Featured Image Credit: Krystle Schofield Photography
By Lindsay Coulter
“Mom, what story do you think this rock has to tell?” asks my then six-year-old son.
I was proud and relieved. Tapping into the mystery and wonder of Mother Nature is not only a gift, but essential.
A root cause of our current climate chaos and ecological collapse is our profound disconnection with the living world. It’s also leading to climate anxiety and eco-grief. Ponder this:
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” ~ Rumi
We can take steps to reconcile our relationship to our non-human kin. Then we’ll do less harm to ourselves, others, and the planet. Each day find mystery, magic, seek beauty and awe. Being in nature takes you out of yourself. It’s in nature you realize, there’s more in the world than just me.
As a family, try playful games or experiment with sense perception exercises to help experience Mother Nature as kin, a teacher and even a healer:
Sleeping Fawn game.
Children are fawns that must stay still while keeping their faces shown. They pretend their deer mom is away. An adult plays the coyote, who sniffs around the field or forest looking for its prey. Remember fawns don’t have a scent! Stillness is the secret, allowing kids to sink into nature (a nice change from popular pursuit games.) The coyote tries to get the fawns to move without touching them or speaking. Coyote behaviour like yelping, jumping and playing or being foolish is okay. When the fawn moves, it’s “caught” and out of the game. Forest schoolers know this game from Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown.
Talk to plants and animals.
Did you plant a pandemic garden or start a butterfly garden with native plants? Chat with carrots, tomatoes, huckleberries, or house plants as if they are a conscious being. Speak out loud because your words show respect and connection. This practice develops relationships with the more-than-human world. It helps widen our boundaries for compassion.
Act as if everything you meet is alive, that it matters and has its own story — the rock, the moss, a tree. Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects shares this exercise and more to encourage us to be open to communication. Whisper and touch the trees. Practice witnessing and being seen. Show reciprocity. Ask your child, “Is the water or tree looking back at you?” “Is it sensing or watching you as you are sensing and watching it?” Do you think rocks speak to water? Let your senses be awake and speak aloud a gratitude. Send that tree love and thanks, wish it well with how the world is.
Forest floor cuddle.
Lay on your belly on the forest floor. Tune into the sounds, smells and sights. Notice the tiny fungi, mosses and look up to the canopy. It’s grounding to sense your smallness, feel humble, and notice the power of your insignificance at this scale. Comfortable here? Cup your face with your hands, resting on your elbows. Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine a landscape, a cherished pet or person. This practice wakes up the vagus nerve (aka the physical manifestation of the soul). Tune into your mind-body connection, calm the nervous system and chill out. Soak it all up! You can also try this at the beach, on a mountain top, or in the backyard.
Practice an annual gratitude ritual on your birthday! Gratitude is a social emotion; it points to what’s already there. It also solidifies our relationship with living mystery, enhances our resilience and will help us face hard information. What do you notice happening in nature on our birthday? What’s in bloom or what is going to rest? What are the smells and sounds? What textures do you notice in the sky, on a leaf or in the snow? It can be grounding to reflect on what was happening on Earth when you took your first breath of air.
Powerful acts to reconnect also include walking barefoot, skipping rocks, stargazing, making a mud pie or smelling the rain!
Kids and adults alike need to access their feelings about our living world, it’s wonder, loss and beauty. Stories can also nourish that relationship with the living world. Cuddle up to read:
1. You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey
2. Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor
3. A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
4. Frog Girl by Paul Owen Lewis
5. Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc
We’re all a participant in this wondrous universe.
Lindsay Coulter is a dedicated mother of two, former Queen of GreenTM, naturalist, community catalyst, soul activist, mentor, writer and horse lover in Victoria, B.C.
Find her @SaneAction on Instagram and Facebook. She’s also the Director of Communications, Culture and Community of EPIC Learning Centre, a forest and nature school in Victoria, B.C.