Nature enthusiast, holistic healer, symbiotic creature.
Asher Cloran didn’t have a childhood immersed in nature. Often stuck in front of a TV, with unhealthy eating habits to match, Asher suffered from a multitude of illnesses and mental health issues that consumed his happiness as a young man. And it’s precisely the reason he has spent the last eight years not only transforming his own life, but also helping educate other young adults and children on the immense value of health and nature.
Asher speaks so passionately and poetically about the magic of nature that it’s abundantly clear the profound impact it has had on his life. Now the owner and program director of Life Rocks, a science-based education company, Asher is dedicated to teaching children and parents alike about the power of the natural world.
Asher is also a CHEK (Corrective Health, Exercise and Kinesiology) practitioner, who are specialists in wellness, stress management and lifestyle coaching. Looking at a whole-of-life integrated way of helping his clients work through their issues resonated with him, with his own journey to health the perfect guide.
I had a beautiful chat to Asher about the delight that being out in nature brings, getting back to basics, embracing technology in a healthy way, and how nature is fundamental to our development, connection with self, others and the world around us.
Asher Cloran is…
I’d say pretty multidimensional at the moment, with lots of different things on the go. I tend to look through the lens of nature at everything; nature being the driving force behind why we’re here and what it is that we’re trying to align to. I feel that I really want to be in this life to be a part of the natural world and to be participating in creating a good community and leaving this planet a better place than when we arrived; like a symbiotic creature. If I can align myself to the right ideas and find the right knowledge – whether in the form of scientific knowledge, self-knowledge, or spiritual knowledge, eventually life will become an abundant thing.
What do you do and when did you decide this was what you wanted to do with your life?
I’ve been a health coach and helping people with their health challenges for about eight years. And over the past three years, I’ve been developing a science-based education company, Life Rocks, for preschool kids.
I think I knew that I wanted to help people with their health and wellness probably from the age of 20. Then over the years, I began to become interested in the youth and I think it was around the time I was 24 that I realised the great lack of initiation in our culture. I noticed there was a great gap in how we’ve been raising our children and what it means to have role models, what it means to have mentors, and elders.
As I started to connect to the community more, and sit in men’s circles and sit with elders, and really make that link back to my ancestral past, my heart yearned to close that gap, and began healing myself. So now I want to close that gap sooner for the youth of the world. I feel like it’s come from staying true to that philosophy that real wealth is knowledge. So that’s really the basis of my work.
That has led me into holistic health, which for me is basically using everything and anything to create health. It’s how we breathe, how we drink, how we eat. It’s how we move, how we sleep, how we connect to others, how we connect to nature. And these are all the things that influence our health. So I’ve done my best to take a very deep dive into all of these areas, to not only help myself, but help other people. And it’s really my connections with others that drive me into my research and what I’m going to create next. And everything that I’m doing in the world is a solution for someone or something else.
Tell me about your amazing Life Rocks program – how did this come about?
Life Rocks is a science-based education company, connecting children to the magic of nature. We do that through interactive education around the earth sciences. We’ve developed kits, that include games that can be played in many different ways, with experiments based around different topics. The kits also include illustrated books for the kids to read, with scientific photos for them to look at with all information, there are trading cards based around real natural specimens and earth things. The kits also come with real specimens of rocks, crystals, wood, bark, leaves, and fossils.
There’s also a book for the teachers to read so that they can wrap their head around scientific material and answer more in depth questions that do come out of kids quite naturally, such as how does quartz form, or how does iron form in the earth?
I also wrote a book called Connecting to Nature, which is the philosophical and scientific basis around nature connection, why nature connections are effective for learning, why it’s effective for developmental issues, and why it’s super important for the development of children. It affirms to teachers, mentors and parents exactly why we need to connect to nature and what that really means at a fundamental level.
I feel like the best way to impact the mind of the youth is to align them to nature; align them to this curiosity and amazement of the natural world that can ground us for life. If people are connected to the beauty and the curiosity of our existence, they’ll never really go too far off course. I feel like the books that I’ve written and the games that I’ve made and the resources we’ve created are the stepping stones that I didn’t have as a child that would have gotten me on my path a lot sooner.
Having something like Life Rocks shows kids that by being out in nature, you don’t necessarily have to sit in a classroom to learn valuable life lessons. Will taking kids on outdoor programs be part of your offering?
Yeah, we were forging retreats for children and parents to come and connect to nature, but all of that got effected by COVID and we haven’t yet had a chance to launch our outdoor programs. It would be similar to bush kindy, and we’ve done trials with our games that are super effective.
There are a whole range of learners that are deeply embedded more in the kinaesthetic learning, which is learning by doing, rather than learning by reading or writing – something that isn’t catered for very much in the education system. So this is something we put a big emphasis on, because often the children who have learning difficulties are those children who are deeply kinaesthetic learners and they need experiential based learning and they need to move their bodies.
We live in such a technology-driven world, why is it important to you to be teaching and immersing kids about the natural world?
Between the ages of birth and seven, we are wiring the body and the brain in such an intense, rapid way that even six months of missed movement in a natural environment can cause developmental delays and cognitive imbalances for the rest of life. Then it can be very difficult to unwire, and we’re still unaware of how the modern environment and these new technologies will impact the course of human evolution.
What would you hope a child, parent or a teacher would take away and implement into their everyday life from an experience with Life Rocks?
I think mostly to take away a sense that they can connect to nature in a way that’s exciting, in a way that stimulates their creativity, increasing a sense of curiosity; one that connects not only the child with nature, but the parent with the child with nature. This is so important because to lead our children into nature, we have to go into nature ourselves. And that then nourishes the connection between the parent and the child. It connects them to something that they can both relate with.
I want them both to establish a lifelong love for learning about the natural world, so that when a child asks their parent a question about a tree, that parents aren’t automatically saying “I don’t know” anymore. Instead, they’ll jump on Google or get a plant identification guide out and look it up and learn about it together.
What I do also want to get across is that technology is really valuable – technology is really awesome. We’ve just got to put it in a context and make it work for us, not us be a slave to technology. And that’s another message I’m trying to convey is what is the right use of technology? How do we put it in a context that works? And once again, that’s the parents who then have to represent that by improving their habits with technology. I think overall it’s just encouraging families to have a greater connection, so that future generations will have a greater connection and build a better world because of that.
Can you tell me about how your health practice integrated with that work and what drew you to a life as an alternative health professional?
I was a very sick child – I had quite a lot of eczema, asthma and mental health issues. I was also really overweight and I had a mother that was nature-phobic and quite overweight herself – a very sweet lady with a great sense of humour, but would freak out if an insect came anywhere near. So overcoming my own health challenges was a journey that only holistic health practices brought me relief from.
How did you discover holistic health?
A slow process, but when I had a very big mental health crisis at uni and I came home to recover, one of my friend’s mums said, “Hey Asher, you know the way that you eat affects your mental health?” It was a light bulb moment, I honestly hadn’t really considered it.
I completely changed the way I ate for two weeks and I felt 200% better. Out of that lightness that I decided to quit uni and started an organic juice and smoothie bar that I took to festivals for two and a half years. I also started my study into kinesiology, started meditating and I started practicing martial arts. That crisis moment helped me make a change and that shifted my whole energy and reorientated me to this path. That’s also when I started training with the CHEK Institute to become a CHEK practitioner.
Can you tell me what a CHEK 1 practitioner is?
CHEK stands for ‘Corrective Health, Exercise and Kinesiology’. A CHEK practitioner will assess someone from a multidimensional level, will look at their goals, their dreams and their heart’s biggest mission. Then everything we’re going to do is to support that dream, and try and work towards it. When I do a full assessment with people, it takes about four or five hours of me just examining different angles in the body. We use scientific tools to look at angles, spinal curvature, the posture, to find out how we can balance the muscles and basically come up with a very custom health and wellness program that includes stretching, exercise, movement, and mindfulness techniques.
Working with the CHEK practitioner is a 10 week experience, because we’re really trying to effect deep change – help people to fish for themselves rather than them always being given fish. So often with therapy, it can be: I’ve got a sore neck, I go to the osteo, he crunches me and then I go back home and I live my normal life. And then I go back three months later after my neck falls back out again. That’s what a CHEK practitioner is trying to avoid, by setting people up with habits that help them to be their own doctor.
Have you found in the current climate – with both nature and with wellness – that the appetite for that kind of information has grown?
Yeah, people are all focusing on their health a bit more and they tend to have a bit more time for themselves. I’m noticing I’ve got space now that I can commit to myself and make some changes. With COVID, I actually had a big influx of clients that were ready to go. It’s really been really beautifully transformative time for people who are ready to ride the wave.
What’s coming up for you?
Well with Life Rocks, I’m looking to get these kits out to households as well as setting up a 12-week nature connection course for parents and children. That’s going to include on-going video classes for little kids that are similar to play school-type lessons. I’m doing those with a friend of mine, who’s great with children and has a really bubbly sort of energy.
And I’ve just created another 10-week course for health coaching clients that I’m going to be pushing as well. I’m just trying to remain adaptive and focus on creating enough space in my own life, to enjoy life and maintain my own practices and health.
I’ve been in the creative process with these resources now for two and a half years, and right now I’m at the precipice of the launch of the products. I just really want to build a community around nature connection with children and parents who are wanting to connect.