Nature Nurture

One of the cool things I have learned during my BrainGym years has been the power of setting an intention before doing any type of “energy” work. Energy work includes things like massage, BrainGym, yoga, meditation/prayer, etc. During our New Mexico retreat last week, I set an intention to experience clarity regarding my career. It has been over a week since that intention was set, and I am daily seeing ways in which I better understand what is going on, both in my frustrations with the current situation and my desires for change. That clarity is proving invaluable as a tool to keep me from leaping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
I recently acquired and worked through a book called Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design by Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy. My two word style statement I believe is Natural Powerful–80% of me is natural, defined by nature, seeking nature, being in nature, being nurtured by nature. The other 20% that adds spice and gives me an edge is power. Realizing how truly important nature is in defining who I am and how I roll helps me to identify what’s going on when I start to feel like crap or get unbearably cranky (the genuine me would have used four and five letter words there, but the me that knows my mom will read this chose more politically correct terms–use your imagination).
What I realize is that I crave nature. Spring minus wind is my favorite time of year.  Seeing new life emerge from what appears to be a lifeless stick and watching it produce life sustaining energy sources is just freakin’ cool. What’s not cool is spending the most gorgeous part of the day in a flourescent lighted windowless concrete prison cell void of plant life with only a sheetrock wall separating me from an electromagnetic nightmare that is our file server room. That “clarity” does so much to help me figure out how to improve my existing situation and avoid creating a similar situation in any new endeavors I attempt. Hence, setting up a massage studio in a building downtown where all I see is brick, mortar and cars and that only between clients, probably isn’t the best option for escaping the dis-ease I feel toward my current situation.
And so, I made a trip to Home Depot and bought two pots of giant marigolds to place on my office desk. I like marigolds. They are bold and bright. Not necessarily my favorite flower, but they speak for me in a sort of “in-your-face-whatcha-gonna-do-about-it” sort of way. There is nothing delicate about how marigolds look. They are my 80% natural-20% powerful. I am trusting they will survive the flourescent world for awhile and in the meantime, help adjust my attitude about my work environment. Maybe I’ll go back to HD and see what else I can find. It will take something tough to survive for a few months in this concrete jungle.
All of this clarity and realization got me to thinking about everyone else including our kids and their teachers who spend their days in windowless, natureless worlds. Several years ago (about 40 to be exact) some genius decided that students need to be free from the distractions posed by the outside world. They began to design multi-purpose school buildings as fallout shelters putting children in basement classrooms where neither nuclear bombs, tornadoes, nor a dancing butterfly could disrupt the precious learning environment. Nature in the classroom was relegated to the dark-loving cockroach. Then along came the energy efficiency experts, and they took the rest of our older school buildings with their wall of windows and closed those in to save heating and cooling costs. If it’s victims were lucky, they were spared one or two small tinted windows to allow for some outside viewing.
Yet our teachers continue to experience more and more burnout each year and our children are dealing with more learning challenges, attention deficit issues, behavioral abnormalities, and other social problems than ever before. No, I am not suggesting that windowless schools are to blame, but I am suggesting that they have done nothing to improve the situation. Even mental institutions have figured out that their clients are much more compliant when surrounded by trees, grass, flowers, and natural sunlight. Heck Wal-Mart has even figured this out. People spend more money in a store that has an earthy, naturally lit feel. They are willing to risk thousands of dollars repairing hail smashed skylights and the related water damage to accomodate this concept. Oh yeah….God got it, too. He placed his precious creations in a beautiful place called the Garden of Eden. Punishment for wrong-doing was denial of access to the lush garden.
What would happen if every classroom was naturized with plants, fish tanks, hamsters, etc? Or better yet, what if the kids who faced the most difficult challenges were placed in a learning environment such as a yurt. Okay, I admit it, I have a new fascination with this type of building. It is essentially a round Mongolian teepee of sorts, yet the insides are supported by a trellis/accordian like support system that creates X’s wherever the eye looks. It has a skylight in the top. What if the yurt classrooms were surrounded by trees, flowers, and gardens that produced food the kids could pick and consume fresh from the plant whenever the urge strikes? No soda and candy machines would be found, but instead an apple tree and some grape vines would grow right outside the classroom door and the kids were encouraged to eat from them. It would be a highly integrative learning paradise.
How could we change the destiny of a kid by changing his learning environment to one that nurtures learning through nature? How could we retain our best and brightest teachers by taking them out of the concrete prison cell and placing them in a Garden to teach? Would all problems disappear? Not a chance. Would it be a worthwhile experiment? You bet. Would it cost money? Well duh! Doesn’t everything? However, I bet it would cost a lot less than the majority of our interventions that have failed our most needy students. But we don’t have enough water to support a garden, you argue. We live in a desert. We are in the midst of a drought. Some of the most beautiful and nurturing places on earth are deserts. We can maximize what we have, grow, and produce the best. It is called Xerisaping, and where it is done well, it is gorgeous.
Is this possible on a large scale? I don’t know. What I do know is that each of us has the opportunity to improve our space and consequently our attitude towards our work even in small ways. If you are a parent, volunteer to “naturize” your child’s classroom. Work with teachers and administrators to see what they would like to do. If you are a teacher, consider how you can use some classroom budget money to bring the outdoors indoors. Don’t buy plastic plants. That’s not nature. We have enough plastic in our lives without faking nature.
And for Pete’s sake (and Tony, Laura, and Jeffrey’s sake), take down those annoyingly distracting laminated math charts, parts of speech posters, and other wall crap with which you have such a freakin’ love affair, and bring in a grow light and a banana tree. Take your kids outside to have class EVERY chance you get. Find the protected outdoor areas where the wind isn’t an issue and green up that space. Plant a campus garden–a real one with veggies, and have enough passion for what you do that you’ll spend a few days each week even during the summer taking care of it so next fall’s students can benefit from it. I know you can think of 200 reasons why it won’t work, but doing so only creates negative energy and wastes time. Think of the 20 reasons it just MIGHT work and do something to heal yourself, heal your kids, and in the process heal the earth.


If we all do a bit of nurturing nature in our work space, then nature will return the favor by nurturing us in both our work space and our play space. Hmm….who’da thunk my career clarity intention would lead to this. Nice……

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