I developed my love for nature while growing up in the Canadian countryside and spending my childhood exploring the local forests with my dog.
I found sitting all day passively listening in school to be a frustrating and boring experience. Going to nature was my refuge where I could actively explore and follow my curiosity.
As a child, I would spend hours browsing my family’s National Geographic magazines and using the included maps to daydream about my future adventures. I would watch every episode of Canadian ecologist David Suzuki’s legendary CBC documentary series The Nature of Things and I sought to experience what he was talking about in my local environment.
In my early twenties, I was inspired by reading Suzuki’s book The Sacred Balance to build my life and career around exploring the world, observing ecological and sustainability practices, and learning from ecological teachers who offered knowledge of how to restore our connection to nature.
Animist began as what I call “Spirit Quest Adventures” I would do on my own and later with close friends in Stanley Park and the Pacific Spirit Rainforest near my home in Vancouver, British Columbia.
I led my first adventure tour and forest meditation workshop for the public in the spring of 2015. What began as a few tours for fun to share my love for Stanley Park soon spread by word-of-mouth and I started doing weekly adventures throughout the summer and mushroom ecology workshops on the weekends in the fall.
In 2017, I did my first adventure abroad on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand, a tropical paradise where I’ve spent some winters learning about the Vedic library of knowledge and the Thai forest monk tradition.
Looking ahead to 2018, I’ll be doing another adventure in Koh Phangan in March exploring Thailand’s forest monk tradition. Later in the spring, I’ll be in Europe doing adventures in June exploring Portugal’s spectacular Algarve Coast and the Druid heartland of Glastonbury and Salisbury Plain in Southern England.
I will also be beta testing an augmented reality version of our ecology adventures where you can use your iPhone or Android to learn about the trees, plants, fungi, and also practice sensory immersion meditation in your local forests.
On these Spirit Quest Adventures, I use experiential learning techniques to help participants develop deeper ecological awareness. We study how natural ecosystems thrive while also cultivating a calm and clear mind to enjoy things as they are. This way we feel more immersed in our present moment experience.
I find it helpful to apply these 3 mindfulness principles to daily experience to think less and feel a deeper sense of immersion:
1. Non-judgement (acceptance of what is)
2. Non-identification (we are not our thoughts)
3. Non-resistance (deeper feeling and embodiment)
I believe that nature is our best teacher. What we need to learn most is what we have forgotten, which is our connection to nature and the sacredness of life. To solve our global ecological crisis, I believe we require a new form of consciousness where we see ourselves as an integral part of nature and we join together to protect the biodiversity of our Planet Earth.
What has been lost is what is known to Anthropologists as Animism, which is the ancient worldview of humanity before the rise of agriculture and city-states. Animism involves directly experiencing for yourself a deeper connection to nature by developing your ecological awareness and it provides a necessary counter-balance to the destructive sense of alienation and separation from nature often experienced in the modern world.
My belief is what will protect the biodiversity of this amazing Planet is the rise of a new generation of globally interconnected storytellers who offer a new vision of our place in nature.