“What does nature connection mean for you?”

We all have different views on what being connected to the natural world means to us as individuals, couples, family groups and more broadly as human beings. I know that during the course of my some almost fifty years on this earth my thoughts on this have shifted as my world views have grown and matured. It is not a static philosophical view point, it evolves, ebbs and flows with the influences you come in contact with during life experiences.

During a recent course I was running I posed this question to the family group I was instructing. The parents and young people all had their own insights to offer so I jotted them down on my white board for debate.

I asked the group what is nature connection for them? When do they do it? Where do they do it? Why do they do it? How do they do it? Here is a summary of the comments:

What is it?
A state of mind.
Feeling part of the natural world, belonging, humbling.
Being observant.
Being peaceful.

When do we do it?
In the garden, woods and near animals.
Whilst watching television.
Digital interaction versus real life interaction.
From our armchairs.

Where do we do it?
Anywhere and everywhere.
All the time.

Why do we do it?
Makes improvements to our life.
It is a nutrient.
Trend following leads to disconnection.

How do we do it?
Noticing, engaging and observing.

Response from a Family group when asked “what is nature connection for them?”

This was an interesting snap shot into the thoughts and feelings of a group of customers ranging from 10 years old to early 40s. For me the stand out comments were that we connect to the natural world anywhere, everywhere and all the time. I was also very pleased to see that the main process they considered for how to engage was the act of being present, noticing and observing. We had an interesting debate about whether television watching and armchair engagement through any digital means counted as part of connection. After much debate we concluded that it was helpful to inspire interest but was no substitute for getting outside in a physical sense. The majority of the input was from the adults and it is true that we are all very conditioned to the power of mindfulness and how to explore its benefits. In many ways a participant in a bushcraft course is likely to be more receptive to exploring the reasons why being connected makes us feel good. I do suspect that a big driver for parents enrolling on a family course was to get the young people fully immersed in nature for a period of time away from technology.

I have said in a previous blog, “there seems to be a dominant western view of superiority over nature, that we are separate from it and that we need to be the masters of it. This has led to the feeling of isolation, alienation and uncomfortableness in wild places.” I believe that this still persists in society and in some small way I was challenging this with the conversations I had with this group of customers.

It is really important to remain open to influence from nature which is never static or heading in a straight line. This can take so many different forms from gardening and walking to birdwatching or bushcraft. This list is long and we all have different ways to explore this.

I am passionate about engagement with people and land. This is the key to developing a stronger sense of caring for nature and the planet. Without a love of the natural world how can we expect people to nurture it, or themselves?

We are sentient beings and as such we have the potential to experience feelings through our physical and sense impressions, which in turn gives us the potential to have empathy for the flora and fauna we share the land with. There is a flow between plants, people and places if we allow ourselves to connect with it. Our lives in the outside are not static they are constantly changing with the seasons.

During the summer I was lucky enough to attend the Global Bushcraft Symposium and participate in a workshop with Paul Moseley entitled Connection and Kinship. In a small group we explored what the natural world meant to us and how this seed of caring was created. It was very empowering to open up our earliest memories of engaging with the natural world as children and how the caring began very early for all of us. For me it was connections with family and time spent outside that shone through and my passion to share this with my growing family to pass the connection on. We all had a favorite place from childhood that we depicted on the ground with natural resources. We then described our places to the other members of the group and took questions. It was a powerful, reflective session that reinforced our connections to the natural world and opened up a deep sense of collective kinship to it. In the modern world it is often talked about the sense of “being in your flow state of mind” when you are deeply engrossed. For me my state of flow is most dominate when I am being present out in nature using my senses to tune into the flora and fauna around me.

I like to think that foraging is one of the key ways to reconnect with the land and restore vital connection. Plants have the ability to make us feel good. There is an interdependence that we can experience when we are fully engaged. If you think about human physiology, when we are attracted to another human our brains release dopamine, our serotonin increases and oxytocin is produced. In the physical act of hugging a loved one this happens naturally. I also believe that plants have the power to move us in the same way but more about this in a further blog in the new year.

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