Sitting in the pews at Lakeside Hope House in Guelph, waiting to hear Richard Louv (author, journalist and co-founder of Children and Nature Network) and Jon Young (naturalist, author, and mentor) speak the excitement in the air was palpable. Last night was an evening of sharing stories, connection, and affirmation for the simple truths that resonate with all of us. It was an urging to get back to nature, to get back outside and to facilitate meaningful time in nature for all the children in our lives. There’s no longer a doubt about the profound healing effects and the absolute necessity of immersion amongst trees, meadows, and beautiful spaces the natural world has to offer.
Richard and Jon took that one step further and asserted that nature connection is as essential to our well-being, as water, food, and air. It’s essential to our children’s mental health and a birthright that needs to be honored for all. We know this. I know it, you know it, and yet a shift happened, something changed and our children are now suffering because of it. This change crept up on us and we didn’t notice at first. We’ve been so busy, working so much, life is speeding up and we can’t seem to slow down. Thankfully we have people like Richard and Jon and countless others who are so wonderfully advocating for that which we know is true. Through their work, mentorship, training and encouragement, parents and educators all over the world are turning the tide in their community.
We are now getting back to a deeper understanding that we in the west have forgotten, one that indigenous people all over the world still live. The understanding of where and how we fit into the very fabric of this physical existence. We are all fibers of the same cloth, connected to each other and every living thing on this planet including the Earth herself. We live modernly now, cloistered away in our homes, but our nature is to be connected; to be in tune with the rhythms of the natural world and the biodiversity of our land.
For those that feel daunted by the task of fostering this deep connection to the land, I want to add my voice to those already speaking. It doesn’t have to be hard, or expensive or take a lot of time. Start where you are, do what you can and continue to strive for more. Educate yourself, reach out to those in your community doing the same and learn together. Understand the barriers that could be affecting your family and work towards breaking them down.
Try this the next time you go for a walk with your children.
- Ask them “What do you hear?” “What don’t you hear?”
- Take shoes off, ask “What do you feel?”
- Lie down on your bellies, ask “What do you see?”
- What do you smell?
- Who’s here? What creatures can you see?
Engage all their senses, model authentic awe (kids can tell if you’re faking), don’t rush to get from one point of the trail to the next. It comes down to being present, an action that has become uncomfortable in our fast paced lives. The easiest way I’ve found to root myself to the present moment is to feel the difference in my breath. Bring your attention to the tip of your nose, notice that when you breathe in the air feels cool and when you breathe out it’s warmer. This simple act can help to quiet your mind and root you to the present moment. Slow down with your kids. If they don’t see us do it then they won’t know how to either. If we can help them be mindful in nature they’ll notice so much more and so will we.
I’d love to hear your stories, do you recall a transformative experience in nature that you had as a child? Do you feel connected to the natural world? What difficulties have you and your family experienced that prevents you from forming a deep connection to a specific place? Let’s chat! I welcome your comments 🙂