Beginner's Guide: The Art of Mentoring With Nature
I attended my first Art of Mentoring course in 2009 at Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall Washington.
Here are some of the questions we were exploring through fun activities and adventures on the landscape:
What does it mean to be mentored in the ways of nature?
How do people change when they develop deeper awareness of the environment?
How can you be a better mentor for positive personal and societal change?
We explored the world of plants, traditional survival skills, bird behaviour, wildlife tracking, and community learning tools.
And along the way we discovered a new way of helping people find inner peace, fulfillment and a deep love for nature.
Sounds pretty incredible right?
Everyone I’ve spoken to who has gone through this experience says it was one of the most powerful turning points of their life.
Everyone says this is worth exploring!
So today, I’d like to share some of the basics with you…
Starting with why the art of mentoring matters, and moving on to the specific tools & techniques of nature-based mentoring.
What Is The Art of Mentoring?
I’ll preface this by saying that the only way to really know the art of mentoring is to experience for yourself.
Now that’s out in the open…
The art of mentoring is simply a host of tools, attitudes & techniques that serve as the catalyst for an experience of deep connection between people & nature.
There are two sorts of people who I feel will really resonate with this path.
Person Type #1 “The Rememberer”
This is the person who has already traveled a little ways down the journey of life, and is starting to feel like there’s something missing.
You might already have a career, a house, or even a family… but perhaps realizing that there are aspects of the fast-paced modern lifestyle that aren’t fulfilling you.
Somewhere deep down inside there’s this memory of being free to explore nature…
And how good it feels when you get out into the wilderness and simply be present with the natural world.
And you realize that it’s not just a recreational thing:
You want to get more of the psychological benefits of nature in your daily life
You want to go beyond a superficial understanding of how nature works and have deeper experiences outside
You want to share those same experiences with your friends & family so you can live in a community with positive values & support systems
So the question is - how do you create that kind of lifestyle?
For many people, the leap seems so great that it would be hard to bridge the gap without their entire life falling apart.
But… That's where The Art of Mentoring comes in.
Person Type #2 “The Explorer”
Here’s the other type of person who really resonates with Art of Mentoring principles…
It’s someone who simply loves learning about the world and is seeking tools to maximize their ability to engage deeply and develop personal awareness.
Often these people are healers, coaches, or entrepreneur-types who recognize that nature helps to awaken inner human potential.
You might already be excited to learn about nature… And you might already have some basic knowledge and experience with the outdoors…
But you’re hitting certain blocks and challenges with trying to go deeper into awareness tools & strategies.
The sentiment is a bit like this…
“Nature is awesome! It’s so much fun to get outside and engage my whole body, mind & spirit with the elements! But how do I go deeper? How do I get a more real, tangible, and meaningful experience outside?”
Again… Art of Mentoring gives you the tools to go very deep into nature studies and your engagement with the natural world.
One of my goals in creating nature-mentor.com is to bring quality Art of Mentoring based tools & learning opportunities to people who are unable to travel long distances or attend live events.
Now let’s talk about the tools & techniques of mentoring!
Simply by knowing nature deeply, it changes how you think and feel about the plants, birds, trees of your local ecosystem.
You’ll start to have real relationships with the animals and patterns of nature… And these relationships start to affect you on mental & emotional levels.
In the same way that you might feel for a hurting friend, you’ll start to experience empathy with the natural world.
It’s a bit like this…
You know how you can often tell what your close friends & family are thinking & feeling even before they tell you?
There’s a similar experience that happens through knowing nature very deeply, and it will result in changes in your worldview & changes in your perception that bring rise to creative impulse.
I’m going to describe some of these major tools & techniques of nature mentoring.
But first it’s really important to mention… Thisis not just about intellectual knowledge of nature.
Simply knowing facts and figures about the environment doesn’t truly help people feel connected with the natural world
The goal is to create real life sensory engagement and attunement with the patterns and rhythms of plants, birds, trees, seasons, weather, even the sun, moon, stars.
So the emphasis of nature-based mentoring should never be on knowledge of facts & figures… but rather on slowing down, getting into your senses, paying attention & getting curious to look more closely.
It's a much more human way of interacting with the world.
As such… all the tools & techniques of nature mentoring are carefully applied for the purpose of helping you to slow down, use your senses, pay attention to nature & get curious.
Watch for this theme as we run through 3 of the big tools for nature mentoring…
Tool #1 - Core Routines Of Nature Connection
Here’s the basic idea of core routines…
Spending time in nature isn’t something that you do just once and then suddenly results in enlightenment (Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice?)
You can’t just go camping once per year and expect to awaken the full potential of your inner naturalist.
It’s like any kind of exercise or personal growth goal. It takes practice and ongoing healthy routines.
Thankfully this just means you get to have lots of fun, exciting adventures outside all along the journey.
The curriculum of any nature school using Art of Mentoring based tools & techniques might include such activities as:
You might start off the conversation by asking them about what they're learning. Like this...
"What have you been learning in your plant studies lately?"
And they will respond by saying something...
"I found this amazing new patch of wild roses and I'm excited to harvest the rose hips this fall."
Based on this initial response you can start asking questions about related topics to help them access the memory in greater sensory detail.
This is also a great place to share anecdotal stories and join others in their curiosity.
"That's so cool. I love rose hip tea. It's one of my favourite things to drink in September. I've been trying to figure out if there are any birds in our area that eat the rose hips. Have you ever noticed anything like that?"
Now this is a tough question, and I don't expect them to necessarily know the answer. Getting the answer isn't actually the important thing here.
The important part is whether they consider the question and what happens in their mind while they think about it.
If it gets them to look more closely & expand their awareness, then it's a great question!
People will always respond either by getting more curious and interested, or sometimes by feeling challenged.
You can monitor how your questions are affecting people by paying attention to their body language & what they say in response.
If they say something like...
"I don't know."
And get really quiet or start to shut down... Then the question is too hard. You need to back up and ask more simple questions.
But if they say something like...
"I don't know but I think there was a bird nesting there. I think I've seen hummingbirds go after the flowers before. It seems like rose hips would be a good food source"
This person is demonstrating that they're ready for advanced questions.
It's important to find the right balance of questions. If your questions are too easy then the student will become bored. If your questions are too difficult then they might get discouraged.
Overtime students of teaching methods that rely on questions will become incredibly curious and self-driven in their learning.
You know you've succeeded when their level of expertise surpasses yours in their particular topics of passion.
I mentioned earlier that the best way to learn about nature mentoring is to experience it for yourself.
In the fast-paced world we live in, I am a big fan of making formal commitments.
You'll be more likely to follow through on your nature discovery goals if you state your intentions and goals with an experienced listener who wants to support you along your journey.
In an ideal world... Find someone who has already invested thousands of hours studying and practicing their outdoor skills and has experience with coyote mentoring (another term for the art of mentoring).
Nature skills instructors are often over-worked and under-paid so try to offer them something valuable in exchange for their time and energy.
This could be volunteer work in their programs. Or if they offer adult programs - support them financially by taking their programs!
It's always a good idea to offer money for their time. Both you and your mentor will be more invested in the relationship when there’s money involved.
If you can’t find anyone local - I sometimes take on mentoring students by distance. Feel free to setup a time to talk with me if you’re interested in learning more about what we can explore together by distance.
There's so much more I could say about the art of mentoring. We haven't even scratched the surface yet.
If you want to learn some cool tricks for exploring nature in a sensory way, just click the little forest secrets video banner right below this article and you can register for free trainings and updates from this website.