Church of Nature is a concept I’ve been using for a few months. It helps to ensure that I make the time to get outdoors in nature more regularly and to acknowledge the awe and respect for nature it deserves.
What’s involved in this?
Watch this video to find out.
Don’t want to watch the entire video? You can find the complete transcript along with the images below.
Church of Nature, this is a concept I’ve been thinking about for maybe less than a year or so. It began when I started thinking in terms of getting outdoors in the Church of Nature. It was helpful for sealing and a routine for me of getting outdoors once a week – at least once a week to nature.
In the book, Powered by Nature, I talk about getting out to nature and all the benefits of it. And even for those shorter periods where I was only spending two hours out in nature doing stuff things every day. But a human being, living in this modern world, it’s easy to get busy with life and projects, so sometimes I found I was spending more time in nature. While other times, not so much. Recently, I was going through a period of the “not-so-much” time, you know with our newborn baby and all the lifestyle changes that come along with that.
And then I started thinking of, okay, well, treating it like church. And it doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not. Just that concept of a weekly routine, making that once a week commitment to attend a ritual or ceremony and dedicating yourself to something.
So when I started thinking of nature like that, it helped me get into a routine. Typically, I was using Sunday as my church of Nature Day and getting outdoors first thing in the morning. But that wasn’t always the case. Sometimes things came up and we had other activities going on and time on Sundays just wasn’t available. So I’d switch it to Saturday, or another day during the week. But I found by thinking about getting out in nature in terms of this Church of Nature, I found it very helpful for me to make it part of my weekly routine, and a habit.
And I just want to point out with this picture here, just notice that a lot of say cathedrals or whatnot, they’re kind of modeled off nature by this, trying to express the awe and inspiration of God, all the beauty and everything in nature. This is a very cool area with, for whatever reason, a lot of the trees are leaning in certain directions, so I thought this was really cool, kind of denoted that Church of Nature feel to it.
So as I said, this is about creating a weekly habit of getting outdoors in nature, if you can get outside for at least one hour, surely you can go longer. Often times, depending on what I’m doing out in nature, it may be around that one hour mark. Other times two to three hours, it just depends. But I make it a point to shoot for at least an hour.
Now, if you live in the city and have to travel to get to a location to spend time outdoors, I highly recommend you do it. Add it to your weekly routine and I know you will see and feel the value in it.
I chose to live in Santa Cruz along the outskirts of town so that nature is within walking distance. I can get out to the forest by walking less than a mile. Of course, there’s some smaller amounts of nature all around my home, but really getting out into the Church of Nature and to get fully surrounded by it, means going a little further out to me.
Now once you’re outdoors, there’s a whole bunch of different things you can do. Personally, I like to mix it up. I like to do different activities. If you think of this as a church, maybe it’s more of a repetitive type of activity for you. And if that works for you, by all means go for it. I just like to mix up the activities.
So of course, the first options is just simply hiking. Getting out there, enjoying the movement and walking around. Most people don’t walk enough, so hiking in nature is absolutely a great way to go. Getting that movement in the body, you’ll be taking in the sunshine and breathing in fresh air, and all the many other benefits that come from forest bathing. Or whatever area of nature you’re hiking. You can start off with small hikes. If you haven’t done any kind of hiking before, try a short trail. You can always work up to longer trails over time. Doing the same trail or adding additional trails or taking a more advanced trail over many miles or even multi-day hikes, there are lots of options. You can certainly build up your endurance and do some longer trails if you choose to go that route. Short, easy trails or longer, more advanced trails…whatever you decide is great and there are plenty of options to choose from.
I thought I’d share the sign above with you. If you notice “Lost Empire Trail” is on it. This was the sign that actually triggered us to name our company Lost Empire Herbs. We had been brainstorming everything and couldn’t come up with a name. We liked Empire Herbs; kind of liked it, but didn’t really. So we decided to get outdoors in nature and hoped we get a sign from nature and literally we saw this sign in nature and that sealed the deal for us. So I thought that was very cool.
Now, when you are hiking, if you can do this, I would recommend doing some hiking barefooted. You don’t need to do this all the time, but, once you get into it you might find you really like it. Of course this depends on if there’s snow on the ground or stuff like that, you might not want to do it, but if the weather’s warm and you’re in an area where it feels right, then, by all means, get grounded.
You can get extra benefits from that electrical connection of earth. I do this often when walking out in nature. I also have my Earth Runners which are grounded sandals so I can have that foot protection along with the grounding, but even then, I often still go barefoot on my hikes in nature.
You can do all kinds of things outdoors, including breathing exercises. Here I am doing the vacuum, the abdominal vacuum exercise, and this is in one of my favorite spots that’s located in this forest. You can’t see a whole lot here, but there’s a stream surrounding the rocks and it’s a really cool place. I feel it’s like a power point there in nature and great to do breathing exercises that could be part of your routine in going out to the Church.
Breathing exercises, doing them any sort of way, is absolutely great. And if you can do it deeper in nature, in the wilderness, where you have higher oxygen levels from the trees and more clean air, just based on the phytoncides and various other things, then it can really enhance the benefits of breathing exercises even further.
Next up, I want to talk about what I like to call scouting missions. What am I scouting for? Well, really it goes to this idea, then we’ll cover this. But I’m looking for things to forage and things to wildcraft. Different foods and herbs that I can use, get access to or take home with me in the future. If I can, you know, hiking is fun I really do enjoy that, but I like to get a bit more out of my time in nature that just hiking. If I can come back with food or with these scouting missions if I can just have an idea if there’s food to come back for later.
So, for instance, in this picture, you see a pine tree. Now on this particular day when I took this picture, I was looking for a new spring. I had directions to a spring from findaspring.com, However, I wasn’t able to find it, but in searching for it, I did find a lot of pine trees. And that was something I was looking for because I wanted a good spot to wild harvest pine pollen come springtime. I found this spot in the fall and we’re hitting winter time right now, so this is a scouting mission for the future. This is an idea. I’m going to return to the spot because there’s a whole bunch of pine trees set off from the road so no issues there. And I’ll be able to collect a large amount of pine pollen. I’ve only gotten little bits here and there in the past. So right now, in the future, I’m very excited to do this.
A couple of other pictures there. You just never know what you find in nature. Here was a deer skull, which I thought was pretty cool. Also around the same area, I found some Mullein, which is an herbal remedy I’ve worked with a little bit in the past. Great for breathing and stuff like that. Found some good spots where, although I have not wildcrafted yet, I know where it is, and I can get access to it.
And so this whole purpose of the scouting mission really is to find these areas I can then forage for foods or wildcraft herbs. In this picture, I am harvesting acorns. You’ll notice I have that big basket behind me. I had, in the previous two years in acorn season, which is around fall time going on into winter, kind of depends on the types of oaks involved, but I dabbled. I gathered a little bit of acorn and process it. It’s a lot of work in processing and I’ll probably cover acorns and what to do with them in a future video if you’re interested in that. But dabbling a little bit. This year I want to gather a whole lot of acorns enough to last me through the year. So I’m really going for it. I’ve already gathered way more than I have in the past and this is only the start of the season, so I’m going to be gathering much more, which means a whole lot of processing in my future.
A couple of other things, in one of my scouting missions, I found more Manzanita berries. Enough that I could possibly even gather if I wanted to. The abundance out in nature can be great. You just have to find the right places and you have to be dedicated to do it. That’s why I think scouting missions are fun. You get to find these new areas. So I’ve collected a whole bunch of Manzanita and have been making Manzanita cider, for quite some time since then. They still have a whole lot more to go.
And pictured on the right side here, St John’s Wort. I found some decent areas to harvest, one spot is a little closer to the road than I’d like. But on a scouting mission, I found a place where there’s a whole bunch more St John’s Wort. However the time has passed, but I know where it is for next June and I’ll go back and harvest a lot more.
I also really like mushrooms. Mushrooms, more so than plants is what first drew me into nature. On the left side is Agarikon, one of the rarest mushrooms in the world. This is on the old growth Douglas Fir, so that was really cool to find.
On the right side, this was actually I believe my first ever “I’m looking for mushrooms journey” and I just brought a whole bunch of stuff back home. Much of which I could not even ID at the time. Eventually, I did figure it out, oh there’s Turkey Tail, Red Belted Conk, Artist’s Conk as well as many more.
And of course with mushrooms, DO NOT EVER EAT mushrooms without identifying them first. But there aren’t any mushrooms that will poison you just from touching them. It’s only through consuming them. So you’re safe to pick mushrooms and then ID them. That’s probably another feature video I will create soon for you.
Going out to nature and meditating. I showed you that spot where I did the breathing exercises. Of course breathing exercises and meditation kind of go hand in hand. If you find a great spot, you can go out and meditate and do that. That definitely can be a strong part of any Church of Nature routine.
A similar to that also is communicating with nature. Inside Powered by Nature, my book, there’s a whole chapter on what does it actually take to communicate with nature, to communicate with these plants and herbs as a process. I have wild rose pictured here, which there’s the whole story about my communication with wild rose which is pretty interesting to say the least. So there’s a whole process to that, using the heart as an organ of sense perception and how you actually go about doing that. And of course, Buhner’s book The Secret Teachings of Plants goes much further with it.
But this is something that I often do. I’m not only wildcrafting or scouting but also searching for new herbs, new plants, or old friends to communicate within this manner.
Now, most of the time when I’m doing Church of Nature, it’s a solo routine. But other times I do it with my family, which may involve my wife, may involve my baby. Elka out here, I thought this was a fun picture, one the first times she sit out by herself. Of course, I wasn’t too far away, but after my wife saw this picture, she was like “why are you so far away from Elka?”
However, Church of Nature may also be a fun family outing. And that’s fine. So I’m not necessarily going to be meditating or sitting down and taking the time to communicate with the plants on the level I’d normally do, nor necessarily foraging, depending on what’s going on. But it can be a little bit of a different trip going solo versus going with other people.
You’ll notice I mention forests most, but I really like the forest. It calls to me more so than other environments. And that’s probably also a video I will do in the future to help people identify which major natural environment speaks to them. Most people definitely already have a sense of this, but it can be something helpful to think about.
That being said, on my Church of Nature, I do try to switch it up from time to time. The forest is kind of my fallback routine because it is nearby. But different locations here. So here I am out on the ocean. This was boating. Actually it was a crabbing and fishing trip, so I was foraging for food out on the ocean. A different type of trip.
Also related to this is if you want to go deeper, any of this stuff, especially the foraging, the wildcrafting, identifying herbs, different things like that, there’s very likely going to be classes available in your area if you look it up online.
The picture here, this was from a seaweed forging class that I attended. I don’t live on the coast, so I have to drive a couple of hours in order to take this class. But I learned about, you know, when and at what times and looking at a tide chart to know what are the best times to find and collect seaweed. I also learned how to identify a seaweed and of course got a whole bunch of it. I mean this class I think was like a year and a half ago now and we still have more seaweed than we know what to do with. You can get so much of it with relatively little effort if you know what to do, which actually isn’t that hard, but a class will teach you and that’s all it takes.
So these are just a few ideas. Church of Nature. For me, it’s like a mental framework. It is something that helps me wrap my mind and my routine in my life around getting out to nature at least once a week. And I have to say, since I started doing this, I believe I’ve done it without fail. Maybe I missed one week just because I was traveling so much and I didn’t know if that trip would involve nature time so I may have missed one week, but other than that, this has really helped me cement it into my routine, getting out to nature, doing the various things I’ve talked about here and so much more.
If you have any questions on this, or if this video triggers any questions…please share them below and let’s get the conversation started.
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Definitely am interested in more wild food info!