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How Deep Nature helps Deep Adaptation

Probably all of us involved with DA carry a hope that in the next few years, many more people will engage with adaptation to the climate crisis. In this blog, I want to share my experience of ways to enable people to open to Deep Adaptation, especially how Nature immersion can help.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve co-facilitated workshops with a strong Nature element for a wide range of client groups and themes. Many of these have been at Hazel Hill, the conservation woodland retreat centre I’ve helped to create in Wiltshire, but the same approaches could be used in many other venues, including camping in the wild.

Enabling people to explore Deep Adaptation is a delicate process, ideally a sequence of several alchemical stages. I believe that residential workshops with at least two nights, in deep connection with Nature, is one of the best ways to do this.

It’s clear that opening to true adaptation requires people to drop a lot of beliefs and values they’ve clung to, even as things have got worse: this is a key part of Relinquishment. One of the benefits of Nature immersion is that it takes people right out of their familiar context, but in a positive way, moving them into a physical place of connection with the non-human world.

We know that many people can’t cope with being confronted about climate change: they do know about it, and probably feel a mix of emotions that they’re pushing away, such as guilt, overwhelm and fear. Creating a deep sense of safety in a group is a vital prelude to helping them face such feelings.

Digging deeper into Nature immersion

This term means a lot more than getting outdoors and enjoying the greenery. The key is to help people feel part of Nature, not separate or above it. Here are some of the methods we use:

  • Ask each person to choose a tree, sit with it, imagine themselves as a tree, and see if their roots (resources) and fruits (outputs) are in balance. See video here.
  • Forest bathing is a walking meditation using all five senses to dissolve boundaries between the self and the ecosystem.
  • My Natural Happiness model invites people to experience growth and cultivation processes, such as photosynthesis, composting, mulching, and apply them to growing their own resilience.
  • Toward the end of a programme, I often use a ‘micro vision quest’ structure, where I send the group out for a solo hour of walking or sitting in the forest, to see what Nature says to them.

If you want research evidence of why Nature immersion is a powerful antidote to the stresses of current life, especially so many hours on screens, see the book Your Brain on Nature.

Experiencing disruption

One challenge in exploring Deep Adaptation is having to imagine how life would be if basic services like electricity or mobile phones were disrupted. One benefit of venues like Hazel Hill Wood is being off-grid, and remote from mobile signals. We have wood burners, for which firewood has to be carried into the building, limited supplies of low-voltage solar electricity, and five kinds of composting loos.

Hazel hill wood eco building

A setting like this creates a quite different reality, where you have to live within limits, and work physically to look after yourself. One result is that groups become collaborative communities almost instantly. And as you’d imagine, all this helps people imagine an adaptive future much more readily.

Hazel Hill is a registered charity, whose aims are to help people raise resilience and live more sustainably. We would welcome approaches from anyone in the Deep Adaptation community who’d like to use this magical woodland as a catalyst in their work. See more at www.hazelhill.org.uk.


Alan Heeks has explored how ecosystems can teach people about resilience by setting up an organic farm and the woodland retreat centre, Hazel Hill Wood.  As a group leader and writer he has worked with climate issues for several years ( see www.seedingourfuture.org.uk ), and has been involved with Deep Adaptation since late 2019, including being on the DA Holding Group.

nature immersion

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