Ecopsychologists are beginning to catch up with what indigenous rites of passage specialists have known for thousands of years: Immersion in the natural world brings life enhancing peace, joy, zest, the ability to meet life’s challenges with a positive attitude, and to see the interconnectedness of all things. The external awareness that builds from nature connection will often lead to changes in the internal awareness of people causing them to make choices of life-style and attitude that are necessary to lower the overall ecological footprint of them, their families and their communities.
Nature offers a rich complexity of ever-changing patterns. The textures and forms of the natural world appeal directly to the deepest aspects of human consciousness. At the most basic level, we ARE nature. There is no separation. We recognize that humans are part of the tapestry of life on this planet.
We recognize that our senses, minds, and bodies have developed in rhythm with the natural world; continual primary contact with nature is beneficial and needed for optimal health and well-being. A number of studies demonstrate that obesity, depression, and other problems are linked with lack of time spent in the outdoors. This is called “nature deficit disorder”.
We have seen over 25 years the very positive results of providing youth and adults with regular, deep immersion experiences in nature in a safe, community-oriented setting.
What’s the difference between learning ABOUT nature and connecting WITH nature?
One can learn about nature on a purely intellectual level, which brings a certain satisfaction and appreciation of its own. One could accomplish this type of learning through reading or in the lab, without ever setting foot in the fields and creeks. Certainly the intellectual level of learning is important and we include this as an aspect of holistic nature connection.
There is another way to learn about nature – to meet the world on its own terms, through a direct sensory experience. When this type of encounter is repeated over and over, day after day, deep connections form between the individual and place. Roots form on an emotional level as a sense of peace, curiosity, and wonder develop. At the same time, a network of new neural pathways in the brain is forming and the consciousness literally expands to encompass the rich variety of textures, scents, sounds, and images of nature. Lasting memories are formed during this type of deep sensory immersion. this is called primary learning – it takes place on a direct, visceral level.
When this type of deep interactive experience is combined with the interest and guidance of a mentor who is asking good questions and role modeling positive interactions with nature, the learning journey takes a quantum leap forward. The land becomes alive with stories which the journeyer is an integral part of. Questions become journeys of awareness and explorations of interrelationship. Empathy naturally develops, as do the gifts and strengths of the individual.
Learn about our other two root pathways: Regenerating Culture and Beyond Sustainability.