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Wisdom of Nature
Where We Work: National and Urban

Inclining Towards Nature

"Air" (Original Name: Kang Yun / Roots and Shoots Beijing Office Program Manager)

Even after being involved in environmental education[1] for a period of time, I didn't feel I was working on nature education[2] too. For me nature education was just one, albeit important tool in environmental education. However, when I took part in an exchange with nature education workers, I would always anticipate meeting interesting people and coming across useful information.

Natural Struggles of a Materialist

I first visited organic farms after readingHarvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating[3], a book by Dr Jane Goodall. There were many warnings in the book about food safety. I had just become a mother and was confused about what sort of food I should give my baby. I don't know if it was predestined or a coincidence, but not only did I lease a piece of land to grow vegetables, I even xian dun xian mai[4]— I immediately applied the little bit of farming knowledge I gained within my community. I turned a leisure park into a vegetable garden for families with children, so we could farm together with our kids.

As I worked on the land every week and watched the changes and growth of vegetables that sprouted from seeds I had sown, my understanding of nature education quietly changed. I remember in the spring of 2009, I took part for the first time in PCD's nature education work camp, "Roaming in the Field of Our Hearts"[5]. During the camp we were told to walk barefoot and I really liked that feeling. When we chirped and tweeted like birds, to our surprise pheasants echoed a response. Collecting wild vegetables for our meals was even bigger fun. However, during the camp we had to prostrate ourselves to worship the god of the mountains. We also had to pile Mani stones[6], observe silence and meditate. As someone brought up and educated as a materialist, it was really difficult for me to accept the idea of gods and ghosts, or notions such as the unity of heaven and human beings. Addressing things I couldn't see or hear, let alone prostrating myself to worship them, naturally aroused uneasy feelings in me. For me these activities were very odd.

Feeling Nature Quietly and with Mindfulness

Half a year later I joined "Roaming" for a second time. We played war with pine cones, roasted potatoes, rolled down slopes, and held a martial-arts contest between the four families, of spring, summer, autumn and winter. It was fun, but I still resisted the parts that were "not materialist". Then, one pitch-dark night at the end of 2010 in Xianniangxi, Guangzhou, a group of us walked in single file to the village to visit a big tree, whose trunk was hollow. We had to keep five metres apart, and no conversation was allowed. Every participant was invited in turn to go inside the trunk of the old banyan, through the hole. After everyone had done this, the facilitator told us a story of a little boy and the tree. We then took turns to share our feelings on the way to the tree. I should probably thank the fireflies that had been dancing around me on the way—I hadn't felt bored or frightened during the quiet trip, which had lasted over an hour. Instead I'd felt joyful.

This workshop was followed by another on the small island of Tap Mun in Hong Kong. Dislodging rocks, broiled hot from the bonfire, for our companions to warm their feet; watching a family of cows ambling by; listening to songs of the sea and the wind; feeling the warmth from the moon… at those moments, I felt and understood deeply what "bliss" meant—to do what one wants to do, loves to do and has to do; to grow something, to feel one's miraculous power, to work on educating children, to share with others what one has understood and felt.

It seems my work is now inclining towards nature education!

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Air, enjoying the gifts of Nature.
The rhythm of Nature is wonderful; if you feel it mindfully, you will naturally be inclined towards it.
 

 


1. Environmental education is a learning process that increases people's knowledge and awareness about the environment and associated challenges, develops the necessary skills and expertise to address the challenges, and fosters attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take responsible action (UNESCO, Tbilisi Declaration, 1978).

2. For PCD, love and respect for nature is not a skill that can be taught. It is the consciousness, developed through experience, of the inter-connectedness between human beings and nature; this is what we mean by 'nature education'. Inspired by others' examples, PCD has joined our partners in search of paths and methodologies that can help rebuild the connection.

3. Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating calls on us to carefully examine the way food is produced and our consumption patterns. In the book, the writer proposes concrete strategies for moving towards sustainable living and argues that positive changes can be brought about by simple actions.

4. Xian dun xian mai is a term used by Chinese in northern provinces which means making immediate use of what you have just learnt.

5. In the spring and autumn of 2009, PCD invited Qingshui from Hong Kong Nature Education Association to organise two nature education work camps for volunteer organisations working for environmental protection and education. The work camp was given the title "Roaming in the Field of Our Hearts" by the participants, who called each other "fellow roamers".

6. Mani stone piles can often be seen in Tibet in temples, on sacred hills and lakes, on the tops of mountains or at roadsides. A six-syllable mantra, the image of Buddha, prayers and other features are inscribed on the stones. Mani stone piles come from stone worship of the religion of Bon, and Mani is the short form of the six-syllable Buddhist mantra "om mani padme hum" from which comes the term "Mani stones". When a believer passes a Mani stone pile, he/she has to go round it clockwise. Going round the stone pile once means he/she has recited the prayer once. A stone will also be added to the pile. In former times, people on their way to worship Buddha or to turn the prayer wheel would hang scripture flags they carried with them, hada (long silk scarves), sheep fur, clothes or even their hair on branches as offerings. (Source: Tubo Culture [Tu Fan Wen Fan])

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