Why Everything Comes Back to Our Connection to Land (Chelsey Luger and Thosh Collins, authors and indigenous wellness advocates)

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For thousands of years, Tribal Nations have leaned on an understanding that everything is connected to keep themselves healthy and their communities successful. But western culture has lost or, worse, purposefully ignored the wisdom of those teachings — and it hasn’t made us exceptionally healthy and happy.

In their new book The Seven Circles, indigenous wellness advocates Thosh Collins and Chelsey Luger lay out seven interconnected principles for pursuing whole-life health. In this episode of Humans Outside Chelsey and Thosh dive into the “land” principle and use indiegnous cultural teachings to show us how spending time outside and connecting with the land can have whole-life benefits.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:42] Thosh Collin’s favorite outdoor space

[3:01] Chelsey Luger’s favorite outdoor space

[3:42] How Chelsey and Thosh learned the value of spending time outside

[7:22] A caveat on “indigenous” wellness

[10:37] What are the seven circles of wellness?

[17:38] Looking at the circles as an interconnected ring

[20:17] All about connecting with the land

[27:30] Why we have to learn to be connected to the land

[31:26] What we spend time with shows what we value

[35:51] How the land circle interacts with the other circles

[40:53] The stages of understanding the circles

[46:29] Thosh and Chelsey’s favorite outdoor moments

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for just a few minutes is well worth it. Welcome to Humans Outside where we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life habit around spending time in nature while learning from. Fascinating Outdoor mind guests. I’m Amy Bushatz. I’ve let curiosity be my guide as a journalist for 19 years. But life, including my husband’s injuries from military service, had us looking for a better way to live. So we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day, no matter what to explore, how nature can change my life. Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.

Here at Humans Outside, we think about wellness primarily through the lens of spending time outside. And of course we talk about making that a part of our daily lives through building a habit of going outside every day to whatever nature or land is out our front doors. That is of course not an idea that’s unique to me or to you listening to this.

In fact, by acknowledging that we give ourselves the chance to learn from others, including the indigenous cultures who have long inhabited the land we call home today. Listening through those teachings can give us an even broader perspective on wellness. Today’s guests, Chelsey Luger and Thosh Collins, are wellness advocates who focus on indigenous teachings from their respective tribal nations and cultural backgrounds to share a framework for living well.

Co-founders of the grassroots indigenous health and wellness initiative Well for Culture, their new book, The Seven Circles, details that framework, digging into each of the seven areas or circles, and guiding readers through steps for making each a part of their daily lives. They live with their two daughters in Arizona, where they are joining us from today.

Chelsey and Thosh, welcome to Humans Outside. Thank you so much for joining us here today.

Chelsey Luger: Thanks so much for having us. It’s great to be here.

Thosh Collins: Yeah. Thank you for having us. We’re honored to be on here and just to look forward to the conversation.

Amy Bushatz: Fantastic. So before we dive in, we always start our episodes by describing, imagining ourselves and our guests’ favorite outdoor space. Like we’re hanging out outside somewhere that you love having this chat there. So if that were true, where are we with you today?

Thosh Collins: For me, we would be right outside of our family’s community garden where we grow our, all of our various indigenous uh, crops. And it’s a nice little beautiful outdoor space uh, on our reservation.

And we have our family gatherings there. So for us it’s a special place I imagine us sitting, sitting near that, having this conversation.

Chelsey Luger: That’s that is a great spot. That’s definitely one of mine as well. But um, and I, I do, I love living here in the desert. I’ve been here with Thosh for about eight years now, so it definitely feels like home. But I would say I would take us up north to the Great Plains where I’m from in North Dakota. There’s a really beautiful part of my dad’s family’s land on a Standing Rock reservation that we call the West Place. My family are cattle ranchers, and so just imagine yourself on top of a hill, grasslands, prairies, open prairies as far as the eyes can see. Um, That’s the most beautiful place for me.

Amy Bushatz: Awesome. I love it. And the wonderful thing about imagining ourselves having a conversation somewhere is we can go to two places. It’s easy. It’s all the imagination. So we, we got both covered. It’s all good. So we’re gonna talk today about your new book, seven, The Seven Circles. And we’re gonna talk about connection to land in particular, but maybe you guys can start by telling me about how you both became people who understand the value of spending time outside. Because I know from reading your book that was sort of not a d a not a linear experience. You had a little bit of a journey, so maybe you could tell us a little bit about that.

Chelsey Luger: Well, for me, I never grew up really thinking of the outdoors as a recreational space. In North Dakota, there’s not really this culture of like hiking and camping and stuff like that. I mean, people do it, but it’s not as big as it is say, like on the East Coast or, in like national park areas in the west and stuff.

Outdoors was always like a place where people were working, and but what we also did outdoors was our ceremonies on my Lakota side of my culture. Whether Sweat Lodge or sun dance, and those are the times of year attending those type of things where I would be sleeping outdoors and really enduring the elements.

And those were formative experiences for me in understanding the way that the being outdoors elevates consciousness. It was a completely different experience because of the fact that everything was under the sky. And that’s how I came. I think it it deep inside to understand it and to recognize the power and the importance of time outdoors. And then way later on in life, when I did get into being outdoors recreationally all of that became connected for me. In my mind I, I, it all became clear.

Amy Bushatz: What about you, Thosh.

Thosh Collins: Yeah, growing up out outside on the reservation was something that was um, you know, we certainly did a lot as children, like what Chelsey said. Being outside, as we know, anyone who grew up in like, you know, late eighties, early nineties, definitely knows you spent a lot of time outside. Right before the video game, before social media era and all that. We were outside a lot and we were outside as children. And on the reservation we lived in a line of houses right by all of my cousins, aunties, uncles, and we were always out there together playing and doing stuff. And as I got a little bit older, I started to go out on the land with my dad to hunt and we always had our community and ceremonial social gatherings on the land as well too.

And you know, that was sort of the normal thing. But when I got reconnected was, because I left to the reservation around 19. And I lived in the city in Los Angeles, San Francisco for about 10 years to do school and to kind of pursue a career in photography. And I, and I did spend some time outdoors and then, but I wasn’t outdoors in the same way that I’d grown up.

So when I came back to my community, I was really objective about connecting with the land. I want to get back on the land, I want to get back and learn to forage and learn to plant seeds again and get back to hunting and, and just objectively take time to be out there and to reconnect, so it’s been certainly a, a journey for sure.


Amy Bushatz: . So your book is presented as teachings on indigenous wellness, but you offer a caveat on the extent which it’s representative of indigenous or as a monolithic group. And so before we start talking about your book and about you guys, what you guys are diving into there um, I think it’s important to set that caveat up and sort of state it for the good of the order. So would you mind talking about that, what that caveat is?

Chelsey Luger: Yeah. Thank you so much for that question, for pointing that out. And Absolutely, within our little home here within our family, we come from a a number of different tribal nations. I’m Lakota and Anishinaabe and Thosh is O’odham, Seneca-Cayuga and Osage. So even within our family, there’s a number of different indigenous perspectives that we were raised with and that we practice and carry on on the culture of. So we, and then of course there are over 500, close to 600 different tribal nations in the United States alone, many of them being in Alaska where you are.

And then across the world there are indigenous peoples globally. So we always like to point out that there are commonalities between many different indigenous cultures and nations, but we’re careful not to minimize the diversity. And we’re careful to emphasize that every indigenous community, nation family, individual even practices wellnesses in different ways and carries on their traditional ancestral teachings into their modern wellness practice in different ways. And so when we offer the seven circles where we say, this is an indigenous perspective -ours. It’s not the indigenous perspective. There’s so many of those out there.

Thosh Collins: Right. And you know, when we look at across all the different nations, the similarities. We’ve had the honor of being able to travel throughout Native Country and to First Nations community in Canada for a lot of myself for 20 years now, traveling around and learning all the similarities that I have discovered with the other nations and what I heard growing up in our, our um, you know, our upbringing with our people’s perspectives and how we took care of ourselves. And you know, so it’s sort of known throughout Native Country that we have these similarities and that’s really, I think the seven circles is really based on that because a lot of various, you know, indigenous nations, they have practices in a spiritual reverence for food. There’s food culture was a big part of that. You know, they all had revered the night time and sleep a certain way. They all had their own modalities of movement, they had the a social structure that had clan systems there, you know, that were in place that kept their people functioning together, and that’s where community comes in.

So just giving a, you know, a little example of that seven circles, I think really sort of, outlines that all the similarities. But again, like what she said, when you get into each and every region and nation and family, that’s where you start to see these small differences in how the way people practice and, you know, and how people view things. So yeah.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Thank you for that. And I just wanna also state before we get started that you mentioned this in your book as well, that allies are welcome to learn. And as an ally, I want to thank you for being willing to teach because you know have a lot of people listening to this right now, and they’re here to learn as well, or they wouldn’t be listening. And so thank you for being so willing to write this book, first of all, to come up with this framework, but also to be willing to be here today and to teach these things on behalf of an indigenous perspective. So thank you so much for that .

Can you start by telling us, since we’ve mentioned seven circles now, what are the seven circles of wellness? Uh, And maybe give a quick overview of each framework.

Thosh Collins: Yeah. Well, there are no particular order, but seven circles is, is sleep, uh, excuse me, is food, our food, sleep, movement, ceremony, sacred space, connection to community, and connection to land.

Chelsey Luger: He’s always really good at, rattling them off without looking. But I always forget just one -so I have

Amy Bushatz: Which one do you forget?

Chelsey Luger: I dunno, it’s always different every time. It just depends on which one I start with. .

Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Fair enough. And would you mind describing briefly, which sorry little bit about each one of those, because I think some of them are abundantly clear- food, for example. But other ones maybe not so much sacred space would be one that comes to my mind.

So, um, if you could describe each of those, and of course we’re gonna dwell on land, but I think having a definition of each would be helpful.

Thosh Collins: Yeah.

Chelsey Luger: So Sacred Space is our home, or any other space really where you spend a lot of your time. And what we encourage is recognizing in the ways that your environment and your surroundings impact your sets of wellbeing.

And then ceremony is a modality of finding peacefulness or a modality of finding clarity, silence. Um, It’s gonna be different for every person, and we’re not, we always say we’re not teaching people indigenous ceremonies. We’re teaching the perspective of what our ancestors always understood is that finding those space and time for quiet and peace is healing.

And then I’ll go into, movement, which is from the beginning of Well for Culture, when we founded our organization, we’ve always described it as movement as opposed to just fitness, because we feel that movement is encompassing. Fitness is a part of movement, but it’s not everything. And movement in general needs to be represented in a more inclusive way where we’re including elders, we’re including babies and children and families and people who are differently abled. And every, everyone can find some type of mo movement modality that works for them. And movement, as we know, is so critical for our health in so many different ways. Thosh?

Thosh Collins: Yeah. And then our, our connection to community, Is uh, something also that we’ve recognized, based, again, like I said on our social structures and our involvement in our communities growing up, a part of community, having that sense of belonging, that fostered self-actualization, that has fostered leadership, that has fostered confidence, which all those carry over into living a well life, a successful life. And so, you know, the circle about community is about recognizing the importance of belonging to our, our overall health and wellness. And we kind of know that too from an evolutionary perspective. You know, humans evolved because we worked, you know, we worked together in groups and we had a functioning systems to, to thrive in these harsh climates that we did on the land.

And that’s our, our last circle right there is on the land. Doing all of these things with relatives, with loved the ones on the land. And as we know, humans evolved on the land. That’s where we came. Right? And as we know in the sedentary culture and the western dominant culture that we’re, living amongst today, we’re spending a lot of those times, you know, indoors and, and disconnected from our mother earth.

We’re dependent upon calendars and we’re dependent upon the news to tell us how the weather is and what seasons are looking like. Whereas in the original times, people had their modes of being able to understand, the changes seasons and when we start to do certain things on the land there.

So that’s a big part of our overall wellness as human beings is restoring that connection. And then of course sleep. Sleep is a big one. And when we first started putting together seven circles, we looked at sleep as more so also looking at as the nighttime. The nighttime was a sacred time. That’s what we were told a lot.

A lot of different Native people were recognized. The nighttime was the time for, you know, other, other, other beings and such. And animal nations come out, are nocturnal. And as human beings, you know, we dwell during the day cuz the sunlight is, our medicine. It keeps us well. We know that during that time in sleep is when we recover.

And our people have always known about recovery. They knew that cuz their survival have depended upon it. And then of course, you know, food, food is, is, is our, not just looking at food is something as nutrient or value, but looking at the processes of food on the land with community and how those play a huge role, not just our overall metabolic health, but our sense of spiritual connectedness to the land.

Cuz we’re, again, on the land. The land is sort of, involved in each and every one of these circles here because again, as I said, we all evolved on the land. And in our communities just a few generations back, people were still largely subsisting off the land. And in Alaska, a lot of ’em are still, you know, utilizing the land to this day.

So, so that’s seven circles. And I also should say that, you know, we make them as circles because they all overlap. They’re interconnected. They’re inextricable as opposed to pillars or bullet points like we see in dominant culture, which tends to compartmentalize these concepts. But as Native people, we always understood all aspects were whole. They overlapped, they were inextricably connected. And that each and every one of these seven circles contribute to our spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health. So we’re looking at it from, these are all ways that positively or negatively affect us in, in, in that spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional sense.

So, , that’s what uh, why we put this together, and we put this together in 2018, and we’ve just been doing trainings in Native Country ever since.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. And now it’s, you know, expanding that out to beyond Native Country through your, through your book for which we are grateful.

You know, while I was reading about these circles and reading your book, I, exactly what you just said is what struck me, how you can’t peel just one of them off. They all are, it’s almost like a giant ring, right? Where they all are a part of each other which is a very challenging sort of thing because almost you wanna be like, well, I’m gonna get really good at one. But you there are, well, you’re very careful to talk about how there, there’s no like, here’s what to do. There’s no like guidebook, there’s ideas and we’ll get to that.

But you can’t just focus on one thing, that they’re all interconnected and that getting, focusing on one influences the other in hopefully a good way. And then also the negatives like you just talked about, right? That, that each of these have an opposite where there is a, there’s a clear polar to each of these things.

So I mean, some of them are very obvious. Polar of sleep is not sleeping, which is so, which is a habit that’s really easy to fall into, especially with our endless scroll on social media.

Um, And the opposite of being connected to the land is not being connected to the land. And you can so starkly see the health and wellness problems from both of those that, that it’s almost like we dwell in western culture in an in between space where we’re neither focused on it, nor not focused on it. And that it leans towards being unhealthy in that way.

Chelsey Luger: Yeah. Well, I’m so glad that you saw it that way and that you observed all the interconnection. And that’s what we hope that folks get out of this book. And um, you know, at any point, every, from day to day, we’re either thriving in one of these circles or we’re neglecting it and it needs a little bit of work. And so we always encourage the reader to know that wherever you are at, it’s okay. And here’s the model of the seven circles.

And the important thing is you have it, you see it. So at least you can say to yourself, you know, cuz some people, people really do think because of the fact that fitness and food diet specifically are the only thing that gets pushed in health and wellness, people really think, well, that’s it. You know, If my diet’s good and my fitness, and then maybe they aren’t feeling their best and they’re, they have no idea why. Well, maybe you do need to connect to the land to get some vitamin D and fresh air and see what that does for your health. Or, insert any of the other circles that people tend to, Yeah, to neglect or not realize impacts your health.

Amy Bushatz: Hey humans, if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 challenge is a great way to get started. You can even score some really cool and exclusive challenge swag, including a finisher, decal, and metal in the process. All you need to do is visit HumansOutside.com/Challenge. You’ll also get an outdoor challenge guide written by me for you, an exclusive challenge tracker and insider info all year long. You don’t wanna be left out of this. Go to Humans Outside.com/challenge to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.

Yeah, so speaking of land, we’re really gonna dive in on that today. You know, Here at Humans Outside we use the terms outside, outdoors and nature, sort of in interchangeably. So when we say out, when we say nature, what really we mean is whatever’s outside your door. So, inside the door, not nature, probably. I mean, you can have potted plants and that’s great. And there’s, I mean, there are like studies that show that that’s a benefit in its own way too. Let’s not dismiss that.

But open the door. Now you’re in nature. So we’re not defining nature as a visit to some we’re spectacular, although that’s fun. Um, We’re defining nature as whatever happens to be outside your door when you open it.

And the and really understanding the benefits that you can have there. So you touched on it a little bit, let’s go back to it again.

Why is connecting with the land important? What are the benefits of doing that?

Chelsey Luger: Well, there are so many different reasons. For one thing you build a spiritual connection when you’re on the land, a spiritual connection with your high, with a higher power, with yourself or with the land itself.

I mean, it it, you don’t have to be a person from a certain denomination or a certain background to to experience that. And I think everybody has probably experienced that at some point or another. Let’s see here. There are so many,

Thosh Collins: I think that starts with the mind. We always talk about, it starts with the shift in one’s outlook in regards to the outdoors and outside, and that’s what we encourage. We encourage everyone to again, see the land as our original creator. Everything on the land, and we talk about land, we also, we also recognize sunlight. We talk about the air, we talk about all the moon and the gravitational pull that she that she creates for us. And we encourage people to get out and to connect in your way with your mind and your higher consciousness in these various elements. And when the seasons change, get out and observe when things start to bud in the springtime. What kind of birds are coming out to, to sing?

And you’ll see different birds during different times of the season, different times of the year. What sort of flowers come out around the springtime? When the summertime comes, what sorts of plants go to sleep and they start to, to dim and, and what animals do you see less? And we start really connecting. When we’re, when we are observant to these things right here our spiritual consciousness is also rising cuz we’re connecting to the things that allow our entire ecosystem to move in the way that it does.

All the animals, and the plants and the elements on the land, such as our sunlight, our wind, you know, microorganisms in the soil. Fire. All of these things are contributors to the development of our entire cultures and civilizations across the world. And yet, when most people, when we go outside, most people don’t, they can’t tell the difference between an invasive plant and an indigenous plant. Or many don’t know the difference between invasive animal species and indigenous animal species. So it’s, so, it’s also simply, it’s also simply reeducating oneself about the land that they’re living on. And how it was, how was the land before there was colonialism, before we start to see development, how was the land and can the people connect to the original land there?

Cuz everywhere you go, I think, they say there’s a heart beat, Mother earth, and some people will say there’s a frequency, right? Earth has a frequency, as human beings are electro our file, electricity and our heart and our brain can also connect with those as well. All these things, they have frequency there and soon the science will catch up and they will in the future, be able to show and measure this, you know, so we won’t just, It’s this perspective will no longer be seen as just woo woo, you know? But it’s, it’s a real, there’s science in it and our people have recognized that. So we encourage everyone to shift your thought process and get out there and connect to these things here, and observe the changes in the season. Observe all these things.

Interact. That’s the first step, is just acknowledging these things in your mind and acknowledging that’s where we come from. But w but where we are dwelling constantly is a little bit new. It’s very new to us in regards to the, timeline of, of human evolution, right? It’s very new that we’re inside, right?

Chelsey Luger: And then just to reiterate to, you know, uh, within each chapter and the land chapter, like we look at everything through the lens of medicine wheel, which means there’s a spiritual, mental, physical and emotional aspect to it. So for land, I already talked about the spiritual, but there’s also emotional health. Which means that time spent on the land leads to peacefulness, stress relief, and increased feelings of happiness. There’s also mental health um, benefits, and not just mental health, but also in intellect. As Thosh mentioned, everything that we know, western or non-western comes from us interacting with the land that we are on.

And so we’ve learned so much when we’re out there. And it’s important to recognize too the history of how much of the science and the spiritual knowledge, everything that we know today is rooted in the knowledge that the land has given us. Physically, of course it’s any aspect of movement or fitness that you can do in a gym, the benefits are exponential when you take that practice outdoors on the land. So there are so many be benefits to our physical health, including improving our immunity et cetera, et cetera. So there’s, it’s really holistic, and that’s what we hope that folks recognize in all of these circles. There are holistic benefits and it’s all interconnected

Amy Bushatz: I really appreciate everything that you’re saying um and um, you know, like, let’s start there.

So what we do here is we’re looking to help people develop this habit to go outside, right? So it’s a just bare minimum, you know, studies say minimum of 20 minutes a day outside every day. Super good for you. Try that.

Okay. And then building on that as if that was, if that is your foundation, like going outside every day has all sorts of benefits. You’re never gonna know if you don’t try and then building blocks from there. And so I recently hit five years of doing this every day, which I realize is not, I mean, it’s, that’s great, but if this was a part of my lifestyle since the beginning of time, I wouldn’t have had to count five years . It would just been something that I was doing. But because of western culture or whatever, right. That was not a part of what I saw as being a vital part of my life. Okay? So I had to start by having the habit. But the more I do it, the more I, what you’re saying resonates with me, which is that the whole life benefits of simply being aware of what’s going on outside.

Um, And that awareness is this undercurrent of everything that you’re saying. So from spiritual to health to, I mean, everything that you just said is about just paying attention. And I, it blows my mind that western culture has gotten so overcompensating or perhaps not, perhaps like purposefully removing these teachings from western culture.

Um, And we, you talk about that in your book and that’s a very worthy subject. That we ran so far away from that, that we decided that’s too woo woo. Which is something, you point out Thosh, that we feel that way. Well, why do we feel that way? It’s super obvious that’s happening.

If you just paid attention that’s what you would find and you wouldn’t never think it’s too woo woo. You would just say, this is what’s going on. It’s not rocket science. And so it’s just, it sort of looking back on these five years of my own and watching other people’s journey in this. It’s really I wanna say mind blowing, but it’s like a mixture of frustrating and incredible that this is something we have to learn now that was right in front of us the whole time. We were just so busy stripping it that we didn’t take the time to realize it’s value.

Thosh Collins: Mm-hmm. . Right.

Chelsey Luger: I heard somebody say once that. Money is not the root of all evil. Convenience is the root of all evil, and I feel that in my own life. It’s impossible to resist the comforts of the indoors. And so I totally understand. You know, we’re no different from anybody else in that we have to consciously reconnect. We have to make an effort to spend time outside with our kids and with each other and with our work and everything else that we do. Because it isn’t seamlessly ingrained in western capitalist lifestyle, which, whether we like it or not, we’re a part of it too.

So you know, we’re, we’re totally with you. We’re with everyone in the journey and I love your method that you laid out there of, hey, start small, start somewhere. 20 minutes a day is great. And it’s actually a lot more, I think than what most people get.

Yeah. So, yeah. That’s a great method.

Thosh Collins: Yeah. And I, I, you know, I love that too. I love to hear that as well. What you are doing is certainly, that’s your norm, right? That’s your personal culture. You’ve created that. You’ve had to do some unlearning, and you’ve reformatted and restructured how you go about how you walk in this world, how you connect with the natural world, and that’s your norm.

And that’s exactly what we try to advocate for all people. Whether they’re in our communities or outside of our communities, we try to encourage people. Don’t see yourself as separate from the land. See yourself as a part of it. You’re partaking in it. You’re not at the center of it as dominant culture, paints the picture.

It depicts us as human beings at the center because we have five fingers and opposable thumb because we have this prefrontal cortex and because we can extract fossil fuels and make, you know, quantum energy move and transmit signals. We’re not at the center because of that. You know, we, we are a small percentage of the entire ecosystem living on this world, but somehow we have this massive effect, you know, on it to where we can make the earth crack open because of what we’re, drilling and extracting and such.

But, so dominant culture paints us that we’re at the center of it. But if we truly look at it, if we could really look at these things and understand these things from that non nonwestern thought process, we see we are a part of it. We’re partaking, and that’s another thing that we can consciously shift our involvement with it, is seeing yourself as a part of it, not as something separate and not as something to conquer.

And that’s another thing as Native people we’ve observed from dominant culture, is they see the land as something to conquer. You know, let’s move these mountains and build this structure. Let’s, you know, hunt this animal to extinction or let’s you know we’re gonna hunt this beast and, conquer it.

And , that’s the me the mindset. And, you know, you certainly could do that, but there’s going to be repercussions and negative outcomes for generations to come that may not benefit in the same way that you once did in that glory. So we encourage people to see yourself as a part of the land as a children of Mother Earth. And as someone who has teachings and virtues that you abide by that keep your equal footprint in various ways to the minimum. As we know, we have to partake, in some ways that in practices that hurt land. Like Chelsey said, we have to partake in capitalism just as much as anyone else, and that’s the struggle.

But we encourage everyone to shift the mindset and don’t see the outdoors of the land as something separate from you just because you don’t live in it anymore. But see, you are part of it. Make your, make it your personal cultural practice to be out there and partaking as much as you can. It could be a simple swift walk, like you said.

Getting outside, walking around the block is the simplest. Observing the trees, getting out to the park, sit down on the grass there and breathe. Just quiet the mind and take some deep breaths and taking air and recognize that you’re taking in life giving oxygen. And it’s been here, for millions of years and without it, we would cease to exist. So that is precious. So you. Simple things like that. I think it’s really helps people to shift their mindset towards it

Amy Bushatz: Right it’s, It’s like, um, every day is a lot of days. And when you start going outside on purpose, it’s not just like a happenstance, it’s something that you’re actually making happen. You are spending, you develop a relationship. So it’s no longer, you no longer have a view of it as wholeheartedly something to conquer or wholesale, something to conquer. Although that may be true in individual sections, right? But especially with the nature and the outdoors that you are personally around, you start to view it as relationship because it’s something that you’re spending time with and now it’s personal.

And then, as you’re saying, it’s a part of your personal culture and you get to decide what that means to you and what actions that you take. Maybe all of a sudden your awareness is larger and you think more about the how the leave no trace principles impact what kind of packaging you use for your food.

All right. And you never really thought that was important before, but you know, it’s kind of like in your mind now because you’re spending a lot of time with those trees. Or you start to view how you even just practically leave no trace. Do you step off the trail because you know you’re gonna be back here tomorrow and you’re gonna be able to literally see your footprints day over day if you’re taking a side trail that you’ve now created.

And these are very little things that add up over time, and you only notice them because you’ve made it, as you said, part of your own culture and developed this as a relationship with the land and a relationship with where you’re spending your time. We always say that how we’re spending our time is a best indication of what you really like. So do I really like the land or do I really like looking at reels on Instagram? ?

Thosh Collins: Yeah. .

Chelsey Luger: Yeah. Right.

Amy Bushatz: I mean, I would say that I really like the land, but my time might say that the reals are my first love. Yeah. Which they’re not, but somehow there I am. So yeah. .

Thosh Collins: Yeah.

Chelsey Luger: Yeah. Oh, for sure. I mean, I absolutely have those days. We actually just did a podcast about social media addiction and all of the health implications and how it affects every aspect of our, including our connection to land, it severs us. There are so many things that are actively working to sever the human connection to the land. And so we do have to just make a conscious effort to reconnect.

And it isn’t always easy. Right now we’re we’re kind of at that time of the year where the summer is going on and on and on and, and we try to be grateful for every day and just recognize, Hey, this is where we are, we’re in the desert. But you know, it does start to wear on us a bit as far as the, our kids are young. They can’t be outside in a hundred degree weather for as long as we can. And so it keeps us and doors a little bit. But yeah. There’s always something and and it’s so good to just make that effort where we can . Cause it, it’s not just about this symbolic really, this symbolic connection to earth.

I think that sounds very out there for some people, but like you said, it really is a relationship. You really get to know where you are. Uh, you become aware of your surroundings, you become aware of your footprint, and and like anything, it’s reciprocal. It brings us it, it’s hard work to ha to cultivate that relationship, but it also brings incredible benefits.

Thosh Collins: Yeah. And then, you know, I wanna speak to that concept too of, of relationships. And that’s a, a lot of what we talk about with seven circles is that each circle it’s about a relationship with that practice of sleep. Relationship with movement, relationship with food rather than diet culture, relationship with community. Relationship with the home space, the workspace, the school space, and relationship, of course with the land.

So everything, if we really think about it, it’s all built on having relationships and how strong is that relationship there. So we always encourage people to certainly, you know, use that template when they’re looking at all the different elements in their life that play a role in their wellbeing.

Amy Bushatz: Speaking of relationship, let’s talk a little bit about, or go back to the connection of the land to the other circles. We talked about it a little bit before, but I’m wondering if you can maybe interconnect this a little bit for us maybe some of the circles that aren’t necessarily as obvious. So I think that some of them are and some of them aren’t. Uh, And I’ll, you know, you can decide which ones you think and which one you wanna touch on.

Thosh Collins: You know, I love food too, cuz we talk about food and, food we have seven areas too. Also, if you zoom into food, there’s seven ways to strengthen your relationship with that. That’s foraging that’s growing food, that is hunting, fishing, and that is of course, shopping smart at the grocery store. And then giving thanks no matter what kind of food you’re eating is like giving thanks even if it’s a processed food because the, that changes happen in the brain. And then of course for mothers to breastfeed and support that. Or others, non breastfeeding people to support that space, the baby’s first food. And then to cook again if you’re not already cooking and learning to, do that.

But a lot of that takes place on the land, and I think that’s what we tell people is that a good way to also to start to strengthen your connection to land is get out and forage things seasonally.

Even if it’s just a handful of things. You know, whether it’s mushrooms, whether it’s berries in the summertime, roots, certain times of the year. You know, um, go on a hunt or go on a fish, or maybe even acquire food that came from that. Because also when we are eating from the land, that’s the most um, sustainable and ethical way to acquire our animal source proteins is doing that.

Then we learn about reverence for the animal nations. We learn about giving thanks and having ceremony for, you know, the lives that. That was expired for your nourishment. You know, or even the plants that we, whose lives that we take to nourish us right there too. We also recognize those as life. So, you know, we it, the food is a great way cuz everyone loves to eat and everyone has to eat. So we encourage everyone find out what sort of, well, how can you acquire your food, out on the land, even if it’s starting really small, you know, one meal or you know, just seasonally.

Sleep. And everyone knows this too, you know, you love sleeping outdoors and you know, we don’t get to sleep outdoors as much as we love to, but that’s certain, certainly something we grew up doing a lot. And when we try to, we love to get out and do that, and to reset that circadian rhythm and not use our electronic devices.

You know, sacred space is recognizing that your space, your office, your home, your house plays, has a role. It plays a role in your overall wellbeing. And so we encourage everyone, let the, the sunlight in.

Like in our home here, we try not to use any of the fluorescent lights. And then when we do use in the evening, we try to keep ’em dimmed. We try to keep it minimal, but let the sunlight come in, fill it, because the sunlight brings in, it brings in, yeah, it brings in healing energy. Let the fresh air come in, you know? Um, and, and there’s just so many ways that we can talk about, you know, how the land is, involved in each and every one of these processes.

Chelsey Luger: Yeah. In the ceremony circle, what we encourage folks to do is to spend time outdoors and to really be aware and conscious of your connection to the land and how that cultivates gratitude for everything that the land provides.

And then in the community circle, we encourage folks to spend out time, spend time outdoors with your loved ones or with those who are in community with even a colleague. Take a meeting outside for a walk rather than sitting across from a table, across a table indoors from somebody all the time.

See how different that conversation feels when you’re walking outdoors and, you know, um, taking your kids outside. So many people they would find, we know that it’s cruel if you have a dog that you don’t take for walks, but yet we don’t take our kids for walks, you know, as with as much commitment.

So, and then Thosh already talked about food. And then as far as movement when, like I said earlier, when you take your movement practice outdoors, the healing benefits are just exponential for what they could be inside. And we like gyms, we love our little garage gym, and we like, you know, we recognize the benefit of that too. But when you can, Take it outside, so there’s definitely connection.

Thosh Collins: Right. And we have something that we encourage too, with called Earth Gym that we’ve been using for several years now, even before pandemic. But you know, like 10 years ago we was, I was calling Earth Gym or Mother Earth Gym and, utilizing rocks, utilizing logs and things like that out on the land.

And, you know, we love that because there’s no even surfaces, there’s no soft handles, handles there for comfort and convenience, but rather you really experience you know developing real world strength, real world mobility, real world cardiovascular endurance and you know, a lot of people trail run. That’s a big thing. People bike, that’s a big thing out there, for sure. So we encourage everyone to, you know, also take other modalities of movement, on the land. Bear barefoot in the grass, and we’re on the dirt, the rocks, the sand, whatever it is.

Amy Bushatz: So uh, I am, I am a lover of the rules. I like a firm guide and a firm framework. But I appreciate it when people challenge me on not having that. Your book does not offer rules. It offers sort of guidelines um, stages of action in each circle. Uh, Learn, engage, and optimize. So I’m hoping that you can give us an example of each of those stages. Um, I, I don’t know if, if you would refer to it this way, but in my mind I think of it good, better, best? Maybe that’s me inserting rules again. That’s, that is what I do after all. But for the land circle in particular,

Chelsey Luger: Hey, if that’s your interpretation, we encourage you to see it that way. Yeah. If that’s what helps you, you know. And that’s why we kind of had these, this framework is pretty loose because we want people to cater it to their own, what makes sense for you and how it works for you. So, so for learn, the biggest step is to shift your mindset toward, like we said, it’s not, the land isn’t just this object to be extracted for resources or to be bought and sold.

Our ancestors never had the concept of buying and selling and fencing land up and stuff like that. It’s something to ha it’s an entity to have a relationship with. And and when we develop that re relationship, we experience all of these incredible benefits. So that’s the one I would say I would start with learn.

But other things that you can do is like, land acknowledgement. You can learn about the indigenous history and territory where you live and learn about it’s history, th e, the people. Everybody in North America is on indigenous land, and you can learn about, because it’s not just for our benefit as indigenous people, it’s for everyone’s benefit because isn’t it enriching to understand our ancient history as well as to understand our recent history.

So we encourage that. And then of course, learning about wildlife and plants and seasonal differences in your own territory and all that kind of stuff. As far as engage. Engage means you’ve now learned a bit and now you’re ready to start practicing. So, using your senses to really connect with the area around you, taking your training, your fitness training outdoors and engaging in the Earth. Gym. Engaging with food processes outdoors once you’ve learned about the proper ways to do that without harming the environment. So, gathering, growing, harvesting, fishing, hunting, et cetera. So those are all part of engaging. There’s more to it as well. But then going on to optimize is you’ve reached a state where you’re fully, you do feel like you have that relationship.

You are getting yourself outdoors every day in some way, shape, or form. And you celebrate different parts of the year that are um, that are our natural markers progress and renewals such as equinoxes and solstice and those are the kind of holidays that we had here forever, prior to having things like Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day. So, so beginning to celebrate these milestones that the earth gives us. And um,

Amy Bushatz: It’s almost as if the opposable thumbs and Valentine’s Day are like with fatal, fatal human combo. That’s really just setting us up for not, not making it.

Chelsey Luger: And then what I love in the state of optimization is that you’re now a person who can teach, share, and help others and bring your community and your family into this like, join me on this, you know, this, these are the, these are the benefits I’ve experienced and I’m gonna put my arm around you and help you experience this as well.

Because we always have to be inclusive, right? And um, it’s not about, Oh, I’m this great outdoors person now, and like, you don’t know anything. It’s really, what is it? if not for sharing it with others, right?

Thosh Collins: Yeah. Humility.

Chelsey Luger: Mm-hmm. And then, sorry, I’ll let you go after this. But we always say that after optimize you, you return to the learning. Because what happens in anything in life, the more we learn, the more we know we need to learn. So I’ve learned the base, the bare minimum about growing something on my window, so well now I’m realizing, okay, if I, it didn’t work out this season because of X, Y, Z. So I’ve learned all this and I did grow something, but I could do it so much better. So now I’m gonna go back to that learning stage.

Amy Bushatz: Hey, it’s a circles. Look at that.

Chelsey Luger: Circle. It’s this cycle and we do it for the rest of our lives, and that’s really important. With these seven circles. There’s no beginning, there’s no end. It’s this, it’s this journey. And in fact, everybody’s already on the journey and so we’re helping you to sort of, embrace holy thing in a dynamic sense.

Thosh Collins: There’s never a finish line with any of this, Right. There’s never a finish line. Like, what we see, You know, what’s also in our minds and in dominant culture is that, we complete a certification, we complete a course, we get this degree. You’ve made it, you’ve become a PhD or you have this, expertise in this area. But when we are understanding, when we’re looking at our healing, our connection to things like the land, we see that there’s no finish line to it, that we’re continuing, we’re always evolving. We’re always running into obstacles that teach us that we need to revert back to those original teachings and tools to learn once again to optimize once again. And when we’re in the op optimization phase there, we’re able to really observe the changes we’re observed to, we’re able to observe not just, you know, how we feel, but we’re even, we might even look at and see, how even your biomarkers and your physi physiology have improved because you, you’re, you have been, you know, um, engaging for many years and learning to really optimize these practice.

Amy Bushatz: Thank you guys both very much for joining us on Humans Outside today. As a very final thing, we started our episode imagining ourselves in your various favorite outdoor spaces. So we’ve been having our conversation there, like you’ve been, like we were talking about that connection to the land. Uh, you know, We, I’m in a podcast closet. You are in your home, but we can still be connected with the land, at least in our imaginations for this conversation. And as a final thing, I love to ask our guests to describe a favorite outdoor moment. So we’ve been talking in this episode about that connection to the land, but maybe you can walk us out with an example from your own walks, a connection moment with the land that you like to reengage with and go back to.

Chelsey Luger: What I love is how it’s observing our daughters and develop their connection. And they’re both so different. We have our four year old who’s she’s has a hard time with sensory processing and she gets a little freaked out by like textures and dirt and grass and stuff like that.

But we’re gently guide her towards it, and then one day she finally said Daddy, Mommy, the desert is my home. I don’t wanna leave you know cause we were coming back to the suburbs after a day at the river. So she made that connection, you know, it, it finally clicked for her and she felt that connection and. Man, that made us, that felt so good.

And then our little one, she’s so rough and tumble and she just gets right in there and it’s just fun to watch her just barreling through, the , the cacti and the, and the mud and all.

Thosh Collins: She wants to climb up high and she sees things.

Chelsey Luger: She’s rolling. So those, those are my favorites.

Thosh Collins: Yeah. Mine has to do with the girls too. Like this last season when we planted on our family’s land, like I said, where I’m imagining us sitting right on that and there’s like about one acres of these garden beds that are really long they’re like 70 yards long each. And about fif about 40, 50 yards wide.

And we, we have um, various heirloom corn that are indigenous to our area melons and squash. And when we started planting in the springtime back in March, we always take, we try to take the girls out like. Our four year old, she was when she was only about two months, we had her plant the first seed, so we put the seed in her, in her little hand, and we had to, of course, pry her hand open to drop it into the hole, to plant it.

And then now, this last, you know, planting season here in, in the spring of this year. She knows what to do is she’s four years old and it’s not a, it’s not a foreign thing for her. It’s not a new thing for her. And you know, we, I make the little hole and she drops seeds in there and we’re, we’re in their barefoot and we cover it, and there’s a whole, there’s just something there for me that’s very, reflective of about it’s, it’s our true meaning as human beings, that’s what we did. For millions of years people did things with their relatives, with their loved ones on the land. Making something as special as food. You know, we all need food. So there’s, for me, I recognize those moments, you know, those in my mind. I’m memorizing and I’m recording it in my consciousness, and I’m giving thanks that we’ve built, that we’ve been able to bring that back and sort of restore that process.

You know, in our communities we say every generation should get better and we should get more connected to the land, to each other, to the animal plant nations. We should become more spiritually conscious. We should become more mentally conscious and such. So when I see that, that makes, for me, that’s a win in parenting and for, people in our community. And, And I just love those moments there. And that’s, sort of, I guess one of my recent highlight moments with incorporating or engaging with the land.

Amy Bushatz: Chelsey and Thosh thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today and gifting us with your knowledge and work. It’s appreciated.

Chelsey Luger: Thank you. It was great to be here.

Thosh Collins: Thank you all. Appreciate it.

Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, take a second to leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. That makes it easier for others to find the podcast too. Your positive review makes a huge difference. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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