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Creating Deep Nature Connection and Culture Repair
PART 1: Deep Nature Connection Routines
Recently I was lucky enough to participate in a week-long ‘Art of Mentoring’ (AoM) course in California with the 8 Shields Institute. I was inspired to attend this course after doing two weekend courses with Jon Young when he visited Australia last year. At the first weekend I was blown away by the depth and breadth of Jon’s nature connection work, so having the opportunity to participate in AoM was a real privilege.
As a way of sharing a taste of Jon’s vast body of work I thought I would like to share a little about each of the four elements that Jon says are needed for deep nature connection and culture repair, and how I experienced these at AoM, the workshops last year and in my life in general. These elements are: deep nature connection routines; conscious competence in the art of mentoring; effective grieving routines; and being exposed to role models who have the eight attributes of connection.
In this post I will focus on the first of these – deep nature connection routines. There are many different (and interconnected) nature connection practices, including doing sit spots, sharing the ‘story of the day’, tracking, wandering, journalling, listening for bird language and doing sense meditations. As Jon simply and aptly put it, “We go into nature to remember we are nature”, and this is the core of why we do these practices…. and in doing so, we are living an antidote to ‘nature deficit’ as outlined by Richard Louve in his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, becoming more connected and more able to live in a way that is in balance with the Earth and her cycles.
We did several sit spots at the Art of Mentoring, and Jon talks of this as an essential routine for connection. A sit spot is a special place in nature that you visit regularly and get to know intimately over time. My sit spot is a 10 minute walk from my house, right by an inner-city creek. My experience of this practice is that each sit is different – perhaps there is a new plant that has popped up, a bird call I haven’t heard before, an insight to be had, or simply an experience of coming back to myself. Invariably I also tune into my senses and become more open to perceiving in ways I don’t consciously do in everyday life.
Sharing stories of sit spots and other nature connection practices with others is a way to build a collective knowledge and connection. When I participated in the Bird Language weekend with Jon last year, we would go out in groups and share our observations with our small group first and the larger group later, building a bigger picture of what was happening in the bird world by putting our stories together. At the AoM our ‘stories of the day’ drew out some very special experiences, with several participants sighting a family of river otters. Also the evidence of bear scat, claw marks and tracks all painted a picture of the movements of our bear neighbor.
One day at the Art of Mentoring we went wandering in groups, bringing in several nature connection practices. We were each given a task, and as the ‘south’ representative in my group, I was tasked with paying attention to evidence of mammals, and in particular bears. As the only Australian in my group, I had to ask for my group members to help me with bear signs, and they found some scat for me (and a scat book also came in handy to identify coyote scat that we came across). I did manage to spot bear claw marks on a tree so was impressed with myself for that! Other tasks included catching a lizard, following a deer trail and ambushing another group. My group completed most of the tasks given to us, but it was certainly the case that the point was not to make sure we ticked all of these off a list, but to be open to the experience as it unfolded, keeping our senses open to the forest, and what we could discover in doing so. As well as having a lot of fun that day I think everyone in my group learnt something; connecting to each other as well to as the rest of nature.
If you are curious to know more about these deep nature connection routines, Jon is likely to be returning to Australia next year, so stay tuned for that. The Coyote’s Guide to Connecting in Nature’ by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGowan is also a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to learn more.