Nature Calling online course
Everyone knows something has gone wrong with the way we treat our natural world. Many realise that we need to get back in touch with nature in order to regain balance. People’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health is compromised when they are insulated away from nature and its challenges. Nature Calling comes as part of the answer to this dilemma. It has been specifically designed to help you to deepen your connection to nature and its transformative powers.
Left to itself, everything in nature seeks to grow and heal, including our bodies. Just as white blood cells will multiply and go to a wound, our mind is capable of releasing incredible healing powers when we align our lives with the empowering forces of life. These potentials arise in dreams, fantasies and other non-rational states of mind, revealing clues to the ways that we awaken from what sociologist Max Weber called ‘the iron the cage of reason’.
We know that the way we think is heavily influenced by the way we live. Desert people have a different mythology and way of life to forest dwellers. Comparatively, cities look like a cages from above; grids within which we can feel trapped. Modern movements such as ecopsychology and ecotherapy remind us of something we always knew when we evolved in close contact with the natural world, as over 90% of all humans that ever lived have done – that a healthy mind and a healthy environment go together and that what we do to one, we do to the other. Psychology is an attempt to ease the mind and soul of its conflicts, since many of us do not find conventional religious traditions with the modern disease of disconnection and isolation. However, there are other precedents, practices found in traditions from all across the world.
Combining the best of eastern wisdom and western schools of psychology, philosophy and the arts, as well as from hunter/gatherer sources, Dr Geoffrey Berry offers a unique medicine for the ailments of modern society. His writing, film work and guided meditations can place you in direct communication with the spirit of nature, empower you to break free of the limits of urbanised consciousness, and enable you to practice living in the unrepeatable moment. Geoff understands the way that civilization has caged our spirits and he also has a strong feel for the ways back out. He knows that we were born free and don’t have to live in chains of our own making.
Come along for the ride and learn to listen better to nature, right now. The Nature Calling course includes guides to evolutionary initiation, living in harmony with seasonal cycles and life’s ups and downs, the easiest way to do ecotherapy in everyday life and a guide to the history of civilization and the modern myth we need to break free from. And of course, it offers a way to live your own story, in touch with your own inner nature as well as with your environment.
“fascinating”George Monbiot,The Guardian UK and author of Heat; how to stop our planet burning
“the wisdom, experience and intelligence with human psyche and life which ensured I felt extremely safe working through the process … this was the best investment I’ve made in myself!”Natalie Oakley, workshop participant
“extremely interesting to think about”Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy
“excellent … very stimulating, creative, and significant”Professor Carolyn Merchant, Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics, UC Berkeley
“incredibly inspiring! It was a privilege to be part of such profound and pioneering work. I walked away feeling not only more connected to myself but also to the natural world around me. To combine ecology and mythology and to explore it on a personal level is an unbelievably powerful gift. When we take time to listen to ourselves and to the world around us anything is possible. Powerful work indeed 🙂 With thanks always”Briony Tronson, workshop participant
“a provocative meditation [with] a rare blend of credible science and cultural history”Professor Robert Pogue Harrison, Stanford University, author of Forests; The Shadow of Civilization
“brilliant and elegant, not to mention important, work … I’m astonished at how well you synthesise so many ideas into an original, and elegantly articulated cosmos”Mark Treddinick, Australian poet and author
“in the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Geoff led two meditative reflections on the theme of spiritual environmental awareness, drawing on his strong academic knowledge of mythic history across different cultures and religions, as well as his grounded eco-‐spiritual intuition to create appropriate and insightful reflections for the participants. His reflective experiences bridged cultural and religious differences and brought a sense of harmony to the events he was involved in. I recommend Geoff as a facilitator and guide in meditative and reflective practice”Elyse Rider, Coordinator Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement, Wyndham City Council, Melbourne
Welcome to my Nature Calling online course, composed especially to help you deepen you connection to nature and its transformative powers. The course includes 4 topics as well as some extra materials. I suggest working through the materials in this fashion:
• Start out by getting to know your presenter, Dr Geoffrey Berry. His brief bio is included in the marketing materials.
• For each week’s Topic, there is an Outline, which lists each item of that Topic’s materials.
• For each Topic there is an introductory reading. These Introductions give you an overview of what I think is important to that topic. They set out the theme and provide the framework for the other materials, as
well as for the practical exercises and my suggestions about ways to deepen your connection with nature.
• If possible, go to the Guided Meditation or Creative Visualisation audio directly after you have read the Introduction. This puts into practice some of the ideas of the topic, giving you an experience of being
more deeply connected to nature in some way right from the start. This is the ‘feeling’ section to follow the ‘knowledge’ section of the Introduction. Without this we run the risk of remaining in the land of mere theory.
• From here, watch the video uploaded for that topic. This is especially made to extend and flesh out some of the ideas introduced in the reading and to follow the initial exercise. It may also lead to more video
material or suggest further exercises you can try out for yourself. *NB: In Week 1, there is also an Introduction to the video.
• There will also be at least one further reading, usually again by myself but sometimes by an author I have found to be particularly compelling or influential on that topic. I will usually write some kind of introduction to this also.
• Do the exercises as often and as much as you like. There is no limit to how many times you can explore your relationship with an animal totem or spiritual guide, just as there is no limit to how many times you can meditate in nature and achieve peace.
• Enjoy the course! It is designed to be enriching without being pedantic, to employ knowledge and to inspire experience. And please share your experiences with others. The earth needs as many of us as possible to get reconnected with it right now.
Nature Calling Topic 1 outline
1. Reading 1 – Introduction: Connection to Nature
2. Exercise – Listening to Nature Guided Meditation
3. Reading 2 – Introduction to the Nature Calling video
4. Video – Nature Calling
5. Reading 3 – Biophilia as the new (old) story
*NB: A note on terms
In some places throughout the Nature Calling course, you will come across certain terms I have become comfortable with, but which you may not have heard before. Even if you have, it’s probably a good idea to let you know what I mean by them. In this case, here is a brief explanation of some of them.
David Abrams coined this term in his book The Spell of the Sensuous. It’s a mighty read, where he spends quite some time explaining how the shift into large-‐scale urban civilizations is accompanied by an alphabetic or written culture. He sees this as problematic because oral traditions keep alive a more complex relationship with the natural world. He calls this world ‘more-‐than-‐human’ as a way of pointing out that nature is not just ‘non-‐human’ in the sense that it is not a built environment, but it is more: it was here before us, we are utterly dependent upon it, it will be here after us, and it seems to contain and express an intelligence we cannot completely comprehend with our rational minds or empirical sciences (see Animism).
Simply put, animism is the idea that the planet (and by extension the universe) is alive. There are many different forms of animism, but the ones that I find most exciting and intuitive include the idea that this living world into which we are born also has some kind of more-‐than-‐ human intelligence (see Shamanism).
This is a short hand term coined to discuss the kinds of practices that involve specialist engagement with the more-‐than-‐human world and
its intelligence. Generally speaking the shaman communicates with this ‘spirit’ world beneath or beyond the physical dimensions in order to heal individuals or inform communities. It’s possibly helpful to define the shaman separately to the sorcerer, who tends to have more personal aims in mind.
Nature Calling Topic 2 outline: Evolutionary Initiation
1. Reading 1 – Introduction: Evolutionary Initiation
2. Exercise – Finding Initiation Within Guided Meditation
3. Video – Evolutionary Initiation
4. Reading 2 – Creating Initiatory Rites
5. Video 2 – Nature Meditation*
6. Reading 3 – Introduction to Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv^
*NB: This is a brief introduction to the way your nature meditation might look. You can perform this simple exercise in a park without drawing too much attention to yourself, as I used to do when I worked in the busy CBD of Melbourne. It should be noted that this is a practice designed to deepen your connection and relationship with nature. It is not necessarily designed to develop your concentration or clear your mind in the sense of a more Buddhist meditation practice. In this sense it may be more closely related to a mindfulness practice, which includes developing your capacities for engagement with the world as well as focusing on your inner relationship with yourself.
^NB: This third reading is the Introduction and first chapter from Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, where he coined the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. His central idea is important to all of us because if we don’t have an experience of the beauty and richness of nature then we can’t be healed or empowered by it. Our capacities to learn from it and be inspired to defend it are also impacted and we become more susceptible to mental, emotional and physical health issues. What Louv points out is just as important to adults as it is to children. We all know the environment is under threat and being degraded constantly, but we also have less of an intimate relationship with nature to call upon when we think about this. The impact is potentially devastating, because deep connection with nature heals and empowers us. When we are more deeply connected with more-‐than-‐human nature, we are more satisfied within our own lives and thereby less likely to fall prey to the kinds of anxiety and depression that afflict an increasing number of people who sense
that they are isolated and disconnected in the modern, urban world. Deep connection with nature is also the fount out of which our love for life (our innate Biophilia) can become a stronger desire to defend the environment from further damage – and we all need to be part of this movement, for our own benefit and for the benefit of all life on earth.
Nature Calling Topic 3: Seasonal Cycles outline
1. Reading 1 – Introduction: Living with Seasonal Cycles
2. Exercise – NC3 Seasonal Cycles Guided Meditation*
3. Audiovisual 1 – NC3 Seasonal Cycles AV.m4v
4. Reading 2 – Exulting the Light (also introduces the following):
5. Audiovisual 2 – NC3 Giving Thanks for the Sun (Dawn Ceremony)
6. Audiovisual 3 – NC3 Salute to the Moon (Thanks for the Night)
This Guided Meditation sets out how the meaning of initiation is renewed, as we let our old selves go so that we can embrace fresh growth. This is what plant life teaches us every year. We must let something go in order to draw down into our inner reserves; until we are ready for new growth, just as the caterpillar dies to become the butterfly in the darkness of its cocoon. This plant and animal cycle follows the ancient patterns laid down for human initiation, the ways that we followed over countless generations of living in close contact with nature.
We learn from our fellow travelers in the world – the butterfly, the tree, or the horse or eagle, snake or turtle – as well as from the elements themselves. All of life participates in the flow of the earth system and we can draw on all of it. This way of thinking can be called animist: the idea that the whole earth is alive. And when we live with the way this life turns and changes through the years, we become attuned to seasonal cycles both in nature and inside ourselves. We can enjoy a spring clean of the senses, a summer of flow with plenty, an autumn of withdrawal towards the inner self, and a winter of growing as a person by dealing with lack and loving the world even when it does not give us what we want. And we can experience all or any of this on any given day.
With these forces in alignment, or at least all working together in concert, we can allow older patterns, which might limit us or cripple us or keep us locked into unhelpful habits, to fall away, regardless of whether we are currently experiencing abundance or a sense of lack. Connecting with nature for this purpose builds resilience and also reminds us that we must love and protect our home, the earth, as individuals and in concert with each other.
Nature Calling Topic 4 outline
1. Reading 1 – Introduction to Ecotherapy: Nature, Healing and Empowerment
2. Exercise – Ecotherapy & Biophilia Guided Meditation
3. Ecotherapy video
4. Walking on Uneven Surfaces video*
5. Multiple Readings by other authors:
a. What is Ecotherapy? by Linda Buzzell andCraig Chalquist
b. Green Is Good For You by Rebecca Clay
c. Thrive -‐ Gardening and the feel good factor
6. Nature Rx, a humorous take on advertising modern medicine
*NB: The walking on uneven surfaces video outlines a very simple exercise you can do pretty much anywhere, which leads to a feeling that we are comfortable in the body and in balance in life.