Alumni in Action: Value of Connection

rohan and owl

For my professional career, I travel the country and count birds for a living. In my personal life, I am a recovering addict and active participant in my 12-step program, guiding others on their own journey toward addiction recovery. My time at The Immersion has not only deepened my connection with nature and improved my skills as a conservation ornithologist, but has also awakened me to an awareness of myself that carries over into every aspect of my life.

As a biological field technician, I conduct bird surveys across the United States. Following a specific protocol, I travel to a GPS location and record all the bird species that I detect there. Most of these detections are auditory-only; I may only hear an alarm note or brief song of a bird. Not only does this line of work require knowledge of the natural world, but also a certain awareness and quiet mind. My ability to drop into a sense meditation is a skill I learned during my year at Wilderness Awareness School. Moreover, the bird language skills I practiced at The Immersion have set me apart from my coworkers, as I can track when a Cooper’s Hawk is approaching by what the Robin is saying. My experiences with bird language, tracking, Sit Spot, survival skills, and knowledge of place have set me apart from my colleagues as a naturalist and I owe most of my success in my professional career to the skills I learned and practiced at The Immersion.

In addition to a connection with nature, The Immersion provides a unique way of connecting you to yourself. During my year at WAS, I built many connections with many different people. Besides having friendships that will last a lifetime, I found that the close-knit community of classmates and mentors taught me more about myself than I ever could. Primarily through loving reflections, I was able to see myself, and how I impact others, in a completely new awareness. It’s through this new perspective and relationship with myself that has credited me over one-year addiction free. I now work a strong recovery program in my personal life where I am asked to speak at different institutions to help inspire others. I credit much of my self-knowledge and reflection, which is essential in my program of recovery, to my experience at The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School.  

It’s difficult to put my Immersion experience into words and just how much it has impacted every aspect of my life for the better. I often tell people that just as an emotion must be felt to be understood, The Immersion must be experienced. My education at Wilderness Awareness School continues every day of my life. WAS has given me the tools and shown me the path to something I’ve been longing for my entire life: truth. It has shown me what is real and meaningful in life, something I was never taught in traditional school. From the communication skills in relationships to my ability to detect more birds in the field, I find that I now value connection more than anything else in life, and The Immersion supported me to realize that.

-Rohan Kensey, Immersion graduate of 2016-17

Wilderness Awareness School