When I did my first Spirit Quest 3 years ago with a couple of friends in Stanley Park, I had no idea where things would go. I just had a passion for ecology and meditation and I wanted to share what I learned from my own experiences exploring the local rainforest ecosystem.
Having now led close to a thousand people on adventures in Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Park and the jungles and cloud forests of tropical places like Thailand’s island of Koh Phangan, it has come time for next step in the evolution of this ecological awareness project.
As anyone who has ever come on my adventures knows, I’m passionate about the interaction of self-directed learning, creativity, and technological innovation. Current technology makes it easier to learn, create, and engage with people who have similar interests and core values.
For example, if it wasn’t for how Facebook facilitates reaching people based on their interests, the growth of Spirit Quest Adventures would not likely have reached is current level. Being able to reach people on Facebook that are interested in ecology and meditating in the forest has been crucial to attracting like-minded people to my tours and retreats.
With that being said, I have some big plans that I’m really excited to share with the community today. But first a little about the change of name.
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Albert Einstein famously said you can’t solve a problem at the same level of consciousness that created it. This means to solve the global ecological crisis we must change how we relate and connect with nature.
I believe this new consciousness involves a heightened awareness of our ecological interconnection and interdependence with Planet Earth and it requires a revival of what anthropologists call Animism. Derived from the Latin anima, which means “breath, spirit, life”, Animism derives from our ancient ancestors’ belief that all living beings have a spirit (and therefore a form of consciousness), and that we are all interconnected parts of a Great Spirit that animates life on Planet Earth.
Animism is a perspective that is increasingly being validated by new scientific discoveries into the synergistic and self-organizing intelligence of our Planet’s ecosystems. It involves viewing ourselves not as separate observers of our environment but as an integral part of it. Motivated by this awareness, we can work together to protect the soil that grows our food, the air we breathe, and the water we drink for ourselves and future generations.
While I will continue to regularly lead adventures in the forest, emerging technology offers an opportunity to make these experiences more accessible.
So, to make ecological knowledge and our sensory immersion meditation practices available to a wider audience, we are doing some exciting new things. First of all, we are expanding the team and building an augmented reality app for iPhone and Android that will allow you to explore the natural world on your own and learn through your personal experiences in the great outdoors.
With more and more children and adults leading sedentary lives staring at screens, we believe a new Augmented Reality (AR) learning platform can lead to using smartphones and tablets to get more people outside learning, exercising, and immersing themselves in natural environments.
Augmented Reality is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated or extracted real-world sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. Augmented reality enhances one’s current perception of reality, whereas virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one. It is used in order to enhance the experienced environments or situations and to offer enriched sensory experiences.
Current technology equips us to make the world’s awe-inspiring natural environments our classroom rather than spending so much time learning while passively sitting, listening to lectures and reading about other people’s experiences. Additionally, innovations in artificial intelligence are allowing the sensors and cameras in our smartphones to recognize patterns in our natural environment identifying objects such as plants, mushrooms, and trees.
I am excited about the possibilities of taking the philosophy of Spirit Quest Adventures and building an immersive learning platform that will reconnect people with ecology and encourages them to participate in the global movement striving to protect the biodiversity and natural wonders of Planet Earth.
Here are a few of the features we are working on:
1. Oral Storytelling
Listen to fascinating audio stories about the natural landscape, the philosophy of meditation, ancient history and cosmologies, and becoming a more compelling storyteller.
2. Sensory Immersion
Follow guided sensory immersion meditation practices to sharpen your awareness and expand your perception while walking and exploring in nature.
3. Ecology Adventures
Go on adventures in the forest and develop your ecological awareness by using augmented reality to identify local trees, plants, mushrooms, as well as discover landmarks and historical sites.
4. Grow Your Tribe
Share your experiences in nature and your perspective on ecological awareness by adding your own video stories and meet others, locally and globally, who are interested in ecology, sustainability, meditation, and storytelling.
Moving Forward in 2018:
This app isn’t something that will be ready for action overnight but we will be testing a beta in the coming months and I want to invite interested people to join the beta list and become part of the story we are crafting. We want to develop this app in collaboration with our community so it provides the most engaging and relevant learning experience possible.
In the meantime, I’ll still be doing my annual nature immersion retreat in March on the island of Koh Phangan exploring the Buddhist and Animistic traditions of Thailand’s culture. Later in the Spring, I’ll also be doing retreats exploring Western Europe’s Celtic heritage on Portugal’s spectacular Algarve Coast and during the summer solstice at the ancient sites of Salisbury Plain and Glastonbury in the south of England.
I also have some exciting collaborations I am working on with other ecology teachers around the world that I’ll be sharing more about in the near future.
I just want to end this post by thanking my family, friends, and everyone who has supported me and Spirit Quest Adventures along our 3-year journey by joining me on adventures, giving me feedback about your experiences in the forest, and spreading the word to others.
This community means a lot to me. From doing these Spirit Quests I have made some of the best friends of my life and it has made me realize that there are many people out there that share similar core values and dreams for the future.
I feel excited about these next steps and I’m really excited to share the new Animist website with you.