ACORNS NW Community Nature Connection Practices
Guide to eldering and mentoring yourself and others into nature connection.
Restoring connection to the self in context of the webs of ecosystems and communities we are surrounded by is an important part to engaging our our role as mentors and elders in our community. ACORNS NW seeks to help build community based in nature connection values.
As many of us have been raised and/or impacted by white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial, anthropocentric and capitalist U.S. societal norms which support and require maintenance of oppressive systems, we acknowledge the cycles of violence this implicates upon humans, indigenous culture and the environments we inhabit. In the face of a long history of colonization, dehumanization and oppression, we seek a diversity of alternatives to dominant norms, through our approaches, values and lifestyles to address and undo these cycles.
In addition to exploring these concepts through political, historical, indigenous, marginalized and community lenses, we value and practice connection with of nature’s elements and all its beings as a pathway to regeneration, re-education, healing and restoration.
We ask all of our staff and community engage in a personal nature awareness and connection practice in order to heal, grow and maintain the integrity of our community.
When we are not engaging in this work on a personal level, it becomes easy to feel disconnected from the work we are doing and it’s impact, as well as the our personal path within it.
The below activities have had incredible impacts on those who practice them. As nature connection mentors, community members and elders to youth, it is our responsibility to tend the flame of nature awareness and connection in our community, in addition to the work we do to resist and heal cycles of violence and oppression. This is best done when we are tending to our own personal flame and relationship to this land and the beings who live here.
It is our goal to encourage all participants of our programs in some level of personal nature connection practice, whether as a family, friend group or on an individual level.
We encourage you and your family to engage nature connection practices each month.
*If you have pre-existing nature connection practices, please feel free and encouraged to continue your practice and consider the following as suggestions, ideas and inspiration. Please do not feel that you must replace your existing, cultural and/or authentically arising practices. The below suggestions are meant as a baseline starting point for those beginning their practice or looking for a more consistent practice known to improve nature connection and awareness in wholistic ways.
2- 4 sit spots
3 nature journal entries
You are encouraged to join our nature connection group meet-ups as you are able. We will explore bird language, tracking, plant medicine, fire building, seasonal shifts, celestial events, fiber arts and more. These meet-ups and their focuses will be defined by those who attend and contribute, in keeping of our cooperative and collaborative community guided model. As they continue, there may be a variety of focus group meetings to explore curiosity and connection in specific areas.
One of the most revered and honored practices for personal nature connection is the 'sit spot'. In its simplest form, this is a place outside where we go to spend time consistently.
Nature connection is much like language immersion. There are patterns and communications in nature that our brains and beings gather into who we are in our values and how we relate to our understanding of the world. These patterns are a form of language that plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and environments use to communicate with one another. By immersing ourselves in natural environments, we allow our brains the opportunity to begin noticing and making sense of these signals. Essentially, patterning our brain off natural processes and occurrences.
Our brains are evolved and wired to absorb this information from our environment. What are some ways that your brain and being may still be enacting this process in patterning off what you are exposed to daily? How does your daily and lifelong experience contribute to the patterning your brain absorbs? What kind of intentionality are you able to put into how you pattern and work with your brain’s development?
Picking a Sit-Spot
This spot does not have to fit your ideal image of a nature location, though it should feel like a place that you can go to regularly and feel safe.
Backyards, parks, and other smaller green spaces are perfectly suitable for this practice. The idea is that you have a space you can be in year round, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. You are encouraged to visit this space at all hours of the day and night to witness the variety of activity, species, weather, and events that occur in your sit-spot. In addition, you are encouraged to approach your sit-spot from as many different pathways as possible, so as not to leave a trail, as well as to witness the full surroundings, tracks, habitat, etc and create a better mental map of the area.
If your location is not accessible to this degree, no worries, the most important part is getting your practice started and working with what you have.
Often times in can take 20 or more minutes for an environment to return to baseline after it is disturbed (you entering it), so sitting for 25-60 minutes is ideal. If you do not have this kind of time available, 10-20 minutes will suffice. Again, the goal is to begin your practice and start with something that is possible for you to maintain.
Here are some other considerations to ponder:
- Convenience - Is this somewhere you can quickly and easily access? If it is too challenging, distracting, or far away, what other options do you have?
- Diversity - The more ecosystems and edges present, the more wildlife and nature activity for you to view. Ideally, there is water present, even if it is simply a puddle or bird bath. Water is important to life and therefore adds to the amount of activity you will see. Are there grasses? Bushes? And trees? Each plant growth leads to different species habitat.
Reference: Animal Tracking Basics by Jon Young and Tiffany Morgan
Sit-Spot in Action
Using Our Senses…
Just as we encourage participants in the opening of their awareness and senses, so must we practice to continue exploring our edges.
Raccoon Touch, Deer Ears, Owl Vision, Fox Walking, Body Radar, Inner Tracking
Raccoon Touch - take the explore your sit spot through touch. As you touch things notice not only the texture and quality of what you are touching, but how it makes you feel.
Deer Ears - Practice listening and/or feeling vibrations in your environment. What is the quietest/smallest sound you can hear, what is the loudest/biggest? Can you notice around you in all directions? How do the vibrations/sounds make you feel? How many can you notice at once?
Own Vision - Also sometimes referred to as splatter vision. We are noticing what is in front of us, below us, and to the sides of our vision and awareness. How can you best focus your eyes to see the most of your surroundings? How much detail can you pick up on while you do this?
Fox Walking - This is the practice of walking and moving as quietly as possible through a space or environment. There are a couple of ways to roll the weight on your feet to accomplish a more quiet approach. Firstly, notice where you choose to place your feet as you move and what kind of materials are louder than others. By notice the sounds of different plants, you will also become better at identifying where other people or animals are based on sound. Then, begin placing your weight, starting with either your toe or your heel (whichever is most comfortable) and then roll your weight forward along the outside of your foot, then placing the inside of your foot on the ground when your weight is rolled all the way along the outside of your foot to either your heel or toe. Walk slowly, noticing what pace best accomplishes your ability to quietly approach your sit-spot, while also using deer ears and owl vision. How does it feel to move like this? How long can you move like this? How does it feel to shift from fox walking to your normal gait?
Inner Tracking - What are you thinking about? Feeling? How does that affect your ability to notice your surroundings? How do your surroundings affect the way you feel? What emotions and thoughts distract you the most? How does that affect the way you relate to your environment? What makes you uncomfortable in your practice? What feels exciting? When do you feel peace? Curiosity? Enthusiasm? When do you feel bland? Confused? Challenged? What images, colors, smells, memories come to you? What inspiration? New ideas? How has your experience of yourself changed after a few minutes of being here, versus before you came?
Inner tracking is a meditative, reflective and introspective process tracking your inner experience in combination with tracking the world around you.
You can incorporate your reflective process on your sensory experience as part of your nature journal if you feel inspired to!
There are many ways that one can nature journal. You are not required to keep your in any one particular way. Here are some ideas and suggestions of things to notice in addition to however you choose to keep your nature journal.
Plant Medicine Journal
Possible things to note about your experience through writing, drawing, photos, etc:
Source - species, object, size of creature that made the noise
Height (ground, canopy, shrub layer, fenceline, etc)
Noises made by living things
Noises made by non-living things
Time of day
Draw a map of the area from above
Draw a map of your perspective
Draw a map from the perspective of a crawling ant
Insects and sign
Mammals & sign
Birds & sign
Soil & ground layer
Location & Quality of Sensation
What do you feel? What did you learn? Anything you want to research? Bird noises you want to identify? Tracks? Plants? Anything you want to do next time?
You can journal during and/or after your sit-spot depending on your preference and intuition. It can be helpful to research things you see and notice, and include that information into your notes, such as medicinal qualities of plants, track identification notes, bird facts, etc.
You can make charts, draw, write, whatever makes the most sense for your experience!