connecting to self and nature through eco-art therapy: an interview

If you’d told my teenage self, a suburban mall-rat and lover of new clothes, that one day I would live in a small town, work in the outdoors and aspire to owning a piece of land and a caravan . . . I honestly don’t know what I would have thought.  I probably would have thought that sounded pretty lame.  But it’s not lame.  It’s awesome!  Not least because of the wholehearted, authentic, free-spirited people I get to be surrounded by every day.  I love being surrounded by my amazing friends who care deeply about each other, community and the environment.  And every now and then I find an excuse to write about one of them.

Last year my friend and co-guide Pamela started a new eco-art therapy business Dingo Lingo in the Blue Mountains.  I asked her to tell me a bit about her journey from corporate life to adventure guiding, and what eco-art therapy is about.
Hey Pam, thanks for agreeing to chat with me.  Let’s start with . . . what is your earliest memory of being outdoors?
I grew up near the Murray river in Victoria 7km out of the lovely little town of Echuca. My father was a bee keeper and we had a hobby farm. My childhood was spent swimming in the river, building cubby houses in the bush and making up games outside with my nine  brothers and sisters. We didn’t have a computer or even a TV, but I was never bored.
Has spending time outdoors always been a big part of your life? 
I have always craved for the outdoors, the space, the quiet, the slow pace of nature, sometimes due to circumstances  I have not spent enough time being in nature and with it.
What made it a priority for you again?
In 2010 I smashed up my right leg badly while riding a razor scooter with my son. I had 19 screws and two plates inserted into my lower leg. I couldn’t walk at all for 4 months and I didn’t think I would ever be able to go  on a bush walk again. As they say, its when you lose something you begin to appreciate what you had.
Once I began walking each milestone was significant. To walk to the letterbox, around the block, to the shops  1 km away. 1 1/2 years later my dear friend announced she was doing the 50km wild endurance walk to raise money for the wilderness society. Although I was unfit I decided to take the challenge and began walking more. I remember when I walked down to the bottom of Wentworth Falls for the first time since the accident . As I looked up at the falls tears welled up in my eyes as I had given up on being able to walk in such places. I knew at that point that I deeply needed time with nature.
What were you doing for work before you started training as a guide?
I was working as a rehabilitation consultant for the Department of Human Services
Did you enjoy this work? 
I enjoyed helping people but struggled with being sedentary and indoors.
What made you leave this work and start training as a guide? 
I guess I was burnt out. I was out bushwalking one day and I saw a guide giving internps  and I thought..” People get paid to be out here!” The penny dropped. This is what I needed to do.
I loved the training. The technical roping skills were totally new to me.
It felt good to be able to reinvent myself and keep up with my class mates, most whom were half my age.
What motivated you to start Dingo Lingo?
After working as an outdoor guide with schools I realised that the adrenalin-based outdoor activities we usually focus on were not connecting us to nature. Some of the youth appeared even less connected, as the whole experience took the beyond their comfort zones and reinforced how much they disliked nature and were not comfortable in it.

What do you offer?

We offer eco art therapy and nature play. As the name implies, eco-art therapy combines art therapy with applied ecopsychology. The goal the same as conventional talk therapies: self discovery, personal insight, inner healing and conflict resolution. We use the creative process and nature to address the gaps in verbal counselling alone.
Both art and the outdoors are powerful tools that can be used for personal growth and insight. When used together the therapeutic benefit is compounded dramatically, increasing potential for change.
Why do you think these services are important for people in the Blue Mountains?
We live in a culture disconnected from  the wisdom nature has to offer. We have lost the ability to connect to this deep wisdom. This is even the case for many people living in such an amazing natural environment as the Blue Mountains.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far, starting Dingo Lingo? 
Running  head first into the unknown. I am new to business and eco-art therapy breaks new ground. The challenge of assisting people to connect with their true selves as a part of nature seems like a huge challenge when many people don’t even realise they are disconnected.
Since leaving your first career you’ve also become very involved in renovating your home in Hazelbrook?
Guiding is the Blue Mountains is busy in summer and quiet in winter so I laboured on a straw bale building  site last winter. I learnt a lot about cob (mud and straw) and decided to convert my double garage into a cosy space for my growing boys using alternative building and recycled materials. My boys, partner Jed and other friends pitched in to complete the project.
How do you maintain balance in your life as an entrepreneur and mother?
It’s a daily challenge. If I listen carefully to myself I know what I need . Sometimes I feel overwhelmed or anxious and I know the balance is out; something has to change, so I do my best to change it.
Just a couple more questions for the road.  What is your favourite hot drink?
Chai latte or mulled wine.
What is your favourite way to spend a rainy day? 

In my studio making art or sitting in front of the fire watching a foreign movie

And finally, what do you love most about your work?  

I love doing outdoors work.  Having opportunities to do new things , explore and discover different places and spend time in nature.

Thanks so much for your time Pam.  Good luck with Dingo Lingo 🙂 x 
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