Since going on my life changing journey, Walk for Aoife two years ago - where I hiked 600km and kayaked 100km across the Irish sea - I had the opportunity to train to become a nature connection guide. My professional background is in the food and farming industry which is closely linked with the outdoors and an appreciation for how nature enables our survival.
However, the training with Way of Nature UK was far more challenging than I had expected - it really pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Knowing all I had to do was accept this challenge and keep saying Yes to it, was what kept me going throughout.
After visiting friends in Tuscany in October 2017, I decided to say Yes to moving to Italy with my family - as if a change of career wasn't enough! This was a big life change because I had lived in the UK for 20 years in roughly the same area, and my wife Beth had lived in the UK her entire life. However, the excitement and mystery of the move helped my family and I (Beth, our daughter Rae and Suzie the dog) make the big push to get our house packed up and rented out - doing all the DIY jobs I had been avoiding - so we could step into the unknown.
While preparation for the move was going on I began my nature guide training. The process involved many opportunities to be alone in nature. This was a new challenge. Sure, I had walked alone for 600km during Walk for Aoife, where I had the company of audiobooks, plenty of music and even the sound of my own beautiful singing voice, serenading passing fields of cows and sheep as I walked with painful blisters, my own inner questions and working through the grief of my sister's death.
A big part of the nature training was going to be about sitting with my 'stuff', the kind of experiential learning that, even as I began it, made me think this is going to be difficult and maybe even pointless; and I'm going to have to resist from looking at my watch too much if it feels as though time is passing slowly. In truth, it was at times very difficult but it definitely was not pointless.
The training involved an exploration of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ nature - a kind of ‘cleaning the glass’ exercise in seeing where I was, both how I related to my own inner mind state and my place in the wider world - using nature as the base for this exploration. Part of it involved learning nature connection techniques which fostered a state of presence and the other part involved spending a lot of time alone in nature. I had two ‘Vision Quest’ experiences during this training.
A vision quest is based on Native American rites of passage. It’s not so easy to explain but when I spent three days and nights alone in nature without food, on more than one occasion - just sitting with my own busy head - clarity started to emerge in a mindblowing way.
For example, even just the realisation that my thoughts were ruling my life and decisions and often in a negative way was a huge revelation and I was learning how to pull what I needed from the clutter of thoughts. This was a great skill for me to learn.
These tools took me on a journey that has impacted every area of my life and brought me more in line with my own beliefs, and strengthered my confidence. The clarity has helped me appreciate the people around me more deeply and really helped me hold personal issues in a lighter way, freeing me up to be kinder and more accepting of others. This work also showed a new way of being, and I don’t think I would ever have found this if I hadn't taken on the Walk for Aoife challenge.
Living in Tuscany, Italy - a wild place that feels like a massive nature playground - means I can spend plenty of time outdoors, being in nature, exploring and practising the nature connection tools I learned on the guide training. Now, I feel ready to share the tools I have learned, so they can benefit others as much as they have me.
All of these new things in my life - country, training, people, environment – were challenging initially. The upheaval and unfamiliarity took some time for my family and I to adjust to. But I was convinced it would all be worth it and that challenge brings nourishing experiences that help you grow, in yourself and in the other roles you play. So it has not been hard to commit and embrace the changes.
I know that if I keep saying Yes that even more challenges will present themselves, and the journey of expansion and adventure will continue.
Your invitation to the Endless River retreat - May 2018
Come and explore the beautiful permaculture farm in the rolling mountains and forests of southern Tuscany. I will be guiding people alongside fellow nature connection guide Jez Le Fevre. We will set up camp next to the gently flowing river, far from the well-trodden tourist path, and immerse ourselves in the peace and tranquillity of nature, supported by nature herself. Being, listening, exploring and relaxing.
Running this retreat is really a dream come true for me – it means I can share all the nature connection practices I have learned, and hopefully help others experience the transformative powers of just being in nature, solo (always in an expertly held supportive space) and as a small group.
The retreat is May 22-26. See here for more details.
Fill in the contact form if you have any queries or call me on 07568 577 062 (free to call as I have a roaming deal).
My blog is here if you'd like to read more about me.