The Value of Guiding
People in the modern world are increasingly seeking out experiences in nature. This may initially be driven by the motivation to find more productive and less invasive ways (i.e., instead of medication) to improve their mental health and well-being. While the reason for attending a nature-based experience can range from curiosity to an attempt to find a new approach to improving well-being, the experience of being in nature itself invokes a much richer exploration of both a person’s place and purpose in the world (i.e., metaphysical) but in addition the transpersonal (i.e., transcending the ego, self-importance and seeing oneself as connected to the more than human world).
Concerning a Guide’s role in a client’s nature-based experience, I believe having a Guide is crucial. Here a Guide does precisely that, guiding participants through subtle clues and gestures that result in participants achieving their initial goals for attending a nature-based experience. Still, crucially, a Guides insistence that nature is the primary teacher of the experience then lends itself to the metaphysical and transpersonal experiences noted above. Through a Guide’s guidance, people seeking nature-based experiences embody a deep appreciation for the more than human world. In this respect, as such, a Guide is integral to a successful nature-based experience for those seeking their services.
From my time in nature and working with many clients, including my own time in nature, I have found the following aspects important in ensuring a positive, practical, potentially life-changing experience.
Key Elements to Observe In a Nature-Based Experience
- Holding Space, Not Expectations: Do not set expectations before the experience. Instead, set the intention to trust nature to guide and be the primary teacher in the experience. This allows for an invitation for clients to experience nature on their terms.
- You Are Not Broken: People are motivated for different reasons to engage with nature; some come simply because they are curious, others because they are working through trauma, the loss of a loved one or mental health distress. Here a Guide needs to highlight what is good in nature. Even when something may be dying, such as a fallen tree, to show how life still finds a way to flourish (i.e., pointing to the many creatures who now engage with that tree for life).
- Slowing Down & Being More Present: People coming to nature-based experiences mostly come from urban environments. As such, living in the modern world, they find they are constantly busy, meeting deadlines, and running on a virtual treadmill. A successful guided nature-based experience encourages clients to slow down, take their time, and, crucially, be fully present in the experience at hand. There are many ways to achieve this; an example of two ways to accomplish this might be to set an intention to purposively move slowly while observing the smallest wonders of nature, or stopping, standing still with eyes closed and orienting one’s attention to the sounds emanating from the natural world.
- Opening Up the Senses: Find ways to engage all the senses in a nature-based experience. From smells to sounds, to touch and even taste (for example, picking blackberries).
- Leave The Heavy Stuff to The End: Debrief the session with clients. Allow them to share only what they feel they want to. However, it is an excellent opportunity to ask what they think they gained from the experience. At the same time, this is where a Guide could elaborate using research and their own experience on why those outcomes have likely come about.
About the Author
Dr. Rodney King is a is a Certified Nature Therapy Guide and recognized leader in the field of human flourishing. His teaching is informed by his favorite tag line: “Your inner states dictates your fate.” His doctorate focused on the role mindfulness from an embodied perspective plays in peak leadership performance. His masters was in leading innovation and change, while his undergraduate work was in psychology. He is currently completing his masters by research in environmental psychology with a focus in ecopsychology. You can visit his websites at DrRodneyKing.com, HumanAnimal.info, InnerDefense.co, TreeRootsRetreat.com, and SchoolofCrazyMonkey.com.