Nature as Teacher

Jennifer Simpson
7 min readJan 31, 2024

the journey within

Photo by Marina Logvin on Unsplash

No mud, no lotus.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

In my last article, I talked about the power of shifting out of hubris and into humility, as we take the first steps on any learning journey. Sometimes, though that’s easier said than done.

I wrote, Alone in the Desert, the third segment of the KOAN Method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World to share my own journey of un-learning and to share the insights I’ve gleaned from spending time immersed in nature.

Often, it’s the day-to-day routines, habits, and relationships that have become familiar, even comfortable, to us that can also be what keeps us trapped in a static worldview. Our daily commute, the person we see in the checkout counter at the grocery store, our standing lunch date with friends or family, all of these can conspire to repeat and reinforce long-held beliefs in ways that can make it more challenging to shift from hubris to humility, can make it more challenging to notice that we are resistant to change.

If everyone around us has similar points of view, and if our daily routines look much the same day in and day out, it can be hard to see where new ways might even be possible. If this is the case, it can often be helpful to find habits or routines that break us out of what is familiar and immerse us in the uncomfortable long enough for those things that we take for granted to loosen their grip, even just a little.

When I set out on my own learning journey several decades ago, I turned to nature as one of my greatest teachers. Over many years, I journey into wild places, with circles of women who were also looking to learn something new about themselves and hoping to find it in relationship to this big broad world that we belong to. I began this part of my journey back in 2014 when I attended a program with the Center for Nature and Leadership (CNL).

The Grand Tetons. © 2016, Jennifer Simpson.

Over the following years, I would spend time high in the mountains of Wyoming, travel to the deserts of New Mexico, look out at the vast seas on many coasts, and look with wonder at tall trees…

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Jennifer Simpson

An artist, poet, leader, lover, daughter, sister, and mother living in Boulder, Colorado. Owner and CEO at Integrated Work. Author of the KOAN method.