~ Bonnie Hart, Founder of EarthGym.org, New Jersey
Like, Mick Dodge and the other people in the west Earthgym tribe, the New Jersey-based EarthGym.org tribe invites people to get outdoors for their health and wellness and for Planet Earth.
The New Jersey EarthGym helps people “see” wild places. We believe, like David Brower, that if you get to know Nature you will naturally protect it, just like you would protect a friend from harm. In other words people will protect what they know and love.
We focus on opening the heart toward Nature, which creates a sense of connection. We call it "Heart-Sensing" – a contemplative moment to pause and sense our interrelatedness.
For example, during a beach clean-up we stop to listen to the waves against the shore and the sound of seagulls flying over. When we stop "doing" for even a moment, we feel a sense of balance return as we reconnect to our wholeness. We expand ... and ourboundaries that seemingly separated us from Nature and others disappear. When we feel connected, our fears and stress evaporate. We radiate health and well-being. We are more playful and alive. And we are more able to care for others because we took time to care for ourselves.
Outdoor enthusiasts know that Nature is easy to love. But for those who’ve grown up in cities or suburbs unaccustomed to wild surroundings it can be frightening. Once when EarthGym.org took an inner city class of students for a Nature walk, a 14 year-old boy jumped in fright at the sight of a robin. The robin startled the boy when it flew across the trail in front of him. He cowered against me shouting, “What is it?!” I patiently told him, “It is a robin. See that rusty color on the belly? That’s how you identify them.” I went on to explain more about the robin: it’s tactics for searching for worms, tilting its head side to side to hear sounds coming up from the ground. The boy listened intently, the unknown transforming into the known.
Later during the walk, a 12 year-old girl did the same thing, jumping in fright at the sight of a robin. The boy rushed to her side and said, “It’s a robin, see it’s red belly?” He made it seem really special. The two stood there gazing with wonder at this new marvel. What had once frightened them turned into a treasured experience.
It can be that simple. Making the unknown, known. Nature does the rest. It’s unending variety opens us up to feelings of awe and wonder. It makes us feel alive and good.
The world opens up when we follow the advice of John Muir:
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
Learn more about Earthgym activities in New Jersey at EarthGym.org