I'm grateful to live on a protected nature refuge in Jinibara Country, in west Brisbane, Australia. It is a land of fresh water mountain streams, wedge-tailed eagles and red ochre rocks.
The land is constantly inviting me and others who journey here into a slowed down way of being, something that’s becoming increasingly invaluable in a world where we often feel like ‘human doings’.
As we invite our inner child to remember our innate kinship with nature, we acknowledge the truth that’s still alive in the lands on which we live and that Indigenous cultures all around the world have always known.
Having worked with 5-14 year olds for the past 17 years, I have noticed the growing need to facilitate nature connection experiences that invite young people into this kind of reverent reconnection with truth. Rather than highly managing their time in nature by sequencing a number of activities to keep them ‘busy’, I have found that less is more.
Young People Crave Autonomy, Stillness And Time To Reflect
Whilst careful facilitation is important and creates a structure that supports them to stay safe, many young people revel in time to connect freely in their own way. Whether it’s painting with red ochre rocks in the creek bed or momentarily damming up the water and noticing how that changes the sound of the flow, opportunities for free exploration are endless.
Perhaps they become curious with a magnifier and investigate all the little details as they explore, or undertake a treasure hunt to find natural objects with various textures and colours and create a work of ‘land art’.
As young people lead their own inquiry within a supportive setting, this unstructured time gives them a growing sense of themselves in relationship to nature, as if they are getting to know a new (or old!) friend. The level of comfort and safety they develop in nature during this explorative time then supports their ability to engage in a stillness practice; as we can gain a totally different perspective of a place when we sit in silence and allow ourselves to be drawn to whatever takes our attention.
Nature Holds A Message For Us All
If nature had a message for you today, what would the birds, rocks, trees and breeze share?
Deeply listening with the whole body can be profound for many young people, especially when it’s introduced through an acknowledgement of the ancientness of the practice, and understanding that the original custodians who first walked this land thousands of years ago did this too.
When young people are then given time to reflect on the experience afterwards, they often express emotively: “I feel like I’ve come home”; “I’m alive again”; or “all my problems and worries have floated away”.
It’s an honour to facilitate authentic and respectful experiences in nature, not just with young people but with people of all ages. Tailoring an experience for a mother and daughter looking for deeper connection in their relationship was one of my most memorable sessions at Feathertail Nature Refuge.
In all my work, I take my lead from Mother Nature herself. She is the teacher, and I’m her ‘support’ facilitator.
Rather than organising ‘nature play’ experiences, I like to think of myself as a practitioner that listens to how nature wants to ‘play’ with us and then hold reverent space for my clients to receive and respond as they feel.
The beauty here is that when we slow down, listen deeply and connect, we remember who we truly are.
We come into harmony with ourselves and with others.
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