By: Jessica Godinez
When I found yoga a few years ago, I embarked on a journey, determined to find and establish a secure mind-body connection within myself. Slowly, with each practice, the importance and the power behind fueling this connection becomes increasingly evident. Through this process, we learn a little bit more about ourselves and the world around us, sometimes forcing us to readjust and re-establish the connection we've created. It is my belief that connecting to the mind and body, to our innermost being, is powerful because it is the first step in really connecting to and understanding others. To a certain extent, we are connected with every other living and non-living creature that walks on Earth. Whether or not we feel like we are connected to the ground we walk on and the trees that provide our oxygen, we are linked by our common home: Earth. To better understand this innate connection we have with each other and therefore allow ourselves to better connect with those around us to elevate the work we are passionate about, we must first connect with ourselves.
Connection is powerful, but understanding our connections to each other are even more powerful. For the past few months, I have been lucky enough to explore this power in a different sense. My work as the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the U.S. Forest Service Regional Office in Lakewood, CO has allowed me to explore the relationships between organizations, communities, and people. I have gotten to witness the power of this type of connection first hand. Daily, I am introduced to established partnerships, partnerships in the making, and the idea of new partnerships - both external and internal to the U.S. Forest Service. I've watched inter-organizational alliances grow together and become more powerful, all linked together by an overlap in mission, vision, and passion. Most importantly, I've seen communities and cultures joining together to play, learn, and grow together - all because of a shared connection: variations of love and dedication to our natural world and environment. Despite our individual reasons for caring about our environment, we are connected by the environment and this connection creates power.
In my position, understanding the power of connection is essential. My mission, as a fellow through the Hispanic Access Foundation, is to help connect underrepresented communities, specifically the Hispanic community - my community - to the outdoors, environmental stewardship, and an individual passion to our environment. Working with local non-profits, I have seen how best to facilitate opportunities for this community to not only get outdoors, but to stay dedicated to the outdoors. I have learned that that is through understanding the power of connection. We, as those seeking to create opportunities and access to the outdoors, must understand the importance of identifying with the community to better understand the perspective of the community. We must connect to the community, understand the community and the culture, and allow the community to speak for themselves. In order to connect communities to the outdoors, stewardship, or anything really, we must first connect to the communities.
The intersectionality of my unique fellowship position has allowed me to explore these different connections, specifically the connection between agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and our non-profit partners. In the short time that I've been here, I've been immersed in learning about and exploring the collaboration of non-profit organizations and governmental agencies. I've learned how important these partnerships are in elevating and promoting shared visions, values, and ideals. Identifying the way our values align with those of others in the community and connecting ourselves with them allows us, all of us, to find the gaps that allow us to be more efficient with our individual and collective programming and response to the needs of the community. In the Forest Service, we strive to "care for the land and serve the people," and the best way we can do so is by understanding and appreciating the power of connection - to ourselves, our partners, our colleagues, and our communities.