The Student Experience in the Foundations

by Anna Nielson


My name is Anna.  I am a new student with the Earth-Based Institute (EBI) and I want to share my experience in their Nature-Connected Coaching (NCC) program. My hope is that this will give others a sense of what EBI is all about and what to expect. I started the program in January of 2022 and recently finished “The Foundations Intensive”, the first of five intensives over the course of training.  In addition to being a current student/”coach in training”, I am a licensed massage therapist, energy worker, and yoga instructor with passions for music, cooking, travel, and all things Nature. 

My journey began with an abrupt change in travel plans that left me feeling so much doubt, confusion, and hesitation it nearly prevented me from stepping into the adventure that was calling.  I mention this part of the story because I identify it with the “Refusal of the Call” in the “Hero’s Journey” people like Joseph Campbell write so much about.  The fear of the unknown brought me to a low point where even thoughts of getting Covid became attractive so I would have an acceptable “out”.  This brought me very close to refusing the opportunity.  Luckily, I followed the Call and the anxiety and fear diminished as I journeyed to my destination.  It was an excellent lesson in trusting and surrendering, and identifying the tests and allies within my own hero’s journey. 

Upon arrival, I became a member of EBI’s 25th Cohort!  It is a small, intimate cohort.  My fellow cohort members and I became quick friends after we spent most of day one introducing ourselves and sharing the story of our reasons for joining the program.  We described our personal and professional Visions, and gave some background about our lives and the work we have done to influence our decision to dive into the NCC program.  With resonance within each story shared, I found myself united with my group and in greater harmony with my Vision of personal and professional growth. 

The Foundations intensive guides us in discovering what it means to be a Nature-Connected Coach.  Consisting of four learning modules, it focuses on four main topics: Nature Connection, Deep Listening, Professional Coaching, and Collaborating with Nature to Support our Clients.

With in-depth focus on Nature-Connection, our instructors led us through daily nature-awareness practices that strengthen our connection to ourselves and our natural environment.  These practices have reinforced my intuition and empowered my relationship with the Earth.  As I practiced this connection, I became attuned to the rhythm of Nature, knowing that when I am attuned to the Earth, every detail becomes insightful.  In practicing, I have found that I am aware of much more than I had been conscious of previously. 


I learned that sessions with my clients are in essence, a Ceremony.  In this ceremony, I can set the stage by guiding my clients in deep listening, feeling, and observing.  I may lead them through nature-awareness practices, allowing for a deeper self-understanding and soul connection to take place.  Just as I attune myself to nature, I attune myself to my client, noticing and becoming aware of the subtle energies present within them.  I listen, stepping outside myself, to make room for Nature to step in.  I can act as a channel, allowing the Ceremony that is the coaching session to unfold in the way Nature would design it to be.  

Equipped with new understandings of nature-connection and deep listening, our instructors guided us through different aspects of a Nature-Connected Coaching session.  I fine tuned my skills in asking powerful questions and learned to redirect my client’s challenges toward a clear and attainable goal.  As a group, we practiced together, taking turns as the client and the coach and discovered the power of the Nature Connected Coaching session.  I found incredible potential in allowing space for Nature, Soul, and Spirit to speak and watched as each of us found the answers we were looking for within ourselves and the deep metaphors the Earth gifted to us.

Another important aspect of the Foundations intensive that stands out is the level of knowledge in the instructors.  During one of our group exercises, we were working with the topic of time-management.  Our instructor, Daniel, supportively held space by offering questions and reflections to help us dive deeper into the topic.  As a fan of Dr. Brene Brown and in studying her work, Daniel has the understanding that the goal of “time-management” is often rooted in perfectionism.  He is also aware that perfectionism tends to develop from feelings of shame and beliefs of unworthiness.  As Dr. Brown says “When perfectionism is driving us, shame is riding shotgun and fear is that annoying backseat driver.”  With Daniel as Guide, he led us, with compassion and grace, to the discovery he made years ago.  In shared anguish, vulnerability, and tears, my cohort collectively uncovered the link between time management and perfectionism, and deeper, their roots of shame and unworthiness.

This lesson was deeply impactful for me and I know it wouldn’t have been possible outside of our group.  This shared experience allowed the space for me to deeply open and receive this profound lesson.  The questioning and digging into ourselves that we all participated in, led to this shared discovery and insight, deepening our understanding of our internal states of being, and our relationship as a cohort.


Each instructor taught in their own unique style, but held the common thread of presence.  In our time management exercise, Daniel didn’t come out and say, “Ya know, issues with time management usually stem from perfectionism which is rooted in shame and unworthiness.”  That would have disempowered our learning processes.  He, like each of our instructors, became curious with us, and asked questions that allowed us to dig deep within ourselves and uncover our inner landscape. That is the power of the Nature-Connected Guide and the wisdom that is held within all of the instructors at EBI. 

Witnessing the different coaching and teaching styles held within our instructors was captivating.  Daniel is incredibly visual, teaching us with hand drawn representations of concepts, and enlivening the learning experience with raw authenticity.  Incredibly witty, Hannah tapped into her insight from NOLS training, while holding endearing, compassionate spaciousness with unmatched empathy and humor.  Michael applied his tracking knowledge and wisdom learned in studying with Tom Brown, and held an energy of calmness and safety as only a father and the founder of EBI could.

The Nature-Connected Coaching program at the Earth-Based Institute is grounded in ICF Professional Coaching competencies and ethics.  I take comfort in knowing that I’m investing my time and resources in education that provides me with an internationally credentialed certification, allowing me to work all over the world.  This program is providing me with a plethora of tools that I can adapt to fit my work as a body and energy worker. 

It is my belief that coaching in this way, connected to Nature and the divinity all around me, sessions with my clients hold the potential to become empowering, life-changing events that positively influence the course of people’s lives.  Each day I notice something new and I am continually surprised with the increased awareness I have gained.  I am noticing my day to day stresses melting away and I find myself closer to my Vision for guiding others to health. 

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