Deepening Nature Connection beyond Nature Contact – Earthwalks and Nature Connection

Earthwalks and Nature Connection

By Jon Cree

“Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher”
William Wordsworth (The Major Works)

“Surely any outdoor learning is a good thing and is creating nature connection, at least we’re getting them out there, nature teaches all the time”.

This is a mantra I often hear from outdoor and indeed environmental educators.

Having been involved in the EE (environmental education) /OE (outdoor education) movement for 40 years, I know this is not necessarily the case. In fact done badly, and without a congruent value system that dictates an educators practice, it can create disconnection from the natural world and the very ecological systems on which we all depend for sustenance and beauty.

Is the recent upsurge of the nature “connection” movement a good thing regarding the long term relationship with our planet? When we read and experience the breaking of ecological systems, as evidenced by the latest IPCC reports on climate change, the latest statistics coming from the amazon, where soya production is increasing the rate rain forest destruction due to our meat eating habits – I fear we have failed in our attempts to build connection and relationship to the planet in the contemporary EE/OE movement.

In this short article I would like to explore what we mean by nature connection, and raise questions about practises, such as Earthwalks, that embody this that could lead to regenerative systems.

Earthwalks and nature connectionSo what do we mean by nature connection? For me it is about a continuous relationship with the natural world and it’s ecological systems, i.e, the planet itself. It is about the improvised duet between our animal body and the fluid breathing land which we inhabit – a participatory relationship. There is an active dialogue with all life – between the human and the non human, between the inner mind and the outer world.

EarthwalksSteve van Matre, author of ‘Earthwalks – an alternative nature experience’, recently wrote; “…this (environmental education) is not a matter of planting seeds. That’s what most everyone in our field claims they are doing, but without careful cultivation, most of the intended growth withers and dies. It is choked out by other desires and demands on learners lives………most seeds did not and don’t make it”

Relationship takes time, effort and cultivation – it is not a one off field trip or a momentary wow atop a mountain or deep in a bluebell blooming wood.

What nature connection is really about, is rich first hand contact with the natural world that engenders reverence, respect, kinship, joy AND, importantly, love and understanding. A key to cultivating these emotions is a deep ‘knowing’ of the ways the ecological processes of the planet operate and how we as humans are part and parcel of it all.

Nature connection is reciprocal…indeed all relationships depend on reciprocity and that can only happen when we humans recognise how we are fed physically as well as emotionally by the natural world.

Steve van Matre goes on to say; “…in a loving relationship there are three entities; two people plus the relationship itself…”

I take from this that for both people to gain from this they have to sacrifice in the
relationship. In our relationship with the natural world we have taken the relationship for granted and not sacrificed enough and now the natural world is kicking back in the many environmental ways it only knows how to kick back (rising temperatures, surging methane, species loss etc).

Earthwalks and Nature Connection with Jon CreeDeveloping this relationship and knowing what to sacrifice takes intentional time. When we are open to it and know the workings we can see ourselves as part of this vast interconnected web and really connect rather than have that all too brief in-comprehensive contact that is often equated to connection. What, as Van Matre states, we need to do is to “sharpen our senses and open our minds…letting nature flow into us and to really deepen our understandings in order to ‘give back’ rather than take”.

 

Sustainable development has often been construed as something that can help human growth, and make meaning for ourselves. However after thirty years of sustainable development speak we are in a worse situation and the term has meant, in the end, more growth – we need new language and dialogue.

As Herbert Girardet has said we now need ‘regeneration’ not ‘development’.

Just having nature contact does not necessarily enable learners formulate a deep integral meaning of what our true ecology is which can then enable a regeneration of our planetary systems and ourselves. It does not necessarily help us understand the basic energy flows and material cycles – how sunlight flows into our veins to enable our ancient friend carbon to move and connect all living beings on the planet.

How do we then enable the deeper connection that is required to restore and regenerate the ecological systems that are currently at tipping points? I fear that much EE misses the reciprocity, the giving back to the cycles of life (AIR, WATER and SOIL), the giving of gratitude to the natural world, when taking children and learners into the woods.

If we are to have true connection we need to get off the paths and develop rich close contact with the natural world – it is more than a view from a mountain top or momentarily ‘seeing’ the bluebell wood. Earthwalks are defined as “a light, refreshing touch of nature that focuses on reawakening individual senses and sharpening perceptions fostering joy, kinship, reverence and love for the earth and it’s life”.

This multi-sensory walk that has a ‘flow’ to it encourages new perspectives; viewing a log from the perspective of a small creature, tracing our own ‘veins’ and seeing how they are reflected in the patterning in a tree or leaf veins, taking off shoes and socks in reverence to nature and, without the use of sight, revelling in the reverence for natures grandeur and ‘ordinary’; finishing with genuine gratitude.

In the new Earthwalk book there are many experiences that can be woven to take people to a deeper place of ‘contact’ with nature that encourages ‘connection’. When you combine the joy, kinship, reverence and love, that are fostered in an Earthwalk with a deeper understanding of the ecological system we are ‘experiencing’ then we can encourage a deeper ‘gut and body’ felt connection. A multi-sensory approach to nature connection is essential and Earthwalks are one way of starting to reinvigorate.

I leave you with four questions about nature connection to intentionally and mindfully consider when looking at this deeper connection question;

  • What does constitute deeper nature connection practise where we can rewire and really understand the workings of the planet?
  • What routines do we have to embody to realise a regenerative relationship and not see nature as a separate entity – as an IT, but as a whole where there is a unity that can regenerate?
  • How do we gain new perspectives through daily routines?
  • What sacrifices do we have to make for the natural world in order to reinvigorate dynamic restorative ecological systems that can include the young whippersnapper – ‘human’?

Earthwalks event with Jon CreeIn the end it is not just going out into nature, making contact and knowing what it can do for us in terms of learning and development, we need to feel this two way relationship between ourselves and animate natural world. Nature connection, as opposed to nature contact, is about letting nature into our everyday lives and making US and IT a WE, fulfilled and integral.


Earthwalks with Jon Cree

If you want to know more about Earthwalks, in particular how to facilitate these dynamic experiences do consider attending the leading Earthwalks workshop with myself and Circle of Life Rediscovery on 23rd November 2019:

What you will gain:

  • An introduction to earth education and where Earthwalks ‘fit’ in our programmes
  • A chance to plan and review your own Earthwalk
  • Experience two different Earthwalks
  • In-depth analysis on leadership, mechanics, and flow of an Earthwalk
  • Tools and confidence to lead Earthwalks
  • An update on earth education developments

Please visit the website for more details.

Date: 23rd November 2019.
Lead Facilitator: Jon Cree.
Cost: £95.00.
Location: Parkwood Campsite, Poynings, East Sussex.
Time: 09.00 – 17.00.
Booking: Please book online here.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryWe provide exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Listen to the Earth Speak

A year long course for women: our wisdom, connection, nourishment and belonging visualised and celebrated.

Led by Marina Robb and Eleanor Darley

Women in Nature: Listen to the Earth Speak

Listen to the Earth speak. Meeting by the fire, in the woods, listening and tending to our well-being, deep in connection, ceremony, plant knowledge, ceremonial practices, laughter and reflection.

This offering is a year course to energise, nourish and celebrate you as a woman; acknowledging your physical and natural connection to the Earth, nature’s rhythms, your wider community, kinships and culture. It will offer the support to build confidence, belonging and vitality of being.

 

There are many ways of understanding how connected we are to nature and our relationship as women to natural cycles. It is very easy in the modern, externally focused world to forget that our well-being comes from knowing our internal landscapes, and how the external and internal influence each other.

Linking the small and large perspective with the larger forces were and are often explained through show a map in the form of a wheel or circle. All the while, we know that we can only see a small part of ‘reality’. The most common maps place the earth & humans on the earth in the centre, where from our perspective the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. The influence of the sun on life is fundamental, without which life as we know it could have never evolved or exist.

Listen to the Earth Speak - a nourishing year course for women

Our menstrual cycles really affect how we as women feel and following our cycles can hugely help us to harness the different qualities through the month.

As an introduction, the following moon wheel enables us to see how our internal cycle links to the qualities of the seasons and phases of the moon. We can use this to apply how we may feel during a day, month or season. Whilst the sun and moon appear to move from East to West from our human perspective, in actual fact the earth, moon and even the sun (albeit at different speeds) are moving anti-clockwise from West to East!

MOON WHEEL DIAGRAM – Your Inner Seasons

Moon Wheel Diagram

Your menstrual cycle awareness, ‘the act of knowing and valuing your unique cyclical pattern of energy and mood throughout the menstrual month, paying attention to where you are in your cycle at any one time, respecting your feelings and energy levels, working with and within the changing energies, leveraging this as a life management and facilitation tool’ (see A Pope & S. Wurlitzer, Red School) is a key part of knowing ourselves. When used well this awareness and knowledge lead us to an increase in health and well-being.

I am now peri-menopausal and moving towards my menopause. I know that understanding my internal seasons and moving into this new phase is also part of a natural continuum and stepping into another experience. I am certainly not alone, and have many wise women’s support ahead of me.

Marina Robb

“Women are the archetypal anchors for the power of the feminine, and when we reclaim our feminine power – by restoring our ways and practices – we integrate the power of the feminine into our lives and back onto the planet” (ibid).

Tell your story so the story doesn’t tell you.

Marina Robb – Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC.

 


Listen to the Earth Speak – Course detail:

Please download our flyer to share with others.

More information: Please visit our website to find out more.
Location of course:
 Mill Woods, off Park Lane in Laughton, East Sussex, BN8 6BP.
Fee: £995 for the year course.
Who should attend: open to all women over the age of 21 years.
How to book: please complete our online booking form.

While this is not therapy, we will be working therapeutically in some of the work we facilitate. On deciding whether this gathering of women is right for you we would love to hear from you by email, or phone call (01273 814226) so we can have a conversation, and welcome you with whatever you bring.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.