On October 4th a group of practitioners, researchers, educators, scientists, artists and all round water advocates came together in Miami and around the globe (real and virtual space) for the 8th Annual Blue Mind Summit hosted by Wallace J Nichols author of Blue Mind and Blue Ocean Network Online Summit Alumni Speaker. The event was kindly hosted by Frost Science: Fernando Bretos – Director of MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment).
Blue Mind summits are unlike your average conference, deeply interactive, they foster a sense of global movement. I can’t help but think that little by little we are building an #unstoppable tribe sharing awareness that #waterismedicine.
The Aim: To make Blue Mind Science freely available to all, so that everyone especially those who need it most can benefit from access to healthy water. So what did you miss? Well I say miss – much of the event was recorded and will be available for you to access.
Blue Mind Video Jam
We had our first Blue Mind Video Jam – a collection of short clips from a variety of sources showing how water is represented through and influences art and advertising – how it permeates our culture without necessarily being recognized for the role it plays. Each clip included reflection and discussion asking the question how can we more clearly acknowledge and appreciate our water.
We then explored 12 themes throughout the day – here are some highlights:
Water is Medicine and Aquariums are Medicine. Dr Deb Cracknell shared an overview of research coming out of the University of Exeter including her PHD research which explored how differing levels of biota impacted upon the positive impact of aquarium exhibits – a form of virtual water experience.
Interestingly for me as a regional rep from Surfers Against Sewage, whilst not a major discussion point during the conference itself, she confirmed that we are finding evidence that marine litter on our beaches directly and negatively impacts the restorative quality of the space.
More than this, we now know that the type of litter matters! It seems that whilst ALL litter makes a difference, fishing-related debris (and we know #ghostnet forms a large proportion of plastic found on our coast), was less negatively impactful in terms of emotional response, than more recognizable litter such as picnic debris, bottles, cans, wrappers, food containers etc.
As #oceanchangemakers, this raises a question: Are we dissociated from the nets, not seeing them as our responsibility to address? Who knows, certainly something we can put our minds and action to in our various communities.
Virtual Water is Medicine is something being explored in the UK and we also heard from Ando Shah from Ballast Technologies in SFO who was present with us in the room. He has created a Virtual Reality headset that can be used in water to provide a truly immersive virtual experience. For those without access to wild water this could be a leap forwards in creating connection to our oceans.
Some might see VR as distancing ourselves from reality, but in fact for those of us lucky enough to test out Ando’s headset in the pool it was a joyful representation of a diving experience. In Ando’s words, “ I am interested in building empathy [beyond technology]. Intellectually you cannot predict the impact, it is experiential.” Isn’t that true of all our water experiences!
For the Pools are Medicine panel we heard from Bob Hubbard – did you know in Australia all new parents receive a DVD to help them learn how to get their children swimming? How awesome is that?! Imagine if teaching your child to swim was seen as being as essential to their well-being as nutrition. We all know water is medicine after all. Caroline Barmatz talked to us from Israel showing us her pool facilities she shared how patients smile and feel at ease when they experience the muscle relaxation enabled through buoyancy. How would it be if all hospitals had pools?
Diving is Medicine was acknowledged through The Force Blue Team who had received the 5th Annual Blue Mind Award. Jim Ritterhoff talked about how US Vets with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder describe their lives being saved through diving. In Jim’s words, “diving helps us look beneath the surface.” This is a great insight to be applied literally and metaphorically! Rebecca Illing from London also joined us virtually sharing how profoundly freediving had influenced her.
We were lucky to hear from Sean Swentek and Jamie Marshall about the work of A Walk on Water during their Surfing is Medicine panel. Jamie had previously worked with the Wave Project a charity from my home county of Cornwall, UK. Their focus is surf therapy, enabling access to surfing for families and children with special needs. These are some of the people who need it most.
Floating is Medicine and Boats are Medicine were led by two virtual speakers and Blue Mind alumni Dr Justin Feinstein and Dr Paul Piff. Justin was delighted to announce a national institute for health grant supporting floating – demonstrating an acknowledgement that this is real science and that there might actually be something to this #waterismedicine idea. Paul challenged us to find the remarkable within our everyday experiences and of course water-centric locations are rich for this. Their commonality was that water helps us connect with ourselves and the world. Whether we are being awed by an ocean view or underwater landscape or perhaps experiencing reduced environmental stimulation of a dive tank that enhances our attunement to our interoceptive sense… Water does the work.
I joined J and Adrienne from Bodhi Surf and Yoga for a panel about Beaches are Medicine. We discussed the transitional space we experience at the water’s edge, how time slows and down and we connect with ourselves more deeply. Whether in Costa Rica or here in Cornwall, UK, beaches bring lightness of spirit, creativity and fun. We connect with our breath, finding balance, perspective and alignment.
Dr. Scott Ramsey was in the room to share his insights on Rivers are Medicine. He talked about profound experiences of river time where being around the water had shifted mindsets of those he spent time with. The wider ripples of their time spent on the river impacting the way they go on to live their lives – water experiences creating a lasting impact.
Cindy Present joined us virtually from Lake Austin Resort and Spa. She acknowledged Lakes are Medicine, conveying the positive emotional and physical impact that time spent near and on the water at the lake has upon all who visit this special place. The spirit of water was clear in the way she shared her passion for the lake. More than a spa, this is clearly a healing place and more evidence that #waterismedicine.
Our final speaker was Aaron Reuben a writer and clinical psychology student abound with passion for the idea that Nature is Medicine. He brought together many of the themes we had discussed through the day particularly talking about connection.
Interestingly he described how lack of access to nature could very well have a directly negative effect – speaking firsthand about how he feels when he cannot access nature. Ben Scheelk from Ocean Foundation once wryly asked me when I arrived in DC for Blue Mind 5 “I will bet you are Jonesin” for some water.” Being from the UK, I had no idea what the term Jonesin’ meant! But I now can pretty much attest to the fact that, yes, a lack of water in my life is not great for my mental state.
So whilst many of us had talked about how being connected to nature has a positive effect, it is well worth considering the flip side. Nature could be a necessity rather than something that is desirable. WhiIe it could be true that that time spent in blue space is good for us. It could also be the case that a lack of access to blue / natural space is not good for you. So finding ways to connect with water in real or virtual ways is something vital and worth pursuing.
Bringing us full circle to our Blue Mind aim – “accessibility” and ensuring healthy water experiences are available to us all and those who need it most. We are seeking to make Blue Mind Science common knowledge.
As with all Blue Mind summits, the conversations were far broader than this outline, but I hope this gives a sense of the event. Please get involved in our conversations if you haven’t already. Connect with all / any of the speakers who might be exploring areas you are passionate about. More info can be found at www.bluemindworks.com
Lizzi Larbalestier: Director and Exec Coach Going Coastal Blue UK. Director of Coaching at Blue Mind Works.
See These Related Blue Ocean Articles:
This is your mind on water: How Neuro-Science Research is Showing that We’ve Been Wrong in the way we have been Spreading the Ocean Conservation Message – Wallace J. Nichols
How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!
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