Over the next 4 Thursdays I will describe 4 wings in the field of Ecopsychology:
1) Spirituality, 2) Mental Health, 3) Physical Health, and 4) Biomimicry/Engineering
To begin, after years of searching for a way to understand my own spirituality, I have finally found something that fits my breath and heart, and that is ecological spirituality. Nature is my guide, my unconditional love, my inspiration, my solace, and part of my DNA. The more I observe, the more I experience “magic” I never noticed before, and nothing is an accident. When replaced with Nature, I can finally get past my internal resistance to the word God ever since 2nd grade when he was introduced to me as a man with a flowing beard playing guitar in a cloud.
I practice my spirituality now by consciously reconnecting to Nature each and every day, despite having a job that requires intense hours at a computer. I bring into my work environment pieces of the natural world, stones, pine cones, leaves or bits of lichen from my walks, to help make a bridge between outdoor and indoor worlds. I always experienced suffering from disconnection from the natural world but now I am aware of that suffering and how to heal it.
Many ecopsychologists argue, in fact, this suffering of disconnect is actually at the root of all our problems in human society and can only be healed through awareness of our context in nature. Some like the author below (Michael J. Cohen) have proven over decades of education groups and research that addictions, aggression, despair, suicidality, and even disease can be healed dramatically by reconnection to natural surroundings. Countless other teachers, psychologists and healers are creating paths for others to follow in the field of ecopsychology, whose time has come to be taken seriously instead of disregarded as “woo-woo,” due to mounting evidence-based outcomes.
If you are interested in learning some simple techniques to reconnect your own senses, I highly recommend this book: Reconnecting With Nature: Finding Wellness by Restoring Your Bond With the Earth.
It is as if we are all hardwired to uses senses our culture has encouraged to atrophy, but like restoring electrical switches, we all can experience the power of regaining what we knew for thousands and thousands of years.
Here are some quotes that resonate deeply with me since early this year when I first encountered the word “ecopsychology,” to describe the power of healing through connection to nature I experienced during trauma.
I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.
~ Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright is described as having been an atheist, but the view he describes here is pantheism, the belief that equates God with the forces of the universe/Nature or that the universe/Nature is a manifestation of God. Pantheism can also be referred to worship that tolerates all gods.
The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence. ~ Thomas Berry
Thomas Berry was a Catholic priest who is described as an “ecotheologian” (he preferred “Earth scholar”) because he articulated probably better than anyone I have read how essential our awareness is of our function in the continual emergence of an evolving universe.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ~ John Muir
Most folks know of John Muir, the naturalist, traveler, and poetic writer who founded the Sierra Club and the beginning of the National Parks system in the United States. This statement describes the interconnected dance of everything in nature, the webstrings connecting us to all.
We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. All the disasters that are happening now are a consequence of that spiritual ‘autism.’ ~ Thomas Berry
The concept of “anima mundi” (sense of the world’s soul or psyche) has long been lost to most in Western or “developed” cultures when we learned to separate psyche from matter, often ascribed to Descartes in the theory that mankind is the only dualistic creature (mind separate from body), whereas every other animate being is instinctual. It may sound odd to most Western society minds, but I experience trees, bodies of water, plants, birds, butterflies, insects as all speaking, all animate, all knowing in their own ways, all carrying pieces of wisdom through time. All communicate with me in sensory ways. I have been transformed from feeling often sad and alone to feeling fully unconditionally loved and welcomed in vast realms the more I tune my senses to connect to my natural surroundings, and my soul is now full.
Another favorite spiritual practice of mine has become night sky watching and walking. This is easier to do as daylight is short. Even covered by clouds much of the time in my region, the sky forms all sorts of shapes and shadows, and of course on clear nights glistening stars let us time travel through space to their light. Other senses than sight can be heightened in dark, and of course only if you are in an area that feels safe to you, try experimenting with what you can sense when outdoors in the dark, even the relative safety of a yard.
Below are some beautiful videos about our big picture food crisis and how that fits with an ecospirituality that recognizes humanity’s need for realignment with the laws of Nature. There is much to despair about the more one understands the ecological crises we face (probably the most urgent of which in this moment involves Fukushima’s Disaster in the Making which has spawned clamor for greater oversight).
But even the most cynical or grieving can benefit from reconnecting their pscyhe and spirit in small daily ways to the most powerful source for renewal we have – Nature, Mother Earth, Universe, Gaia, Home.