Rick's Journal

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Bigger Vision, Part Two. My Ground Rules for Change.

The summary from my last post, in a nutshell, is the estimation that we need about 40,000 new wilderness instructors to awaken millions of people to the power of nature and reach a critical mass of about 30 million people.  It's ten percent of the population of the US, and it is the minimum number for creating a culture that can change our ways towards a future that is life affirming and positive.

It's a big vision, which is a little scary to me, but that's good.   We have to start somewhere.

So, what's the first step?   

Well, there are a lot of different options.   And I don't have all the answers.

How's that for inspiration, people?

Let's face it, there are a lot of good people doing great things out there.   And there's no right way to do this.   

So, before I go any further, I want to lay out my ground rules, or the foundation of how I want to work to make this happen.  Without some sorts of guiding principles, this effort can spin it's wheels or go in circles, trying to please everyone or in other ways lose energy and momentum.   Which we can't afford, at this time in humanity, in my opinion!

So, here goes!

Ground Rule Number One:      We need Everything.   We need Everyone.    

It's really simple.  There's no need for any of us to waste even ten minutes of our precious life or energy arguing about who's right or wrong.   Bottom line:   If you feel strongly about something, and you want to do it, and it feels right, to guide people back to nature, to get their feet on the earth, or a deep inner connection to their hearts or greater purpose, or whatever, just go for it.

I think it's awesome that you are doing something.   I will try to help you or support you if I can.   My opinion is just my opinion.   I am just one guy, and I have my point of view and perspective, but that doesn't mean I have to be better than whatever you are doing.  And the fact that my direction is different than yours is okay too.   This isn't a competition.   It's about saving our species, and as many other species that we can before we all go extinct.   So, if you start getting temped to waste time with some ego laden power trip, just leave me out of it.   If you are into that, fine.  Knock yourself out!   It's cool!

I'm choosing to go a different way.

We need everyone, and we are trying to reach millions of people.   Let's do it together and love each other.   We aren't going to get through this by hating each other.   Why do we need to 'be better' than the other guy?   Are we really that jealous of each other?   Maybe if we do this together, we will get further along.   I mean, we've been trying the 'Let's Do It All On Our Own' thing, right?   How's that been working out so far?

That's what I thought.   

So, let's change that.    

You can thank my main man Derrick Jensen for this philosophy, and hear all about it in this video.   Check it out.  (You can also still find my interview with him for the Wolverine Way Summit on Nature Connection, too!)

Ground Rule Number Two:  We Don't Have To Be Perfect

So, this is a vital rule in my playbook.

Unfortunately, it brings me right into a basic conflict with my own training and teaching.   In that training, my mentors inspired me to aim high, like our ancestors, to learn tracking, or survival, or plant knowledge, or earth spirituality, or bow making, whatever, and to fully master it like those elders.   I learned that it takes years to master these skills, and to respect and honor that process, too.

I totally agree that this is exactly right and awesome.   That's not the problem.

You see, the issue is not about whether or not we should 'learn about the earth' or 'skills' or 'plants' or whatever.  No, not at all.

It's just that we don't have to have it take years and years, and we don't have that kind of time.

So, how do we help our culture shift and get connected to nature more quickly?   Maybe this story will help.

Let's think about Yoga.   Fifty years ago, the only way you were going to get the magic, the power, the centering effect or deep alignment of the Yogic Traditions was if you went to India.  You had to travel there on a 18 hour plane ride, or a boat, or a combination of those and trains.   You had to head up the mountains to an ashram, or a temple, and then get up at 4 in the morning, and do your practice.  You had to wear weird robes, and eat weird food, and stay there for weeks or months.   Some person would talk to you in broken English, in parables, trying to teach you those ancient ways, and help you understand.   

Getting that understanding is awesome, and some of you are probably thinking, 'Yeah, that would be cool'!!!!!  

But the fact is, Yoga was virtually inaccessible to the average person.  There were barriers to gaining it's power and amazing gifts to all of our lives, right?

But basically, over all of those years, Yoga dropped the barriers.  

And guess what?

There are yoga classes on TV.  There are yoga classes on YouTube.   There's yoga instructors all over the place, in tiny rural towns and all kinds places.  In corporate office break rooms.  In schools.   

People are getting the benefits, right?

'But hey', you're asking me, probably.   'Isn't the power of yoga now just watered down?   It isn't at all like that old style, traditional stuff!   How will anyone ever 'get' that part of it?'

Good point.   And I do agree.   Yoga fifty years ago, and yoga today, well, they aren't exactly the same.    That's true.

But seriously, if we are going to bring the power of a connection to people in a meaningful way, we have to get over that part of this issue.    

So, what I am saying is, it's okay.   If you are called to go deep, and get those ancient teachings, and head up to the temple, that's great.  No, it's amazing!   It's incredible!   We need lots of people doing that, and we need lots of people learning that deep stuff, and doing it that way, absolutely.   So, please, don't take this approach I am presenting here the wrong way.  I'm not saying anyone has to change or not do what you feel is right in your heart.  (See Rule Number One!)

I'm just saying that if we remove the barriers to a deep nature connection the way Yoga did, organically, over fifty years, and do it with intention, and with our important goals in mind, we can reach a lot more people a lot faster.   We also don't need our instructors to be trained in an Ashram for thirty years that we don't have.

And there are some really wonderful, amazing, beautiful yoga teachers out there who have only completed a six week yoga teacher training or instructor course.

And guess what makes them great?   

Their Heart.  Their Being.   Their Essence.   

That's what makes them awesome. 

So, a person can inspire a life long thirst for nature and adventure and connection if they are a good storyteller, even if they can't make a bow and drill fire (fire by friction).   You can inspire change and connection by expressing yourself in music, in art, or photography.    You don't have to have climbed Everest to be able to open a Forest Preschool, and love to work with young children!   

Okay, I guess you get it.  Onward!

Ground Rule Number Three:   Creativity is Our Friend

This is also a vital block in our foundation, because in order to reach millions of people, we are going to have to exercise our creative minds to come up with lots and lots of innovative ways to make it happen.   We need to literally rework the entire way we think of nature connection, and how that happens, and how it looks, etc, and offer some radically fresh new approaches that no one has ever seen before.

We can do this, and it's going to be really fun.  But the key is to access our creative inner genius and to expand our possibilities to go much deeper and to think much bigger, too.   And we have to embrace things that traditionally, wilderness and nature people have been reluctant to do in the past.   

Creativity is enhanced by positivity, and by fun, and by lots of support and love and a feeling of safety.   I truly believe that this is quite possibly the most important elements of these ground rules, but hey, I don't want to make the other ones feel bad, so, don't tell them I said that!   (See how my creativity is already flowing?)

Ground Rule Number Four:   Find Your Voice

This is pretty simple.   

Just share.

Me presenting what I am doing at the Tracker
School in the Pine Barrens, NJ, October 2013
Sharing is scary sometimes!
My man Kyle Cease explains a very simple concept, that is amazingly powerful, which is, in essence, the idea that life is about what you love, not who loves you.

Check it out here.

So, share what you love.  Inspire each other.   Don't worry about it not being perfect, or anything.  

We aren't going to reach 30 million people by keeping this stuff to ourselves, you know what I'm saying??????

If you don't find your own voice, your own perspective, and start crowing like our freakin' roosters at 5:30 am every morning, and announcing that you actually care about nature, and people, and animals and water or whatever, well, how are we going to reach anyone?

Start small and ease into it.   Trust me, you'll be well received!   

And here's the other thing.




Okay, you get it, right?  YOU are THEIR voice.

If you don't use your voice, and speak up, and share, we're lost.

And if you can't use your voice, use your camera.  Use a paint brush, or some interpretive dance.  

I don't really care what you do.   Use your creativity (Ground Rule #3) and figure it out!   

Just, please, for all our sakes, do friggin' something.

Ground Rule Number Five:   Everything is On the Table

In order to reach a lot more people, we need to discuss things.  We need to talk about Effectiveness.   We need to talk about Barriers.   We need to talk about Direction and Long Term Program Sustainability.

These are important things.   

These are also very touchy subjects.

Many people don't like to talk about this stuff unless it's around the campfire, in the deep of the night.  Some people don't like to talk about things that make them uncomfortable.    For some of us, this is a spiritual path, and therefore, immune to consideration, or scrutiny, or discussion.

So, my strategy for this is simple:  If you don't like talking about stuff, and having every approach put on the 'drawing board' for consideration, don't be involved.   

Just do your own thing.   No one is saying that you are bad, or that you are not doing it right, or that you shouldn't do things your way, or whatever.  (See Rule Number One, right?)

What we are doing is adding a layer of transparency to our approach, and to seek the greatest return on our investment of time, energy, money and everything.   We need to have measurable goals and get value for our investment.   That means we will have serious discussions about various ways to approach these objectives.

We'll talk about results, and best practices.   I can totally see how people can get really touchy about it.

So, here's the deal:   It's not personal.

It's not about you.   It's really not!

The very last thing I would ever do is to try to hurt your feelings, or make you look bad.

But we have to figure this stuff out.   

So, here's my promise:  I will keep it non-personal, and these kinds of discussions are about being part of an internal process.  Yes, it will be not totally behind closed doors.   And maybe there will be some conferences or gatherings where we can share openly but in a way that isn't out in the open.  

But seriously, I get it.  For most of you, this is your livelihood, or something that you have worked for years on, and the last thing anyone wants, including me, is for you to feel like your work is begin threatened or degraded by any internet discussion.    Who would that serve?   

So, I promise you to be vigilant about all these issues.  

But we do need to get very, very real about where we are going, and how we can get there in the very best way.   

If we can do it together, all the better.  And the things we discover and are successful with, we will share with you, too.   So, it's going to be a win-win.

If you have strong feelings about something we are talking about, share it.  (See Rule Number Four!)   For crying out loud, share and make your case.   That's important too.

The process of growth is going to take all of us being open-minded, and excited, and passionate and logical.  It's going to take calculated risks and some experimenting.   

Think of a science lab where they're trying to cure cancer, or malaria, or whatever.   Everything has to be on the table, and they have to take risks to try something new.  They have to find new ways to look at the problems.   They have to shake their old, pre-conceived notions and ideas and get innovative.   Because that's what it takes to make progress.

I hope you will be part of this process and this adventure!


*   •   *   •   *   •   *   •   *   •   *

Okay, it's late, and I spent a long day in the hot sun, screening clay for our clay/wood chip walls for Eagle House.  I am beat.

What do you think of these ground rules so far?   Do you like them?  Do any of them ring true?

Do you have any suggestions for more?

Thanks for reading this, and have a wonderful night.

And tomorrow, let's get this thing going!!!!!!   

We got this!   Let's go!

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