What is the conservation field I want to be a part of? Healing Engagement


People camping on a hill with sunset in the background. Title of Healing EngagementAs I take a healing lens to my work, I am imagining the future of conservation. I believe we can bring more healing to our field by incorporating a new mindset, practices, and relationships into our work.

Previously, I described three elements of a healthy mindset:

  • curiosity
  • inclusivity
  • benefits

Then, I offered three practices to help us heal both inside and out:

  • reflection
  • courage
  • integrating nature

In this final post, I will share ways to engage one another in a spirit of healing. I look forward to hearing what additional ideas you have about the future of conservation!

Part 3: Healing Engagement

Be Present

Presence is the baseline before emergence can begin according to Theory U. Presence is also one of the human superpowers presented in Pocket Project’s Trauma-informed Leadership Course. We simply aren’t present very often, which means we’re missing much of reality and the beauty right in front of us.

In a pre-workshop activity as a part of a human-nature connection series, I ask people to rate themselves on their presence level throughout the exercise. Only a small number of people say they are fully present, so we discuss why so many of us are not. Most participants believe they should be more present, but the pressures of the world and work prevent that from happening.

Nature has something to teach us every time we go, if we pay attention. But how often are we paying attention?

I do a presencing practice at the beginning of almost all my workshops. I say “If you are not here, why are you here?” I offer breathing exercises, focusing on some sort of nature image, a little reflection, or just a moment of silence. I invite people to let go of what they were doing or what is coming up for them as it will still be there even if you drop it momentarily. In other workshops with difficult topics like trauma, more than one presencing or mindfulness practice is offered to keep people grounded.
I want people in conservation to see, feel and value others with presence. As Thomas Hubl says, a way of being that says “I feel you, feeling me.”


To be relational means we care for the wellbeing and success of everyone involved in the system and/or issue. We check in regularly to see how they address any unfulfilled needs. We celebrate each person’s and team’s successes big and small. We unpack “feedback” as a team and decide what it means for the whole together. We provide growth opportunities for all.

We also continuously examine our relationship with ourselves and make sure we are balancing our home life and the family and friends we care about with our work life. We draw boundaries around how we will work with each other that don’t take away from our relationships outside of work.

Finally, and probably most importantly, we continuously examine our relationships with Earth. We ask ourselves how each decision will affect us personally, those around us, the field as a whole, and our impact on the planet.

We consistently ask ourselves – how can we be good relatives to each other and the land?

Work with Spectrums

One of the spectrums I try to introduce in the work is one of access. Most people in this community interpret access to the outdoors as “far out there” access. In fact, research suggests the effects of nature can be felt from inside a hospital room, even digitally. While that’s not what I’d propose, we can’t forget that nature is always around us and inside us. We are nature.

I also created a nature-relationship spectrum series to help people unpack their relationships with places. We have different relationships with different places and our responses to some of the factors that contribute to that relationship change over time as well.

Some other spectrums that come to mind come from the book Regenerative Leadership. Those include the spectrum of feminine/masculine, inner/outer, right brain/left brain, and self/other/nature.

We need to find more balance in these spectrums. For example, this field needs more feminine qualities to appear, such as compassion, empathy, vulnerability, and intuitiveness. Currently, I find an actual resistance to going inward. But we can’t transform outside if we aren’t paying attention to what we’re feeling, thinking, and saying inside. Regarding the left brain/right brain, I will never forget a comment made by a person in my human-nature series: “Conservation kills creativity.” If we don’t have creativity, how can we innovate?

We really need to reconnect with the flow of nature in that we are a part of it and it is a part of us. There is an imaginary line between me, others, and Earth. How can we break free of this attachment we have to separate us and them?


Finally, because this field doesn’t have much of the above from my vantage point, we’ll need a lot of compassion to transform. There will be many mistakes along the way because our old ways are comfortable. We’re likely to find ourselves going into old patterns often. We need to figure out ways to become more aware of our patterns and call them in with patience, peace, and healing.

More than empathy, compassion asks us to notice the suffering and be willing to act. Imagine if our entire teams were able to notice suffering and act to relieve it. I imagine that place having so much power, energy, and creativity.

In my mindfulness and compassion workshops, I bring in research and principles from Compassionate Leadership and the wisdom of Gabor Mate (Compassionate Inquiry) and Tara Brach (Radical Compassion). The only way to heal so much pain in our worlds is to have compassion for ourselves, our situations, and for everyone in the world around us.

What else?

This is just a first pass of my answer to this question. I might evolve my thinking as others propose their ideas as well.

I encourage you to ask these questions for yourself.

  • What is the conservation field I want to be a part of?
  • What characteristics do I think would lead to energized, flourishing, and creative conservation communities where innovation and transformation can take place?
  • What conditions would I need to thrive in my workplace?

I encourage you to share your ideas with me. How can you join me with compassion, courage, and curiosity to create a conservation community of the future?

Written by Michelle Doerr (no AI used)

©anavahconsultingllc 2023

Tags: #conservation #engagement #healing
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