10 ways to participate in Nature – and why it matters

Navigating leadership has never been more challenging than it is now. Leading today means responding to the complex interconnectedness of people, organisations and society. Bringing this systemic lens to our work is conceptually straightforward but how do coaching clients develop this way of seeing and experiencing?

My own experience, and that of clients and colleagues, is that coming into systemic connection in Nature is a short code for doing that in organisations.  The isomorphic experience of being outdoors gives us a growing awareness of the ‘system’.  That same awareness becomes available to us in our work.  I start to know what wants to emerge in me, my work and the organisation.

Over three billion years of embodied knowledge of survival, adapting, social intelligence, co-ordinating, intuition and reciprocity live largely unused in us.” Richard Strozzi Heckler

Nature offers us a context for coming home to that systemic intelligence.  Step out of the door and physiological changes start to do that work for you.  This isn’t stepping back in time.  It’s remembering an intelligence we need for today. But there’s a choice as you step out of the door.  Are you going to be a consumer of Nature, an observer or a participant?  Here’s what I mean.

Consumer

‘I’ll get some fresh air’.  ‘I’ll take a walk’.  In the consumer orientation, Nature is a place to walk the dog, have a run, spend some time with those we love.  It there’s at our disposal for whatever we choose.  You may be experiencing some discomfort as you read those words.  I experience discomfort writing them.  ‘Well, of course it is and why not?’ says a conditioned voice in my head. Bear with …..

Observer

Starting to notice what’s around us, we might be saying ‘isn’t that oak tree magnificent, look at that lake, aren’t the flowers beautiful’.  The words can be a distraction from moving into closer connection with what we see, or an invitation. The invitation brings us into connection with the world around us.  The separation of inner and outer can start to blur.  Biophilia is drawing us into relationship with the world around us.

Participant

Then comes the moment of flow, of forgetting.  I am absorbed in my surroundings.  I am deeply noticing and being part of them.  I am experiencing Nature rather than observing it.  I am taking my place there.  I am part of all that is.  Through embodied participation with the world around me – walking, touching, sensing – I begin to touch the systemic intelligence is the birth right of every creature.  Beyond words, I have a felt sense of my belonging and connectedness.

Become a participant in Nature

Coming into connection with systemic intelligence in Nature is a deeply personal journey that we have to find for ourselves.  Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

  • Go out often and sense into where you really want to go.
  • Notice the threshold between indoors and outdoors, paying attention to the difference.
  • Once outside, centre yourself to be present in the experience.
  • Use the ancient practice of lectio divina to ‘read’ Nature, reflect on what you see, be curious about what it’s mirroring to you, and contemplate what it’s saying.
  • During your time out, notice anything that opens you to the experience.
  • Take a fasting Medicine walk.
  • Read the Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways to explore how inner and outer landscape reflect each other.
  • Drawing on memories, revisit an experience of deep Nature connection that you had as a child.
  • Find a ‘sit spot’ that enchants you.  Take a journal and write or draw anything that wants to be expressed.
  • Become part of a group that wants to participate in Nature.

So what?

The experience of systemic connection in Nature, in the ‘implicate order’ (Bohm) of things, connects us with our intrinsic motivation and sense of purpose.   Each time we go out, we learn to tune in more and more.  Courage, vision and embodied authority come to us as we return to everything we once knew.

As people practitioners – coaches, consultants, facilitators – and as leaders, we start to sense and presence what wants to emerge.  Outdoor practice shows us the way.