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Where Was the Natural World in This Conversation?

Nightwind against the Tetons Earthfire Institute ©2013 Rose De Dan

Wolf Nightwind against the Tetons, Earthfire Institute ©2013 Rose De Dan

by Carol McClelland
reprinted with permission from Earthfire Institute Fall newsletter

Over the weekend I attended a sustainability conference for business students and professionals. As I sat waiting for the first keynote to begin I was taken aback by the essence of the surroundings. The enormous room–the best way I can describe it is to compare it to a cavernous concrete cave–felt exceedingly cold, stark, dim, hard, and echoey.

As thousands of attendees took their seats, I began to experience flashes of my recent experiences at the Earthfire Institute…

I felt the meadow where we held our opening prayers each morning with the Tetons looking on as witnesses to our work, play, conversations, tears, and laughter.

I sensed the wildlife ambassadors with their wonderful presence and wisdom as they added their voices to our events in and around the on-site yurt.

I remembered the pace of our experience–organically moving from one activity to the next, with space to breathe deeply and savor the beauty of land, our interactions with the wildlife ambassadors, and my own heart breathing in a level of peace I’d not experienced in a long, long while.

As I realized these two worlds were both inhabiting my being simultaneously, I had a flash of insight!!

How can we, as a group, possibly rethink our approach to sustainability
when there’s not a shred of life to connect with…anywhere…
in this massive conference center?

As I listened to the first keynote the overlay of several scenes and experiences from Earthfire continued, and I thought…

Bluebell, ©Earthfire Institute 2010

Bluebell, ©Earthfire Institute 2010

How might the conversation change if the howling wolf pack could be heard inside this room?

How might perspectives change if we could hear the white buffalo Nima’s rumble echoing in this hall…with her astonishing sense of timing?

How might the frenzied pace of this conference shift if we could look out over the pasture to see the snow-capped Tetons? Or feel the crunch of new fallen snow under our feet? Or take a walk in the vibrantly alive wildlife corridor that stretches to the Yukon? Or lay down on Mother Earth and breathe with Her?

How might the hearts of these professionals be opened if they could greet deer Runs-Like-the-Wind face-to-face? Or look into grizzly bear Teton Totem’s clear, engaging eyes while giving him an offering of grapes? Or hear mountain lion Taji’s greeting or purr? Or experience buffalo Elder Bluebell’s official reception line up close and personal?

Teton between Tetons ©Earthfire Institute

Grizzly Bear Teton Totem, ©Earthfire Institute

How might they see themselves differently if they could experience grizzly bear Teton Totem settling down for a nap in the sun as he resonated with our group meditating under the tree in the bear compound? Or watch grizzly bear Humble Bumble’s paws taking him to places unknown as he entered dream-time while we meditated?

How might they connect more fully with those around them if they experienced the rich, heart-felt camaraderie we developed during our Walk on the Wild Side retreat? Or the connections each woman experienced with the animals who touched her heart?

As I sat in one windowless room after another, I held my retreat sisters and our experiences in my heart while I listened to one presentation after another explaining how to create more sustainable practices by sparking social impact, engaging employees, assessing economic impact, enhancing leadership skills, implementing better technology, issuing more thorough reports, and shifting to more renewable energy sources.

Throughout the weekend I came back to one question: Where was the natural world in this conversation?* If this truly was a blind spot in the mindset of those attending the conference, how might it have minimized the ultimate impact of the discussions and connections at this conference? Taking it a step further, how might this blind spot be limiting the success of the entire sustainability movement….and ultimately the future of our beautiful planet?

This experience of having these two worlds alive in me at the same time has gripped me at my core. In the days following this conference I’ve gotten glimpses of ways I can serve as a catalyst to shine light on the blind spot I observed. In the next few days I look forward to spending time in a rural area near my home to breathe with Mother Earth and follow the threads of insight that have come out of both of these experiences.

This is not an entirely new quest for me. For more than three years I have been searching–for myself and others–for ways to spark a shift in perspective from feeling “apart from” to “a part of” the natural world. Rose De Dan’s Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing event A Walk on the Wild Side: Answering the Call of the Wild held at Earthfire Institute with Susan Eirich and Jean Simpson, is the first time I’ve seen/felt/experienced this shift so fully, at so many levels simultaneously. I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to be “a part of” Earthfire Institute for four days in October 2013. I know I am changed as a result. To say I hope to return is an understatement. I intend to return!

*Looking back at the conference program I see that 10% of the 120 sessions mentioned something about the environment (water, food, energy, biomimicry design). Out of the 12 sessions I attended, I heard one speaker, Carol Sanford, author of The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success, mention “living systems thinking” during the Q&A. Interestingly, she also mentioned her grandfather was Mohawk and from the time she was a young girl he taught her the ways of his culture.

About the Author: Carol McClelland, PhD has always felt a strong connection with the natural world. In 2007 she founded Green Career Central to coach passionate professionals who are committed to using their professional expertise to build a better world where the land, people, wildlife, and economy thrive.


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©2013 Rose De Dan. All Rights Reserved.


In private practice since 1996, Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic practitioner, author and artist. As an animal shaman she views her mission as one of building bridges between people and animals through healing sessions, classes, ceremonies and events such as A Walk on the Wild Side: Answering the Call of the Wild.

Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.

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