I’m not really sure how I can begin to tackle the grandiose challenge of an “about me.” How can I explain my transition from neuroscience and pre-med, to biomedical engineering and entrepreneurship, to spirituality and nature-based practice, to travel and storytelling, in a way that is both comprehensive and concise?
For now, I’ve decided to start with one of my earliest memories.
I remember the frustration I felt, sitting on the black leather seat of my dad’s car, realizing I could flip a coin one million times, and I would never know beforehand what side it would land. In that moment, I realized I would always have more questions and never have all the answers.
I now see how that moment served as a harbinger. My quest has always been about resolution: following the trail of inquiry into those questions that linger.
As an adolescent, the main question I had was: Could I help others, enjoy my work, and support myself at the same time? I loved math and science, and I loved business. Rather, I was good at them, and I equated proficiency with love. I decided my path would be whatever intersection I could find that existed between science, math, and business.
In the beginning of my collegiate years, I studied neuroscience at the University of Michigan. I was to become a doctor. Yet, I wasn’t ready to close the door on entrepreneurship. I found solace in rationalization. I told myself, “I could be a practicing doctor, with an enterprising attitude.”
The first moment, which really shook my world, came while volunteering on ambulances in Israel. My initial clinical experience included failing to resuscitate a patient with CPR. Feeling a reduced hope in Western medicine, I made a pivotal decision: I would place my energy into biomedical engineering and entrepreneurship. I wanted to innovate the tools healthcare professionals used, rather than be a practitioner. It was the intersection between math, science and business that I had sought for.
Though I was on a path to help others, I was doing the opposite for myself. I was drowning in the stress of academic work and entrepreneurial projects and imposing unnecessary pressure upon myself. I recall 2013 and 2014 as being some of the hardest years of my life.
In the Fall of 2013, I stumbled into a university course on meditation. At first, I hated it. I felt extremely uncomfortable and could not understand why we had to feel our breathing or walk outdoors in silence. I only remained in the course because my friends were in it and I was too lazy to switch out. Though, something happened mid-way through the semester. When class ended, at times, I noticed that I felt better, my friends and I interacted more fluidly, and music sounded more vibrant. For mere moments, life felt manageable.
During these classes, I came to see how overbearing my mind was and how cluttered my mental space had become. Though, something about meditation and nature were promoting better wellbeing. I began absorbing all I could to support an internal journey. I took several classes with my teacher, a Quechua medicine women, on meditation, nature-based mindfulness, and deep spiritual ecology (you can find the work of my teacher, Martha Travers, here: http://natureandhealing.org). I started to practice ashtanga yoga. And, each day, I would immerse, in silence and solitude, in the natural world.
At the end of 2014, I sustained a life-threatening brain injury, which ironically enabled me to live more fully. I was shown the preciousness and value inherent to each moment of life, and filled with immense gratitude for life itself. I started to share what I was learning through teaching meditation, nature-based mindfulness, and leading a large student wellness collective helping other students de-stress and find more meaning in their university experience.
As my university years came to a close, I was still a biomedical engineering student, who was now flourishing in entrepreneurship. My graduate team and I created a medical device, which was distinguished as the 2nd place winner in the National Medical Design Excellence Awards (https://cfe.umich.edu/specop-takes-second-in-venture-wells-bmeidea-competition-eyes-next-steps/). I also founded and led several other entrepreneurial endeavors and student organizations.
To an outside observer, the path would have seemed laid out for me with biomedical engineer and entrepreneurship. Though, as I continued with meditation, yoga, and nature-based practice, I was finding deeper meaning in things, which seemed opposed to my degree: helping others through guiding mindfulness, immersing in nature, and having philosophical conversations. For once, not only was I helping others, but I was also helping myself; not only was I doing work to serve a greater good, I was fulfilled.
In April 2016, I completed my Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. Leaving university, I knew that I wanted to continue learning, though outside of the rigid bounds of Western academia. I decided that I would travel alone. I didn’t know how, or where, but I knew that I would. In my last year of school, I heard of the Bonderman Fellowship (https://lsa.umich.edu/cgis/students/bonderman.html), a grant given to four graduating undergraduate students to travel alone and immerse in non-Westernized cultures, with little structure or responsibilities, for 8 consecutive months. The only requirement was for them to write about their experiences (spoiler - that is where this website first formed!). Of note, I was only eligible to apply for the fellowship due to the brain-injury delaying the completion of my undergraduate studies (I ended up finishing my undergraduate and graduate studies at the same time.)
I applied to the fellowship to further see how a spiritual understanding could integrate with a Western, scientific framework. I applied to learn from the roots of my meditation teachers’ knowledge. I applied to observe the way traditional nature-based cultures lived with the natural world. I applied to find and further my capacity to serve the collective.
As a Bonderman fellow, I solo-traveled to 10 different countries from August 2016 – August 2017 and lived with traditional cultures across Borneo, the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Amazon. Traveling alone, into cultures with different world views and without parents, teachers or friends to dictate my inquiry, slowly answered the questions I had regarding my path (while also giving rise to a host of new questions). The intersection I dreamt of finding came to me in an unexpected place: storytelling - and many of the forms it comes in - such as, writing, photography, systems design, and speaking.
Travel to non-western regions exposed me to the pervasive spread of modernization and how detrimental this way of life can be for population and ecosystem health. Resultantly, I knew I had to devote myself, and the stories I would tell, toward forming new foundations that enhanced instead of destroyed life. I am most interested in the relationship between humans and the natural world. I aim to re-kindle the once universal bond between humans and the more-than-human-world, in order to promote a healthier planet with healthier people. Through re-integrating populations within the natural world, I intend to facilitate more well and capable people, who also feel a deeper connection to the natural world, and thus a deeper desire to sustain nature. With the experiences I provide, I hope to help others remember their innate love for nature, for how could you destroy something that you love? With the content I create, I aim to help re-build the narratives of modern culture. This is not an attempt to abandon modernity, rather I seek to create differing perspectives, which incentivizes the inventions, technology, and opportunities of the modern world to be used in reverence, rather than in opposition to nature.
Currently, the winter of 2018, I am working as the only in-house editorial produce for Summit (Summit.co), a global collective comprised of the worlds’ most influential change makers. My recent work with them was to interview their main speakers, 1-on-1, at their flagship event in November in LA. I interviewed: Ray Dalio (the founder of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates, one of the world's largest hedge funds, author of Principles: Life and Work, a New York Times #1 best-seller, and founder of OceanX), Ceasar Conde (Chairman of NBC Universal International Group), Martine Rothblatt (creator of Sirius XM radio and top earning biopharmaceutical CEO in the world), Anthony Romero (the executive director of the ACLU), Gary Vaynerchuck (author, speaker, investor), Eckhart Tolle (the world's most popular spiritual author), Marien Goodell (the CEO of Burning Man), Kate Brandt (the Chief Sustainability Officer at Google, and formerly at the White House), and several others. The first two interviews I conducted are now published, you may read either here: https://summit.co/news/article/after-the-talk-with-ray-dalio-2EJJhEsr5y8EUmAwCmG0QW, https://summit.co/news/article/after-the-talk-with-gary-vaynerchuk-and-michael-ovitz-7c9xKMme2sMSe2YYM22iMi.
I am writing a book, which I have been researching for the past 2.5 years. The book explores how differing ways of life (comparing the WEIRD culture, Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic, to what I term “traditional nature-based cultures”) and living environments create different wellbeing, psychology, and behavior on the level of populations. Using my scientific background as a cellular molecular biologist and biomedical engineering, I employ scientific research, in complement with anecdotes from my travels, to best illustrate how a relationship with nature is hardwired into our psychology, and thus, is imperative for wellbeing.
I am collaborating with an international team to host a conference on biodiversity in China, as to organize youth who are doing impactful climate work across the globe. The conference will run in parallel to the UN’s COP conference. Specifically, I am guiding efforts to develop a storytelling platform to amplify the voice of youth.
I am assisting the leader of a Shiwiar community in the Ecuadorian Amazon to construct a tourism based proposal, as to protect their land from petroleum company acquisition. Specifically, I am facilitating connections between the Amazonian community and legal help, helping to re-write and re-form the proposal, and assisting with the acquisition of funding.
I lead workshops on nature-based storytelling. My next workshops are to be delivered to Coalition Wild, an organization building a global community of emerging leaders to transform the planet through youth-driven solutions, and Project Team 54, an organization collaborating across 159 nations to make the earth green again.
I teach nature-based mindfulness and meditation to individuals, studios, and schools in the Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit area.
The above projects go under the umbrella of an organization I am creating called, SideOut. SideOut brings nature into modern psychology and psychical infrastructure, with the intention of connecting modern living to nature, as to create healthier people who are also more concerned about sustaining the environment. We work in the domains of urban planning, youth education, sustainability, and storytelling.
If you wish to see previous work I have published you can find most of it on this website or in other places such as: International Tribe Design, Perspectives Magazine, MeditationWorks.com, NatureWriting.com, WiseMindGentleSoul.com, Everyday-Mindfulness.org, Acumen-Poetry.co.uk, Breathe With B, or my Instagram:@HaberScott.
Notably, the essay I submitted titled “A Voice In Nature’s Choir” was awarded an honorable mention in the International Essay Competition for Young People, one of only 64 essays to place or receive mention out of over 15,000 applications from over 150 countries: http://scotthaber.com/2017/10/30/voice-natures-choir/.
What continues to be one of the most important constructs in my life is a connection to nature. For the past several years, on a daily basis, I have had the opportunity to be immersed in the natural world in solitude. With me I bring the intention of pausing, listening, and connecting. As a storyteller with a visceral love for the outdoors, nature isn’t only where I go to recharge, it’s a source of continual inspiration, the foundation for these words, and the direction of my service.
As the author and philosopher, Charles Eisenstein wrote about, I hesitate to call any of this “my” work; it isn’t mine. It is constituted through a collage of experiences: interactions, observations, books, and those who sustain my inspiration to continue doing this work.
I hope this work – our work – can provoke systemic questioning, while also making you feel a little more connected to those we walk among.
Daniel Schmachtenberger, Charles Eisenstein, Martha Travers, Alan Watts, David Abraham, Richard Louv, Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abby, Daniel B. Quinn, Gary Snyder, Nietzsche, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Campbell, Victor Frankl, Ken Wilber, Thich Nhat Hahn, James Carse, Angela Jamison.