Most of us probably think of initiation as something that happens to tribal people, when boys become men or when adults become elders. Many of us would not be too surprised to also think of some of the ways we modern individuals are initiated into different stages of our own lives – with things like 18th or 21st birthdays, getting married or graduating with a ceremony. But the difference is pretty obvious; traditionally, initiation is from one stage of life to another and it contains a strong psychological impact, as well as opening us up more concretely to a new set of possibilities and responsibilities. This idea brings us back to the title of this course and the ‘transformative power’ of being connected to nature. Because in the natural world, a new stage of life is the difference between life and death. To follow the life cycle of an animal – let’s say a butterfly – is to see this in action. If the butterfly cannot focus its newborn strength on breaking free of the chrysalis, where it transformed from a caterpillar, it will never fly and its life is over. This is important stuff.
For humans, with our added dimension of the psyche, with our capacity for symbolic thought and communication, with our emotional inner lives as well as our physical beings in the world, the need for initiation is just as meaningful – but it is more complex than just the physical act of flying free from a cocoon as a new being. For us, being initiated into a new stage of life is not just about shifting from child to adult or adult to elder – it is about the meaning that comes with such a shift. And meanings can be contested, as they can change according to circumstance or cultural or historical contexts. We might think differently about where we are at in life depending on how we think others might respond, or how we think it fits with our personal goals and expectations. So figuring out exactly what we want out of a change in life can be tough and we need to gain as much clarity about these transformative potentials as possible. This Nature Calling course can help you build some of those bigger pictures by getting you more in touch with what is important to you as an ecological being in a complex ecosystem that is geared towards growth.