Nature Re-connection: Meditation, Forest Bathing and Nature Observation Skills
An intensive workshop offered June 15-17, 2018 at Breitenbush Hot Springs Resort in NW Oregon
To register, contact Breitenbush at 503 854-3320 after February 1, 2018
We come to believe that this person I am right now is what we really are. But it’s not true. We are always changing and we always have the ability to affect the nature of that change. And because we share a common view of the world with people around us, we tend to believe that the experience of the world our mind and senses create is really how the world is. But it’s not true. We can explore our senses and perception, play with how we use them, and learn to experience the world in new ways. That is what this workshop is all about- understanding our full potential to perceive the world, and learning skills to master that potential.
This workshop is not about learning more about a certain part of nature (birds, wildflowers, weather, etc.). It is not about learning to see new things in the same old way, but to see the same old things in new ways. It is not specific to any particular way of enjoying nature. The skills you will learn are useful for hiking, photography, writing, art, research, tracking, foraging, homesteading, or any way you might want to explore or live in wild nature. We’ll learn these skills first-hand, by practicing exercises designed to cultivate and deepen them. Some skills may be so neglected or atrophied from a life in man-made environments that you may not even realize you have them. We will use information and practices from western science, native life ways, and meditative traditions, as well as from my own personal experiences reading, working with other people, living in wild nature, and experimenting with ways to teach and develop these skills. We will also discuss ways to alter the physical surroundings and routines of your daily life to decrease the damage and neglect of your senses in man-made environments.
Most people never think of playing with the basic nature of their senses and perception, since they assume they just are the way they are. So I’ll give you an example of what we’ll do in this workshop, using one type of vision. When our mind and senses create a visual image of the world, it processes the basic visual input in many ways. Two of the most basic processing modes, which happen in different parts of the brain, could be called the what and where modes of vision. “Where” vision is quickly processed, and rather simple and crude. It tells us where in the visual field certain inputs are occurring. It is used for very time- sensitive information needed to navigate, avoid objects, reach for objects, etc. In contrast, “what” vision is much slower and more detailed. It involves many interacting processes including those generating color, shading, edges, continuity, and similarity, while comparing current info to memories and experience in order to generate meaning from the image. We can’t be aware of these processes as they actually happen in our brain. That would result in a catastrophic traffic jam of experience. But we can become aware of how we are using them in different situations, and change our emphasis on them in our conscious experience. We can learn to shift between the emphasis on one or the other. We do this through carefully designed exercises that are the heart of this workshop. In this case, we would try to see more detail in objects while moving at different speeds through more or less complex environments. By practicing this skill, we become more familiar with these two modes of vision, learn to shift between them, and to use them more effectively together.
If you still find this concept of playing with the fundamental nature of your perception confusing, don’t be surprised. It is foreign to our culture and our language. Rather than make this description even longer, I will just suggest that if you find this interesting, feel free to contact me with any questions, and I’ll be glad to discuss it in detail with you (see the Contact Us page). But I will say this. Beyond enhancing your ability to pursue particular activities , cultivating these perceptual skills will lead you to a deeper, more intimate and spiritual connection with wild nature. As you become more aware of the infinite richness of detail and beauty around you, the intricacies of interactions and flows and connections will also become more apparent. You will gradually come to know nature as a whole in a deep, felt way, including your own place in it. Your life in wild nature will become more spontaneously connected with the life around you in a very simple, natural way. As you rejuvenate your innate abilities to live and explore in nature without the limitations of our modern technological culture, you will once again live in the intimate, caring, natural connection with the world shared by young children and our ancestors.
WILD EDIBLE PLANTS –
Learn to safely and conscientiously harvest the bounty of wild food all around you. When do you know a plant well enough to eat it? How do you harvest this species so that the resource will be sustained? What are the common, easily processed, delicious wild edible plants on or near your land? Learn all of this as we take a pleasant walk through woods, swamps, and fields. The landscape will never look the same to you.
READING TRACKS, TRAILS, AND SIGN –
Everything that touches the earth leaves its mark. Learn how to identify signs left on the ground, vegetation, rock, and even water by animals, plants, water, and weather. Knowing who did it is just the beginning. When did it happen? What were they doing? What interactions were going on? The interconnected stories of what has happened in a place can be read from tracks and signs. In this course you can learn the basic skills that can make you a master detective and story reader if you practice them diligently. You will be amazed at all the fascinating stories you have been walking past all your life. These skills will make you a keen observer in nature wherever you go, as well as in all aspects of your life
FAMILIES IN WILD NATURE-
There are so many kids today, especially in large urban
areas, who spend almost no time just playing in the
woods. This is true for a variety of reasons, but it is
possible to find ways for kids to do this locally. This
course works best with one or two families. We go out
to a relatively wild area close to your home that is
accessible and can stand up to off trail use, and just
spend a few hours playing and learning in the woods.
The time is spent learning a little natural history,
finding the gaps and barriers in the parents’ experience
that hinder them in effectively guiding their kids in
nature, and modeling inquisitive and conscientious
interaction with nature for the kids. The goal is to help
the family make the most of their unstructured time in
wild nature so that kids have a safe and positive learning
experience that will keep them coming back for more.
FINDING YOUR WAY
Many people are reluctant to leave marked trails even where off-trail use is allowed. Having stayed on the trail all their lives, they never experienced the wonder of exploring and the joy of seeing all the faces of a landscape. This is usually because they never learned the simple skills that would allow them to find their way through an unkown landscape while they foraged, explored, or watched wildlife. This course will teach you the basics of lostproofing, oritenteering, and finding your way to where you want to be. Starting with the state of mind and conditions you find yourself in, we’ll look at how awareness, mindfulness, and assessment can guide you in your decisions. Then we’ll learn a variety of ways to find your way to a place you’ve never been before, or to retrace your steps back to your starting point. Once you master these skills, you will feel confident and comfortable no matter where you wander or trek, so you can enjoy yourself without worrying.
ASTRONOMY WITHOUT A TELESCOPE
What do you see when you look up at the night sky? A myriad of lights? Constellations? Whether you use a telescope or your un-aided eyes, this course will give you a whole new story about what you see in the sky. Learn about distances, size, temperatures, speed, and energies that are almost beyond imagination. We’ll talk about the sun and planets, stars, galaxies, comets, rainbows, clouds, and all the common phenomena visible in the sky. You’ll hear about this in language and images that will allow you to imagine what its really like up there. Great for kids or the kid in the adult
PASSIVE SOLAR ENERGY –
We can feel the tremendous amount of free heat pouring down on the earth every time we walk out into the sunshine. In this course you will learn all the many ways to use that free energy to heat, dry, cook, and grow using simple devices that can be built from salvaged and recycled materials. Everything from your home to food dryers, clothes dryers, water heaters, greenhouses, and cooking ovens all use the same basic design principles to collect and use the heat from the sun. Once you understand these principles, you can improvise your own devices and technology to fit your situation. We also offer workshops where you can build your own device from a pre-fabbed kit we provide. Have fun, save money, and use less electricity and fossil fuel. Workshops can be designed for kids or adults.
RESTORING YOUR NATURAL SENSES
Our mind, body, and senses developed during thousands of generations of lives immersed in wild nature. The radically transformed and controlled human engineered environments many of us spend our lives in do not cultivate our sensory abilities to their full natural potential, and often times even damage them. Through understanding how our mind, body, and senses naturally function, we can learn ways to restore much of our ability to perceive and function in a deeply connected way in wild nature again. Drawing from western sciences of psychology, neurophysiology, and biology, as well as from eastern introspective traditions and the daily life of people still living closely with wild nature, this workshop will help you find ways to correct the atrophy and damage resulting from a life of living indoors, looking at screens and books, exposure to toxins and loud noise, and the relative sterility of human designed environments. You can use a toolkit of simple practical exercises developed from the sources above and from personal experience to reshape the way you are in wild nature. You will gradually find yourself once again living from the rich, intimate interaction with other life and the natural environment that is your birthright.
BLENDING IN WITH WILD NATURE
We spend most of our lives moving through human engineered environments that have covered over the living earth with floors and pavement, removed distracting obstacles, and are mostly devoid of other life. Had you grown up in a wild natural environment, you would have an innate sense that you tread on a living world, and that you were constantly being observed by all the living beings you contacted and passed by. Native Americans universally called invading Europeans the walking dead because they marched over the earth looking straight ahead, heedless of the life around them and their effect on it. Today we walk with this same Frankenstein-like oblivion because we have transformed our world so we don’t have to pay attention to it or how we move through it. By examining the dysfunction of the way we move in wild nature, learning about how our body and mind actually work, and practicing new skills of balance, movement, and awareness, you can learn how to live and function in wild nature in a way that is not threatening or terrifying to the life there. You will not be hiding, but your presence will no longer be discordant and conspicuous. For the first time, you will be able to move quietly, naturally, gracefully through woods and fields and see animals doing what they normally do, instead of watching them flee in terror or not see them at all in their hiding places. It will bring you into your natural deep, intimate connection with the natural world we all still live in.
WE ALSO OFFER CUSTOM COURSES FOR YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, OR ORGANIZATION
ON YOUR ON HOME LAND OR A SITE OF YOUR CHOOSING