If someone says "I am going to the gym", we assume that they won't just walk through and look at the equipment. We assume that they will get on the equipment and do something. Not only that, we assume that there is some workout routine they will follow to get the most out of time at the gym.
The same applies for time in nature. Even though we are fortunate that nature does do a lot for us just by being with it, most people do not gain maximum benefit.
Here's the thing: it's not just about contact with nature, it's the nature of the contact that matters most.
And it's not just about the minutes we clock up in nature - it's about the meaningful moments. A lot of this has to do with 'the noticing'.
In this spirit, I am delighted to offer these be.wilder immersions:
…. and can adapt these for any ages between 7 – 70+ .
For younger groups, I do more play-based activities and the great thing is that children often don’t realise they are learning about nature while having fun. For adult groups, we often still play (it’s a forgotten and necessary skill!) but I include more complex skills and reflective practices, including sensory and meditative exercises.
So if we think of nature as the 'hardware' then what I offer is the 'software' or 'app' - the interface to maximise the user experience and benefits of nature.
I draw on a range of inspirations and training: from my own PhD research to the latest science on amplifying the benefits of nature for neurophysiological outcomes. I am inspired by Indigenous wisdom, from Hunter-Gatherer lifestyles to Taoist practices (e.g. Qi Gong), and have received most of my practical training through the 8Shields Institute, founded by master naturalist Jon Young and incorporating cross-cultural insights: from the San Bushmen, Akamba, Apache, Lakota and others.
All of my offerings operate within ‘the gift economy’. In other words, you are invited to give what an experience is worth to you, what you can reasonably afford, or what you would like to ‘pay forward’ to someone else. I know this can be awkward and confusing, but I feel strongly about it.
I know the value of what I offer, and could put a ‘price-tag’ to it. But I am acutely aware of how our financial situations have been impacted over these past 18 months and, equally, how more than ever we need practices that support our mental wellbeing and connection with life. All proceeds go to the Masiyembo Association, a not-for-profit that is creating more opportunities for diverse South Africans to find meaning and wellbeing through nature.
My name is Matthew Zylstra and I am an ecologist and facilitator passionate about meaningful nature experience and rewilding our relationship with life. I obtained a transdisciplinary PhD in Conservation Ecology and Sustainability Education through Stellenbosch University (2014) and have researched and published on the theory and practice of ‘human~nature connectedness’ and meaningful experience.
Since 2009, I have led 6-week outdoor expeditions for undergraduate students in various countries and have facilitated nature-based learning immersions for diverse participants in South Africa.
I have an enduring curiosity with consciousness: how the latest understandings and applications of 'intention' and 'attention' may deepen our relationship with life.