The spring and turn of the cycle are welcomed differently by each being. Weather turning more favourable, cyclists, swimmers and surfers emerge more than before. People say that over the season time, the town will be filling up with visitors.. There is a wonderful abundance of wild flowers and garden flowers everywhere one goes. For me it has been most obvious to observe the changes of season from home balcony and surroundings, as well as on the way to Shanette’s home office where I spend some hours a day working with Lunchbox Theatre related tasks. I have also been one of the rather unlucky ones who welcome this season with some ferocious hay fever.. but that is fascinating, too, to observe and wonder which flowers, which plants it might be that are especially irritating..! Am I differently prone to these things as a foreigner than a native would be? I don’t yet know.
Our wonderful and sometimes difficult friend Change comes by in all possible forms with the advancing seasons! As dreaded and welcome as ever! It is a guest we’re not to turn away, for again and yet again it knocks on our doors – it is better to start calling it a Brother or a Sister, for it is here to stay.
After almost two years in South Africa, I wonder if my sense of place here is limited in certain ways. If one spends a great deal of time moving from one place to another, it is rather unlikely to build a vast experiential knowledge of what is around in any particular place. How long does it take to “build an image” of a place? Then again, it may be that one can’t reach all levels of understanding of a place during such a life, yet, the encounters, meetings and exchanges may be so profound and insightful that this more than “offsets” the lack of knowledge otherwise gained spending a long time in a place. And equally, if one thinks that every single moment contains everything there is, then there are no “levels” to reach, in any way..
However it may be, I am rather enjoying the discovery of this place through eyes almost like those of a child. Are they a child’s eyes? How am I different now than when I was a little child, truly..?
I go for walks, alone or with friends, and often end up admiring the littlest of things growing by the side of the road. We admire things, asking questions of them – just to beam in the miraculous shine of these things that we don’t always have names for. Why is it this colour? Why exactly would we see it grow here but not there on the other side of the hill.. How would it ever have become this symmetric, this fabulous? The simplest of questions are the very same ones I remember vaguely wondering as a child.. the same questions perhaps led me to explore and learn through gaining knowledge of my surroundings through a rather more structured way in a school and in a university. Or, questions may have led us to explore and gain experience with our parents or other people during our lives, around any things we have had a sparkle of interest in. And the most amazing thing is, the world is full of things and we can never know it all. It is almost like a game – but a rather crazy, exciting, sometimes so difficult, yet exhilarating game of Being in this world as it unfolds.
If one believes that ultimately, all of life is one, there is no need to separate, no need to put in any order of importance the things we learn, accumulate, use and so on. For any bit and piece is part of the continuity of a Whole, and is not in any way out of place. Still, we as people develop different interests in life. It is these interests and inspiring nudges, if they emerge, that we would best follow in life for it can lead us to wonderful discoveries and growth.. And we encounter all sorts of “mentors” to help us on these journeys, during our lives.
I am enthusiastic about the ideas and practices of mentoring the youth, or adults, in (re)connecting with nature. Jon Young’s Coyote Mentoring circles around these ideas and work. The basis of his work is the recognition of a need, or possibility, for people to become more deeply in touch with themselves and with the rest of nature. (Or is it perhaps also just out of the pure enjoyment of play and exploration, alone and with others, admiring the endless wonders of the world around us..? Who could tell.. J) It is for me exciting to learn about these methods of (re)connecting with nature through a process of experiencing and becoming. Children and adults alike have different sides to them, and we all have some sort of sense of nature. It is all around us after all and everything we do, use, put out, relates to everything else – nature – that we are an inseparable part of. Jon Young, as countless others all over the world, excite children to explore the natural world through games, hands-on experience, and tickling the inquiring side of one’s soul. He uses coyote as the example of an ancient character, the “Trickster”.. no learning is so very thorough or useful if it happens out of obligation or fear (though fear can be a great push for many things). However, we can lead each other to our edges of seeing, understanding and experiencing, and from the edge one can venture further on unknown paths, to discover more.. if one so wishes.
So the role of a mentor is crucial in that they can point things to us. To see, smell or feel differently, to be in other ways. They can assist us to step out of the comfort zone, which is quite necessary for something new to come in. Mentors come in so many forms.. parents, friends, teachers. It is for any child rather important that there is a “mentor” of some sort throughout their young years. It is also quite necessary and enriching for adults to have different mentors throughout the rest of their lives, to guide on paths they wish to uncover. We are our own mentors as well, but then need to keep on continuously tickling and mirroring ourselves – it takes a great deal of honesty and openness!
And why we would point things to each other is perhaps because we don’t see everything.
Now you go for a walk on the street, and try to take in everything. The human mind just so happens to be that it is difficult for it to register everything. So our brains train constantly to focus on the things that are recognizable – important in some way. It is for sure a survival mechanism.. That is why we need learning, mentoring, pointing to new things, to learn more. Jon Young calls this “brain patterning”. With Lisa my friend here, we talk of her research, how her participants each see their worlds through different eyes – and this reflects in the photographs they take. They each portray a set of photos that show their special places, reasons for this, their relationship with the environment overall and the vulnerabilities they perceive them to have. How one sees the environment depends on their upbringing, all the knowledge they have.. how their worldview is constructed. And this has taken place through some sort of filtering.. or brain patterning.
Today, lots of people do not need to observe their immediate surroundings constantly for their immediate survival. We do keep our eyes open to not walk into walls or be hit by a car, but there is not a dire need to check out every living plant we walk by or be acutely aware of the sounds of nature around us in order to avoid a looming predator, or pick up a cry of a game bird.. Instead, our current brain patterning largely comprises of towns, computers, roads, television, friends, facebook.. acquiring food includes certain kind of brain patterning, circling around shopping centres, packaged foods, eating out. So these things get reinforced and filtered through to our brains, to help us in our days. Yet, not all of these activities directly feed us or contribute to our survival.. some of the activities we embark on are harmful to life. We may feel separate from the ecosystems, food systems that support us all. Of course, we all have our different interests. One who doesn’t have an affection for understanding where our food comes from, has an interest in other things. Someone doesn’t like the outdoors, but rather paints or becomes a musician. We all have our roles and parts to contribute to the whole.
If one does wish to change the current brain patterning, it takes will and effort to change it.
In that way, kindness, compassion and love are things that can be “cultivated” just as much as anything else. So is nature connection and learning about animals and plants. When it comes to youth, J. Young presents that nature connection can be something fun, encouraging and exciting that provides the chance for new doorways to open up in one’s mind – for exploration of the “unknown”, “beyond the edge”. We can show each other possibilities, open curiosity and guide it to exploring and making sense of the world around by experience, through play.
There was a three day environment event in Nature’s Valley a few months ago now where I facilitated a kind of a web of life – activity to school learners. We were immersed in the beautiful natural surroundings, and the activity was to awaken our senses, explore the surroundings through a game that involves creativity, making connections and empathising. It was a one-of-a-kind experience for me, and for the children a very special occasion for sure – they came to this amazing, peaceful place to learn about interesting things outdoors. What an adventure! They did come with their pencils and papers.. It was so clear that this was the “default-mode” they took expecting something of the session; we’ve got to sit through and write down the right answers. It made me hope that is not how teachers always feel – that they feel like their students just want to have the right answers on the piece of paper. 😉
I’d hope them to feel, and the learners to feel, that the various abilities of learners are engaged in a process of excitement, exploration and keen inquiry. How to inspire that among each other? Be it children or adults. True excitement, heartfelt keen inquiry.. To filter openly from our surroundings, and follow the leads that ignite a spark of passion within.
I am in the process of filtering big-time, and brain-patterning in order to know these specific surroundings a bit better.. through reading, experience, exploration, guidance by others. What an adventure it is.
The spring with its sense of life speeding up a bit, I’ve been ever grateful for the simple little space I pass through and spend time at every day: the balcony at Old Nick’s, and the immediate garden surrounding. It is here I make much of my daily observations of birds, plants, weather, sounds.. It can be a great thing, to have this kind of a “spot” where one returns to on a regular basis. This spot can become an “observation-spot”, there to take note of the things that happen around. Connecting with nature can start here and now, anytime and everywhere, because we are nature and it is all around us. Thus the wonders of existence equally are all around us and always available. I realize, for me it has been this way in most places I’ve inhabited.. the home trees in Finland, the trees and birds across our apartments in Equatorial Guinea, these trees, birds and flowers here, now. I could trace the line of my life by the birds that I’ve seen inhabiting the places I’ve lived at, or by the insects that seem to appear at different times of year.. I think we all could tell these kinds of stories of our lives.
And we may not be able to acquire all the information there is about our surroundings. Yet, a keen interest in what is going on around helps us to make our ways.. through work, through meetings, through tasks at hand. It is like, mental or physical mapping..! We can also train ourselves to filter in not only the information we are familiar with, but also information that is unknown to us. Truly, how would it be to live life without filtering, to be open to anything and everything? Might that be the way to discover all kinds of “worlds unknown”? We have words that we use to describe things around us. But sometimes they rather confuse us than help us; words can have us stuck with the thing – the word – that merely points towards something it describes.. whereas the experience, sensation of a thing may not depend on the word. Wonderful these words are – but to not get stuck in them.. 🙂 It may be, that indeed the things we can discover are only limited to our imagination. And I excitedly hope that it is as they say, that our imagination is limitless.. !
So we “build ourselves”, through questions, and answers. Sometimes it all gets shattered: places change, people and interests change… Yet we can always continue to explore the great mystery of existence.