Wisdom of the Wild: A deep immersion into nature

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This year, we offered a truly unique experience as one of our capita-selecta modules: A five-day nature immersion in the wilderness of the Cederberg.

This experience was based on the learning journey that myself and a few of my fellow PGDip students held as part of our assessment for the Re-Imagining
Education module. The aim of the initial journey was to co-create a space in which we could learn about ourselves from nature within nature. It was a tremendous success, and we were asked to come on board to help design, plan and facilitate a similar experience as an official offering to the next cohort of students. This marks the first time that the SI has co-created a module together with students, which is quite exciting given the prospect of future student involvement in the course. With the kind generosity of some custodians of land in the Cederberg, thanks to the familial connection of fellow student and co-creating facilitator, David Krone, we were able to access a little slice of heaven in the middle of the Cederberg wilderness to hold this space.

Far from the distractions of life that we have come too familiar with, we left all forms of mechanical technology behind, no phones, no watches etc. With not even a path to guide our way, we ventured into the wild place that would be our home for the next week. Heading into the unknown, to seek the learnings of Nature as the Great Jurisprudence, looking to Gaia as the primary text of law and governance. The focus also, to commune with the ancestors of place, attempting to retrace the steps of those who lived here before, to learn how they lived as beings intimately connected with Nature.

To bring this all together, we were led by our very own Shaun Dunn, who is an established Earth Jurisprudence practitioner. He guided us through a process of connecting with one another, and with our ancestors, moving away from the western sense of lineage and opening to the relational lens of ancestors of place, of nature. Each day we would commune with each other, checking in with each member of the community, and engage in a series of learnings and activities based on works from the likes of Thomas Berry and Rupert Sheldrake. Grappling with what it means to live by the 10 guiding principles of Earth Stewardship, and the complex phenomena of morphic resonance, everyone settled into a new way of being and learning. It was
a time to slow down, to take in what was happening around and within us, to ground ourselves in the presence of each moment.

One might question how an experience like this fits into the academic sphere of sustainable development, but it is becoming increasingly clear to many, that a profound shift in worldview is required for us to tackle the plethora of challenges upon our doorstep. And for that shift to take place, it often requires a deeper knowing of oneself; of how connected we actually are to the natural world.

One cannot be convinced by a sound argument to change their worldview, only a good story can do that. That story can come from an experience such as this.

It is one thing learning about African philosophies of relationality in the classroom, but another thing entirely to experience it directly in the context of a natural and wild space. In order to move away from the notion of separation toward connection and relationality, it needs to be deeply embedded in our
learnt experience.

This was the intended outcome of the module, and in my opinion, that was achieved. We hope to be able to offer this sort of experience for many more years at the SI.