Running a small company which focuses on nature connection and health (especially one that’s based in the countryside) can sometimes make me feel alone. A feeling that deepens when I read in the media about the still prevalent environmental destruction, human suffering and how as a species we seem to have evolved further and further away from our natural core. This can make me doubt what I’m doing, why I´m doing it and can sometimes send me down a “Whats the point, no one cares about nature anyway” spiral of negativity.
Inside of these moments however, I’m so grateful for the internet, since it’s helped me to find like-minded individuals and groups (check out the list of Fb-groups at the end of this post) that gives me an incredible “Let’s keep on working! You’re not alone!” kind of boost. Nigel Berman (founder of the School of the wild) is one of those individuals. Someone who gives out so much positive energy and is also extremely in tune with the profound potential that connecting / reconnecting with nature holds.
Do you want to know more? I sure did! As is such, when visiting my husbands family in the south of England, I decided to meet Nigel for a chat. Here’s a bit of his story!
Even though Nigel Berman was brought up and spent several of his younger adult years living and working within the city of London, he’s always been drawn to nature, so much so that he regularly sought to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life with excursions, activities and social events in the countryside. Upon discussing this with me, he began reflecting upon a day in particular when he went on a bike ride, cycling through an area called Pagham marshes. It was during this excursion that he felt an overwhelmingly strong and innate connection with the landscape, a sensation of resonance that he hadn't experienced for a while. Maybe you’ve also had a similar experience in nature that’s been overwhelming? If so, please feel free to write to me about it, because I’d love to know more.
Becoming incredibly inspired by his experience, Nigel began excitedly trying to figure out what this feeling of connection was and if there was anyone else who’d experienced it. In doing so, he came across the work of cultural ecologist and philosopher David Abram and applying Abram´s information to his own experiences, he came to the realisation that not only was he not alone in what he’d felt that day in the marshes, but also that nature holds the potential to be and provide something so much more profound to humanity than solely being a product for our experiences in life.
Having moved to the city of Brighton and Hove, Nigel founded The School of the Wild in 2014 and has grown the business to a client base of around 2500 people. The School of the Wild offers unique nature-based team building activities for local organisations and businesses (as well as short-courses such as whittling and foraging to the public) in the woods and countryside surrounding the city. The companies vision is to encourage people to get themselves out of the urban jungle, to nourish and strengthen their connection to the land, to nature, to themselves and to each other. Through offering these courses it’s become increasingly clear to Nigel of the immense benefits of nature for people’s health and well-being.
Some participants stated that the feeling of calmness they gained from their experiences in nature,
lasted for longer than a week after being there.
Nigel also made an interesting observation about how at the end of an activity day, whilst participants were at rest and talking around the campfire, they seemed to have begun viewing nature as being something more than just a facilitator for their activity. That through being in and with nature for a short period of time, people appeared to become more observant and sensually immersed in their environment, noticing symbolic messages and metaphors in the details of their surroundings and connecting to nature as part of them selves.
This is fascinating since modern research seems to imply the same thing, providing evidence that after spending prolonged periods in nature, people start to change their perception of what they believe nature to really be and from this understanding, can experience profound shifts within.
We stop seeing nature as just a product for our utilization and instead gain the ability to identify our self both with and inside it at a much deeper level. Therefore, natures ability to mirror us back to ourselves gives us a brilliant avenue of connection in our day-to-day lives.
This is exactly what Nigel and The School of the Wild are aiming for. He hopes to inspire people to look at nature in new ways and remember their innate connection to it for not only their individual well-being, but for that of collective humanity and for the earth itself.
Therein lays the challenge!
Because in both the UK and Sweden the prevalence of people suffering with mental health problems is increasing, with more and more individuals suffering from depression, anxiety and loneliness. In a world of social media that we believe connects us, increasing numbers of people seem to be sensing a void in their lives appearing - an emptiness that no matter how hard they try cannot be filled by the short-term dopamine fixes of likes, hearts and comments, or the short-term gratification of consumerism, substance and indulgence. We must see this as feedback from ourselves telling us that what we’re doing right now (in the way that we’re doing it) isn’t working for us. That there’s a collective yearning for something more - for a simpler, yet somehow deeper connection.
For many, nature has a huge role to play in establishing this connection!
As is such, it’s the responsibility of individuals such as Nigel, myself and many others to find a way to bring nature back into the awareness of society, through creating platforms to help the modern human find their own individual way of connecting with nature. From the small amount of time I spent in Nigel’s company, I saw in his eyes that he’s more than up for the challenge and I feel so excited to know that more and more indiviudals are connecting in this way.
Do you also want to get inspired by Nigel’s work, contact him on info@schoolofthewild or click into the School of the Wild’s website!
Also, if you want to connect with like minded people working with nature and health, here’s some Facebook groups that I´m interacting with right now! Please let me know if you have any more groups or interesting websites.
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