Jul 31, 2023 4 min read

Wander and Wonder - Week 4

A path at Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Pathway in North Carolina
A path at Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Pathway in North Carolina

Welcome to Week 4 of the Inclusive Community Outdoor Challenge! View the full challenge here where you can view past weeks and navigate via the table of contents. You'll also be able to find transcripts for all the weeks' audio on this page.

I chose these two quotes from Dacher Keltner’s book, Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, to help introduce, and frame this week’s challenge.

Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world.
Wonder, the mental state of openness, questioning, curiosity, and embracing mystery, arises out of experiences of awe.


The underlying premise for this week's challenge is that if we simply practice mindfulness, open our hearts, and set an intention of inclusion, there is a positive effect on us and, consequently, on those with whom we interact. Being outdoors in nature is a perfect place to practice mindfulness, and wonder can help us become more open.

This week's challenge has four simple but powerful steps:

1. Get outside in nature.

2. Set a personal intention that you believe will help you or your community on your journey toward inclusion and equity. Perhaps to be less judgmental, or to be more accepting of others who are different from you in some way, or to forgive yourself or someone else for a past transgression. You will know what it is you need in the moment. It is okay to start small.

3. Open your heart and be ready to receive messages that come your way.

4. Wander, wonder, and let the natural world speak to you.

You can wander and wonder on a forest path you know by heart, by walking a local labyrinth, walking around your backyard, or even in a parking lot. You can wander and wonder during the day, at sunrise, sunset, underneath the stars, or with a full moon to illuminate your world. You can wander and wonder alone or with a guide. You can find wonder in something tiny, human-sized, or immense. It is all possible.

Our Marketing Coordinator, Kayla, shared photos and wonder experiences of looking at the vast night sky and a moment of reflection in a parking lot. I’ve also included images from my experience walking a local labyrinth, images from my Sacred Saunter through the forest with Dr. Mattie Decker, a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, along with images from quiet wooded paths.

When you've completed this challenge, I’d love to hear a little about what inspired you. Feel free to reach out or post in the comments. (You'll need to sign in to post)

-My Experience

Listen as I share about my Sacred Saunter in the mountains and my experience of mindfully walking a local labyrinth.

In preparing this week's challenge, I was inspired by a story I read in Jessica Nordell's book, The End of Bias: A Beginning. She relayed a story about the successful use of mindfulness to help police officers respond to the public with more compassion and awareness, even helping them to counteract fear, anger, and ego. Nordell tells us that:

Internal practices of mindfulness and compassion can be tools not just for police but for all of us working to transcend our own biases.

Learn more about Richard Goerling and Mindful Policing at the Mindful Badge.

This article suggests that meditation is the key to inclusion.

For those who might need a little more evidence, here's a link to an interesting study: Mindfulness Meditation Activates Altruism.

If you're located near Western North Carolina and want a forest bathing or sacred saunter experience, visit Dr. Mattie Decker's site, Hidasta.com. She practices in Bat Cave, North Carolina at the Transfiguration Preserve and hosts events in coordination with Conserving Carolina.

Not nearby? Visit the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy to learn more or find a guide or experience near you.

If you love labyrinths, as I do, but are not sure where to find one, check out this handy labyrinth locator.

Mattie shared Mary Oliver's poem, When I Am Among the Trees at the conclusion of our saunter. I thought you might enjoy it as well.

If you wish to go even deeper into this challenge by using guided meditation, here are a couple of options to consider:

Loving Kindness Meditation - 11 min

A Guided Meditation to Open Your Heart Chakra and Connect to Loving Kindness - 23 min

Thanks for reading. If you're interested in building a more inclusive community and world, I'm sure you know others who are too. Please share this newsletter with a colleague or friend.

This newsletter is a publication from State of Inclusion.

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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