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Season 2, Episode 14:
Deep Nature Connection & the Importance of Attachment to a Place


Marina Robb

Hosted by: Marina Robb

In Episode 14, Marina looks at:

  • The difference between nature connection and deep nature connection
  • The 5 pathways to Nature Connection described by Derby University (link below)
  • How different cultures and have a very different relationship with nature
  • Why attachment to place plays an important part in our development and well-being.A growing recognition that life on the planet is in trouble.

Music by Geoff Robb: www.geoffrobb.com 

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(transcribed by AI so there maybe some small errors!)

Hello, and welcome to The Wild Minds Podcast for people interested in health, nature-based therapy and learning. We explore cutting edge approaches that help us improve our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. My name is Marina Robb. I'm an author, entrepreneur, Forest School outdoor learning and nature-based trainer and consultant, and pioneer in developing green programmes for the health service in the UK.

You're listening to Episode 14 nature connection, deep nature connection and attachment to place. I'm really grateful for woodland sites that I've been working in for the last seven years. And it's a place that I know well. And it has everything that I need has a little shelter, a place to store things, compost, toilet, and lots of different trees. I've seen them through all the seasons, through the winds through the rains, and all the groups that get to go there, I'm incredibly lucky to have a place to go to. And that's my gratitude for today. 

So we're going to be talking a bit about nature connection and deep nature connection. And what for me is the difference between those things, is a huge subject as always, and thinking about Jan white in the last episode, and how she was saying that actually, for her nature, connection is a problematic word. And she was saying how this idea of nature over there, and the human here and that nature connection is this thing about connecting to that thing over there. Whereas actually, for her nature is who we are, were part of it. 

So, we're not really connecting with it as such, we're actually in a way remembering that it's part of who we are. And that interdependence is so important. And it got me thinking about how we often kind of throw out the term nature connection, and we don't have an understanding of what that could mean. And what a deeper sense, that could have more value and more benefit for our health and health a planet when we think about a deeper sense of what nature connection is. So often, nature connection can be mixed with kind of information as well. And it kind of maintains the status quo that we're here, we're going out and we're connecting, but we're kind of demanding something from nature, we're going for our wellbeing we're not really considering how the other gets to benefit as well. 

And you often hear in this work this thing about reciprocal relationship and how, you know, as we receive something, we give something and as we give something, we receive something and we actually know, don't we about how that works in human relationships. How important is that, that actually, if we're always giving one way, and we don't really feel receiving, then that relationship just doesn't feel like it's nurturing or nourishing. And I think that works in the same way, with the natural world, all the different living species that are out there that if we actually treat the natural world as an object that doesn't have its own right, and experience for itself, of being there, then we end up Yeah, treating it quite badly and not actually feeling that there's a real relationship. 

So nature connection, in its simplest way for most of us is Yeah, about how we connect with nature and how we sort of build this relationship with the natural world. But I think there's something deeper going on. Now, Darby University over the last five to 10 years has been developing what they call these five pathways to nature connection, and it's part of a bigger research project. And they've pulled out these five pathways which they call senses, beauty, emotion, meaning and compassion. I don't want to go into them too deeply, but they're ways in which we can build that connection. 

Often there are a set of actions or activities that build that relationship. So senses, an obvious one is, when we tune into our senses, we start to become aware of the feeling and the impact of the temperature, for example, the sun on our skin or the taste when we taste a nettle, or our hands in the mud, or our feet on the ground. So all these things built, build that connection. The other one is emotion, absolutely how nature might fill us with joy, or sadness, or we see something that's dead, and it brings up emotions, for example, beauty. 

If you give yourself a chance to actually look at nature, and stay for a moment and look at a plant, or a flower or a seed, there's so many things that you don't notice for the first time, we love getting out magnifying glasses, and literally spending time looking through these little jeweller’s loops. And it is another world grows when you do that, and you notice things. And, of course, your present as well, which is another really huge benefit is your mind you're thinking mind is occupied, and then you're focusing on something in front of you.

And the other one, meaning how nature might bring meaning into our lives. And I often think about how we witnessed the changing seasons, and how that reminds us that everything changes. And that has a lot of meaning to me that nothing stays the same, that there's little losses in everything that occurs. And this fifth one they've come up with is compassion. I think that sits more in the kind of reciprocity kind of area where you caring, and taking action for nature. But isn't now, one of the great things humans can do when they're doing it well is that we, we can learn to look after and support nature to do its thing, we can increase biodiversity. And we get a lot of benefit from that, when we actually do that.

So it's like, as we care for, we get a lot of benefit. And that's actually the same in human relationships, too, when we care for people than they care for us. And that feels good, that feels healthy. So, nature connection, can be seen in that way. But I'm always really interested in deeper things as well, as well as the practical and how we actually go about building those relationships. But for me, there's a deeper, deeper thing going on where, who, here I am here, maybe you are being brought up in a Western worldview, that certainly doesn't bring us up to feel this, like natural connection with the natural world, we were not brought up to value and appreciate what the natural world offers us. And the importance of that relationship. And we don't often get time to be in, in natural settings. So it's, it's not something that comes naturally to us to have this understanding and appreciation of the Absolute, intricate and intimate relationship that we could have with the living world.

So when Jan, last week was talking about ecological identity and building that it's, it's much more than going in and demanding something from nature it's becoming and developing this intimate relationship where we end up growing up feeling this absolute care and wanting to care for the natural world. And that then becomes part of all our systems. Because we know where things come from pretty much everything comes from the natural world unless it's been derived and changed in so many ways that you loot the stops to look like it's come from the natural world, but actually, all these things, everything that we have comes from the natural world. So there's a real understanding of that. 

So a deeper ecological identity is for me going okay, here we are. We are social animals. Everybody knows that looked into the importance of attachment emotional attachment is that we are social animals we need to be around and feel loved and cared for by other humans and when we don't get that need met. It really messes with us. It's very traumatic and has long term impact. So we can also meet our needs through actually moving and experiencing all kinds of different experiences from the natural world. And that ecological identity is developed in little ways, over a long, long time, where we grow up and actually really want to make sure that our family in inverted commas is doing well. And I love that idea about extending the notion of family into including many, many more species. And, in fact, the whole kind of ecological system. 

And I remember kind of, I've had times going and spending times in different cultures and kind of, at the time, being happy with the idea of people calling a mountain like their brother or sister or river, as a friend, and so on being happy with it, but it being a really new idea, and not really understanding how, how, what wat and actually not understanding what that meant to them. And over time, I've kind of come to understand that it is an extension of the idea of family were brought up in very nuclear families where we are there were, you know, if we're lucky, we get looked after by a mom and a dad, and we're kind of driven to look after our, our family, our individual family and not really see anything beyond that as, as part of our family. And when other kinds of land-based cultures talk about their brother, as the, as an animal, or their mountain, as a grandparent, for example, it seems really, really alien. 

But that's because it's a whole other culture and context where they're actually spending time. And really, really, really know that mountain, and really, really, really understand what they've received from that mountain, not just food wise, but also a sense of well being and connection, and intimacy. And how that that has, they have a living experience of what that land has given them. And they know that it has a personality, right, just like a human has a personality, different plants have personalities, and they have different trees have personalities. And yes, we can, we can narrow it down to the medicine they give. 

But it's more than that is looking at in a very holistic and wholesome kind of way. So I think it's really hard for us to in a culture where we're not brought up like that to kind of comfortably start to see the other species and the natural world is not just a species, like a scientific object, but actually, in itself having its own life in its own setting. And it needing things to thrive as well. And it having a place equal to humans, in making the whole system thrive and work. 

So again, when we look at a family, if we, if we just serve ourselves and only looking after ourselves all the time, then we really lose out we don't get to feel part of a community and feel supported by a community and cared for by a community. And we're not we don't feel welcomed by that community. Because we're constantly trying to serve ourselves and look after ourselves. It's incredibly dysfunctional in a way. 

So this deeper nature connection for me is, is remembering yes, we're a social animal, but we're also an ecological animal or social and ecological animal. And as an animal, we need to have all these relationships to be well and to be whole. And we're not looking at it today. But all the research showing that actually spending quality, emotional, intimate times in nature really, really, really boosts our mental health, and helps us to recover a sense of belonging and home and being at home. And how you know how, how hard it is when you move to a different land or go to a different place to feel that you are at home because nothing's familiar, and it's all new. 

So this thing makes me think about place attachment. And we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of emotional attachment to a human caregiver. But there's also to real value in looking at a place attachment and how that really informs our well-being as well, that intimacy of knowing that you're going to a place and you feel at home. And one of the tragedies of life at the moment is that so many of us even in the white privileged echelons of society, what we don't have is we don't have a feeling of belonging, we don't have this intimacy, we may have certain access and wealth, and I'm not diminishing what that affords us, because all of this needs looking at completely, that this is a white privileged notion of nature connection that we have access to nature, and, and which we do absolutely more, more than many other peoples of colour, for example, in this country. 

But nevertheless, this idea, this feeling of belonging and being welcome is hard to have had in the current culture that we have, regardless of our backgrounds, because we're not welcomed by a community, when we're born, we might, many of us are not welcomed by a community, we don't have that sense of unconditional love, that that in a way, we need to we need to feel, to feel that we are good enough, and that we have a place here that we have value. So, nature connection is different to me than a deeper nature connection. 

And I guess for me, deep nature connection sits within what I've understood to be called a more animistic worldview, a view that actually enables us to have a particular perspective that that that things are alive, I mean, you can even think of it from the idea of a kind of quantum physics level where everything is moving at an atomic level, and there are we even within soil, so many millions, I mean, I've heard recently that in a spoonful of soil are enough kind of bacteria, more bacteria in one teaspoon of soil than animals on the planet or something like that. It's just a huge number. 

So everything is teeming with life that we really can't see everything is moving and has its own energy and vitality, so much of which we can't see. So this deeper, this deeper view, for me is lends itself to into this idea of animism. And I've always been curious to how children that I've worked with, have no problem in making things come to life, you know, that some inanimate objects, whether that's a stone can have a character and have a place in their heart, you know, it can have value and meaning or how they can actually imagine that, that things can influence events that their action can influence events. And I know that adults, many adults, including myself, have a belief that that's also possible, right? And how, you know, you can just build the children have this quality of awe and wonder, and spending time in puddles. 

So this thing is really hard to describe. Because actually, it comes from a direct experience, and the meaning you make from that experience. And of course, everybody will have a different set of words or languages to describe this experience. So for me, this deeper nature connection, really is informed by a non thinking way of being. And it is often through imagination, through intuition, in a tuition, a feeling sense, and sometimes a spiritual sense that something bigger is operating here. And again, I don't need to put a story on that because people have their own ways of understanding that.

So when we meet a person, we don't really know them, and we see just what we see in front of us. But it takes time to get to know a person and to understand what works for them. And to have a relationship that is actually caring and something that you can receive from them and you can give and different people give and receive different things right. And that's the same in the natural world. We're often like tourists in the natural world, we don't spend that much time outdoors and actually observing and listening and noticing, and experiencing and feeling and wandering. And when we do, sometimes this deeper sense begins to emerge, we can have all kinds of creative thoughts that we didn't have when we were indoors. 

So the natural world really does impact us. And guess we know that chemically. Fight asides are emitted from trees, for example. And that lowers our cortisol levels. And that's really help, it's really beneficial, because it helps us to be present. But there's more to it going on, in my opinion. So just to kind of end, I just want to throw out a couple of exercises like the sit spot, which is one of the, let's say, core routines of nature connection. And this is where you find a spot and it doesn't have to be in a remote wilderness. It can be in a park or in a garden, or find a little spot where you can't be seen when you're on your own, and you're able to be quiet and still, and start to practice being quiet. And still. 

And of course, for some of us, we're all of us have our heads and our thoughts going on. But try and be present. And one of the ways to be present is to tune into your senses, to be more aware of the smells, the sounds, and the tastes and the temperatures. And sometimes close your eyes during that. And just notice your breathing. And when you're ready, opening your eyes and just notice the colours, the shapes, the things that are moving, things that are furthest away from you, things that are nearest from you, really allowing yourself to be present. And if you can stay in that space, for usually more than 20 minutes, though five minutes is fine, no pressure, then you can start to relax. And as you relax the world around you relaxes, and it's at that time that you're going to start being more aware of any other nature, any other animals or birds or insects, or direction of wind, things like that, that start to appear. 

And over time, it becomes a kind of like a magic spot, which is why they sometimes call it a magic spot where you go, you can restore yourself, you can contemplate, allow your imagination to come up to spend time with yourself and tend to your relationship with yourself and the natural world. And with that, slowly and surely, things start to change, your perception starts to change. And you begin unconsciously to attach to this place. And just like us attaching to humans, you start to attach and care for a place and be seized by a place. 

And it can really support the development of who you are, as well. And you begin to feel at home. And it becomes, as I say, a place that is nourishing. So this is all hard to express in words, folks, but it is something to develop and to experience. And if you're running groups, so you're working with groups, sometimes one of the most powerful things is the set spot and expanding your senses. It's so surprising in this crazy bustling world that we're living in how far removed we are from actually spending time with the nonhuman world. And as I said, I appreciate it's not easy for all people at all times to be able to do that. 

But keep it simple. Keep it really simple and try and find these little corners of your world that you inhabit to go and visit and hang out in and let's see what happens when you do that. I'd love to hear from you. If you have any stories from your sit spots, keep in touch and keep well and thank you for listening. 

Join me next week when you'll meet Deborah Barker field and folk co-founder and director of South East England Fibre Shed. We'll be discussing regenerative approaches to clothing and farming and how we need to respect planetary boundaries. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of The Wild minds podcast. If you enjoyed it and want to help support this podcast, please subscribe, share and leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts. Your review will help others find the show.

To stay updated with The Wild Minds Podcast and get all the behind-the-scenes content. You can visit the www.outdoorteacher.com or follow me on Facebook at theoutdoorteacherUK and LinkedIn, Marina Robb.

The music was written and performed by Geoff Robb. See you next week. Same time, same place