Claire Thompson is author of ‘Mindfulness and the Natural World’ and has dedicated her career to the protection of our natural world. She has worked World Land Trust and BirdLife International. Here she speaks to Conservation Careers about her career and the importance of reconnecting to the natural world through mindfulness, meditation, yoga and Buddhism…
Why do you work in conservation?
Because I believe that our disconnection from the natural world (and resulting destruction of nature) is at the heart of many of the problems we face across the globe. Our personal well-being, the well-being of other life forms and the well-being of future generations all depend on restoring our connection with nature and our understanding that we are part of an interconnected web of life.
What we do to nature, we do to ourselves and to the rest of life on Earth. We are nature. I believe that restoring this understanding of this innate bond we have with the natural world inspires us to protect and respect the rest of nature around us. This is essential is we are to bring forth a happier, more peaceful and sustainable world. However, in all honesty, my main inspiration for working in conservation is that I love being in wilderness. Nature is full of wonder, magic, beauty and truth. And we all want to protect what we love, don’t we?
What has been your career journey to date?
I began my career volunteering on conservation projects in beautiful wild places in Chile and Mexico and in fact, it was during my first visit to the Chilean Lake District (Araucania region) which inspired me dedicate my career to nature conservation. I fell in love with the place so much that I led an expedition there with students from my Zoology course at Cambridge Uni.
I then completed a 6 month internship at the World Land Trust which led me to obtaining a 3 year position as a Projects Development Assistant – supporting the purchase and protection of nature reserves by local and national NGOs in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Following that, I joined BirdLife International as a Projects Manager – where I have mostly been working supporting the Migratory Birds and Flyways Programme – fundraising, capacity building, organising workshops and coordinating projects with national NGOs in the Mediterranean region.
Alongside my work for BirdLife, I had the opportunity to publish two books: Mindfulness and the Natural World and The Art of Mindful Birdwatching – which led me to begin running “Mindfulness of Nature” – a personal venture whereby I run workshops to reconnect people with nature through mindfulness. I believe that giving people direct experiences of nature is the key to inspiring more to care about the natural world and support its protection.
Mindfulness and the natural world with Claire Thompson
What is your current role like?
I currently work part-time for BirdLife International and part-time running “Mindfulness of Nature”. In my role at BirdLife, I manage multi-NGO projects which involves project proposal development, project coordination, donor relationship management, workshop organisation and capacity development support to national NGOs. In practice, it is about writing project proposals, reporting to donors, preparing budgets and financial reports and running knowledge-exchange workshops with NGOs in country. Through Mindfulness of Nature, I write books (like Mindfulness and the Natural World), blogs and run workshops, retreats and holidays to reconnect people with nature through meditations, discussions, games – and time in wild places!
What’s the best part of the job?
The best part of my job at BirdLife is working with NGOs from all over the world and meeting inspiring, dedicated people doing fantastic conservation work on the ground. I particularly love facilitating workshops where NGOs exchange experiences and develop collaborative initiatives. The best part of my work through Mindfulness of Nature is getting to spend more time in nature bringing people together to share my passion for bringing forth a world that is more mindful of nature! It has always been my dream to move from an office job to a “nature and people” job and things are finally happening…
What’s the worst part of the job?
The worst part of my job at BirdLife for me is being in an office every day. This is however a big part of working in international nature conservation – the day-to-day work can be administrative and office-based and sometimes, keeping the connection with the work on the ground and feeling our impact and contribution is a challenge. The worst part of my work through Mindfulness of Nature is essentially the administration involved in running your own ‘business’!
What’s next for your career?
My next move is dedicating myself full time to Mindfulness of Nature in a couple of months’ time! I would like to explore different ways of reconnecting different audiences with nature across the globe with the intention of supporting a change in how we relate to the natural world and consequent behavioural changes in our lifestyles. I would also like to get back to writing – in order to inspire more people to reflect on their relationship with nature and spend time experiencing the wonders of the natural world.
What advice would you give someone wishing to build a career in nature conservation?
- Think about what you enjoy doing day-to-day. Do you like being in an office? Do you prefer being outdoors? Do you like working alone or with people? Working in nature conservation sometimes involves spending less time in nature than we may assume. In the words of Howard Thurman ““Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
- Take all opportunities that will help you learn more about your skills, your passions and nature itself!
- Be patient – it’s taken me 10 years to start to discover what really makes me tick and begin to be involved in it!
- Keep nurturing your own relationship with nature! It will keep you inspired and help you reflect on how exactly you really want to contribute to nature conservation.
How can people find about more mindfulness and the natural world?
You can find out everything you need about BirdLife International here: http://www.birdlife.org/
. To find out more about my work through Mindfulness of Nature: www.mindfulness-of-nature.com
My experiences in Chile and other wild places changed my relationship with myself and with nature and fuelled my career in nature conservation – the natural world can help us reflect on who we are, what makes us tick, what direction to take in our lives and careers etc. Why not join one of my upcoming courses? hhttp://mindfulness-of-nature.com/workshops-and-courses/
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