Ecotherapy


 Healing through our natural wisdom.

DSCN1638

Ecotherapy is the application of ecopsychology, and exists in many forms. Ecotherapy is based on the premise that humans have evolved from the the natural environment, and continue to do so. The biologist and author, E.O. Wilson, has made popular the theoretical perspective of biophilia, which is based on a genetic affiliation humans have with all of life. We are attracted to nature, because we come from nature, and we are nature. With this starting point, nature is viewed as a restorative force for human development and wellbeing. Needless to say, the healing properties of nature are much, much older than ecopsychology and the biophilic approach to exploring the person-nature relationship.

Image 10

Nature is our home, and we belong in nature; when we realize this reality, we begin to thrive in this reality.

The Outdoor Adventure Leader is currently developing specific ecotherapeutic programs to help individuals and groups heal their lives. It is our sincere intention to develop these programs in a way that is rooted in the current science of human wellbeing and the person-nature relationship, as well as in the age old wisdom traditions of indigenous ways of being and spiritual practices.

Each one us poses an innate wisdom that is indivisibly tied to the natural world. When we open ourselves to this ancient person-nature relationship, we empower a healing force that is our birthright. Once this relationship is realized, the implicit dichotomy of the concept “person-nature relationship” is exposed as the illusion that it is.


The following are some simple ecotherapy techniques that one can practice on their own:

DSCN5918 - Version 2The simple act of building and tending a fire in the wild can be a type of ecotherapy, which is quite effective. Humans have a primordial relationship with fire, and our current modern lives have divorced us from this life-giving force of nature. When one practices this type of ecotherapy, one is rekindling this ancient relationship and it can be a sacred act, which restores one’s human nature.

 

DSCN0366

One’s identity with a “self” is actually a constructed metaphor, and this is true from both spiritual and scientific perspectives. Just as one chooses to maintain one’s belief system (e.g., cultural, political, religious, etc.), one can choose to either expand or contract one’s sense of self. As Joanna Macy refers to it, this “Greening of the Self” is how we as a species are going to heal our relationship with the ecological world, which we are a part of and not apart from. We cannot afford to continue to view ourselves and our world through a small egocentric perspective, which fragments our interdependence with the natural environment. The separate sense of self, which hyper-individualism fosters, must wither up and become a part of history.

Practicing the expansion of the sense of self, which can include an entire natural landscape, is an effective way of healing the harmful affects of our culture’s egocentric paradigm. This expanded sense of self is referred to as the ecological self, and is quite different from the norm of Western views and beliefs, which are based in the concept of the separate individual self. In short, the concept of the ecological self is more in line with the most current understandings of life here on earth, through systems theory and ecology. The ecological self is an expanding view of the self, which includes more and more of the phenomenal world.

IMG_0001The goal of this ecotherapeutic practice is to heal the feelings of isolation and alienation, which are naturally associated with Western culture’s increasing form of individualism and hyper-individualism.

 


The following was the result of some recent ecopsychological field work in the practice of expanding the sense of self, which Eric Peterson did at Crater Lake National Park:

January 13th, 2015. As I started to ski on the rim of Crater Lake National Park, I kept asking myself a very basic question: What does it mean to have a sense of self that includes the natural environment? I asked myself this guiding question, repeatedly.

I have found that cross-country skiing can be a moving meditation, which is fertile ground for introspection as well as conceptual contemplation. It is a beautiful metaphor of exploring the complexities of a landscape, both inner and outer.

As I asked the guiding question – What does it mean to have a sense of self that includes the natural environment? – I started to hear a suggestion from the landscape. As I rhythmicalIy skied along, I spontaneously started to repeat the following mantra: “This body moves through me.” I started to see myself from above, as if I were having an out-of-body experience. I started to see myself through the eyes of the landscape. This was a very powerful moment, to say the least! It was both liberating and unsettling, but overall I experienced a deep sense of peace and stillness.

The only other time in my life that I’ve naturally experienced this type of expanded sense of self (hallucinogens have been used for thousands of years to expand the mind and one’s sense of self) was through a very regular practice of yoga and meditation. However, this was a unique experience, and one I am still processing.

The following is a poem that came to me through this practice as I skied along through and merged with this awe-inspiring landscape. As I sat and ate my lunch on the rim of Crater Lake, I wrote it out on paper:

This body moves through me.
I see him from above and below
from side to side
from front and back
from everywhere.
This body moves through me.
I feel his feet upon me.
I feel his cold skin as I blow.
My light rays bring warmth to his face
and a smile in his heart.
I hear his breathing
and his gratitude.
This body moves through me.
Sometimes he even stops
and drinks in my beauty.
Sometimes he even reaches out
to touch me.
He feels my rough bark
and thanks me for the clean air to breath.
He strokes my fine needles
and then smells my rich forest scent.
This body moves through me.
His little mind
thinks he is separate from me.
His little mind
gets in his way of knowing he and I are the same.
Once in awhile he knows we are one
but he listens to this little mind
and forgets who he really is.
This body moves through me.
Who am I?
I am the dirt
and the forest that grows from me.
I am the snow
that keeps me warm in the winter while I rest.
I am the water
that the snow melts into.
I am the ocean
where all rivers meet.
I am the clouds
that bring the snow and rain.
I am the sun
that makes it all go around.
I am this earth
and your body moves through me.
I am this universe
and you and I are the same.


IMG_0203Going out into nature with a specific intention – expanding one’s sense of self – can be a very powerful form of ecotherapeutic practice.¬†Journalling and/or nature writing can help to process these explorations into ecotherapeutic practices.

Connect with The Outdoor Adventure Leader on Facebook

All content within this website is copyrighted to The Outdoor Adventure Leader, 2015.