Proust Nature Questionnaire – Camille Preston

CAMILLE PRESTON is a psychologist, executive coach, consultant, speaker, and internationally recognized expert on Virtual Effectiveness. She is the founder and CEO of the organizational consulting firm AIM Leadership, and the author of two books: Rewired: How to Work Smarter, Live Better, and Be Purposefully Productive in an Overwired World and Create More Flow: Igniting Peak Performance in an Overwired World.

For more than twenty years, Camille has guided leaders, executives, policy makers, professionals, and individuals alike to new heights of leadership, performance, efficiency, and greater happiness and fulfillment. Her clients span industries and fields around the globe, including executives from NBC, Zappos, MGM Mirage, Citrix, the Corporate Executive Board, Mars, Verizon, GE, Capital One, the US Army, and many others.

Beyond work, Camille is an avid runner, yogi, and adventure traveler. She has worked on five continents, traveled to 39 countries, and currently lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband, Mark, and their son, Preston and daughter, Adeline.

3 words to describe Nature?

Life-source (vital, energizing)

Teacher

Diversity (if you connect with how amazing, vast, diverse and profound nature is – it transforms your interactions elsewhere…. if you know the dessert and the ocean and the mountains – it helps you deal with different personalities, different life experiences)

3 things Nature taught you?

Centering

Humility (so beautiful, so powerful, so ever-changing)

To recharge OFTEN (being in nature recharges…)

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Sitting in a kayak in the center of Squam Lake – especially early morning, at dusk.

Top of Powder Mountain, in Utah – vast views, diverse landscape, intersection of so many forces – wild and beautiful.

Church Island Chapel – Squam. It is a sanctuary in a pine grove, surrounded by water… where I have gone with my greatest heartaches and greatest desires

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Any type of water is profoundly powerful for me as I have a lot of fire in my personality. I need to be around water otherwise I’m off balance. I always seek out water – on my morning runs, on my ideal vacations, etc.

Something about the moisture in the waves, the space that sits above the ocean.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Reminded that I am just part of a larger system, a speck on this earth. You see the grandeur, the longevity, the strength – and it gives me focus.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

It gives me the force to change, surrender to greater things. I loved driving in Chile – so many roads are built to frame a volcano. Almost as if there is deep reverence for their force to create and destroy.

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Morning – I think about where / what to create, how to leave a mark and feel a sense of deep possibility.

Evenings – I think about all that is, all that I have been blessed with. There is a sense of gratitude to be.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Humbled by the powerful force of nature – AND all that I don’t understand about it.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Grateful to snuggle deep into bed. For having safety, protection, and emotional community.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

I’m a water person… I need to be.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10…. I can tell when I haven’t been “in it”. Nature drives where I live, how I engaged, the ways I create balance within myself.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Every summer I spent at Squam Lake. All this time unplugging, slowing down, learning a new rhythm, adapting to a new pace of life. We would also spend 3-4wks as a family backpacking. Now, as a mom – I’m humbled that they would leave the lake and “choose” a harder interaction with nature – to teach us life skills.

Nature Meditation – HYGGE

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“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Little Prince

There are thousands of them, sparks of ember rising from the fire and flying into the night sky. Their incandescence leaves traces against the darkness – erratic tapestry of temporary glowing streaks. My stare, previously locked on the burning logs, starts moving up. It picks up on a particular spark and follows it as it ascends and reaches to the stars. My imaginary mind can’t hold itself and creatively realizes that it has figured out where stars come from – millions of tiny embers from millions of campfires, over millions of years, that have flown high into the universe and settled. Once, these tiny Beings of Fire warmed our hearts, bodies, hands and skin; but now, hanging up above and out of reach, they warm our souls and make us dream about the infinite possibilities that lie beyond.

Around the campfire, friends are gathered. Through the grapevines, I hear many conversations. To my right, people are talking about the fish caught earlier, the same fish that we are now cooking on hot stones just inches away from the fire. There is a salty and crispy barbecue aroma lingering around that is tantalizing and torturing our hungry stomachs.

To my left, I can hear the excitement in recounting the day paddle of discovery, exploring two nearby bays – there was a great heron that was croaking at us, annoyed at having his secret stash of food disturbed. There was also the sight of a marauding mink, nearby rocks that were covered with seaweed and barnacles, sometimes going for a swim and diving for crabs. A family of deer grazing on a field, tucked between trees, was looking at us probably wondering why would any creature wear so many bright different colors and carry such a distinct plasticky scent.

In front of me across the fire, I can’t hear what the other people are talking about. I might not be able to hear their words but their bodies are speaking loud and clear. I can see the happiness on their faces. I see the glow of Life in their eyes. Their hands waving in the air with excitement.

For a minute, I contemplate at the impact fire has had on our evolution, not only transforming our eating habits, but also  – and I would argue even more importantly – transforming the way we interact. Beyond the purpose of hunting and security, it brought people together. Fire staged the birth for storytelling and laid the foundation to building communities. It created a place in time for people to bond, share, and connect. Here, in the outdoors, surrounded by a world that pre-existed me, I am connecting and bonding to my fellow humans and to nature in the same way that my ancestors did a million years ago.

The Danish have a word for the overall emotion that runs within my body: Hygge (pronounced ‘hYOOguh’), a deep satisfying state of well-being, a happiness that is rooted in being with others, enjoying life, living in the moment, eating, celebrating, and conversing. Looking around the campfire and seeing all of this love and happiness flowing, I come to understand how this word has become a cultural pride and the core of their identity.

Christmas and the holidays are a time to be Hygge. It is a time to stop and reconnect. A time to leave behind the worries and to celebrate life and the people that surround us.

This week, as we prepare ourselves to visit or receive our families and friends, lets take a moment to meditate on the joy and laughs these people have brought us, these memories of happiness that have happened over a good dinner or by a crackling fire in the chimney.

“Just living isn’t enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” Hans Christian Andersen, Danish Author

Read more about Hygge on NPR or BBC

The Power of Nature to Nurture, Awaken, Transcend, Uplift Restore, Elevate, the Human Spirit


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Nature Meditation – BREATHING IN, BREATHING OUT

“Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth – our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.” David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

My diaphragm contracts creating a vacuum within my lungs that sucks in the air, bringing in the molecules of oxygen on which my survival depends. These two organs, each the size of a football, protected under my rib cage, contain more than 1500 miles of airways. This intricate system of organic conduits in various sizes carries the Earth’s gas all the way to 700 million plus microscopic look alike broccoli head called alveoli. These anatomical structures, in turn, perform an action that has defined the very nature of life since the beginning of time: they take and give back. Oxygen is stripped away from the air, and carbon dioxide is returned. As my diaphragm relaxes, it forces the lungs to release a breath of equal proportion but now of a different composition. My exhale will feed a different kind of organism which will proceed in a reverse manner; delivering oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide.

The output of one is the input of another. And the output from the other is the very same input to the first one.

Every time I inhale, every time I exhale, I am reminded of my interdependence in a reciprocal cycle that has been going on for millions of years. Each molecule that enters my body, has been recycled billions of times, breathed in and breathed out by living and past species for eons, and will be for eons more.

My lungs are the embodiment of this reciprocity. Their main purpose is to connect me with the universe, and with nature. To take from it and give back. As much as one would want this to be a one-way relationship, it is simply impossible to exist without participating. Breathing in is taking from nature, and breathing out is giving back to nature. The more I breathe in, the more I breathe out. The more I take, the more I give back.

“There is one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life — reciprocity.” Confucius

In our existence, if our bodies are a product of reciprocity, what then will happen if we isolate and disconnect ourselves from the natural world? If the brain has evolved in face of challenges to solve, if our capacity to learn exists only because of our necessity to adapt, then what will we become if we let technology do everything for us? If we forgo the sensuous realm of our senses, are we consequently setting the stage for their disappearance?

This week, lets meditate on our breath and its transcending dynamic. Let’s reflect on our senses and their reciprocal existence. Are we breathing in more than we are breathing out? Is it time for us to let go of our breathe and give back?

The Power of Nature to Nurture, Awaken, Transcend, Uplift Restore, Elevate, the Human Spirit


PHOTO OF THE WEEK

WEEKLY DISCOUNT 15%. 

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25″ x 40″ Digital Photography
Archival Inkjet Lithography / Ultrachrome Pigment inks,
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$750 (minus 15%) + shipping

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FEEL THE WILD – eBOOK!

$9.75, plus shipping

190 pages of wilderness and nature through the lens and words of storyteller Daniel Fox

10% of the sales go to the W.I.L.D. Scholarship Fund, a program that sends inner city youth to month long wilderness immersion camp.

DOWNLOAD NOW

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Smart Phone SCREEN SAVERS – Bundle

$8.75

A set of 30 photos to use as a screen saver for your iPhone or Android.

Resolution: 1334 x 750, 100dpi

10% of the sales go to the W.I.L.D. Scholarship Fund, a program that sends inner city youth to month long wilderness immersion camp.

DOWNLOAD NOW


Desktop SCREEN SAVERS – Bundle

$9.75

A set of 40 photos to use as a screen saver for your computer, desktop or laptop.

Resolution: 2560 x 1440, 100dpi, each

10% of the sales go to the W.I.L.D. Scholarship Fund, a program that sends inner city youth to month long wilderness immersion camp.

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Nature Meditation – INNER FIRE

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“When you know who you are; when your mission is clear and you burn with the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.” Chief Seattle, Duwamish (1780-1866)

I am sitting in front of a campfire, staring. My eyes are locked onto an invisible place just above the burning logs. My mind is lost with wonder, mesmerized by this magical display of nature. Of all the Fundamental Elements (Air, Earth, Fire, Water), Fire is the only one that has the power to molecularly transform the nature of things. It is the only one that doesn’t exist unless it is created. It is the only one that consumes so that it can live. Its benefits emerge only when it is controlled and contained. Left to its own devices, it grows, spreads, ravages, and consumes. It is a power that can bring lost ones back to safety yet it can turn to ashes the biggest of castles. Since the beginning of time, its flames have inspired and terrified, cleansed and scorched, built and destroyed. It is easy to understand why in Hindu mythology, the the God of Fire, Agni, represents the essential energy of life in the universe.

And this essential energy is within ourselves too – our Inner Fire.

The People of Tibet believe that Tummo (translation for inner fire) truly exist and can be controlled through a breathing meditation – a practice that increases and manipulates the body’s temperature. That fire is said to live within, below the navel chakra. A fact that even our science-based culture recognizes daily without always realizing it. The expression “Fire in the Belly” is more than having ambition, stamina, vigor, and passion, it is that primal energy that fuels everything. By connecting with our Tummo, by meditating on our Inner Fire, one can activate its power of transformation. As our flame grows and expands, it rises and spreads, reaching throughout all other chakras, cleansing our body from all energy blockages, warming our hearts and bringing along love and compassion. But as with the element of Fire, our Inner Fire demands balance and control. Too much Fire within and we are over reaching, if it is always on, our body dries up and our mind burns away. If we don’t have enough then we lack the desire to move, live and stand up for our beliefs.

How is your Inner Fire? Is it flowing? Raging? Dormant? Is it leading you to safety or burning your castle? Is it inspiring you or terrifying you? Is it cleansing you or scorching you? Building or destroying? Take a moment to STOP BREATHE RELAX and LISTEN to your Tummo, what is it telling you?


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