Working with Nature from the Inside Out

14 Oct 2021

Working with nature in the natural environment is becoming an increasingly popular coaching approach. Coaches and supervisors are stepping out in the natural environment and engaging with nature as they walk and talk with coaching clients.


The benefits of walking and talking with our coaching clients are huge. Research findings indicate how within ten minutes of walking blood pressure lowers, there’s an increase in the presence of endorphins, cortisol levels lower and walking is known to increase creativity and levels of compassion.


It is clear that whilst nature has been a resource to the human spirit in a host of ways it is not always the first place we go to re-engage or commit to making a regular practice despite the known benefits. Even more so walking and working outdoors is not always possible given our global and national reach of working online. So how can coaches bring nature in, in ways that are relevant and resourcing to the clients and groups we work with?


Firstly Dr Qing Li, author of Shinrin Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing remind us how, “Indoors, we tend to use only two senses, our eyes and our ears.” But outdoors, “Outside is when we can smell the flowers, taste the fresh air, look at the changing colours of the trees, hear the birds singing and feel the breeze on our skin.” 


It is not necessary to be outside to evoke the full richness of the senses. A bridge between our outside experiences in nature and our work sitting in rooms in buildings sitting across from each other or across a digital virtual screen is the wild, feral portal of the imagination.


Bringing in nature through the power of the imagination, through storytelling and through the use of nature metaphors and archetypes is a natural way of informing us about our lives in generative and often transformative ways. 


Let’s take a senior leader I worked with whom we’ll call Ed. Ed has had a successful career for over twenty-five years in his industry. But Ed is feeling at a crossroads and describes himself as not sure he is making sense as he speaks about the ambivalence he was feeling about his work. When we explored this further Ed recognises a strong pull to a more purpose-driven life than is currently mirrored in his career. 


We are not out in nature for our coaching call but by bringing in nature as a theme into the coaching a more generative conversation unfolds. The way we do this is through the imagination. I invite Ed to walk through a guided visualisation where he is introduced to the five archetypes of different natural landscapes, (the desert, the oceans and rivers, the forests, the mountains and the grasslands), an eco-psychotherapeutic approach I learnt from working with Mary Reynolds Thompson. 


The visualisation allows Ed to draw from a powerful reservoir located within his own untapped fertile imagination. By connecting with each of the archetypal landscapes in different ways this allows Ed to slowly cultivate the language that helps him more confidently name and define where and what his next steps will be.


Working With Nature From The Inside Out will introduce you to how to work creatively with the five nature archetypes. You will practice using a selection of nature-infused coaching questions from the Inner and Outer Self Discovery Nature deck. These questions can be used directly with clients or through the process of using expressive writing or journaling helping clients to go deeper and be more expansive in their thinking and responses. 


This way of working with nature inside without it being necessary to be outside is a sensory and creative way of resourcing our clients in sustainable and resourceable ways. I have found that from my own reflective practice I have observed how it is during those moments when I have found myself more connected to my true nature. 


What I mean by this is that I notice sometimes subtle and explicit changes in my physiology, for example, my body stands straighter. Emotionally I feel energised and suddenly happier. Or with my character and personality where I find myself feeling more open and compassionate and stirred up creatively when I am walking in a park, or wandering amongst the wild grasslands of Richmond park here in London or sauntering along the ancient path of the river Thames through South West London. 


It is these moments I find myself embracing a more natural playfulness, curiosity and soulfulness that to me is a truer reflection of my true nature and the person I actually am. This impacts and shapes my work, it grows the quality of my connection and relationships and sense of belonging and community. So much is touched through our exploration with nature.


I am passionate about sharing and engaging with coaches and supervisors to explore how we can together engage our clients in more creative and resourcing ways. I look forward to meeting you on Working With Nature From The Inside Out.


About The Author

Jackee is the author of four non-fiction titles, 49 Ways To Write Yourself Well, The Journal Journey Guidebook, BeYour Own Best Life Coach, Soul Purpose and co-author of two unique illustrated writing maps, Writing With Fabulous Trees: A Writing Map For Parks, Gardens and Other Green Spaces (2016) and Rewilding The Page: The Urban Forest Writing Map.


Jackee works as a leadership coach and facilitator and was ordained as an Interfaith minister in 2001. Jackee writes the monthly Write To Flourish column for Psychologies Magazine and is a board member of the International Association Of Journal Writers (IAJW) USA. Her first and second loves are daily city walks and journaling.