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Nature as a coach with Eva Zurlinden

{nature conversations}

In a world that often seems hopeless and where many of us see themselves as lone warriors, we need people who want to change the status quo and conversations that encourage us. That's where my new conversation series starts. I speak with beautiful humans who work with and in nature, who help us re-connect to nature and ourselves and whom I find inspiring. May I present: Nature conversations.

The series kicks off with Eva Zurlinden, a Swiss nature coach. I hope you find a lot of inspiration to go out into nature through Eva's words. Enjoy!

nature conversations

Hello Eva, let's start with a little introduction. Who are you and how did you get to where you are now?


I'm Eva and at the moment I work as a nature coach. I'm self-employed, which started three years ago. Before that I used to be a social education worker. I worked with families a lot and I noticed that if you want to move something in their lives with a sustainable effect, nature is the best advisor.

Eva Zurlinden Naturcoaching
© Eva Zurlinden

I have been connecting to nature for my whole life and more than ever I observe that people don't make those experiences with nature anymore. I have three kids, one of which is in a wheel chair, and all of them go out into nature often. Also alone. They are allowed to go into nature alone and all of the neighbor's kids aren't, because the parents are scared. Because the parents have lost their connection to nature and that's a huge problem in our society, because we also lost the trust in us. The trust that we can find solutions to our own problems, for example health issues, the trust to find our own way, just like that. Here I see a great connection to loosing the knowledge of: We are nature. By spending time in nature you are just yourself.


You said you were a social education worker and started going out in nature with your clients. Could you describe what you experienced then? What did it do with the people when you went outside with them?


Let me explain it with an example. I worked with a family that had big problems, especially concerning the upbringing of their kids. I then took them outside, just on a little walk. My goal was simply to bring about an opening, to simply distance ourselves from the heavy topics. In garden therapy there's a term for that, the "being away"-feeling. It's the feeling that settles in as soon as you leave your four walls and go outside. For me as a mother this happens already when I sit on the bench outside my house. Away from everything, not hearing what's going on inside, just distancing myself for a moment. And it's that feeling I wanted my clients to experience. "Being away" also means immediate relaxation and not being under this brutal pressure this family had been under and which came from the government, but of course also through working with me. Through this walk I noticed that the family started to understand things quicker, because they were more relaxed. They were able to say more spontaneously what their needs are, what they want and what they're dreaming of. They opened up. The focus wasn't on the problems anymore, but on what their hearts are beating for. And that's something I'm still doing, asking my coachees: What exactly do you want? Where do you want to go?

Then I started to plant things on the balcony with that family, because I sensed that they would truly enjoy it and because they started to think for themselves, they found that responsibility towards themselves. When someone is advising you, whom you don't really want to be there, you forfeit the responsibility for your life completely. But by going out in nature your head becomes freer and you develop ideas on how to do things differently and again the question is posed: What do I really want? Being so relaxed in nature the possibility evolves to dream again.

Eva Zurlinden Naturcoaching
© Eva Zurlinden

You're helping people to return to themselves through these encounters in nature.


Yes, that's it.


I was able to experience that as well. Three years ago I moved back to the mountains after living in the city. For me this wasn't just a coming back to my roots, but also a coming back to nature, which has always been here, but I wasn't able to fully live it - or maybe I didn't want to. And it's exactly what I discovered: Hey nature is also me! I'm part of something so much bigger. Nature is a mirror. You can go to nature with a question and find the answers if you're open for what is already there.


Exactly. You go into nature and you realize: Ah this rhythm. No matter how extreme our world is at the moment, nature always has her rhythm. Sometimes it arrives a little later, sometimes a little earlier, but no matter what happens it is a constant. It can give us the security that all will be well. That's so important, especially during this time. So many crazy things are going on and the people are getting anxious and they don't know anymore what to do. The result is many mental challenges, chronic illnesses that surface all of a sudden and no one knows what't actually going on. It's here we have to start and by going outside and listening to ourselves, we are able to arrive at the answers we need, like you said. Nature gives us exactly that.


Let me follow up on that. You spoke about the state of our world and I can just speak for myself: I'm arriving at a point again and again where everything seems negative. So many things are not going well. On a human level a lot isn't harmonious, be it war, conflict... and also pertaining the environment, it's a topic very close to my heart. And so I want to ask you: Do you see positive for our world?


Yes, nature conservation and nature changing so quickly are very important topics for me. The longer I'm working with nature, the more I realize that we are actually the biggest idiots. (laughs) We think nature needs us, but it's the exact opposite. There are immense catastrophes and nature retaliates, which is also fascinating to observe. But I don't think that nature really needs us to get better, but that she will self-regulate, in a very crass way. It's not easy to endure. Nature changes and I'm convinced it's not just negative. I believe nature knows better how to help herself and how to deal with all of it.

In nature we find ourselves again.


Do you think there's something each and everyone of us can do for ourselves and the environment respectively?


Yes, I think it's simple: Just start going out into nature again. Start re-connecting to nature again, and by that I don't mean going to the woods for a barbecue, but to really go outside. Alone. It's here we find ourselves again and we also begin to understand again what's going on in nature. By doing so we'll be keen on becoming green again. We'll be keen on eating healthier and more natural food. We'll be keen on planting something on our balcony, which the bees in turn will like. By going outside you'll notice how nature functions. You'll notice that she was different back in the day. You'll start to grapple with nature and the changes again. But it has to happen through a personal experience.


I'd love to talk about nature coaching. What is it? And how do you work with your clients who join you for a nature coaching?

Eva Zurlinden Naturcoaching
© Eva Zurlinden

Most of my clients join me because they feel like they want to change something in their lives. They feel like something just isn't the way it's supposed to be. Either they have physical discomfort, they are haunted by fears or they feel constricted in their life, imprisoned and they want to break free, but they can't because of their many responsibilities. Family, a job they can't leave. That's the starting point.

My first big program I called "nature magic" - it's still running. Here I work with women for a whole year, which is something extremely important to me in order for it to be a long-lasting and sustainable accompaniment. I don't want it to be a crash course, where we fix something quickly and that's it. A year runs through seasons, through different growth stages and that's where nature coaching comes in. We work with nature and we start the process. We deal with the ups and downs as they appear in nature as well, and we keep going. What differentiates nature coaching from other coachings is that we use the space of nature. On the one hand the different landscapes. For example the river with its topic of flowing, but also the forest with the many terpenes you can inhale from the air. On the other hand we use the different qualities of the soil. We work with stones, using their weight, because our problems can also feel heavy. And we're shifting and piling them, working with our bodies. I'm convinced that all of our topics should also be processed on a physical level. During a nature coaching you're moving your body anyway and this movement and the changes in nature cause the internal processes to go quicker and deeper. And we don't even need a lot.

I called my program "nature magic" because I noticed that the border between physical nature and spirituality is very close and that it becomes palpable for people, too, who don't consider themselves spiritual. They realize, even if they don't believe in it, that there's something more to it. Perhaps they don't even believe in themselves, but if they throw a wish into a fire for example, something actually happens. And that creates a new space where we can unfold ourselves.


How beautiful and what a precious realization. And how simple it is. Everything actually sounds so easy, but it's so effective. I noticed it again a few days ago: Nature provides. I don't have to search, everything is already here. Your client comes with a topic and something in nature is there that calls to her and mirrors her problem.


Yes, exactly and in the meantime I don't only offer these coachings in my garden, but also online. For a long time I didn't want to, but then I knew that I can only go online if the people and I are outside together. Meaning: I take my laptop outside and so the only thing being online is the way of communication. Other than that the coaching is the exact same. I call it therefor "outside online". Because it's so important to me that it isn't just another online course, where you're sitting in front of a computer talking about nature, but that it's nonetheless the goal to be outside as much as possible.


To close this conversation off I would love to ask you a few questions I'll be asking all my guests. Let's start with this one: When you're going outside, you as Eva and not as a nature coach, is there a practice, a ritual, an exercise you return to again and again at the moment?

At the moment winter bathing means a lot to me. I have discovered it relatively recently. I have always been swimming in mountain creeks, but mainly in summer, when they're still cold enough. But then I just wanted to try it in winter in order to see if this would be something for my day to day. And now I realized that the difference it makes is incredible. And not only because of the cold! In the beginning I thought that it would be the cold that would do me good - and indeed I was able to reduce pain fairly quickly. But what happened furthermore is that I would never go to the Aare without the winter swimming to just be there. And I noticed how the view of the river and of the surrounding nature simply is beautiful and that I slow down there.

Many don't understand why you would do something like that. To those people I say that it's not even necessary to go winter swimming in order to feel nature. I for example also discovered going outside without a coat as a ritual.


I can understand what you mean regarding ice-bathing. I bathe in the river coming from the mountain, which is often surrounded by snow and ice, and many tell me: Oh, I know it would do me good, but I could never do it. And I mostly answer that firstly you have to feel for yourself what benefits you. You mustn't underestimate winter swimming, it can be challenging for your body. And secondly it's also for me not the cold that calls me the most, even though it is very beneficial to me. But in the end it's the ritual that has become so important to me. Starting with walking along the path to the river, stepping into the water and getting dressed again afterwards. It's the simple being in nature and that doesn't have to be by bathing in cold water necessarily.


Eva Zurlinden Naturcoaching
© Eva Zurlinden

Yes, but by swimming in cold water it's easier to reach that state. It's the express version. It lures you out of your comfort zone, but in the moment you step into the water, you can't think about anything anymore. It brings you back to your body instantly.

That's something ice bathing does to you. When you go to the forest, it happens, too, but I think you have to do it with more awareness there. By swimming in cold water you don't have to do anything and it happens automatically. But yes, basically you can connect to nature everywhere, in the city as well.


Do you have a favorite plant at the moment? And if yes, which one and why?


At the moment it's the linden tree. During the end of the year season I realized that this is the year of the linden. Linden trees were in our culture always places where people met. There used to be dances held in the crown of the tree on wooden floors they put in there. People held court under the linden tree, but also lovers met there. It's a tree of community and that's what draws me in. Probably that's the reason this tree is so important to me, because community is important and that we meet again in true and honest fashion.


And the linden is also a tree of the heart. Its leaves are shaped like one and its essence affects the heart chakra. If you meet underneath a linden tree, it comes from the heart.


Yes, the linden is also a very interesting tree of healing. It helps with nerves, quiets the heart and brings calmness.

With nature you already have everything you need.


What do you wish for humanity and nature?


What I tell everyone who wants to hear it: Hey, it doesn't need much! Just 10 minutes per day of being outside, without your phone, and just being, just observing what goes on in nature. With nature you already have everything you need.


And lastly: What are your offerings and where can we find you?


You can find me on my website.

And on instagram.

I offer coachings here in my garden in Wildegg, AG, but also online in all German speaking areas. I also have group offerings. "Nature magic" is my current program and currently I'm also working on a new program called "body sound" where we look at how we can use our body and listen to the answers it gives us. Our body shows us what we have to change, in order for us to have less pain, less chronic illnesses and to be able to loose weight, if that's what you want. With "body sound" we resolve old patterns and we learn how to work together with our bodies. In this program that happens by going out into nature.


Thank you so much, Eva, for this beautiful conversation!


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