Two weeks ago I graduated from a Mindful Outdoor Guide Certification Program. I want very much, over time, to share experiences and thoughts from the program as it was possibly the 10 most transformative and powerful educational weeks of my life. Out of over 40 people from all over the country that attended the program, most of whom had at least one if not two feet in the nature lover door already, being perhaps a hiker, naturalist, teacher, conservationist or therapist, almost every one of us came to know that before taking this course, we were merely scratching the surface of our connection to the natural world.
As an example, one participant lived with 20,000 acre of woodlands behind her. And yet, she said that learning mindful attachment to nature was a wholly new and invaluable experience. She felt she had never truly "attached" to the land before the course. Likewise, when I hike now or just sit in nature, and I integrate the practices that I learned, the experience is utterly different, imbued with more meaning and physical/mental restoration than I ever thought possible.
What CAN this mean for you? Why does it matter for you? It is indisputable that our modern world pace and stress, our ability to sustain life totally indoors, with added COVID isolation, is a recipe for mental and emotional strife. We spent 99.99% of our evolutionary time living in much closer contact with a mother earth that fed us, clothed us, sheltered us and gave us oxygen to breathe. The indigenous peoples of our lands had great reciprocity and respect for the living earth that sustained them AND healed them. Plants and animals were held in equal if not greater standing than humans.
We respond physiologically to plants and other creatures. Our blood pressure and heart rate go down. Good brain chemicals that soothe us are released. As if coming home after a long time away at battlefront (for us, the stress, pace and pressure of modern technological life,) coming back to nature connection has great capacity to heal . We are, as E.O. Wilson coined, "biophilic" creatures - the love, draw, and innate need to be with other life forms.
Many are now studying and realizing the effect of our nature disconnect. There are numerous ways to heal this broken bond, a way that fits each individual.
Our mentors in the program never used the term "nature" (although I will, as I believe I can more easily reach nature laypeople using known terminology.) They referred to the natural world as the "more than human world." The new name was created with the hopes that such a reframing could move humans from thinking of nature as commodity, as less than us, as disposable resource, to a position of much greater standing and reverence. We need nature not to just thrive, but to survive. And, nature needs us to give care. Reaffirming and teaching this critical reciprocity is important work, and I am all in.
I am changed forever by combining the tenets of mindfulness with the healing powers of nature connection. And I want to take you on this healing journey. Let this be the beginning if you want it to be:)
"It’s important to remember that everything has life, and everything has a conscience. We humans have
separated ourselves from Mother Earth, so much so that we have come to believe ourselves as a “higher”
life form, above all else. In truth, we all have an equal place in nature, just as my ancestors taught us.
When we interact with nature with reverence, we acknowledge that we are part of a larger ecosystem,
and that we are all made of stars."
—Shawn Stevens, Language and Culture Peacekeeper, Stockbridge Muncee Mohicans