Great news! My proposal has been accepted by the Anthropology of Consciousness for this year’s annual SAC meeting at Yale Divinity School. The conference is March 19-23, 2008 for anybody in the area who is interested in this year’s research focus on shamanism, spiritual crises, spirit possession, and the interface between spirit and matter. In general, be prepared for a spirited bunch.
Here’s my title and abstract:
Nature Observation as a Field Technique: The Relevance of the Ecological Self for Anthropologists
This paper will present the practice of nature observation as a field technique for anthropologists. A blend of the work of naturalist John Young, archaeologist Paul Devereux, and psychologist Eugene Genlin, this field technique helps researchers heighten awareness, emotional intelligence, and the sense modalities that are usually suppressed by the default techno-rationalist worldview of Western culture.
Ecopsychologists discuss nature observation as crucial to the development of the ecological self; naturalists call it arriving at baseline consciousness. As a second-person (or intersubjective) data collection technique, nature observation can highlight the role of psychological projection in perception, as well as offer research potential for novel observations, inter-species communication, and perhaps a little experiential gnosis of the interface between mind and body, self and other, and spirit and matter. And, besides all that, it just feels good.
This technique is basically about sitting still and watching what comes up. And then, watch what happens on the outside. After twenty minutes, things start getting good. Animals acclimatize, natural rhythms are re-established, and thinking is much more clear as personal projections have been diminished.
You don’t have to be an anthropologist to appreciate how rewarding it can be to fully arrive in nature with your ecological self intact. You don’t even need wilderness to get lost in. Nature is all around us, after all, even in the most scrupulously maintained human zoos.
Update: here’s a simple primer for nature observation.