For more than half of my life, I’ve been studying, experimenting with, and practicing the things that help people achieve the greatest connection with nature, themselves, and other people in the shortest possible amount of time.
The reason I do this is, I know deep within my bones that we are in dire need for the people of the world to be reconnected with nature. The good news is, we can do it – and when we do, not only will we take good care of this planet for the future generations but it will also bring out these fantastic qualities of life within us. These qualities are what we call the 8 Attributes of Connection. Another way to think about them is as our natural genius. We all have them lying dormant inside of us, and this dormant potential is far greater than most of us could ever imagine.
In my study of thousands of people’s nature experiences, there are two things that brought out these Attributes of Connection the fastest. These are what I like to think of as the “Power Tools of Nature Connection.” They’re both relatively simple things to do, but sometimes we overlook the simplest things in our search for solutions, don’t we?
One of these two is a common practice around the world that essentially picks up where our childhood propensity to imitate things leaves off. Think of it like this – young children will spend endless hours pretending to be various things. If they been watching a lot of television, they’ll probably imitate things that they’ve seen on television. If they been out in nature lot and they been to connect with the local animals and plants of their ecosystem, their imitation will be more in alignment with their original design. Now maybe they’re going to see a rabbit and then they start to imitate it. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from parents about their children after a day at summer camp – how they come home and spend hours pretending the rabbits hopping around the house and their blanket forts become bushes that they hide inside of instead of simply blanket forts. Why do kids do this?
We are born with this innate desire to imitate animals, birds, plants rivers, wind – all of it. The most powerful nature connection communities in the world all have this practice at their root. We call them Animal Forms.
Animal Forms open up our connections because they activate all of our sensory powers in our minds eye – or, what I like to call the Storyteller’s Mind. The Storyteller’s Mind is that part of our consciousness that allows us to synthesize all of our sensory experience, going beyond just thinking about a sound or something we saw but actually reliving it with all of our being. Our body naturally moves into this full expression where we use every muscle every nerve in our body to tell the story. This is a very ancient and powerful pattern. When we’re doing animal forms, in certain ways our brain experiences us actually becoming the animal. And through this, we learn things that could not be understood by reading a book, or simply studying an animal.
You may not have realized it before, but there are many ways people are practicing this ancient art – and we see it almost everywhere: It’s the world of of movies, acting, creative expression, storytelling, stage performance and other types of media. This is probably why humans love watching TV shows so much or going to see a play so much, right? They love to see and feel others imitating with their full-body expression. You can apply this full body expression by getting into character and becoming that animal you see at your sit spot. Even with just the motions of your hand and arm imitating the animal, you’re tapping into this ancient power of animal forms.
Here’s how you can do it:
- To start this off you can simply pick an animal that you see regularly just outside your door at your sit spot and you could begin to imitate it in different ways. (Let’s say you see a squirrel.)
- Watch the squirrel move for a few minutes and then close your eyes. Imagine yourself being the squirrel moving right now and just making subtle micro-movements with your shoulders, your arms, your hips your legs – becoming the squirrel even just in small gestures. Let your mirror neurons do the work.
- Try it with a tree next. Let your whole body’s ability to read, and see, and feel a tree swaying help you feel and express the tree swaying. Hear the sounds of the wind and the leaves. Feel the movement of the tree in the trunk of your body as it sways in the wind. Smell the smells of the leaves and in the air bring all your senses to the air.
- Be the squirrel. Be the tree. You can even become… Your cat. Imitating pets is a really fun place to start.
Give it a try, but don’t get too serious!
When I was a boy my mentor, Tom Brown Jr., had me do a lot of imitation. He had to spend endless hours in the in the dark of of my little martial arts studio down in my basement – having music playing to get my mind off of things and to just go into a freestyle kind of dance form where I was actually imitating the animals of my sit spot or the animals that we were focusing on this week.
Start to play and remember this is something that you do from a very childlike place it’s not something you do from a no adult serious mind kind of a place. It’s something that you want to do in a playful way where you really allow that child inside of you to remember how fun it was to imitate things. This activates all your nervous system; it activates all your connection processes at the deepest level, and begins to open up a powerful relationship with the nature connection.
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If you love this kind of stuff and want to completely amp up your connection and nature communication abilities while going out tracking with us and having fun telling our stories around the fire (and eating delicious organic food cooked for you), please join us for The Language Older Than Words: The Deep Connective Power of Holistic Tracking Workshop, starting soon on March 12, near Santa Cruz, CA.
Next week, I’ll give you the second “power tool” that I find to be the fastest, most potent way for connecting people to nature.
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