Animism, Creativity, and a Tree: Shifting into Nature Connection through Attention to Subtle Energies and Contemplative Art Practice


  • Michelle Flowers University of Saskatchewan
  • Lisa Lipsett Creative by Nature Center
  • M.J. Barrett University of Saskatchewan


What can happen when the "monkey mind" of habitual conceptual thought is awakened to the more-than-human through attention to subtle energies and artmaking? Drawing on autoethnographic methods, we demonstrate how one graduate student's creative engagement with a tree brought animist theory to life. This paper illustrates how a combination of time-in-relation, the contemplative artmaking practice of Creative Nature Connection, and special attention to subtle energies—the dark matter being addressed in this paper—can enable experiencing a tree as a sentient autonomous being. We address implications for environmental education and introduce easily doable principles for shifting into connection and opening to the unseen energy that connects all life.

Author Biographies

Michelle Flowers, University of Saskatchewan

Michelle Flowers is a master’s student, artist and mother to three young children. Her autoethnographic research is on a complementary and alternate medicine modality known as energy healing. With a focus on story and art as tools for self expression, her research journey has been one of profound self discovery.

Lisa Lipsett, Creative by Nature Center

Lisa Lipsett (Ed.D) is a mixed media painter and independent scholar whose focus is creativity and nature connection. She teaches contemplative art practices like Creative Nature Connection, and the Creative by Nature Art Boost (online) to spark artful engagement with nature as a life practice anyone can do.

M.J. Barrett, University of Saskatchewan

M.J. Barrett (Ph.D) is an animist and scholar in the School of Environment and Sustainability and College of Education, University of Saskatchewan. Her research is in educating for epistemological pluralism. M.J. teaches ENVS 811: Multiple Ways of Knowing in Environmental Decision-Making.