Wild Awakening founder Michael Jaidev DeNicola shares how reconnecting our children with nature could actually save the planet.
What would our world be like with no trees? Or if our rivers turned black? We’re living in a tumultuous time in Earth’s history. Jungles and forests are being clear cut to make way for industry and development to provide for our ever-growing population. Mines continue to be drilled, too often resulting in disaster and pollution.
Ancient yogis, mystics, and sacred texts have predicted the times in which we live, though we always have a choice. A golden era awaits if we choose to work together to create it.
We must encourage the choice to create a peaceful, abundant, and healthy world. We must support the collective decision to develop a harmonious relationship with our Mother Earth. And who better to hold these values than the future generation? It’s our responsibility to introduce our youth to nature. Mainstream schools are beginning to integrate yoga and meditation into children’s daily lives with positive results, like Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in West Baltimore, where students begin their day with what they call a “mindful moment”—a 15-minute blend of yoga and meditation.
Other organizations, like Wild Awakening, are teaching children mindfulness practices in the great outdoors. Wild Awakening is a wilderness expedition program that uses a variety of therapeutic techniques and mindfulness practices to support the transformation and growth of young men. During the three-week program, the groups will hike the ‘100 Mile Wilderness’ of the Appalachian Trail, engage in the daily practice of yoga and meditation, practice primitive skills and cook healthy food. Wild Awakening strives to create an environment where teens challenge themselves physically and mentally in a wilderness setting in order to experience their true selves. Here are five ways this could change the world.
1. When we disconnect from technology, we reconnect to our biorhythm.
Taking steps to instill the natural rhythm of the universe in our children is imperative. With constant access to technology and a nonstop flood of “bad news,” many of our kids are living in a state of panic, stress, and dis-ease. The simplest way to release the tension and reset their biological rhythm is to immerse them in the wilderness and realign their days with the sun, moon, and elements.
After a few weeks, their bodies will begin to detox from the sensory overload of modern society. Deep rest will be found amongst the trees, while their bodies are rebuilt with a combination of healthy food and exercise. Their neural pathways will open to the genius that lies within themselves, and a creative seed will blossom into a sense of belonging, worth, and purpose.
If we unplug today’s youth and bring them into nature to learn yoga, I know we will see dramatic results. Scientific research shows that when humans are submerged in the wilderness and practice yoga, they experience a measurable increase in positive behavior, motivation, and mood. When we combine yoga, a natural setting, and a healthy diet, we have a recipe for successful healing and transformation.
2. Primary-source foods nourish the body and mind.
Getting kids in touch with primary-source food (e.g., picking berries, harvesting mushrooms, growing a garden) nourishes their senses while bringing pure nutrition into their growing physical bodies. They come in touch, first hand, with the life cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth. Through wild harvesting and growing food, they gain a deep understanding of where food comes from, develop respect for our Earth, and cherish each meal they eat.
3. Conscious movement and breath lead to primal wisdom.
With practices like yoga, meditation, hiking, and free outdoor play, children are encouraged to tap into the primal wisdom that runs through their minds, bodies, and spirits. Blockages are released through conscious movement, and awakened channels are fed with highly charged prana(life force) from the surrounding trees, plants, water, and rich soil. While engaging in these ancient practices in a wilderness setting, a child is brought into the present moment through the sound of the wind or the singing birds, the feel of the earth beneath their bare feet, and the sweat that the spring-fed stream washes away and replenishes. Encouraging organic movement allows space for spontaneous joy to take the lead, and for kids to laugh, play, and grow simultaneously.
4. Wilderness immersion creates connection to the environment.
In profound moments of silence, away from societal distractions, children are given a unique opportunity to listen to their natural environment and observe our symbiotic relationship with all that surrounds us. During these moments of reflection, creative thought emerges, and inspiration begins to flow. For some, the feeling is instantaneous, while for others, it may take weeks. When combined with a healthy, nourishing diet and an open ear and heart, they will eventually find themselves in a place of awe for mother nature, and for life itself. In these moments, true respect is learned and ingrained in one’s being.
5. Surviving together evokes teamwork and respect for others.
When faced with the wide open wilderness, a group quickly melds together. While one team prepares the fire, another prepares dinner, and another gathers drinking water. An immersion into the elements and a combined set of responsibilities challenges kids to work with each other, as one hand washes the other. The perfection of the natural world can be seen through the relationship between the stream and the herbs growing on its banks, or through the tree and the bird who makes her nest in the highest branches. While using a neutral mind to observe nature, children are intrinsically inspired to fall into harmony with their surroundings—breeding a collective morale that’s based in cooperation, inclusion, and teamwork.
You don’t have to be a kid to benefit! Join us in the Berkshires August 9-13, 2017! Sat Nam Fest is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the joy, challenge, and rejuvenation of Kundalini Yoga, sacred chant, healing, creativity, discovery, and a return to your Self in the loving embrace of the Berkshire Mountains.
About Wild Awakening
Wild Awakening believe exposing kids and young adults to a yogic lifestyle in harmony with nature will undoubtedly produce positive change on our planet. This summer, Wild Awakening, a wilderness therapy program created by the Kundalini Yoga non-profit organization Sat Nam Foundation, will bring its first group of teenage boys deep into the mountains of Maine to hike the 100-Mile Wilderness of the Appalachian Trail, practice Kundalini Yoga and meditation, mindfulness, and live in harmony with the land. Does Wild Awakening sound like a dream adventure for your son? Learn more and register at Wildawakening.org. Or, you can support our mission, and simultaneously treat your ears, by purchasing Sat Nam Foundation’s “Kirtan Aid: Wild Awakening”, a compilation of sacred chants and songs featuring 27 artists who donated music to raise seed funding and scholarships for the program. With a donation of $20 or more, you’ll receive a digital download of the album.
About Our Expert
Michael Jaidev DeNicola is a certified elementary education teacher, Kundalini Yoga teacher, Wilderness First Responder, and Leave No Trace instructor. He taught middle school math and science for two years in Los Angeles, where he also shared meditation with his students, before leading wilderness expeditions for three years in Alaska (Alaska Crossings, SAGA, Academic Travel). DeNicola has also taught yoga and outdoor education in various camps over the past 10 years. He currently leads the service exchange program for the Kundalini Yoga festival Sat Nam Fest, supports the development of service programs for the nonprofit Sat Nam Foundation, and teaches yoga in Mexico. DeNicola has studied yoga for over 18 years and has been teaching for 10.