The doorway to nature is through our senses. When we awaken the senses, we discover an expanded awareness, and a new richness of relationship with the world we are part of.
Modern research demonstrates that we need contact with nature for our well-being.
Something as simple as putting plants in an office, or even looking at images of nature on a computer screen, has been shown to have a positive impact on well-being.1 A tremendous number of other studies point towards the diverse range of health benefits associated with regular time spent in nature, both for children and adults.2
Wisdom cultures around the world have developed an intimate knowledge of place - how to survive and thrive in a region, how to know the patterns of nature, and how to fully inhabit one’s body and sensory system, realizing the oneness of Nature and each person’s role within that larger pattern. Every environment demanded specialty skills for survival.
Every enduring ancient culture has also developed ways to pass on this knowledge across the generations - mentoring pathways to connect the next generation with the nature of their place. But, to do this effectively, the older generation needs to have that connective experience for themselves in the first place [hint: this is a BIG challenge in the modern culture!].
In the modern era, many parents themselves have no longer grown up experiencing nature connection, and especially not at the deep level that our ancestors once knew. This lack of direct relationship nature is compounding in each new generation.
What can we do now to bring more connection in our lives, and to activate the full potential of our sensory connection system?
Is there a "recipe" for connection with nature? For more than 30 years, the 8 Shields Institute team has sought out best practices in nature connection.
We’ve found that YES, there are simple practices we can bring into our daily lives that awaken our human connection system to its innate, inborn potential.
These practices engage your senses, help you feel connected to nature, and are a lot of fun!
After being mentored in an indigenous model of nature connection as a youth, 8 Shields founder Jon Young has dedicated his life to distilling universal core principles of connection, and sharing how to pass these ancient skills forward in the modern world. Jon has helped over 300 communities world-wide to bring a connection-based approach into their schools, communities, and teams.
At a young age, Josh Lane felt a strong calling that led him on a journey towards the wilderness, seeking a greater understanding of the natural world and the possibilities of human perception and creative vision.
For the last 20 years, Josh has explored the mentoring skills that support powerful transformational journeys, as passed through the ancient arts of holistic tracking, bird language, Qi Gong, and other primal skills of perception.
Having experienced this deep nature connection mentoring pathway himself as a youth, Josh has since helped many others from communities around the world to explore their own unique connections with nature, within and without.
Passing the Tradition Forward
Beyond outdoor recreation and free-play in nature, there is a little-known realm that today we call deep nature connection.
Here, the senses are deeply calibrated to the changing patterns in nature; an active and meaningful relationship has been formed with the seasons, with the land, and with the plants, the animals and the rhythms of nature.
With mentoring, the connection journey accelerates with new layers of breadth and depth.
Mentoring on this level is strategic, and draws on a vast lineage of knowledge of place and technique that accumulates over time, growing and being passed down from generation to generation.
Jon, Josh, and the 8 Shields Team have distilled a foundational set of of key deep nature connection practices based on enduring mentoring techniques.
Participants in our programs around the world, of all ages, use these sensory tools to awaken their own sense of connection with nature, whether in the city, suburbs, or even in the remote wilderness.
To help more people access these life-changing skills, 8 Shields mentoring specialists Jon Young and Josh Lane have created a special 6-week online course, Awakening the Senses in Nature.
We at 8 Shields invite you to join us for the first round of this one-of-a-kind training.
The six-week Awakening the Senses online training includes six learning modules exploring each of the senses, designed to help you connect deeply with nature through daily routines for relaxation, awareness, and presence.
Get inspired through MP3 audio training stories with Jon Young and Josh Lane, that build a supportive and engaging context for your practice;
Experience daily mindfulness practices that activate your senses in nature, to help you find your inner state of connection and centered awareness
Integrate your senses each day with Reflection Guide questions, designed to strengthen your dynamic sensory memory.
The course is structured on effective mentoring techniques that have been found in nature-based Wisdom Cultures around the world, honed by both Jon & Josh’s extensive mentoring experience.
Derived from ancient tracking practices, these skills can help you to spot wildlife more easily, quickly achieve meditative states and access deeper relaxation, and can even be applied in sports and other modern situations for greater effectiveness and agility.
Grounding your awareness into your body opens a path to clear this stagnation and experience more aliveness and vitality. Also overlooked today is the inherent wisdom of the body, which knows a lot more than we often think it does…
This module explores movement and spatial awareness, drawing on Animal Forms, the tracker’s art of imitation and role playing, as we explore movement patterns inspired by nature that will enliven and activate the body.
Included is an Animal Forms movement sequence that gently opens all the joints of the body for more vitality.
Yet, before we begin to learn the language of the birds, there is some “basic training” to do… this module focuses on different ways to engage the sense of hearing, not only to sense what’s happening around us in the natural world, but also as a doorway toward the Quiet Mind.
What do we hear when we begin listening beyond the internal dialogue? Be prepared to experience the soundscape in a whole new way.
The Taste section of this module invites you to refine your palette with fun (and tasty) sensory exercises that will bring you into the moment through the gustatory experience. Dinner will never be the same after this module.
Enlivening the sense of touch helps center the awareness in the midst of daily distractions, and provides a direct and intimate level of connection with nature. This module also increasingly fuses together the earlier practices as we move towards the final module, Synthesis.
Topics include tracking through touch, sensing the weather, animal forms, and more.
As one Wisdomkeeper told us, “Activating the five primary senses awakens the sixth sense, that of intuition.”
Explore “Blink” moments of rapid cognition, gut sensing, the Storyteller’s Mind, more complex Animal Forms movement meditations, and peek into the wisdom of the body’s innate sensory knowledge potential.
Daily audio MP3s with inspiring stories and exercises for exploring the senses, that easily integrate into your life. The modules include activities you can explore in your yard, at the park, and even in your home. Experience 1 module of training each week for 6 weeks.
Complete, fully edited transcript PDF for each module, for those who prefer visual learning (totaling over 300 pages of engaging stories and practices!). These transcripts are from Josh & Jon's recording sessions, and make a great supplement to the audio.
Reflection Guidebooks with sensory integration questions to complete after each day’s exercise. Includes 6 months access of personal email responses - one response per module - from an 8 Shields mentor. Reflection is key to integrating sensory experiences, and we've designed this process based on proven mentoring patterns.
Sensory Integration: A 400,000 Year Old Mentoring Process
There is a pattern language to the journey of deep nature connection… and there is an in-breath and out-breath to the process. To fully integrate a sensory experience in nature requires reflection, which is empowered with skillful questions.
In many traditional hunter-gatherer cultures, a person’s sensory experience would be shared and supported in the village by a mentor or elder, who would ask questions to help the person reflect and deepen their connections.
Through regular reflection and ongoing experiences, a person’s awareness and connection with nature grows to new depths. This was likely a major pattern of human learning for hundreds of thousands of years - an essential process that the brain and sensory system still longs for.
Because this connection process is gradual and often subtle, it's easy to overlook, because the effect is cumulative over time. In fact, this kind of mentoring seems almost invisible to the untrained eye.
Jon and Josh have drawn upon their years of mentoring experience to develop a special set of daily reflection questions to help you get the most out of each day’s sensory practices.
Also included is 6 months of access to your own 8 Shields personal course responder, so that you can send in your reflections from each module via email and receive a response from one of our 8 Shields mentors. It’s so essential to reflect, to tell your story, and to be witnessed as your connection journey unfolds; this moves your learning and connection to a deeper level.
With over 30 years of experience in deep nature connection mentoring, 8 Shields has refined a suite of patterns and best practices that can help you to powerfully develop your personal connection with nature; we’ve seen these core routines bring more energy, aliveness, and meaning into people’s lives, over and over.
Choose from our one-time or payment plan options below, and click the Get Me Started link below. After registration with our secure payment portal, you'll quickly receive an email with your login to the course.
You can begin right away with the Orientation and Module 01: Awakening the Sight. You'll receive a new module each week, and all the bonus materials will be released with Module 06. You'll also have long term access to the course, and all the course materials are downloadable for your personal use. Read on further below if you are also interested in going deeper with upcoming mentoring options with Josh & Jon.
Click below to get started today.
Need to pay via Paypal? Just email our team at [email protected] for a custom order form.
Our Awakening the Senses Online Course comes with a 30 day risk free guarantee.
If you're not satisfied with the course for any reason, just email us within 30 days of purchase and we'll give you a complete refund.
Bonus: Games & Activities Guide ($27 value) Included
Included with Module 6 is our downloadable Awakening the Senses Nature Activity Guide. Learn games that effectively introduce sensory awareness practices in both partner and group formats. Each sense is paired with activities that a variety of ages will enjoy.
After going through the Awakening the Senses in Nature course yourself, with the help of this guide you'll have a great sense for how the principles behind these activities can be adapted for various settings to encourage connection and fun!
6 months of 8 Shields Course Responder Feedback ($97 value) - Included
It's not enough to have a sensory experience in nature - reflection and sharing your story are key components to the integration process.
We've included 6 months of access to one of our 8 Shields course responders, who will review each of your Module Reflections and be a helpful support as you share your unfolding experiences via email. While making use of this option isn't required to join the course, we have included it for everyone with the course because sharing your stories and being heard is so essential to the connection process.
Awakening the Senses is designed for those who want to deeply connect with nature, by learning simple practices that release stress and tune the senses. No previous experience with the outdoors is required, though you will need access to a backyard, local park, or anywhere you can explore with your senses. You'll also need a decent internet connection and modern browser, as all course materials are digital.
What if I already have some nature connection experience, such as participating in Kamana or other outdoor trainings?
Though you may encounter some familiar practices, Jon and Josh have structured the course in a way that will build a further appreciation of the "fine points" of each sensory experience; guided sensory meditations, stories and facts that lead to further understanding of application, and - especially - daily practices and reflections that generate embodiment through sensory experience will all enhance any existing practices you may have undertaken.
If you need new inspiration, want a daily "kick in the pants" to jumpstart your journey again, or desire some additional perspectives to support your mindfulness and sensory practices, we feel this course will be of service.
What Past 8 Shields Participants Are Saying:
"Mentoring with Josh helped me to transition from gathering information about nature to building relationship and connection.
It allowed me to directly experience a much older and tremendously more powerful way of learning than what I experienced growing up. It helped me remember some of the childhood magic that got buried as I prepared for the "real" world.
The mentoring journey helped me begin to see how everything is connected... It helped me to realize the concentric rings I create, and how the world around me changes when I change how I conduct my energy. The process helped me shed the weight of so much stuff that had been placed into my backpack as I grew up without me even realizing it."
"8 Shields helped me to build an incredibly strong foundation for a healthy and connected life. From the very first call, I felt very deeply welcomed and accepted for who I was by every person I came in contact with, and though I have never met most of them in person, the community and friendships built through these calls still support me one year later.
What's more, I know the impact has spilled out to help those around me as well. I would recommend that anyone who feels the need to grow into their gift at the moment come be a part of this beautiful group of people. It rooted me immensely to have people outside of family to practice nature connection with.
The practices of the quiet mind, deep listening and full awareness impacted my work, my life and my relationships immensely. They gave me the ability to grow any other skills I needed. At a time when I was looking for challenges, for new experiences, and for growth, all of nature was offered." - Janani
1. Deltcho Valtchanov, Kevin R. Barton, and Colin Ellard. "Restorative Effects of Virtual Nature Settings". Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. October 2010, 13(5): 503-512. doi:10.1089/cyber.2009.0308.
2. Children & Nature Network Research Library (https://www.childrenandnature.org/research-library/)