Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Connecting to Nature Through Yoga With Rebecca Wildbear
[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 405 of Live Happy Now. Today, we’re going to take a walk on the wild side. I’m your host, Paula Felps. And this week, I’m sitting down with Rebecca Wildbear to talk about connecting with nature through a program she developed called Wild Yoga.
We know that being in nature is good for us, but Rebecca takes it to the next level and shows us how we can deepen our connection with the earth to better understand ourselves. Her new book, Wild Yoga: A Practice of Initiation, Veneration & Advocacy for the Earth, takes a deeper dive into how we can connect with the earth and what it will do for us. Let’s have a listen.
[00:00:44] PF: Rebecca, thank you so much for joining me on Live Happy Now.
[00:00:48] RW: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.
[00:00:50] PF: This is a perfect time to talk to you. People don’t know we’re recording this on the book launch day, so that’s kind of exciting. It gives a great feel. This overall is really fascinating because I’m familiar with a lot of types of yoga. This was the first time I had heard of Wild Yoga and discovered this is something you developed. So let’s start back at the beginning. Can you tell me what Wild Yoga is and how you created it?
[00:01:16] RW: Yeah. Thanks for asking. It’s the kind of yoga that involves loving ourselves, stretching our consciousness, connecting to the earth body as much as we might connect to our own bodies, delving into the mystery, listening to dreams, letting our yoga kind of take us back to the larger meaning of yoga, which is about our relationship to ourselves and our relationship to the whole world.
So oftentimes, yoga is synonymous with asana, which is the physical postures and practices, which Wild Yoga definitely includes. But it also has the larger expanse that I think is rooted more in the depth of the original meaning of yoga, to route us in relationship with the depths in our bodies and our souls and also with the wild earth around us as part of our own body.
[00:02:06] PF: So is it more of a meditative yoga or a physical yoga, or what can participants expect from it?
[00:02:12] RW: Well, it has an asana practice that like doing a physical asana practice is part of it, and it includes a lot of imagery and poetry and metaphor to connect us to our bodies and nature. Kind of some of my yoga classes feel like a little bit like a journey, and sometimes they have different themes like connecting to our wild natures, connecting to our wholeness, connecting to our soul, courting our muse through movement.
You can see in my yoga practice the poses have descriptions, which include imaginative practices, as well as the physical postures. Then there’s a whole philosophy with teachings and stories just about motivated to bring us into relationship with our bodies, not only on the yoga mat, but all the time to promote a deep kind of listening to our body as an intelligent source that we can learn from.
Also really opening us up to a broader spans of all intelligences including listening to the intelligence of nature and the earth and trees and listening to the intelligence of our dreams, listening to our souls, connecting to the sacred and the spirit, connecting to our muse, and sourcing all of that and how we relate and act into the world. I say that I use a term often, living amused directed life or living an earth-centered life, those kinds of things so that our life purpose and meaning expands beyond just our own individual selves and egos.
[00:03:34] PF: How big a role does that nature connection play in self-discovery? Because we’ve gotten really away from nature, and I want to dive into that with you. But can you address how important it is to connect with nature in order to connect better with ourselves?
[00:03:49] RW: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s absolutely essential, and I think people might have noticed that if you’ve spent any time in nature or if you spent long times in nature, obviously, a lot of people seem to love nature connection. Like if you’ve noticed, if you go sit by the ocean for the day, or if you go out into the woods for the day, how it affects your body naturally, like you feel better inside yourself. You oftentimes can feel more like yourself.
I always say the natural world is inherently itself. It has no confusion. A tree is a tree. It knows it’s a tree, and it’s a tree. Everything in nature is so much itself. Human beings, we have the thinking mind, which can often get us lost in this self and this self and that self, divided perspectives. It seems to me like being in nature, at least it’s been my experience with myself and others, brings us back into a connected place with ourselves because we’re in good company. We’re in an intelligent company. We’re sitting with beings that are fully themselves and can engage fully with everything else around.
So a lot of the practices that I offer in Wild Yoga are rooted in having a conversation with nature, beyond even just as a healing source and even a part of ourselves, but as an animate world, which is what most of our ancestors believed the earth to be, something that we can relate to and talk to and that has feelings and perspectives. So I take people back into that relationship as part of Wild Yoga.
[00:05:17] PF: How surprised are they by maybe the emotions that come up, the relationship they start feeling with the earth? Because I love how you’re really taking us back to something very primal, something we have gotten so far away from. So I’m just wondering, as people go on this journey, how do they respond to it?
[00:05:35] RW: Well, my sense is they love it. I mean, it’s surprising. Like you don’t often know. You can’t anticipate what exactly is going to happen if you go out and have a conversation with nature. Sometimes, if you haven’t had done it before, it can be frustrating because there’s like, “Oh, gosh. I’m trying to have a conversation, and nothing’s happening.”
But it takes kind of a patience and persistence. When people stick with it, they become so surprised and enlivened by the stories and connections that happen for them that they have, like who shows up to talk, what they say, what they learned, the new perspectives that come through.
[00:06:12] PF: So let’s talk about that. What does someone do when you say, “We’re going to go out. We’re going to talk to nature,” just as if you’re walking beside me out there? What am I going to do?
[00:06:21] RW: Well, a lot of it involves bringing like your child’s self back in, the one who knew how to play and particularly the one that knew how to imagine. Imagination is a really big key in being able to talk and listen to the earth. It’s hard to communicate that idea at first because people in our culture have often been taught that imagination is kids’ stuff, and it’s not real. When you’re done with kindergarten, you just kind of move on to like what you know and what you can think.
When I work with people, we really come back to play. We come back into the imagination and understand that the imagination is a really important way of knowing, maybe even more important than thinking. So even if you’re not sure about it like, “Well, gosh. Is the world really alive? Can I really talk to trees,” what if you could just play and imagine that was the case? What might happen?
That’s often how I invite people into having a conversation with nature is not trying to think too much about like, “Oh, is it real, and did the tree really say that,” and letting them play with it. You can always decide later what you think of it. But right now, just be in it and play and go out. It involves a lot of attending to the natural world too, getting out of your thinking mind, getting out of your figuring out planning mind, which is very hard for people.
A lot of times, when people go into the wilderness, especially for short times, it’s almost like they never arrived in the wilderness. They might be sitting there, but their head is elsewhere. So you really have to come in and be present. It’s so beautiful that it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do and to get to do is to even just be present with the beauty and the magnificence of the life in the wild world around us.
Then when you’re pulled into that sense of looking at the relationships trees have with ants and wind have with leaves and soil has with roots, we’re already pulled into the other. Then we can lean in with our own imaginations and join the conversation and see where our curiosities might be, where our passions might be. Introduce ourselves and then listen.
There’s all sorts of ways nature responds. It could be in synchronicities. It could be in encounters that come, weather changes. It could be in images that just arise inside of us, dream images or other images, memories that come up. It could be even in words that just arise into our mind that we know we didn’t think of because they’re just so different than anything we would think is they’re surprising.
[00:08:47] PF: How difficult is it for some people to disconnect like that? Because we’ve become so connected to our devices. We’ve become so chained to our constant always on world. I recall a few years ago, we went to King Pacific Island up in Canada, and they told us we had to get on this whole puddle jumper, and they said, “Okay. As of now, you will no longer have phones. So for the next 10 days, it’s going to be quiet.”
One guy, you would have thought they had just told him, “We were going to cut your arm off.” I mean, it was like, “No, this can’t happen.” So do you see that? Do you see where people are like, “I got to connect with nature, but I still need to be connected with the world.”
[00:09:26] RW: That’s definitely a way a lot of people think. I guide programs where I invite people to be in nature, and we highly recommend that they don’t bring cell phones or other connective devices that they’re offline for those days. In some ways, that’s the best shot that we have a really did kind of listening.
Sometimes, even going out for a couple hours, people want to bring their devices. Or even if it’s only a couple of hours, sometimes it can be hard to disconnect your mind and really land in nature. When you know that you’re off of those devices for a period of time, when you’ve committed it, when you’ve set a boundary, then there’s a lot more possibilities for listening that can emerge.
[00:10:04] PF: Is there a process that you see unfold regularly and people, as they start leaving that connection with electronics and the busy world behind, and they start getting into nature? Is there a certain step-by-step thing you see, “Ah, there you go. Next, this will happen.”?
[00:10:20] RW: Well, gosh, it’s all so very different. People are very different. So some people who get offline and go out to nature, there can be almost like an immediate connection, and it can be easy. It’s almost like something in them was waiting for something like this to be able to happen, and things just start happening really automatically, and they’re at home. Maybe they’re remembering childhood or past connections to nature that were significant, and they’re establishing new connections while they’re out there.
Then sometimes, if people come and they’re just arriving, it can feel like a little bit of a slow start like, “Oh, gosh. I’m thinking about back home, or I can’t connect to here. It seems like maybe I’m not doing it right, or nothing’s happening.” Those kinds of like more fear-based thoughts. People can go and have a very deep conversation for several days. Then sometimes, they hit something that is like a material that feels scary or uncomfortable from the past or difficult feelings coming up. Then at that point, they might have been very open for days, but then other parts of themselves come to shut down.
But I would say the one thing that I see across the board is nature in general, overall, most of the time, it has a very loving and nurturing quality. So I wrote about this in my book in chapter five, receiving the love of trees. But in general, whether it’s trees or other places in the natural world, the natural world is very loving. We humans crave love and to be held. There’s usually never enough, a sense of that, never quite enough. So going to nature is often a place that we feel renewed and loved and held.
[00:12:02] PF: You talk about something I had not heard of before, and that is earth grief. That was very interesting to me. I wondered if you would explain the premise of earth grief, what it is, what it feels like, and what we need to do with that.
[00:12:17] RW: Great. Yeah, that’s a wonderful thing. Thanks for inviting that. In many ways, there’s a sense in earth grief that feelings that are uncomfortable or unpleasant might arise in us. Grief can show up in many different forms, whether it’s depression, or apathy, or lethargy, or just kind of feeling dull or feeling rage, or just despair or grief, crying. It can show up in all sorts of emotions.
A lot of times, when humans have difficult emotions, we go to, “Oh, my gosh. I shouldn’t be feeling like this. How can I fix it? How can I make myself feel better? It must be something I’m doing wrong in my life. Maybe I got to change something, so I can feel better.” But the idea of earth grief says that there are things happening on the planet right now that are just so sad and hard to be with that we might be actually having feelings come up that are difficult, and they might not totally even be just our feelings. They might be from the heart of the earth.
It might be that if we’re very connected to the earth and especially if we might be near places that we love that might be being harmed or destroyed, that there can be feelings that come up in us. Sometimes, we might not even know what that connection is. We just have these feelings, and we can’t quite tell what it is, and it’s important to be with that. But that it’s important to attend these feelings that related to earth grief and to see what they are because they actually can be like portals themselves, transporting us into new imaginal or visionary possibilities. They also can awaken our hearts and change our actions in the world and change what we do.
I just heard a story of somebody who was able to protect a land that they love because they were very connected to it. Sometimes, that can be the result. If we’re actually feeling sad about ecological devastation and the harms that we see, the violence that we see to the earth is bothering us, it can motivate our actions. Those actions can change the state of what happens for the earth in particular places and then cumulatively.
[00:14:18] PF: A lot of people feel like there’s so much going on, so much destruction, both the people and the earth. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on right now. But they also feel like there’s really nothing that I can do that’s going to stop that, that’s going to change that. How does starting to connect with nature through the Wild Yoga, through really communing in nature, how does that change how you view what your role is and your ability to do something about it?
[00:14:44] RW: Yeah. Thank you so much for that question. I think having a relationship with the earth, just listening and talking to nature and feeling with nature, brings us back into our inherent connection with earth’s body and also what I would call right relation with earth of the world around us, where what happens to the earth impacts us, and we see and sense that our health and our wellbeing are not disconnected from the planet. They’re actually very connected.
I might try very hard to attend to my individual health and wellbeing, and there’s definitely things that I can do as individual to improve my individual wellbeing. But there’s also sort of a stopping point, like my individual health by itself is only going to be so well if the planetary and the others around me are being harmed. I will be limited. I can’t be healthy if they’re unhealthy on some level. I can’t be as healthy as I would be if they were healthy. So we’re linked in what happens to the planet happens to us.
Feeling is a very big part of turning ourselves into having this right relationship, where we are related. Just like if our relatives are sick, that hurts our feelings. If our friends are hurt, we feel that too. The earth is our friend and our relative, and so what happens to it impacts us. So it brings us back into right relationship. It can be overwhelming and hard to feel. But that right relationship can take us places we can’t even envision right now.
There’s a lot of reaction to the state of the planet, which is very understandable. That can lead to giving up. I always joke that the mainstream culture seems to have gone from, “There’s nothing wrong. I don’t have to do anything,” to, “Oh, my God. It’s too big and too bad now. I can’t do anything. It won’t matter.”
[00:16:22] PF: It’s too late. Yeah.
[00:16:24] RW: Both of those lead to inaction, both of those philosophies, which are seemingly opposite, but they’re all related to. Really, we don’t know the outcome. The future is uncertain. We do know what’s going on now and that humans, overall, aren’t in right relationship with the earth. We can change that. I mean, that is possible to change.
Humans have been in right relationship with the earth before. It might be a huge change, and I think it will be. But it’s still possible to change ourselves individually, to collectively join with other people and bring ourselves back. Is it too late? Maybe it’s too late. I don’t know. I’m not here to predict the future, and I don’t necessarily think that trying to figure that out and decide my actions based on outcome is the relevant action. It’s more about the relationship now.
If I have a relationship now with the earth and that motivates what I do and how I respond, then the future will unfold as it unfolds. I imagine approaching the world that way. It will be a better unfolding than it will be if we’re not in right relationship.
[00:17:30] PF: Absolutely. So how often should people be out in nature? Is that something you think should happen daily, multiple times a day?
[00:17:38] RW: Well, as much as possible. That would be great. I mean, it’s nice. It depends where you live. Some people I work with live in cities and have very little nature contact. So we do a lot of imaginal connections to nature or connecting to the nature in city or the connecting to the nature beneath the city where nature once lived, connecting to the river or the trees that live in the city, or connecting in your imagination to wild places you’ve ever been.
Fortunately, a lot of people in the United States still have a lot of access to wild places. If you can have access to outside and wild places, definitely. If you can go out every day and sit with trees, sit next to the river, why not? They’re one of the wisest and most healing energies you could deal with. So I think regular immersion in nature or outside where you live would be the best, definitely.
[00:18:33] PF: So is there like a minimal amount of time before you start feeling the effects of it? Or can just a few minutes of walking in nature have a difference? What’s the prescription here, doctor?
[00:18:46] RW: Well, I think a little bit of time in nature can go a long way. I mean, for me, even just going outside and taking a walk for 30 minutes or an hour, and if you can bring your attention, really bring your attention to the others around you. It’s a big shift. I take breaks often throughout the day, go outside, and look around, connect to who is around me.
Also, it’s great if you can take extended periods of time in nature. I take those two, were some of the year you’re planning times where maybe for a weekend or a week you can be camping or out in nature more, where you can actually spend a lot of times listening.
[00:19:29] PF: How do you see that changing people as they come back, when they do take those breaks, when they do get away? What’s their reentry back into city life?
[00:19:36] RW: Well, I think there can be a renewal and a new perspective. When I take people out into the wilderness on journeys for a week or more, there’s been a time of deep listening while they were out there, a time of actually going out in the land and having conversations and listening. So when they go back, they have, you could say, new instructions from their conversation with nature. Or they have had visions while they were out there with nature. They were given guidance. So when they go back, they route their lives in a new way, redirecting towards the new enlivened connection and the instructions and visions that they received.
[00:20:17] PF: That’s excellent. We mentioned earlier, it’s the book launch of Wild Yoga. It’s almost 300 pages. It is so comprehensive. How did you go about putting all of this together? Because it was really mind-blowing to see how much you’ve been able to include in that book and really takes us completely through it.
[00:20:37] RW: Yeah. There’s a lot of breadth and material. I mean, I probably could write a whole book sometimes on one of the chapters, instead of just [inaudible 00:20:42]. Maybe one day I will, but I wanted to include a book that included a lot of perspectives because one of the things that I see that can happen sometimes in spiritual platforms and personal growth platforms, yoga platforms, is that there’s a limitation. Like just do this little thing and only this, and then it misses the comprehensive possibility.
So I included everything to just show that there are so many. There’s such a broad perspective of possibilities and practices to bring us into right relationship with the wild dimension of life, with dreams, with our nature conversations, with the spirit and the soul, with darkness, the dark night of the soul, with playing our part in the symphony. What is our individual role, and what is it to connect to the whole?
With the idea in the last chapter of beloved world, that service is also a big part of personal growth that personal growth isn’t necessarily for me to just go and receive. It is a big part of that because nature and dreams, they give us so much. So I do receive so much. That receptivity is also meant to be an offering to the world service and that helps bring the circle complete when we offer back in service what we were given.
[00:22:00] PF: That’s excellent. Look down the road five years from now. What do you hope Wild Yoga has accomplished in the world?
[00:22:07] RW: I think some of the things I hope would be a greater listening. Listening is like one of the main words I associate with the whole book, that we’re listening to these greater intelligences, rather than just our own human mind and ego. That we’re listening to nature, muses, dreams. That that listening also takes us into a way of being, in a way of living and acting that communal and tender and vulnerable and that also protects our land base.
In our reconnecting to the land base of the earth, that builds a natural instinct to protect also, and that that possibility expands. That through doing Wild Yoga and connecting to ourselves and being bold, personally and imaginally and connecting to our visions, that can also lead to actions that protect land and species, more ecosystems, restore ecosystems, so that the earth can also be in a better state for the future generations of all species.
[00:23:01] PF: I love it. Rebecca, thank you for your time today. This was a wonderful conversation. You’re doing some marvelous things. We’re going to tell people how they can find you, how they can find your book, how they can find your website, and even go on one of your experiences. I just – I wish you the best of success on this because it’s such important work that you’re doing.
[00:23:19] RW: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:23:25] PF: That was Rebecca Wildbear, talking about how to connect with nature through Wild Yoga. If you’d like to learn more about Rebecca, watch a video of a Wild Yoga practice, buy her book, or follow her on social media, visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab.
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That is all we have time for today. We will meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.