Living with Nature

Last week I had a great conversation with one of the most amazing men I have ever met.  His name is Joseph Cornell, founder of the Sharing Nature Foundation and author of several renowned books on Sharing Nature®.  I wanted to talk with him about using some of the Sharing Nature activities to help our students understand what it means to live with nature.

One of the first things he talked to me about was Flow Learning

Flow Learning™, “gives the teachers a simple, structured way to guide students into their own, direct experiences of nature. Through playful games that awaken the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm, learning becomes fun, immediate, and dynamic, instead of static and secondhand. The students emerge with a living, fresh understanding and reverence for the natural world.”

There are four basic stages of Flow Learning™ ; Awaken Enthusiasm, Focus Attention, Direct Experience, and Share Inspiration.  “Flow Learning™ is based on universal principles of how people learn. It provides a simple, natural framework that sequence nature activities for maximum effect.”

Joseph Cornell’s  Nature Activities™ are great for teaching kids, teens, and adults how they can perceive nature in a new and exciting way. These activities lift the spirit within us to new heights, in a way that isn’t possible to explain in words.  It’s best to try them yourself, and feel the difference.

At the Natural Living School, we will be using some of these Nature Activities™ to help participants understand the process of finding and sourcing materials for their buildings.  These activities can also be used to help participants locate a building site, and to stay connected to nature during all phases of the construction.  Many times we disconnect ourselves from nature, to focus on the building process, and end up removing trees, damaging natural landscape, and clearing animal habitat unconsciously.

Living with nature means understanding your surroundings.  Using all your senses to feel what is happening, and what needs to happen.  Believe it or not, nature spirits can talk to you, if you are willing to listen, and respect them.  Nature talks to us through our heart feeling, which is like a radio station, that needs a little help tuning in.   These Nature Activities™, that Joseph Cornell created can help us fine tune our radio station, so we can live with nature, build with nature, and live a more natural life.

the view from this year's building site

Thank you Joseph Cornell, for your inspiration and support:  the text in quotations above is from his website

What is Natural Living?

In a way, one of the most basic understandings in eastern philosophies has been lost in the “Age of Energy.”  As a result of all our technology, we spend more time on cell phones, the internet, watching TV, and in cars running around like high tech chickens with our heads cut off.  The art of slowing down, taking time to enjoy the moment, and being present is pushed aside in the name of efficiency.  Why?  One answer is; because we think this will lead to our happiness.

Sunset in Los Padres National Forest

Some of us think that if we are more efficient with our time, then we will have more time to do the things we enjoy.  But at the end of the day, with all the time that was saved, how many of us actually did something joyful, or self-fulfilling?  Yes, there are some exceptions, but over all many of us think that our joy will come from outside ourselves.  I used to think that I would find joy once I had a little more money, which would give me a little more time.  Not so.

The Cob Cottage where we stayed while we worked on natural building projects at Spirit Pine Sanctuary

Our experiences these past couple years have truly shown us what it means to have quality time.  For months at a time we were without cell phone, internet, television, or any basic communication with the outside world.  Our time was spent in nature, sourcing natural materials from the land, the forest, and neighbors in order to build natural buildings that would be enjoyed by all.

At community meals we all took turns cooking for each other, Thanksgiving 2010

When we were not building, or sourcing materials, we spent our time in community taking turns cooking for each other, having great conversations, and playing with our children.  It wasn’t that we weren’t busy, or that we had surplus time.  In fact we were easily as busy as when we lived in the city, working all the time, driving the kids around, and doing endless errands.  The difference was that we were busy doing something that was fulfilling to our spirits.

Community Cob Building at Spirit Pine where we shared meals, cleaned together, and hung out playing music

The idea of simple living doesn’t mean to give up all your possessions and move to the country, or to the wilderness, it simply means to evaluate your time and expenses so that you’re doing something that feeds your soul.   It helps to lower your expenses,  to grow some of your own food, and to have a low housing cost, but it’s not a requirement to be poor.  Some of the happiest people I know in South America are looked upon as poor, but in my eyes, they are rich in spirit, love, and joy.  They were always willing to share what little they had, with joyful abundance.

Thank you Betty, Tatacho, Levi and all the friends we made at Spirit Pine Sanctuary.  It was wonderful working, living, and playing with you all.