My Story

This is me, Claire.

I’ve always had a strong sense of purpose and a pretty fierce passion for protecting the earth. In year 3 I stood up and told the class very matter-of-factly that dolphins were more intelligent than humans because they didn’t destroy their environment (I’d watched a documentary on dolphins the night before and put my own spin on it!). But somehow I always knew that my way of contributing would be through working with people. 

I did my undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy and began working as an OT up in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. There are pretty high health needs up there, coupled with inequitable resourcing. Caring professions have the highest rates of burnout and, without me realising what was going on, I got burnt out. I also saw that there was really no way for me to make a meaningful difference working with people 1:1 in a context with so many systemic issues, and in doing so, learnt a lot about systems and the fact that I like to think about them. 

I began studying about the creation of healthy systems. A touch of synchronicity led me in the direction of social innovation and with a desire to do something more directly related to sustainability I decided to ride my bicycle from Mexico to Argentina, undertaking a social change project I entitled, Cycling for Cohesion (I was very interested in concepts such as social capital, cohesiveness etc at that time). I won’t bore you with the details as the project itself achieved very little in terms of its intended purpose. What did happen though was that with all those hours alone on a bicycle (and essentially, in social exclusion), I had a lot of time to think about what I was really trying to do and why. I suppose I did get the initiation I was subconsciously searching for, I just took the scenic route. 

Me and Eliza (the bike) in Mexico getting set up for our epic adventure

Over the course of that journey I realised I was trying to develop active citizenship and simultaneously trying to teach myself about how to do that. Low and behold, others had thought of this before me and when I came home I joined a Grad Diploma in Sustainability Studies, beginning with a unit in Deliberative Democracy. I quickly went from working Health Promotion to working for an energy utility doing stakeholder engagement and sustainability assessment. I thought, wow I’ve got it. Found what I’m good at, passionate about (by that state climate change was high on my radar) and found a job that allows me to apply them both. There’s a venn diagram about that somewhere.

I did learn a lot in that job. I may have even achieved some things. Then during that period a pivotal event occurred while bicycle touring in New Zealand. I literally got hit by a truck. 

I came off pretty good all things considered. Definitely a lesson in why you should wear your bike helmet, I would be dead or a vegetable without. The attending police officer reckons that my dreadlocks had something to do in saving my life, I told him I would tell my mother that. Anyway, I thought ‘great, no broken bones, once the massive bruising and few wounds clear up I’ll be good as gold,’ and I kept on cycling just as soon as the bike was repaired. 

Well you can guess what happened. I got a decent lesson in the impacts of trauma. In the months following the accident I felt really bad. ‘It’ll pass’ I thought, because for me, it always does (apart from that time with burnout but I conveniently forgot that bit). Nope, it didn’t and I didn’t know what to do because I can always work things out for myself. Then one day I was gifted the most beautiful and insightful moment of serendipity.

I was riding my bike to work early one bright, misty winter morning. It was a ridiculously beautiful scene over the river: mist, rainbows and dolphins. I thought to myself, ‘wow, that’s beautiful.’ And then I had the shattering  realisation that I was thinking that and yet felt nothing. No response in my body to that beauty. I recognised in that moment that I was disconnected. 

The journey of reconnection in the exquisiteness of the small things

Disconnection was not a term I would have readily used back then. But it stood out to me that I was reading a book about how buddhist philosophy and quantum physics say the same thing about us being all connected and intellectually I was thinking, ‘yes I totally get this,’ yet in contrast in my body and my experience of the world I did not feel this at all. 

I like to believe that this realisation opened the door to the universe providing me with what I needed. In a short time after that day, an email popped up on a facilitators mailing list I was on with an invitation to a ‘Sacred Passage’ on Flinders Island Tasmania. Turns out this was with Way of Nature founder, John P Milton. I have no idea what was on that invitation, I certainly wasn’t consciously looking for a spiritual path or teacher, all I saw was a week alone in nature in guaranteed solitude and I thought ‘yes, thank god, time in nature where no one can bother me.’ I signed up straight away.

By day 3 of the solo time I was experiencing things that completely blew apart my pre-existing worldview, including what I thought was possible. 

While there were immediate outcomes such as a complete dissolving of the disconnection issue, the true unfolding of the experience occurred over many months, even years. It was true experience-led transformation, with the mind playing catch-up to make sense of it and update its understandings of how the world works. 

Half a year later I was at the point that I was ready to make material changes to my life. I wasn’t in a rush but I thought I’d start having some conversations and enquiries into perhaps getting back involved in a social change project. I went to the Happiness and Its Causes conference and that’s where I heard about the Slow Movement. I immediately sensed there was something important here as I saw parallels between Way of Nature principles and the way in which Slow encourages us to live. Walking home that evening it was as if the universe slapped me across the face, telling me what it was I had to do next.

Within another month I had quit my job at the energy utility and started the Slow Project. A year later this turned into a PhD project. 

I was also by then sure that in order to understand Slow you had to feel it first and that helped open me up to the importance of embodied experience. I found myself heading over to Colorado to undertake guide training with Way of Nature. This was followed by a 28-day solo in the Rocky Mountains for my own personal cultivation and also because of the importance of truly embodying the principles before imparting them to others. Over the course of the month I was gifted the opportunity to see the process unfold over many cycles and my wisdom deepened immensely. (There are many stories I could share about it however I prefer to keep these to in-person conversations).

imagine gazing at this mountain undistracted every day for a month #no filter

Really since then it has been a process of deepening into my commitment to serve life and my mission here in this lifetime. I consider Way of Nature the heart of all my work. The relationships I have formed, and continue to form, with my own inner nature, outer nature and true nature provide the foundation upon which I can deliver my true work. Through questing I have received vision and guidance and alignment that means I am fairly clear about what it is I am here to do. 

I have undertaken a lot more training in particular with Way of Nature and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies as well as put all that into practice running Nature Quests and in my healing work with Treehouse Bodywork. I also maintain a connection with the ‘normal’ world, working for several years in Transport policy and innovation as well as growing the Weapons of Mass Creation arsenal of services. 

Especially in the last couple of years the reality that we are well into a collapse pattern, both ecological and civilisation collapse, has been in the forefront of my mind. And I know these are the times that I am here for. So yes, I feel grief for the vast loss that is underway, yet also roll up my sleeves in appreciation for the larger truth of destruction before creation. The seeds we plant now will be what grows in whatever emerges when the cycle turns. 

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