Nova Campfire: Connected Consciousness for Planetary Health

We were delighted to host Nova Campfire, “Connected Consciousness for Planetary Health,” on Wednesday May 24 at 11 am EDT (5 pm CET/3 pm GMT/8 am PDT). An exciting collaboration between the Nova Institute for HealthPlanetary Health Alliance, and Garrison Institute, this event answers the growing call for spiritual perspectives and more intentional relationships with ourselves, others, and the natural world in addressing the many grand challenges of the Anthropocene. 

Our transdisciplinary panel of speakers wove narrative threads of change, including Indigenous perspectives of connected consciousness and evidence of the personal and collective benefits of promoting inner development over purely materialistic goals, including healthier, happier, prosocial communities with more mutualistic attitudes to nature. We also explored the importance of creativity and connectivity in building social movements that foster deeper alignment of individual and collective purpose.


Enjoy the full event recording below or scroll down to see individual presentations. Keep conversations going in the Nova Campfire group on the Nova Integration Hub.

Program and Panelists

Susan Prescott, Director of the Nova Network, chaired the meeting and introduced the topics. A brief welcome from Brian Berman, President and Founder of the Nova Institute for Health, was followed by an opening meditation from Rick Scott. 


portrait of nova institute founder brian berman

Professor Brian Berman, MD, President and Founder of Nova Institute for Health

Cultivating Mutualistic Worldviews and Prosocial Behaviors for Personal and Planetary Health

headshot of professor susan prescott

Susan Prescott, MD, PhD, is Director of the Nova Network, Professor of Pediatrics at University of Western Australia, Director of the ORIGINS project, Editor-in-Chief of Challenges, and a Scholar at the Nova Institute for Health in Baltimore. She is an artist and an author.

“My passion is connecting people and ideas to create new opportunities.”

Remembering Our Inherent Connectedness and Universal Indigeneity to Mother Earth

Rutendo Ngara is an African Indigenous Knowledge Systems practitioner and transdisciplinary researcher, who has traversed clinical engineering, healthcare technology management, socio-economic development, mathematics, leadership, and fashion design, to the interface between science, culture, cosmology, and paradigms of healing. 

“I have a passion for weaving art, science, and spirituality towards healing of the Collective and restoration of the Whole.”

Nurturing Inner Development for Sustainability: How Inner Personal Development Contribute to Collective and System Change

Christine Wamsler is Professor of Sustainability Science at Lund University and founder and director of the Contemplative Sustainable Futures Program.

“In the field of sustainability science, we are increasingly understanding that sustainability crises are a reflection of an inner, human crisis. This narrative and understanding manifests in our daily lives, where we are increasingly exhausting and exploiting ourselves, others and the planet. My daily driver and motivation is my hope to contribute to a more caring, healthy, and thus sustainable society.”

Can We Nurture More Altruistic Societies? Promoting Communal Goals with Loving-Kindness Meditation

Una Tellhed is a senior lecturer In the department of Psychology at Lund University in Sweden. She is project leader for the research group Psychological Research on Gender Segregation that investigates social psychological explanations for gender segregation in the labor market. Her recent work has examined how contemplative practices promote prosocial career aspirations in youth.

Strategies for Mindful Movement-Building: Taking Social Innovation to Scale through Connectivity

Sonali Sangeeta Balajee is a founder of Our Bodhi Project, an artist, organizer, facilitator, and emerging health practitioner who works at the intersection of belonging, equity, and deep transformative change. Sonali is a former Senior Fellow at the Othering and Belonging Institute (UC Berkeley). She spent 13 years in the U.S. based government in Portland, Oregon, innovating in the areas of health equity, policy and systems shift towards justice, and community visioning.

Putting Storytelling into Action for People, Places, and Planet: An Example of the Power and Reach of Co-Creating Narratives for Positive Change at COP27

Cecilia Mañosa Nyblon, from the University of Exeter, is Project Lead of One Chance Left and We Still Have a Chance, interdisciplinary, international projects connecting climate science, health, and the arts at COP26, UK  2021 and COP27, Egypt 2022. She’s already engaged in an ambitious initiative for COP28 (UAE 2023) through poetry. Prior to moving to Exeter, she worked as an anthropologist/archaeologist, educator in Uruguay, the United States, and Panama.

Pathways to Planetary Health: Connecting "Islands of Coherence" in the Sea of Chaos

Stephen Posner is Director of Pathways to Planetary Health with the Garrison Institute, a nonprofit that harnesses the power of contemplative wisdom and practice from many traditions to build a more compassionate and resilient world. He has more than 20 years of experience building understanding across sectors. He is a trusted advisor to policymakers and funders, and he’s consulted with global companies in agriculture, mining, and forestry to evaluate how they impact and depend on nature.

The Constellation Project: Weaving New Stories and Emergent Ways of Being for a New Era of Planetary Consciousness

Samuel Myers is the founding Director of the Planetary Health Alliance and a Principal Research Scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He studies the human health impacts of accelerating disruptions to Earth’s natural systems, a field recently dubbed “planetary health.” 

Terry Tempest Williams is currently writer-in-residence at the Harvard Divinity School. She is known for her impassioned prose and lyrical writing focusing on how environmental issues are social issues and ultimately, issues of justice. She is the author of more than 20 books in creative nonfiction. Her work has been translated and anthologized worldwide.


May 24, 2023


11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Nova Institute for Health logo

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is some debate about whether people always experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.