Spencer Nielsen

Spencer grew up at the base of Mt. Burdell in Novato, catching lizards and climbing Oaks, he has been nature-connected since an early age. Spencer studied Ecology at University of California San Diego and Environmental Education at University of California Santa Cruz,  and has been sharing nature with children since 2003.  Having worked with residential outdoor education programs, Waldorf schools, and most recently homeschool students, Spencer is committed to cultural mentoring and supporting a culture of nature connection. He has been leading homeschool programs in Marin (with the Vilda Foundation) since 2008, teaching ancestral skills, nature connection, farming, and permaculture.  In 2012, he completed a master’s degree with Gaia University in Integrated Eco-Social Design, focusing his studies and projects in Permacultural Mentoring, exploring inner permaculture, permaculture education, and permaculture as a rite of passage.

Spencer was introduced to permaculture while farming in New Zealand in 2005, and has been a student and teacher of permaculture ever since. He has been involved with Four Seasons Permaculture Design courses at RDI as a participant and assistant since 2008. He has also taught permaculture to adults at Westminster Woods, and to youth at Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden, where he has both worked and studied with Wendy Johnson. He has been a student of biodynamic agriculture on farms in Costa Rica and California.  Spencer works abroad as Director of Agriculture and Sustainability with Vihara, helping design Ayurvedic retreat centers, and Meditation Centers in India, Bali, and Myanmar.  He co-leads annual Meditation and Permaculture retreats in Myanmar.

After his first vision quest, Spencer trained with the School of Lost Borders and has led youth rites of passage for Summerfield Waldorf School and Marin Academy.  As a leader of two groups with Stepping Stones Project, Spencer guides boys in multi-year rites of passage journeys.  His work as a naturalist with Vilda Foundation, leading homeschool nature programs and summer backpacking trips also is growing to include teen boys rites of passage and adult naturalist trainings.  Spencer is also a vision quest guide with Wilderness Reflections, leading wilderness quest, day quest, and supporting their wilderness quest apprenticeship.  Passionate about mentoring and initiation, Spencer also weaves a strand of Ecology of Leadership into his life and work, having been involved with the program at RDI for five circles from 2009 through 2012.  

Having practiced qigong since 2007, Spencer studied medical qigong at Five Branches University and completed a qigong teacher training with Teja Bell.  A student of Yoga and Vedic sciences since the year 2000, Spencer has completed a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and is a perennial student of Ayurveda. He seeks ways of integrating the principles and practices of cultivating inner and outer nature with permaculture, nature connection, and rites of passage. Spencer is a musician, playing various earth-based instruments, primarily didjeridoo and Native American flute. Spencer, and his wife Bonnie, are currently stewarding Bhakti Farm — their half-acre homestead in Fairfax where they are tending food forests, medicine gardens, and more. When he’s not doing any of the above, you can find him in the hills just sitting and breathing it all in.