Sherry Ellms: Strengthening Our Resilience in a Time of Uncertainty

Naropa_Mindful_Podcast-Sherry-Ellms

The newest episode of our podcast, Mindful U, is out on iTunesSpotify, Stitcher, and Fireside now! We are excited to announce this week’s episode features Associate Professor Sherry Ellms, MA, Core Faculty in Naropa’s Environmental Studies, Resilient Leadership, and Ecopsychology programs.

play-icon Sherry Ellms: Strengthening Our Resilience in a Time of Uncertainty

How are we defining the self? Are we all getting into the real depths of the lie that we are separate, that we’re separate entities? Sherry Ellms’ students get to explore that separateness and realize that we’ve always been part of Earth. Consider this analogy: if you cut off my arms I will live. If you cut off my legs I will live. But, if you cut off my air, I will die. How can one say that my limbs are more a part of me than the air? We really are completely interdependent with all of life, and with all of Earth. If we have an enlightened sense of self; if it’s an ecological self, then taking care of the earth is like enlightened self-interest. It’s not being selfish, because we are connected with everything.

Full transcript below.

Sherry Ellms is an Associate Professor at Naropa University and the Faculty Lead at the Joanna Macy Center. Her interests lie in exploring the wisdom of the natural world and what it can teach us in these challenging time. She is investigating the effects of the loss of natural darkness and the increase of artificial light on the human psyche, physical health, wildlife, and spiritual connection to ourselves and the cosmos. Her other pursuit is to expand and adapt the ways that the Work That Reconnects (Joanna Macy’s seminal teachings) can bring a shift in paradigm to how we address the social justice and environmental issues which are inseparable. Ellms explains, “The thread through all of this includes how contemplative practices can inform and strengthen our resiliency.”

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Sherry Ellms and Mindful U podcast host, David DeVine.
Full transcript
Sherry Ellms
“Strengthening our Resilience in a time of Uncertainty”

[MUSIC]

Hello. And welcome to Mindful U at Naropa. A podcast presented by Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m your host, David Devine. And it’s a pleasure to welcome you. Joining the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions – Naropa is the birth place of the modern mindfulness movement.

[MUSIC]

DAVID:
Hello. Today, I’d like to welcome Sherry Ellms to the podcast. Sherry is a professor here at Naropa teaching in the Environmental Studies department and also the Masters of Resilient Leadership Program and she is also the faculty lead for the Joanna Macy Center at Naropa.

So, welcome to the podcast.

SHERRY:
Thank you.

DAVID:
How are you doing today?

SHERRY:
Good.

DAVID:
Awesome. So, what’s kind of fun is we’ve been trying to get a podcast with you for a while now. And finally, you email me saying you’re free. And it’s just super excited to speak with you today.

SHERRY:
So, I’m excited to be here.

DAVID:
Yeah, great. I was curious what did you want to talk about today? I know you had a couple things and I just wanted like give you the floor.

SHERRY:
Yeah, well thank you. It can change actually from moment to moment. But I have to say waking up in the world today I’m just really aware of the difficult challenges we have that are going on environmentally, politically, socially. So, really one of the things I wanted to talk about was how can we thrive when things really seem to be falling apart?

DAVID:
Yeah, what a great topic right. Just to thrive.

SHERRY:
Yeah, more than just sort of sustaining what we have — can we actually thrive? And you know, I work with students who come in to our classes and they really want to be here, and they’re energized, but there’s sometimes a very underlying feeling of — despair might be too strong a word.

DAVID:
I use disabled. I feel disabled to move forward sometimes. And unempowered.

SHERRY:
Yeah, maybe disempowered I don’t know if I use the word — disabled has other connotations. But even though they have a spark of interest this part of them that’s wondering if anything’s going to make any difference.

DAVID:
Yeah totally.

SHERRY:
And I guess that’s why I’ve really been taken with the work of Joanna Macy. And the work that reconnects because what she’s talking about is how can we reconnect with our true self. How can we reconnect with our natural way of being? So, what has been uplifting for me in my own personal life has been my deep appreciation and connection to the natural world.

And that started from a very early age. I feel fortunate that I had parents who really appreciated nature, but I was really aware as I grew older — came of age in the 70s — it was very exciting times. And there was a lot going on. Vietnam War was going on. There was a lot of energy happening and I was very much involved with all of that. And at the same time at some point I saw the aggression that was happening within the anti-war movement and that there were a lot of people who were being as aggressive and negative towards each other as those that we thought were doing us — doing the wrong thing.

You know, so that really led me on a more of a spiritual journey, but it also led me back to my backpacking days in the mountains. And so somehow, I could go up to the top of the mountain and look down on the city of Los Angeles and get a literal perspective, but also a different perspective too that there was something underlying all of our differences — that really sustained me.

So, that blends in with my connection to a spiritual path and the natural world. And now that I’ve become more involved with my own spiritual path of largely Buddhist, but other traditions too. But a lot of my path has been seeing nature as a spiritual path. And I’m finding that in the students I’ve worked with here at Naropa and so many of us that when you get down to the roots of what’s behind a lot of their desire for some kind of awakening and being awake — it has many times a connection to the natural world. So, one of the classes that I teach — the students go on a residential weekend up into the mountains and they spend one day. We do a solo walk — we call it a medicine walk from dawn to dusk — where with intention and ritual they explore what is coming up for them right now. What is their authentic self? What is their true nature? And they come back even just with one day — with so much confidence and understanding and trust in their true self. And that is so easily lost in this society today — we — you really lose touch with our basic essence.

DAVID:
Yeah, it’s such a unique classroom experience to go out in the woods and go on a so-called medicine walk for your soul or your pursuits of becoming a whole person. There’s a lot in there — like what sort of things come up for the students when they come back? Like what do they speak of? What do they find? Do they heal like family traumas? Do they heal deeper connections with nature?

SHERRY:
You know it’s the kind of thing that’s so fundamental — they may not come back specifically with saying well now I’m going to do this. Well, now I understand that, but they do come back with their faces are different. They’re relaxed. They have confidence. And I think that’s the more — they have confidence in who they are. They have more trust in themselves and they aren’t so worried about what the next thing is because they’ve touched some very deep root within themselves that no one else can touch. It’s their authentic self, truly. And so, it puts things in a larger context. So, you know that’s where I think some of the teachings of Joanna Macy really come in because some of the things that she talks about — in many traditions too it’s not certainly just Joanna Macy but is how are we defining self. Are we getting into the real depths of the lie that we are separate? That were separate entities. And they get to explore that separateness and realize that we’ve always been part of Earth. We came from Earth. So, I sometimes like to give the analogy if you cut off my arms I will live. If you cut off my legs I will live. If you cut off my air I will die. How can you say that my limbs are more a part of me than the air? So, we really are completely interdependent with all of life. And the earth is alive. So, if we have an enlightened sense of who we are — if it’s an ecological self then taking care of the earth is like enlightened self-interest. It’s not being selfish — because are connected with everything.

DAVID:
Yeah, it’s like we are a product of the earth and we aren’t to be taking products from the earth.

SHERRY:
Yeah, Joanna Macy talks about the industrial growth society and that is a society that consumes — sees the world as something that we can consume — where he can dump things rather than —

DAVID:
Yeah, we commodify the natural environment.

SHERRY:
Right, yeah, we are commodifying air and water now.

DAVID:
What a weird place to be in — in humanity where we quantify and commodify products in which — that are natural to our environment.

SHERRY:
Right.

DAVID:
We’re like creating this thing called money to trade things that are already here.

SHERRY:
And we’re trying to satisfy our non-material needs with material needs. How much do we need and how do we know what we want? And those are questions that Thoreau asked many years ago. But there was much less technology than now. But I ask myself and I ask students that same question — how do we know what we want and how much do we need?

DAVID:
Yeah and the thing is — is no one’s going to answer that question for you but yourself. And I feel like when your students go on the nature walk — some of that question presents itself. And maybe some of it is answered and or a path is shown of directions to go to explore that question.

SHERRY:
Absolutely. I actually have an exercise I do with them with looking at everything in their closet and writing it all down and coming in and we talk about it and what are the things that distract you. And certainly, in this age — in the past —

DAVID:
Is this just your physical closet or your emotional closet?

SHERRY:
Well, one is connected with the other because they realize what they’re attached to, what they’re not and there’s no judgment. Some things you want to hold onto a little bit longer because they have significance and other things what am I doing with this. What is a distraction? What is actually making me come alive? You know the world is not a problem to be solved, but it’s more of a mystery to be explored.

DAVID:
That’s more fun, right? There is so much more out there. So just a quick question for you — can you explain to the listener who is Joanna Macy and maybe a little bit about her work because I’m just unsure if everyone out there knows who the person is.

SHERRY:
Thank you and I do make assumptions. Someone who’s been so important to you — how could not everybody know about her, but she is a remarkable woman — sometimes referred to as an eco-philosopher. She’s a Buddhist scholar and has a doctorate in Buddhist scholarship and she’s also been an environmental activist her whole adult life. She will be 90 in this upcoming May she hasn’t stopped and she’s — we have been very blessed at Naropa for her to come to us many times and teach here. And what we do with this center — I mean the three things we’re particularly interested in that she wants us to be interested in at Naropa is the work that reconnects that I’ll talk a little bit more about. And also, nuclear guardianship.

She has been concerned about the global situation and nuclear guardianship for many, many years.

DAVID:
And what that refers to is the actual cleaning up, management use of nuclear waste, nuclear products. Anything that deals with environmental degradation.

SHERRY:
Yes, and nuclear weapons. And she just spoke this past year because I think it’s the — it was the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and we are the only country in the world that has ever used a nuclear bomb that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. So, this has been one of four major things. And the other two is what we would call liberation Dharma or Buddha scholarship and just the whole liberation theology in its power. But her root teachings really are the work that connects, and it’s called, “Coming Back to Life.” And so, she has a model that I’ve found very useful because she’s talking about our transformation. How can we go from an industrial growth society to a life sustaining society? And the industrial growth society has been rooted in this country — in consumerism in this country. It’s based on racisms, social injustice and we have a history of that — that we sometimes don’t want to acknowledge. And recognizing that this country has — there were people here before the Europeans came. So, we only somewhat have a history of violence. And so, how can we work with our history?

So, our growth society — this has gotten us to where we are. And isn’t that good.

DAVID:
And where we are in unraveling. It doesn’t seem to be working. I mean it doesn’t seem sustainable.

SHERRY:
It’s not.

DAVID:
It doesn’t seem like the path that is going to nurture the future to be empowered to make moves to live a sustainable life.

SHERRY:
Well we see it falling apart, right now.

DAVID:
Yeah, like right in front of us. And we’re slowly to move it.

SHERRY:
Yeah and so the life sustaining society — she’s saying people tend to tell themselves yes, we can do this sort of business as usual — we’ll be OK. And the other story is exactly what you’re saying — the great unraveling and that can become its own story of boy did you hear about such and such on the news. Well, you haven’t heard anything because what about so and so and you can just see the social disintegration, the number of people who no longer have a land because of the climate change, islands are disappearing. The glaciers aren’t going to come back. You know some things are irreversible. And they’re going downhill. So, it’s very, very easy to get into some kind of despair or else just want to tune out.

DAVID:
I felt super despaired when I was like mid 20s. I just felt so hopeless and not sure what to do and where to go. And I just had this very depressing moment. But then you know you kind of come out of it like — well, you can just sit in that moment for a really long time or you like actually go do something. I think what scares individuals is like what is it for them to do? What suits how they want to go about adding to the plan or adding to the sustainability of the earth? Such small steps.

SHERRY:
Industrial growth society is the great unraveling, but then she says that’s — there’s a third way. What she calls the Great Turning? And that’s not the last word. So, her whole root teaching — she’s been teaching for her whole adult life — is to address exactly what you’re bringing up. What the work that reconnects.

One of the things she — she just says, giving up is not an option. LAUGHING

DAVID:
She is so good. She knows how to cut through.

SHERRY:
But we have to go into it. We can’t move away from it. She also says, the heart that breaks open can hold the whole universe. So, it’s like being willing to go into the — into the challenge, into the darkness and see what is alive and not be afraid. We can’t be afraid of the dark.

DAVID:
You’re going in no matter what.

SHERRY:
Yeah.

DAVID:
So, you might as well go in.

SHERRY:
Well, yeah. Or it can feel like it’s happening to you or you can actually be moving with it. And it can actually be inspiration. What she sometimes says that I really like is that with this incredible uncertainty we have politically now — environmentally — she said, we are so lucky to be alive at this time because when things are that uncertain there’s the possibility for us to do something. Because we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

And whenever we do, we don’t know what is going to turn out. So, in the work that reconnects what she calls the spiral and has four stages that I have found very useful in my own personal life that you can take in terms of your own path of awareness within yourself, but you can also see it as an external way of how to relate to the world around you. Because inner and outer — it’s inseparable.

DAVID:
Oh my gosh.

SHERRY:
It really is. So, the spiral begins with gratitude. And she sometimes has talked about gratitude as a revolutionary act. If you can find gratitude in the absolute worst circumstances — society doesn’t particularly want us to do that. You know it’s —

DAVID:
Or teach us.

SHERRY:
Right, yes, so even just a momentary thing you can find something to be grateful for and that’s touching into the part of your humanness that you share with all of people. And that is the ground. I don’t think it’s any spiritual tradition that doesn’t have gratitude as a very fundamental part of what brings life and aliveness to people. And of course, there’s an inner and outer to that. And then the second part is honoring the pain — what she calls honoring the pain. I sometimes talk about it as just feeling the pain. So, there’s a lot of — that happens. It’s counterintuitive to want to feel your own pain. You know if something’s not working in your life, but most dharmic teachings say actually we have to feel the pain. If we can’t turn away — we distract ourselves all the time with screens, digitals, drugs whatever.

DAVID:
There’s no way we can learn if we just step away from it. And it’s not fun to deal with your pain. And I think that’s what scares people about it is they don’t want to have to confront something that is hurting them. But there’s less hurt within — it’s like showing up in the dark like you’re saying.

SHERRY:
Yeah. And it’s also — when you honor that — and you also are honoring other people’s pain too. It’s hard to just stay aware just by yourself — when you start becoming more aware and feeling your own pain it naturally emanates out how you feel about other people. So, you might feel differently when you hear something on the news about another refugee boat being capsized. Or how many people are now burning up in this fire that happened in Northern California that is still going on. And so, there’s a natural — people say my heart goes out to them. Well that’s because you’re feeling your own heart. If you couldn’t feel your own heart you wouldn’t feel the pain of those other people. And that’s what keeps our humanness alive and gives what she would call active hope. And so, then the third part of that is after the honoring of the pain — is seeing with new eyes because what happens is you experience — your suffering is not separate from someone else’s suffering. There’s a commonality — a common humanness and you have more of ability to see it from another person’s point of view.

DAVID:
They’re shifting your perspective.

SHERRY:
You really are shifting — you’re seeing with new eyes. And you’re feeling that. And suddenly things affect you in a different way. So, the fourth part is going forth — you’re going forth now not thinking I’m going to get those bad guys. And we all go there. I’m not saying we don’t, but in fact, oh, we are all suffering. Climate change is affecting every one of us. These wildfires are affecting all of us. And how can we move forward in some sort of common human way together as a community of people and not just be so bent on stopping the bad guys? We are all in this together. We really are.

DAVID:
Yeah, it’s super Buddhist. Like it’s so Buddhist and I really like it. It starts with the self. You can’t go out there and save the environment — if you don’t love yourself.

SHERRY:
Exactly.

DAVID:
I mean maybe you can act like it for a bit. But there is an internal environment that needs tending to before the external environment, but everything needs tending to.

SHERRY:
And it’s interesting too — what I’m happy about is that there’s more and more actual very legitimate research being done on the importance of what is happening with so much depression going on — anxiety and people not knowing what to do with it. And there’s more and more research going on that our reconnection with where we came from — which is nature is having profound effects. One of the books that really affected me was, Last Child in the Woods. Lou’s book on nature deficit disorder and he’s not — not a psychologist, but others have named a thing now called environmental melancholy. Where there have been psychologists who’ve really done studies — and she was working with her clients and clients who were actually interested in the environment and so forth. And they would talk about how much despair they were feeling and what we do was we pathology. And we think there’s something wrong with our feeling that another rain forest has been burned down. And so, we think it’s our problem — when in fact it isn’t. And there’s been more studies shown — I think it’s another book out that I’ve been reading is, “The Nature Fix” and that’s really showing studies — not only does being in nature help with the more obvious things — obviously people can have a sense of well-being, low stress and feeling relaxed, but they’re actually showing that effects person’s cognitive ability and their ability to be creative.

So, there’s another book out that — “Nature on the Brain” that is really showing very dramatic effects when people spend a certain amount of time in nature in terms of their health, blood pressure, but also their psychological and emotional well-being.

DAVID:
Wow. Can I make one up real quick?

SHERRY:
Sure.

DAVID:
Natural postpartum syndrome. LAUGHING.

SHERRY:
Natural — say that again.

DAVID:
Natural postpartum syndrome. So, it’s like we are birthed from nature. We just have this like anxiety that we aren’t connected anymore, but we’ve never been connected. So, our umbilical cord is still — we’ve almost like to cut it ourselves. We’re like going through the world trying to figure ourselves out and realizing like our mother, our teacher has been here the whole time and she’s kind of like what’s going on you guys.

SHERRY:
Yeah, it’s kind of like — it’s an existential kind of question that we are from a non-dual point of view. Yes, we are all completely one and yet we are in this relative body for this period of time. And, how do we navigate and stay in touch with our non-dual experience of where we came from and yet move through the relative world. So, that’s why I think her work in Buddhism and many spiritual traditions are so important. Thich Nhat Hanh and his notion of interbeing. He wants to start a new word in our dictionary and enter our because we can’t be in isolation. And that gets into you know quantum physics. No, we aren’t — we are not — we are not separate entities.

DAVID:
Yeah. Wow. I have this weird feeling where it’s like science is now discovering what indigenous people knew all along.

SHERRY:
Well that’s what I was going to say just right now too. Gregory Cajete is a Native American educator who’s written a book, “Native Science: Natural Laws of Independence.” Melodoma Somei(?) who’s actually been at Naropa before — from the Gauri tradition of Africa. And there’s no real world for sacred because all has seen is sacred. And so, they don’t understand — you know what we’re saying. Indigenous people who have been brought up that way. There’s no separation. They are the earth. And so, that’s why it does feel like we have to we relearn so many things that Indigenous people have learned for so long. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us who did not maybe grow up in an indigenous way or not have that to get into the natural world and immersion ways and there’s more and more opportunities for people to do that because then they can make their own connection to the earth into nature and don’t feel that they have to be coming from a particular background or culture. But say yes you are a human being so therefore you did come from the earth you did not come from Mars. LAUGHING

DAVID:
It’s all something we share together. Wow, ok. So, you’re making me think — it feels like this work has a transpersonal or like holistic approach where it’s both an internal and an external sort of engagement. And I’m curious like what is the importance of tending to the internal spirit and also to the external spirit — the natural spirit? Why is that so important for both of them to work together than if you were to just be internally spiritual and not work with nature? Or you just with that nature and you’re not tending to the internal.

SHERRY:
Yeah that’s a really good point because you see that playing out in a lot of different places. I mean this may not be exactly addressing what you’re saying, but there’s so many people these days — more and more who are getting very ecologically environmentally conscious and into the climate change and so forth. They may have to get into the whole other thing of burn out. And so, I’m thinking that — Paul Hawkins talks about that — who wrote, “Blessed Unrest” among other things and he talks about that blessed unrest as we should feel some sort of discomfort or unrest because things aren’t the way they should be.

DAVID:
Urgency.

SHERRY:
But it’s blessed in the sense that yes it can also inspire us to see what we need to do. And I remember him when he talked once here in Boulder maybe 10 years ago and saying where do we start. How do we know what to do? And his answer was very interesting because he said, we’re just preaching — someone said we’re just preaching to the choir. And he said, the choir needs to get stronger and louder. And so that’s — that’s ok.

DAVID:
The choir still needs a practice.

SHERRY:
Yes, and also, he said go towards the pain. Go towards the fear. And he meant that I think internally yes, ok. Because as long as we’re projecting out some kind of negativity that’s what’s going to happen. So, we have to actually make a deep relationship and caring about ourselves and that naturally is going to spill into others. So, I’ve done a thing on personal sustainability with quote unquote activists. And they’re recognizing that their joy in what they wanted to do has to do with their connection to nature, but they’ve lost touch with that. So, there’s more and more agencies and organizations who are saying yes, we have to make sure that we are remembering where we came from and why we’re doing this.

DAVID:
We are more resilient than we could ever imagine. And when we come together as a choir and we sing our voices — we can say the things that need to be said — with compassion and with love and with force. With an empowered movement moving forward and getting stuff done — you know it’s imperative.

SHERRY:
That’s why it’s so important for people to share whatever’s going on with them with other people. And I mean the internal — certainly the external of all the things that have been studied in terms of collaboration and leadership and how to work together. But, on an inner level too I found it really important for people just sharing their innermost connection to nature. And I’ve seen this in students where they — they haven’t been given maybe permission to talk about their strong connection to the squirrel in their backyard. Or what it feels like to see a sunflower bloom and so forth. And when we can share those stories it strengthens the part of our brain that needs resourcing. You know it’s our — the negative emotions and the negative feelings are like Velcro. And the good feelings are like Teflon. It’s our brain has not evolved to take in some of these more powerful things. So, we can literally resource a part of our neural system by really paying attention to these positive things and not just saying, oh that’s a nice sunset or blah blah blah. But actually, being with it, feeling it, and sharing it with someone else makes it become more installed you could say in that part of you, you know.

DAVID:
Who doesn’t like a dope sunset?

SHERRY:
Right. But sometimes don’t you walk right by and you didn’t pay attention. Yes, something else is going on. You’ve got to get someplace quickly, and you don’t notice it.

DAVID:
Yes, when was the last time you just stared at the stars. I’m curious like do people still look up any more?

SHERRY:
You’re getting into my other favorite topic.

DAVID:
Oh yeah?

SHERRY:
Which is, I’ve done a presentation at Bioneers for the past two years called, “The Joy and Importance of Being in the Dark: How Light Can Blind Us and Fear Can Enlighten Us. Because there is a whole dark sky association where they’re trying to preserve the night skies. They’re saying like 50 percent of the people will never see the Milky Way. And what does it mean when you can’t see the stars? I think it’s Thomas Barry talked about it as being a loss of the soul.

DAVID:
Losing your celestial connections and realizing the vast infinite-ness of everything.

SHERRY:
And so, we light up our streets. We become afraid of the dark. We have gated communities and lights all over the place and that exacerbates the whole thing and it also diminishes the dark places that exist. The lights of Las Vegas pollute eight national parks.

DAVID:
Really?

SHERRY:
Yes.

DAVID:
Wow!

SHERRY:
The positive thing is there’s a lot of movement for dark skies. Many national parks now call themselves — IDA Certified — International Dark Skies — so that —

DAVID:
What? Yes, that’s the thing.

SHERRY:
It is absolutely — in towns and cities can become dark skies. There’s one town in Colorado — Westcliff that has been designated as a dark sky town. And Fort Collins supposedly is about to be.

DAVID:
That’s awesome. What’s interesting is there’s actually no need for us to pollute the sky with light — when we have the technology to still have lights, but not pollute the sky with the lights. Without blocking our vision of the Milky Way or the stars.

SHERRY:
There’s a huge technology going on — if you just get lights downward — sloping downwards so they don’t glare up. So, this is a major technology that has gone around. There’s one — there’s one building in Boulder that has really paid attention to that and that’s actually the city hall and some towns have been better than others. If you go by like some of the used car lots and so forth, they’re just brilliantly full of light. And so that is lighting up the sky. So, there’s other ways you can light. They’ve shown like if you have downward facing light you see contrast and you are actually safer. If it’s glared light. It’s like a flashlight — someone’s holding a flashlight you can’t see. If you turn it away, you actually can see the person in the shadows.

DAVID:
I like blinding ourselves and the sky.

SHERRY:
Yeah, and then there’s health issues for people who work the night shift — their life cycles get off balance. And there’s correlation for cancer for women who work the night shift. So, there’s a lot of health issues that happened because we’re not being able to experience the darkness.

DAVID:
Wow OK. We’re rounding off our time at the moment.

SHERRY:
I got off on a tangent.

DAVID:
Oh, I love it though. Tangents are great. Let’s be honest. So, I was just curious is there anything else that you just wanted to say and wrap up with any last important things that you just want to offer us?

SHERRY:
Well you know I love this poem by Rilke or this little quote —

DAVID:
We love poems, please.

SHERRY:
If we could surrender to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like trees.

DAVID:
Whoa. So, we need to plant our seeds of intelligence. Make sure we water them.

SHERRY:
Yeah, and just listen. I think listen — nature has the answers. Permaculture is about that. Listen and observe what nature does.

DAVID:
Nature is loud. It’s always talking.

SHERRY:
It’s also teaching us constantly how to adapt. It really is.

DAVID:
I guess we’re just trying to learn how to adapt to this new relationship that we’ve been so disconnected from.

SHERRY:
Yeah, I’m encouraged actually because all of the wilderness programs and deep immersion things that are happening for people who have been incarcerated or people who are veterans, period. Women who have been abused. They have found how healing it is for them to go into programs where you have an immersion in nature — because it’s non-judgemental and they feel healed. So, those kinds of programs are really blossoming everywhere.

DAVID:
Wow is it really fun that think about how nature is non-judgemental.

SHERRY:
It is.

DAVID:
It will always accept you.

SHERRY:
It will always except you and won’t always be gentle. Fire can burn us, and fire can keep us warm. But it’s not judgmental and that’s been some of my most profound experiences. For me personally I would say even more than long meditation retreats have been the times I’ve been in nature alone in context with community.

DAVID:
Yes. Oh my gosh thank you so much for sharing with us today. It’s just so fun to talk about how everything is — just has like a healing component and I love your perspective and I love that you’re doing the work here. I’ve actually had the pleasure of interviewing Joanna Macy a couple of times and the woman is powerful. She’s doing some really great work and you’re kind of like here holding that torch and teaching at Naropa and letting the kids know that there is always hope and there is nature to like hold hands with.

SHERRY:
Well, thank you. Its delightful to be talking to somebody who’s so in sync with what we’re talking about. So yeah.

DAVID:
So, I’d like to say thank you to Sherry Ellms who is a professor here at Naropa teaching in the Environmental Studies department and also the Masters of Resilient Leadership program and then she is also the faculty lead for the Joanna Macy Center here at Naropa. So, thank you again.

SHERRY:
Thank you.

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On behalf of the Naropa community thank you for listening to Mindful U. The official podcast of Naropa University. Check us out at www.naropa.edu or follow us on social media for more updates.

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