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'Service is a muscle that needs to be exercised' - how getting back to nature can help us heal

Words by Abi Scaife

It’s no secret that our connection with the Earth isn’t what it used to be. Our relationship has gone from one of mutual benefit and respect to humans abusing and extracting resources without thinking to replenish what they take.


Primal Gathering is a regular gathering aimed at helping to regenerate the world we live in, at the same time as caring for our own bodies and minds. The aim is to rebuild that relationship we once had with the Earth, and repair our own mental health at the same time.


“The story started with a personal burnout and lack of clarity, knowing that something had to change and there was another way to live,” Nicole Bosky, founder of Primal Gathering, tells Smiley News“And it ends with ‘how can we be of more service to not only ourselves and each other but the environmental world’, and that in itself has felt like the recipe of fulfilment.”


Primal Gathering’s story begins in 2016 when Nicole was helping to organise a global hackathon in partnership with the United Nations. She was fighting for change but the pressure and stress caused a huge burnout, and she soon she was looking for ways to make great change in the world without sacrificing herself.


“I realised the change that one hoped for externally actually came internally.”


After taking some time to recover from her burnout, Nicole started what would eventually become Primal Gathering. Bringing together people from all walks of life, Primal Gathering teaches people to get back to basics, engaging in mindfulness practices while helping to regenerate the Earth. 


Over the course of a few days, you are able to live and work with like-minded people, helping our planet, and at the same time learning much about how to engage more with nature - for the Earth, and our minds.

Natural Building

“Service is a muscle that needs to be exercised in a world that encourages us to be self-absorbed,” Nicole says. “As a consequence of all our survival instincts being constantly prodded, whether that's rent, putting food on the table or taking care of our kids. When those acupuncture points are consistently triggered it becomes hard to see outside of ourselves, especially nature.”


“I [learned] that behaviour is really hard to [change] on your own, but it's much easier to do in a community or with other people who are holding themselves accountable.”


Through Primal Gathering, Nicole hopes to inspire change within people - to encourage us to reconnect with the world we live in, for our sake as well as the planet. It is more important than ever for us to invest in the natural world, to heal the damage that has been done - a task which can feel utterly overwhelming when you’re looking at it alone.


“The dream is that … we can create a shift in mindset where they leave both people and places better than how they find them,” says Nicole. “To inspire that shift towards a regenerative mindset … this idea that people can come together and regenerate themselves and each other and their local lands.”


For Nicole, moving back towards working as a tribe is a huge - connecting cultures around the globe so that we can all work together towards a common goal; regeneration of the Earth, and of ourselves. That’s why Primal Gathering involves acts of service towards the planet, planting trees and caring for ecosystems, alongside relearning how to care for ourselves.


“There's a lot of individual efforts to try to create mass impact … global need requires global action,” says Nicole. “If we're all just pigeon-holing, and working in isolated spaces, the impact we can have will be much smaller than if we combine efforts and move together.”

Food layering

The gatherings themselves have involved all different kinds of activities, everything from foraging and mindfulness to tree planting and bee-keeping. The idea is that by giving back and working to heal our planet, you are also able to heal yourself - and that you will leave with the tools to keep doing so.


“The experience is one of belonging, acceptance - and then [you have] more to offer in your relationships and willingness to like, care for nature,” says Nicole. “Which sounds really basic in principle, but in practice is quite hard because we've become so desensitised and disconnected.”


“The idea of connecting to nature sounds quite ‘hippie’, but it's real. You feel at ease when you're in the forest and there's a reason for that.”


Ultimately, Primal Gathering believes that returning to a tribal, harmonious way of approaching the world is the way to go - that living and working in tandem with nature will ultimately lead to a better life. 


“The basic principles of how to live in alignment with nature have been held firmly and concretely by indigenous communities, and there's a lot that we can learn [from them],” says Nicole. “To live in reciprocity, to live in mutuality, to live in respect for and to protect and to think of [nature] as having its own rights.”


To learn more about Primal Gathering, you can visit their website here.


Charity check-in 


At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.


The Climate Coalition. This is the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action against climate change. Find out more and support them here.


Climate Reframe.  Climate Reframe is committed to supporting the climate and environment movement in its transformation towards greater justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI). Find out more.


The Woodland Trust. This is the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, concerned with the creation, protection, and restoration of native woodland heritage. Support them here.


This article aligns with the UN SDGs Climate Action and Good Health and Wellbeing.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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