What is it about?
In this fast paced, technological modern age, many people are feeling overwhelmed and are looking to rekindle a sense of connection to nature. There is a growing interest in bush craft, outdoor education and Forest Schools reflecting this realisation across the ages, from small children to adults.
In these courses, we will be exploring what is “nature” and who we are in relationship to it. Using games and activities we will deepen our connections to nature, ourselves, and each other. These connections are inherent within all of us and often they just need a little nudge in the right direction.
The scope of the activities will be flexible in response to the groups needs and interest.
The Core Routines for Nature Connection
Sit-spot: Choosing a place in nature that is easily accessible and to go there on a regular basis. Ideally this would be at all different times of the day and night, weather and season. The intention is to build a relationship to the place, getting to know the plants and trees that are there, noticing what animals and birds use the area. The main point is just to go there and be still in a state of awareness for the surroundings. This is really the most important core routine.
Story of the day: This is where you relate your experience of being in nature to another person. By telling them your story, you will have the opportunity to gain another perspective on your experience and to also notice aspects in the telling that maybe you had not noticed before. It gives a opportunity for the listener to ask questions which may expand your awareness of the experience and cultivate your curiosity to find out more. If there is no-one to tell your story to, then writing in a journal is very useful.
Expanding Our Senses: We are sensory beings and yet we too often preference our eye sight over all our other sensory capacities. Here, we practise tuning into all our senses, widening our eye sight, expanding our hearing, feeling the wind or rain on our skin. How does the air taste, what smells are in this area?
Questioning and Tracking: It is very important to develop an attitude of curiosity for the world around us. By asking questions of what is present around us, we are led deeper into understanding the web of interrelationships in the natural world. Tracking is an art form, and is not limited to finding and following the prints of animals in the ground. We are surrounded by tracks of all natures; a fallen branch on the floor, the course of a stream, where plants choose to grow…. These are all tracks. By asking the right questions, we can gain understanding of why things are as they are, and how they might be in the future.
Animal Forms: By intimate observation of animals and birds, we can see how they move. When we then use our bodies to imitate their movement and behaviour, we can learn more about how they exist in the world, where they might be found, how to track them etc.
Wandering: Our lives in this modern world can be very busy and we are focussed on completing lists of jobs and moving from place to place. By leaving the clock behind and having timeless wandering in nature, we can find ourselves discovering many things we would never see otherwise. This core routine is to be in nature without any agenda or direction and to just follow our noses with curiosity off the beaten track and find new things.
Mapping: This is to gain understanding about the landscape in a wider sense. To do this we can draw maps of areas we know, especially the area around our sit spot. It is important to relate to the directions and to bring awareness to the directions on a regular basis. It is not important how accurate the maps are as the important thing is just to draw them.
Exploring Field Guides: In the past we would have had a wealth of knowledge in our communities about the natural world around us. Much of this knowledge is lost to the majority of people, but there is much to be learned from guide books. By regularly exploring these guides, not only are we gaining greater knowledge, but it also adds fuel to our curiosity and inspires further questions which will lead us to our own discoveries.
Journaling: This is where we can deepen our experiences by recording them down though words and drawings. As mentioned in Story of the Day, journaling can be another way of expressing what we have seen, heard, felt etc. In a way, it has two main aspects to it benefit. By journaling we get to increase the capacity of our memory about what has happened and etch our experiences more deeply into our being. Also, this process can sharpen our senses when we are in nature, knowing that we will be writing and drawing about the experience afterwards. It leads us to look more closely at the details.
Minds Eye Imagining: Use and strengthen your imagination as much as possible, imprinting images in your mind gathered from the experience of all five senses. This skill provides us with the dynamic memory required for field biology and bird watching.
Survival Living: Our ancestors were deeply connected with nature, largely out of necessity as otherwise life would be impossible. A key aspect of their connection was through the crafts and skills of survival. Here, we relearn some of these skills in enhance our own connection to nature and also to our ancestors.
Listening for Bird Language: The bird are so vigilant in nature because they have to be for their survival. By listening to their calls and alarms, we can gain an intimate insight to the natural world otherwise invisible to us. The birds will also tell us very clearly what state we are in, as they will be very aware of a people in a busy or tense state. When we become calm and relaxed, the birds also relax and so they are a great ally in learning to be at peace in nature.
Thanksgiving: Find in yourself a grateful heart and express gratitude for any and all aspects of nature and life. Begin every episode with thanksgiving and give nods of thanks as you go about your day. Thanksgiving reinforces the interdependence of all living things and their ground of being, and reminds us of our kinship with nature.
About the facilitator
Daniel Yabsley has been living and working on a Biodynamic farm (Old Plawhatch Farm) in Southeast England for 9 years. He has studied survival living and nature connection through Trackways Survival School and the Art of Mentoring Nature Connection programmes. Following this study he has been working with groups of children and adults in nature on a regular basis for six years. He is a storyteller and works with stories alongside teaching various aspects of survival living and nature connection though games and activities.