As 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.
In my previous post, I described three elements of a healthy mindset:
In this post, I will share the practices I believe will move us toward healing and away from harm. As always, if my thoughts spark additional ideas, please share them with me!
Part 2: Practices that Heal Inside and Out
Being reflective is a repeated theme in my work. I include both internal and external reflection in this practice. All too often, we shift our thoughts to what is going on “out there” when we first need to determine what is going on “in here.” When something troubling happens to us, it’s important to separate any triggers from their past sources and really check in on what needs are feeling unmet. Once we do an internal check, then we can look outside for what else might be happening.
The question is not what is wrong, but what is happening? There is almost always more context to an issue that is unseen. We must work to uncover it all.
The second thing that comes to mind about being reflective is to look for patterns. What else might be going on in the system? When something new arrives, sit with it. If it is a challenge, ask what wants to emerge from the situation.
At a recent leadership training, a serious mental wellbeing challenge was presented. I argued that what was asking to emerge was workplaces and meetings that look through a lens of wellbeing as an intention. I’ve written more about that as well; you can find it here.
Being reflective means finding facts as well as noticing behaviors, using our heads and our hearts equally, and asking ourselves really hard questions. That’s how we get to the core of who we each are and what we each have to offer as gifts. A reflective process also helps us grow our own capacity to deliver responses rather than reactions.
In the end, it is about making sense of things as they are now, not about determining right and wrong.
We can’t transform without taking risks and challenging the status quo. That starts with the courage to deeply examine our own beliefs and assumptions underlying the way things are and the way things should be.
When I think of courage, I always think of David Whyte’s essay. In part, he writes,
“Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.”
Recently, I challenged someone in high power and regard, solid in my desire for healing in the conservation community. I had to calculate the risk, and it is high, knowing I may only have one ally in the challenge. Because the system is operating from a place of trauma, I believe they saw this challenge as a threat. Because I know who I am and what I have to offer, this situation hurts, but it also validates my work. I will recover and proceed deeper in courage. If I was not solid in who I am, I might have shrunk back. I am determined to experiment (and fail) which is required for courage.
I think the more we examine who we are through identity work, values, personality, beliefs, strengths, and fears, and get to the core of who we are and how we want to be, the more courageous we become. We are more solid in what we stand for so when challenges arise we can better discern what is ours to carry and what is not. I’ve designed an entire Leadership of Self series to help people build courage.
I offer a 4-part series on human-nature connection, and I ask a few questions regarding time spent with nature. One of the questions is: how many days do you spend 30 minutes mindful with nature (whatever that means to you)? About ½ to 2/3 of participants spend daily time with nature. And, most of my participants do outreach and other work so the data might be skewed a little high for the overall field.
For a field focused on nature and working to get others to love nature, daily nature time should be mandatory to remind us of our purpose, and passion and to provide a needed respite for resiliency and creativity. I would love to see time with nature incorporated into every workday. This looks like taking breaks with the intention of spending time with nature. That could mean everything from virtual to sit spots or walks with nature. And when we are with nature, we are fully present to it.
I also say that there are no good or bad relationships with nature. We all must grow. Most have disconnected from nature as our life force in some way and take more than we need. We must be mindful of our consumption and domination. I tell people in my workshops that I use more than I should so who am I to judge others? This is a continued work in progress for me.
In addition, not everyone has access to wilderness-like experiences. One can be inspired to love nature by worms on a sidewalk after a rain and a Grand Canyon or Yellowstone experience. I want a conservation community that celebrates all relationships with nature and works to help each person grow from where they are.
What other practices support more healing as conservationists? Stay tuned for the final part of this series, “Healing Engagement.”
Written by Michelle Doerr (no AI used)