Deep nature immersion is excellent medicine for the madness of modern life.
This holds true whether you’re completely new to outdoor skills, or if you’re a seasoned veteran of exploring natural mysteries.
Cultivating awareness of nature will lead you back to a simpler and more organic way of relating to life that reveals new and exciting layers of your personality.
So let’s explore how it all works.
How does this philosophy of nature immersion & awareness lead to practices for a more sensitive and awakened human being?
What really happens behind the scenes in the mind of a mentor at nature schools & forest schools for kids & adults?
It might surprise you to realize that getting into nature is not just another form of organized chaos.
There are invisible things happening in the culture that can either make or break a successful outing, to create the best results.
You can apply these invisible principles in your own nature journey!
Here are some of the most impactful lessons I’ve learned on my nature immersion adventure.
#1 – Nature Is Essential To Being Fully Alive
I’ve noticed that everyone who goes deep into nature immersion tends to be driven by a desire to live their life to the fullest potential.
If you crave a life of meaning & purpose & positive influence, then I encourage you to look for the natural instincts you already have inside.
You need to look beyond knowledge & intellect.
This comes from direct experience.
Your first experience of getting close to a wild animal with fully activated sensory awareness will be life-changing.
That moment when you follow distant bird alarms and finally see the fox with your own two eyes…
It gets the heart pumping.
It brings you instantly, fully, 100% to the moment.
And it activates the long-lost memory of an instinctive activity that humans have been doing since the dawn of time.
Bird language, wildlife tracking, wandering freely amongst the trees, eating food from nature and basking in the sunlight on a mossy bed.
It’s hard to predict exactly when it will happen, but at some point, every student of these ancient skills will have a heart-stopping moment that jolts them out of their personal limitations and reveals the true meaning of being fully alive.
Suddenly you see the forest, your backyard, and your entire life with new eyes.
#2 – Awareness Outside Sparks Awareness Inside
As awareness grows outside… it also develops inside.
All problems in life, whether personal or cultural or societal, actually stem from just one place – a lack of awareness.
It doesn’t matter if you’re struggling with money, or career choices, relationships, depression, anything at all…
The only thing required for you to solve the challenge, is seeing new choices, opportunities & solutions that were always present, but you weren’t aware of them.
This is why nature immersion when it’s done properly, can lead to such amazing transformations. Because you’re directly effecting your ability to be more aware.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is not to down-play or make light of the incredible struggle that so many people are dealing with.
Yet awareness is a skill that can be cultivated and developed well beyond what most people ever realize.
Practices For Cultivating Awareness
One of the practices I always encourage my students to adopt is Sit Spot.
This is the core practice that was given to me by my mentor.
You can think of it as like your own secret place in nature where you go to practice nature awareness skills, and get to know the landscape through all 4 seasons.
As you develop relationships with the land, plants, animals and birds, you gradually become attuned with the different patterns and energies at your sit spot.
In the beginning you will probably experience moments of boredom, discomfort, and uncertainty about what the heck you’re supposed to be doing.
These experiences will be punctuated by moments of excitement and wonder as you discover new birds, plants, interests & passions.
It’s important to have good mentoring & support at this stage so you don’t give up before the real juicy parts begin.
As you continue going to Sit Spot, your awareness expands until you start have what I like to call “peak experiences in nature”.
These are experiences of deep connection with plants, birds, animals, that break your frame of reference and make you stop in your tracks saying,
Oh my god! Did I really just see that?”
One of my favorite stories of a peak experience in nature happened when a mama cougar and her 3 kittens walked by me at my Sit Spot.
It felt like my entire body was being dumped full of adrenaline. My senses became suddenly hyper-sensitive like I was on some kind of mind-altering substance.
My instincts took over and I was able to follow the family group while keeping my distance by listening to the bird language surrounding their presence in the forest.
Then as the moment subsides, you’ll notice the release of energy harmonizes with deep internal relaxation and reflection.
Your mind will become incredibly quiet as you experience a spontaneous meditative state of expanded internal awareness.
Creativity, leadership, communication, sensitivity, deep listening… these are some of the most important qualities for success in life.
And they are perfectly developed by immersing yourself nature.
This is why I focus so much on bird language, tracking & nature observation.
I know that each time I help someone make a connection to what’s happening in the cycles of plants, birds, or trees… on a deep neurological or possibly spiritual level… there’s a complimentary shift that happens inside their mind.
These deep shifts in awareness reveal aspects of the world that were previously unseen.
Eventually resulting in the development of strong “character.”
It’s important to look for this happening in yourself, and your students.
#3 – Nature Immersion Works Best With A Long Term Mindset
There’s another really important thing to realize…
Nature immersion works best as a long term commitment.
Many people take the mindset of using nature as a temporary escape or retreat that only happens once a year to regroup and refresh.
But in my experience, that is a very limited perspective of the true benefits of immersing yourself in nature.
The potency of routines like nature awareness, sit spot & cultivating your instincts outside comes best from doing lots of repetition over time.
It takes a few months or years of consistent practice to really get the juices flowing at the maximum level.
We’re essentially learning to coax our eyes and ears and sensing capabilities to permanently operate at a higher level.
This is why it’s so essential to have simple daily routines.
It’s not about giving up technology or warm houses. You don’t need to dramatically change your entire lifestyle overnight.
But you do need to give the naturalist parts of your mind the exercise required in the form of nature.
Give yourself time to let it all soak in.
Get ready for some very exciting and inspiring experiences that happen almost immediately as you start tuning in with nature.
But also realize there will be challenges like,
How do I actually learn all these plants?”
“What should I do when I see a bird and I want to know what it’s saying?”
“What can I learn from the trees in my backyard?”
A lot of people give up at this point, but I promise if you keep taking action, find a good mentor to hear your stories & ask you questions… it will change your life forever.
The end result is feeling much more in your gifts and in service to the world.
#4 – Questions Are The Answer
Going to Sit Spot and having experiences in nature isn’t quite the whole story yet.
Having experiences outside is definitely very important, but it’s still just the first step in a more complex sequence for nature immersion!
The problem is that awareness isn’t wired into our brains.
Pattern awareness takes a very long time to develop.
In fact, one person alone would never be able to learn it all in a single lifetime.
This is why Indigenous people living close to nature place so much emphasis on storytelling & dialogue.
The oral tradition of native cultures contains awareness lessons that have been carefully developed and passed down from generation to generation.
Every night after hunting & gathering your ancestors would sit around a fire and talk.
They would tell stories and ask lots of detailed questions.
And in the process. almost like an invisible magic, all the necessary awareness tricks to perceive patterns in nature gets passed down from generation to generation.
This is cultural knowledge.
And it happens through dialogue, stories & the art of questioning.
The Complete Nature Mentoring Cycle
So here’s the formula…
- Go outside
- Have cool experiences
- Share your experiences and observations with a mentor to stimulate curiosity, questions & conversation.
It’s important to do all three of these steps because it ensures that you’re doing the necessary reflection to make closer observations each time, rather than just spinning your wheels.
You can hear lots of examples of how these mentoring conversations work on my nature wisdom podcast.
One of my favourites is a discussion I had with Trudy from Alberta, Canada.
It includes good old fashioned storytelling and artful question to stimulate dialogue and expand awareness.
And if you want to experience the process for yourself, I’d love to have you as a guest on my show 🙂
#5 – Intention Drives Experience
Often when people decide to reconnect with nature… they focus mostly on gathering information about nature.
While these questions are good, you might find the information by itself leaves you desiring something a bit deeper.
There’s an important level of depth and connection that gets lost when you take too much of an information and facts-based approach.
So hear this…
It’s not about what you do when you go outside.
And it’s not about where you go.
So what is it about?
It’s about how you show up!
When you show up with an attitude of deep respect & desire to connect regardless of the specific details… you’ll find that much more rewarding experiences come to you.
Indigenous people all around the world have teachings that evoke this humble attitude of respect and timelessness towards nature.
When you enter the woods you should stop and give thanks before proceeding, the animals will respect you more.
“The birds will warn you of danger, but only if you’re paying attention.”
Focus on bringing this intention of love, peace & gratitude for nature, both in yourself and also help to cultivate this attitude in your students, and you’ll have much better experiences.
#6 – Facilitate Curiosity & Passion
The best nature immersion experiences always start with curiosity & passion.
What does that mean?
It means that you should focus on going where your feelings call you to go.
If you find yourself very curious about birds… then you should explore birds
If you find yourself curious about plants… then you should focus on plants!
The same goes for mentors & educators in nature.
You never want to force your students to learn something just because you think they should learn it.
Instead, ask about what gets them curious… notice what kinds of activities excite them, and focus on those things first.
Students will all come around when the time is right (And it will feel like their own idea, rather than something being forced on them).
When this is done well, it almost seems like you’re just going outside to goof off and having fun.
But on a deeper level and behind the scenes… foundations are being laid for a profound transformation as the world of plants, trees, birds & pattern awareness gradually open up.
#7 – Commitment To Mentoring Is Essential
The last thing I want to mention is just how beneficial mentoring actually is.
Nature connection is great.
Mentoring is great.
But when you put nature connection together with mentoring… The results are astounding.
It’s rare to see people get to the deepest levels of nature immersion without some kind of guidance from a committed mentor who has already walked the path.
There are just so many tricky spots along the journey with potential to get stuck.
The job of a mentor is to listen, hear your stories, ask good questions, and be there during the challenging moments when your worldview is changing, and you don’t know how to deal with it.
The people who really go deep with nature immersion understand the value of mentoring, they seek it out, and eventually they pay it forward by becoming mentors themselves.
You keep talking about mentoring but most of the people i know dont care at all about nature and will make fun of me if i talk a lot about nature so i dont even bother
Brian Mertins says
I’m sorry to hear that has been your experience. It’s true that some people are more open than others to talking about nature and mentoring.
If you find that folks are not receptive, I wouldn’t try to force anything. If you focus on connecting with the people who do seem more open, I think you’ll have a better experience.