned her out while she was in town getting supplies.  There are many stories like this.  It is why i call it the “Gated Wild”.

The Open Fenced Lands:  It seems to me that most never see the fences in the open fenced lands.  But just go on foot from the city or the gated wild, and try to foot a normal course, stay off the road, and you run into one fence after another, people refusing to let you cross their land.  This is why i trained with coyote, learned their ways.  If the wolf had there would be more of them today.

The Waste Land:  The reason that i call it the waste land, is because when you enter the city walls you see “waste lines”, fat, and there is more fat in the city then just body fat. 

The Sitting Wall:  This is the wall the road that cuts across all of these three terrains.  People sit and are moved along this wall, cutting off the land.  Just walk along the road and you will see the amount of death, no different than the Romans standing behind walls and throwing spears.

And from an email:

Look at the map, there is a tower that shows the waste land.  There are eight windows, that represent the 8 sensory flows, muscular effort, water, food, wind, sound, vision and skin.  These seven sensory organs and unseen organizations root into the 8th, habitat, the place where your butt sits now reading these words.

Embedded within the experience from which the Map arose, and represented in the Map, is an understanding of diverse manners that occur in each realm – “movement and habit are formed in habitat.”

My own chart is one way to re-present this understanding. Not the only way, and maybe not the best way, but a good way for you to begin to interact with this type of understanding. Here it is:

I’ve added the last two categories to what Mick taught me, for reasons I’ll explain below.

As Mick mentions above, traveling between them, he noticed the change in attitude and behavior that occurs in each habitat. In “social-scientific” terms we’d call that a change in “culture” – the beliefs, values, behaviors, and practices of a group of people.

When I first learned the Compass and began to train with it – holding it in mind during my day; observing myself and others in thought, word, and deed; doing physical work with it during physical training – I thought the “solution” to the “problems” of civilization (isolation, specialization, homogeneity, insulation) were solved in it.

My initial thought was that if we could simply train people in the ways of the Hut, and get them out there, and then out into the Wild, that the realization would occur within them that they’d been cut off (from everything), they would change, and thus change society.

That was three years ago.

The reason I’m sharing this with you readers now is that on Monday I had a revelation regarding the meaning of the Compass, and its use.

Mick refers to it more, now, as the 8-Compass. And I know why. Using the word “Map,” I took a literal meaning of the symbol, and trained with it literally. That’s what led to my mistaken belief about it being a “cure” for civilization’s ills.

As the saying goes – “the map is not the territory.”

Last week, a friend who’d read my thesis asked me whether the solution might be to introduce the training practices of the Hut in the Sity environment, and to create a refuge of sorts in the Hut habitat where people can go to train.

That’s when I realized my mistake.

The Compass is a guide to perception of habitat. It’s a tool for structuring attitude and attention, which leads to new perspectives.

Ultimately it’s a tool to ground oneself. It is a lightning-rod for individual experience.

My realization was that the thing that is continuous throughout one’s following the course of the Map – through Sity, Hut, Wild…and back again – is one’s own individual physiology.

The purpose of the Compass is not to bring the Hut (or the Wild) into the Sity by way of “wild” practices in the “urban” environment.

The purpose is to ground your experience in your habitat now, which leads to heightened sensitivity.

It is not the Map or Compass one experiences, but one’s own deepening sensation and sensitivity, deepening perception in and through action.

In each habitat one experiences a different physiological reality. But “one” habitat remains – you. Your “self” is there. The “I.”

Carrying your sensitivity through the terrains you become the user of the tool of culture again, rather than being continually used by culture (especially “civilized” culture). You begin to have a knowledge of the way the different habitats effect your sensory flows. And you begin to learn how to effect in the opposite direction – outward.


I added the last two columns on that chart after this realization, because they hold up to my experience.

What is the traditional human purpose of “LSD” (Long-Slow-Distance) exercise? It is, in fact, to elicit endogenous hallucination (oftentimes with the aid of exogenous plant hallucinogens or stimulants). That type of physical exertion is the place of the Wild – where the boundary is broken down between Self and Cosmos.

And etc.

So…thoughts? Questions? Want to train?

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6 thoughts on “How to walk the 8 Compass

  1. “LSD” lives up to its name…!
    Though I do a lot less endurance training than I used to, it does seem to me a basic urge, and I’ll never forget the insanely hallucinatory experience I had after running the Pittsburgh marathon in 96 degree heat. The feeling lasted at least 10 days.

  2. Yoish!
    Brother i have been following this compass for so many years. I have never seen articulated so well. You are truly a sensei, for you have taken me into a deeper understanding of it’s uses. Thank you for sharing it.
    And when are you going to drag your ass for some training in the old growth. We have completed the bunk house, sleeps up to 8. We also need to start planning the Misty Mountain Run.

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