Selected Writings 2015
Contents Page 3: Introduction Page 4: All my relations – Pachamama Alliance quote Page 5: The Essence of Meaningful Nature Experience – Matthew Zylstra Page 9: How To Work With Omens – Sandra Ingerman Page 12: Big Bill’s Lesson – Phoenix Arrien Page 14: Story About Feeling – Big Bill Neidge Page 16: Science Proves Hugging Tree Is Good For Health – Amanda Froelich Page 17: Where did fear disappear? – Prose poem Rose Baillie Page 18: Healing Ecology: The Interconnection of Self and Planet – Liz Downes Page 22: Healing the Earth. Healing Ourselves: an Eco therapy of Wholeness–An Introduction to Eco therapy – Rose Baillie Page 25: Medicine for the Earth – Sandra Ingerman Page 29: From Mourning into Daybreak– Prose by Nina Simons Page 36: Recognising the Truth of Impermanence—Healing through Grieving – Phil Bauch and Wendy Klason Page 40: I Am – Clare Roberts Page 41: A Vision for Healing Ecology – Chara Armon
INTRODUCTION This booklet was created in the lead up to the first Triple Ecology Gathering in 2015, in Australia. The intention was to explore the three ecologies, one of them being Healing Ecology, along with Deep Ecology and Sacred Ecology. There are many possible interpretations and explorations of what ‘Healing Ecology’ could be. This booklet contains a sample of writings about what ‘Healing Ecology’ may embody. All articles represent the views of the writer only. ‘Healing Ecology’ - the two way experience of healing nature and nature healing us – has been around for millennium in many different forms especially in the ancient indigenous cultures and the emerging modern movements like Ecopsychology…Healing Ecology attempts to make an accessible yet substantial input into the growing realisation that healing of ourselves and nature needs to happen, that it is possible, and into how it can occur for everyone in any environment. It may mean letting go of our current views and dissolving the separation many of us create between ourselves and the natural world. A‘Healing Ecology’ can only be beneficial. My thanks go to all the authors, Sean Marler, Catherine Meeson and Wendy Mathews who helped with the editing, the dedication and encouragement of the Triple Ecology Gathering organising group, and all participants at the Gathering. We hope you enjoy reading this booklet. Please send questions, feedback and comments to email@example.com We hope you have experienced, or will experience, healing with Mother Earth. With heart, Phoenix Arrien, Warburton, 2015 All authors hold copyright to their work. Please contact the individual authors if you wish to use any part of their writing.
All My Relations The indigenous people of the world, including those of North America, have a proverb or prayer that is included in many rituals and is a deep part of their worldview: “Mitakuye Oyasin” or “All My Relations.” It is not limited to this continent, but can be found in many indigenous cultures around the globe. It is an ancient concept, timeless and deep, with no known beginning or traceable chronology. It is an idea that forms a lens through which these people see the world, see each other, and see both the past and the future. “All My Relations” embodies the idea that we are all connected by unbreakable bonds as tightly interconnected as a mother with her baby when it is within her womb. We are family, bound to humanity as a whole as well as to the Earth, the plants and animals that share it with us, and to the stars and other heavenly bodies in the universe. Pachamama Alliance
The Essence of Meaningful Nature Experience As part of doctoral research focusing on the phenomenology of meaningful nature experience (MNE), approximately 200 MNE accounts were analyzed, common textual and structural themes identified and the ‘essences’ distilled so as to create a shared sense of what MNEs may ‘feel’ like as they are lived in their immediacy. The following rich description therefore seeks to reveal that which give MNE its defining qualities: MNEs emerge in distinctly natural areas: remote, ‘wild’, authentic and vast or other novel environments are particularly conducive. We approach and subsequently engage with these areas through physical activity – sometimes intense – but yet encounter intermittent periods of rest and stillness, whether intentionally planned or unintentionally arising as necessary lulls between our otherwise steadfast exertions. Between these contrasting moments of activity and inactivity, we find a mirroring of such patterns within our own mind – oscillations between mental chitchat and quietness. The inner dialogue and sensations may be emotionally intense, arising out of undesirable circumstances in our current everyday experience. We however find that we eventually give greater currency to the emerging inner stillness that awakens our senses. In shifting focus from inward to outward, we become more aware of our surrounds. We begin to relax and pay attention, open to whatever may arise. As nature’s beauty unfolds we feel privileged, humbled and appreciative. The dipping sun brings a relaxed and agreeable ambience. Alternatively, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory: possibly amidst the unpredictable expanse of the ocean. We feel vulnerable, anxious, unnerved, keyed up and alert. Suddenly, the unexpected happens. An animal presents itself or other striking phenomena appear within the sky, sea- and/or landscape. The non-ordinary nature of the encounter is arresting. Our senses intimately engage with that which presents itself in our consciousness: the experience grows in its vibrancy and vividness. In states of adrenalin and heightened awareness, we direct attention to the phenomena, engaging with the stimuli and attending to the striking natural detail: colours, forms, movements, markings, scents…or are seized by the survival instincts which have been abruptly awoken within us. We find ourselves in an unfamiliar space: the animal may be in unusually close proximity or in our vicinity for what feels like a prolonged period time. Either way, it
is an interaction which draws us into relation and reciprocated through mutual eye contact or gestures that acknowledge our presence. Attuned to the moment, we begin to wonder what the animal is thinking, feeling or what its intentions are: “How is the animal reacting to my intentions and presence? How am I part of its experience?” We perceive some form communication as taking place yet wrestle with how that should be understood or interpreted. We may find ourselves between two potential extremes: willing the moment to end because we feel vulnerable and fearful with our life at risk; or wishing the magical moment to last forever as we savour the rarity and purity of the encounter. When landscape is the centre of our experience, we are enveloped in the beauty, majesty, perfection and/or dwarfed by the power, scale and magnitude. The natural landforms surrounding us are suddenly renewed and awakened. Trees, rocks, waters, sky, sun – the landscape elements in their primacy – come alive with a nonordinary vividness. For moments, they are no longer experienced as the labels we have assigned them, but interwoven as one living mosaic of colours, contrasts, patterns and forms pulsating with life energy. Our senses expand to meet the grandeur and majesty of mountains and swallowing sky or tune into the fine-scale forms and intricate patterns of plants and pebbles. We marvel at the endless expanses of ocean and light refraction. Our emotions are triggered and released. As they intensify, we feel amazement, awe and excitement – a combined sense of wonder and exhilaration. In fear-driven states, we are anxious with senses aroused, feeling helpless with lack of perceived control over the situation. Our body responds with a rush of adrenaline which is felt as a racing heartbeat, pulsing, tingling, changes in breathing or a sudden surge of lightness, energy and vigour. Previous emotional and physical states (e.g. hardship) dissolve. We are held captive to this experience and, as it piques, we are caught in concentrated – and possibly conflicting – emotional states. Yet emerging from within the moment may be an extreme sense of calm and bliss: an unparalleled well-being or acceptance with everything that just is. Or, as the intense fear dissipates, we are gradually overcome by mildly euphoric relief that the perceived danger has passed. Surrendering, we feel truly alive. We experience a continuous shifting interaction between the inner and outer aspects of our consciousness: a perceptual dialogue with the non-ordinary as our prior
mental concepts morph to integrate this experience alongside current frames of reference. We discover a quality in those prolonged moments, which takes us beyond usual ways of conceiving our interactions with nature. It is in these moments that nature evokes something profound – yet often indescribable – which moves us into shared relation with the animal or other natural phenomena. The accepted everyday boundaries between us and this ‘other’ become permeable. Something ‘shifts’ and we connect. We are aware that we have momentarily formed or rekindled some kind of deeper bond or affinity that is not usually felt. The sudden dissolution of divides which characterized our previous relationship with nature brings a sense of belonging and, during more peak moments, an all-encompassing feeling of oneness. In that instant, we discover that we are not alone - something meaningful exists outside of us and we welcome it. The connections include yet extend beyond our immediate physical surrounds as we experience renewed bonds with family, friends, nature and place. There are glimpses of newly perceived interconnections between social and ecological phenomena and comprehension of the complexity of these interlinking systems. These realizations may seed insight that is shaped by whether we are alone or are sharing the experience with another person. If the latter, it may help us to interpret or substantiate an experience which is otherwise difficult to share or describe – knowing that words can never supplant the richness of all that was experienced during the event. In the face of this enormity, we may encounter something other – or even greater – than ourselves. We might speak of the power and wisdom of nature, soul or psyche, or we reflect on mightier creative forces in the cosmos such as that of God, the Divine, Spirit or the manifesting Universe. In the presence of such, we are humbled. Our sense of self is diminished and we no longer feel the same individual centeredness or importance as a human species as before. Something both in and outside of our physical human form conspired to move us in a way not normally known, imagined or expected. We remember this experience and carry it forward as an embedded part of who we are – and who we hope to become.
Summary: core structures of meaningful nature experience The above description revealed the what and how of MNE, offering insight into the relationships which reveal the essence of the experience. The core structures of MNE are identified as follows: * Personal context: characterized by expanded sensory awareness (captive attention), emotional response (awe, ‘a rush’) and a perception of the non-ordinary (amazement). This awakening experience powerfully and/or meaningfully informs one’s views on the nature of the world. * Situational context: natural phenomena suddenly/unexpectedly arise to meet one’s awareness. The perception of authentic beauty (through, e.g. naturalness, remoteness, vividness, wholeness, harmony and novelty) is integral to MNEs. * If an animal is involved, close proximity (spatial), extended length of time (temporal) and reciprocity (meaning) are central. For MNEs not involving an animal, perceived vibrancy and aliveness (life energy) infusing the landscape is primary. * The ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ dimensions meet: with a diminished sense of self, there is an innate (or primordial) feeling of connectedness and interdependence. The privilege to commune with ‘the other’ redefines or reinforces one’s own sense of being and place in the world. * The diversity and uniqueness of every MNE ensures exceptions are inevitably the rule. Extracted and adapted from: Zylstra, M. J. 2014. Exploring meaningful nature experience, connectedness with nature and the revitalization of transformative education for sustainability. PhD dissertation. Department of Conservation Ecology & Entomology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch. http://eyes4earth.org/phd Matthew Zylstra is a field lecturer with Wildlands Studies and integral ecologist with the EarthCollective Network. His PhD dissertation explored meaningful nature experience, nature connectedness and implications for sustainability education. Matthew coordinates and writes for eyes4earth.org - an outreach initiative championing “consciousness for connectedness”. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org ; PhD download: http://eyes4earth.org/phd/
How to Work with Omens In indigenous traditions it is believed that everything that exists in nature is alive and interacts with us. Nature is always communicating with us and often this occurs by showing us omens and signs. Working with omens and signs shows us that we are in harmony with the flow of life. Physics uses the term “a unified field” to describe a state of oneness. In indigenous cultures the term used is the web of life. We are connected to one universal force and we are part of nature. When we flow with “the river of life” the universe shows us signposts that lead us to making healthy and wise decisions. We get these signposts as we walk through both nature and an urban environment as we raise our awareness to the daily messages we are being given. As you hold questions about what your next step in life should be, if you pay attention the universe is always giving you a sign. And in spiritual traditions these signs are also called omens. This can feel like the universe is laying down breadcrumbs for us to follow. We are being led to receive guidance in ways that are beyond our logical understanding. As you walk in nature or even travel to work you might see the appearance of an animal whose qualities might give an answer to your question. You might notice the forms appearing in the clouds in the sky that present a metaphorical response. You also might find yourself meeting a complete stranger and in the conversation you find yourself receiving an answer to a question or problem you have been dealing with. Sometimes signs come in a song being sung on the radio while you are pondering a question. You might be focusing on an issue in life and a bus drives by with an advertisement posted on the side with words that hold a solution or some kind of inspiration. You might be flipping through a book and you come upon a perfect sentence or paragraph that provides you with the inspiration you need. You might wonder if the omens you receive are an answer to a question or a coincidence. Albert Einstein reminds us that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. In the 1980’s I found myself going through a challenging time. One day I called out a prayer to the universe. I said, “Please show me obvious signs that I can follow.”
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From that day forth I have found that as long as I pay attention life gives me all the omens and signs I need to make healthy choices. Of course the key is I have to be aware and listen. We have all had times in our lives when we reflect on a past event we realize we ignored signs we were given. We might have decided to ignore the information we were receiving or we just were not aware of the guidance given. Many of us go through life asleep and living in a trance created by so much outer stimulation in our lives. We don’t always realize that the help and guidance we need is being shown to us. We are not awake to the signs we are being given. Our minds are often too busy and distracted to notice what the universe is revealing to us for our highest good. A good way to start your practice of watching for omens and signs is to take a walk in nature. Before your walk think about a question you have that you need guidance with. You might be considering making a choice that will impact your life. Think about this and hold the intention that you wish to be shown a sign. As you walk allow the beauty of nature to quiet your mind. Just be observant. Take some deep breaths. Notice if you are aware of cloud formations in the sky that might provide insight for you. You might see an animal, bird, insect, etc. that has certain qualities that act as a sign. Use your imagination and just stay aware. When you come to a decision about a change you are going to make in your life take a walk and ask for a sign of confirmation. As you focus on your new decision a breeze might come out of nowhere, which feels like it is whispering “yes” to you. A beautiful butterfly might come along and land on your hand as you imagine bringing a change into your life. You might notice that the sky is thick with clouds and when you think about a new life choice the clouds part and the sun shines. As you pass a tree while thinking about a life change all the leaves might shake in a way that feels like an affirmation. With this way of working you must trust your intuition as nature responds to you. Be persistent and be willing to practice. You might not find yourself feeling your connection with the natural world on your first try. Keep holding your intention and taking walks. At home, work, or school let your intuition lead you to a book on a bookshelf. Simply open to a page. Read the page and see if you were led to an important message.
Notice if you end up having synchronistic meetings with old friends or strangers where what seems like a random conversation holds great wisdom that inspires and assists you in some way. As you do this more and more you will notice that your path ahead is being lit to show you the way. When we open our awareness to how the universe participates in our healing, growth, and evolution life takes on a deeper meaning. Sandra Ingerman Copyright ÂŠ 2012 Sandra Ingerman. All Rights Reserved. Sandra Ingerman, MA, is a world renowned teacher of shamanism and the author of nine books including "Soul Retrieval" and "Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of Shamanic Life". She is the presenter of seven audio programs, and the creator of the Transmutation App. www.sandraingerman.com
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Big Bill’s Lesson I am sitting with Big Bill Neidge (now passed on) outside his house in Kakadu in the Northern Territory. Big Bill is speaking of his land and his life. A life connected to the wild country in which he was born, the traditions of the Bunitj clan to which he belongs and a culture ancient and threatened. Bunitj Country is downstream from Mirrar lands, where I am camping in the Mirrar’s vast bush ‘backyard’ while protesting against the Jabiluka Uranium Mine planned for the area. Big Bill looks towards an eastern ridge. “East Alligator ‘e was good fishing when I was a kid. Big Barrumundi.” Silence. The sun is hot and the flies buzz. Everywhere is steamy green. I try and imagine Kakadu early in the 20th Century when Bill was a child, before tourists, roads, pollution and developments. It is so stunningly beautiful now it is hard to believe it was more of a pristine paradise earlier. “Do you like my country.” I am startled out of musing, not expecting the question. I think of the magnificent towering escarpment bordering Kakadu. I think of the emerald greens of the wetlands and the wildlife and the orange sunsets firing across aquamarine skies. “I love it, its beautiful”. He nods looking at me. I feel a strange but not uncomfortable sense of falling into those eyes of dark brown with red around the pupils. The face is criss-crossed with creases and the black skin shines with sweat. I shift uneasily under this scrutiny, then, I am taking a deep breath… …and the land is suddenly alive and I am existing in a very different yet oddly familiar space. The stones and cliffs, the trees and grasses, the kangaroos and geese; the earth murmuring and breathing, everything connected by contours, everyone’s outlines move into sharp relief like metal engravings, all the contours of each animal running into other beings, other contours within contours. It. Suddenly. All. Breathtakingly. Makes. Sense. At a profound and fundamentally deep level. I breathe getting a glimpse of a deep connection and participation with Country. Breath motivates and moves. Land and life depends on my breath as much as I depend on it. The stones and cliffs, the trees and grasses, the birds and dingoes.
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I am part of the wind and the energies, I hear the earth murmuring and breathing. I breathe with it - mighty timeless breaths with all life and all time and space. The crocodile snaps, the water bird struts, the eagle screams and dives. The wonder of nature breaks through a turtle shell with baby crying life, the wallaby blends softly into paintings carved by wind. The high escarpment is the giant vertebrae of the land, an ancient mighty backbone sending signals to the rest. The mosaic of existence plays in and out with no apologies, the intensity of life shimmers into brilliant colours. I feel my part in the awe-inspiring grandeur of nature, and know with crystal-clear clarity as I pump breaths into breaths into breaths along with everything else, that if we rip up the land we rip up ourselves and all other life. The altered state recedes – how long was I in it - I twitch and blink as if waking from a dream. Bill is watching me and resumes speaking. Each cliff and each sacred site holds it own story. He knows the dreamtime tales of the animals that scuttle and scamper within the forests and floodplains. The stories teach his people how to survive in the cornerstone of their spiritual and physical existence, a land they have occupied for thousands of years. A long time to tune into country. “Not many of us left.” he says referring to the drop in population of his people “Not many know all the stories,” he muses. Bill is one of the last. Fully initiated and versed in all ceremonies and a complex cycle of stories developed over centuries of oral tradition, there are few now willing to shoulder such duties and responsibilities. His son, the traditional caretaker of the land after Bill died, was then a park ranger in Kakadu looking after the land in a joint management scheme incorporating aboriginal and white land practices. The experience stays with me and I began, without thinking or planning, to explore a new dreaming, both individual and collective…how can we all have opportunities for connection with the land. How can we heal ourselves, our communities and the world in a way that taps us back into a more connected and natural way? All rights reserved. Original article first published in Wild Magazine. Phoenix Arrien has a deep interest in indigenous healing and culture and feels fortunate to have sat (and still sits) at the feet of several elders who have been generous with their sharing and teachings. She is a ‘little village shamanic healer in the forest’ offering healing and bodywork near Warburton and elsewhere, an experienced facilitator of healing and transformation workshops and Deep Ecology and Healing Ecology retreats. Website: www.openheartedtransformation.com.au
Story About Feeling Listen carefully, careful and this spirit e come in your feeling and you will feel it...anyone that. I feel it...my body same as you. That tree now, feeling... e blow sit quiet, you speaking... that tree now e speak... that wind e blow.. e can listen We think. Story we think about, yes. Tree...yes. That story e listen. Story...you’n’me same. Grass im listen. You’n’me same...anykind. Bird e listen...anykind, eagle. E sit down. E want to speak eagle eh? Im listen. You listen...eagle. Because e put im through your feeling. But for us eagle... all same. Listen carefully, careful and this spirit e come in your feeling and you will feel it...anyone that. I feel it...my body same as you. I telling you this because the land for us, never change round, never change. Places for us, earth for us, star, moon, tree, animal, no matter what sort of a animal, bird or snake...
all that animal same like us. Our friend that. When you feeling tree e work with you tree. You cut im little bit, you got water coming out. That’s his blood, same as your blood. So e alive. If you feel sore... “Oh, I’m my body sore!” Well that mean somebody killing tree because your body on that tree or earth I feel with my body. Feeling all these trees, all this country. When this blow you can feel it. Same for country... you feel it, you can look, but feeling... that make you." Big Bill Neidjie, Gagudju Elder, Kakadu (passed on) Story about Feeling, Magabala Books
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Science Proves Hugging Tree Is Good For Health Hugging a tree has now been validated by science to be incredibly beneficial for both people and the planet. Contrary to popular belief, hugging – or even just being in the vicinity of – a tree can boost one’s health in several ways. In a recently published book by author Matthew Silverstone, Blinded by Science, confirming trees and their healthful benefits includes their effect on mental illnesses, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), concentration levels, reaction times, depression, and the ability to alleviate headaches. According to countless studies cited within the book, children show extreme psychological and physiological effects in term of improved health and well-being when they interact with plants. It was recorded that children function better cognitively and emotionally in green environments and have more creative play in green areas. What is it about nature that can cause significant alleviation of symptoms? Many might think it’s open green spaces that contribute to this effect, but Silverstone shows that it’s more than this theory; instead, he explains how it’s the vibrations of trees and plants that offer many health benefits – not just open spaces. Because everything vibrates, different vibrations undoubtedly affect biological behaviours. According to Natural News it has been proven that that if one were to drink a glass of water that has been treated with a 10Hz vibration, one’s blood coagulation rates will change immediately upon ingesting the treated water. Similarly, trees affect human beings (and all other creatures) in the same way. When one touches a tree, its different vibrational pattern will affect various biological behaviours within the body. Not only is clutching a giant, sturdy oak therapeutic and free, it could offer a plethora of benefits and save the populace a large amount in healthcare costs. Human beings can only live outside of the laws of nature for so long before symptoms of disconnect be made manifest. With the increasing prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases, it’s clear more attention deserves to be given to holistic practices such as this one, so that the cause of imbalance be alleviated and lifestylerelated illnesses dissipate. Amanda Froelich, first published in True Activist, reprinted with permission.
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Where did fear disappear? Did fear disappear Deep Into the roots of this ancient tree? Was fear wrenched out from my DNA And flung loose into rainforest sap Dripping down your branches Sliding away into secret crevices Hidden places... To be filled instead with The coolness of forest shadows Leaf litter melting into ancient rock Sweet fragrant winds of change Caressing your leaves Singing love songs to the Earth Did fear disappear Into somewhere else Leaving me blank and starry-eyed? What magic is this That breathes in secret places That rings out love between your branches Cradled in your ancient roots Sinking deeper into you I feel a freedom and a rush A sense of belonging to this bush Thankyou Tree for cradling me Thankyou Tree, you set me free Tree of freedom, tree of change Sweep me up in your arms again Show me how Fear can disappear Lost in the spaces between your leaves Lost in the spaces where we breathe Lost in the space between you and me. Rose Baillie has been researching and facilitating Ecotherapy and Deep Ecology processes for 20 years. She has trained and worked in psychology and mental health as well as in ecology and environmental education, and has a Masters degree in Social and Sacred Ecology. Her connection to ecotherapy also reflects a deep personal quest for healing through nature and for nature.
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Healing Ecology: The interconnection of self and planet Many physical and mental health problems can be traced to an illusion that we are separate from our environment, separate from the earth’s life support systems. Healing occurs when we dissolve this illusion of separation and fully embrace the lived experience of being interconnected with the Earth’s living systems. Furthermore, from the experience of being interconnected with all life emerges not only personal healing, but a renewed sense of responsibility to care for the Earth’s living systems. Hence we begin to behave less destructively and act in defense of nature, thus enabling nature to restore its balance. ‘Healing Ecology’, therefore, is two-way: healing of self, healing of planet. In 1984 Edward Wilson postulated what has become known as the ‘biophilia hypothesis’, which states that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and natural living systems, and a human instinct to affiliate with nature. Nature is woven, through evolution, into our physical and mental patterns of being; our most instinctive behaviours are sourced in nature. If these instincts are blocked, the result can be physical and mental health problems. Living in technological environments, cities, eating processed food … these things can imbalance our systems and make us ill. On the flip side, a disconnection from nature causes human beings to disregard the Earth’s intrinsic rights and needs for wholeness and balance, and to engage in environmentally destructive behaviours. Hence, a healing process, involving the increase of access to nature and natural lifestyles, can not only improve our wellbeing, but also assist us to behave more responsibly towards planetary systems and our fellow living beings. Richard Louv, in ‘Last Child in the Woods’ lays out the devastating impact of ‘nature-deficit disorder’ on the health of children in Western societies, and makes it clear that the only solution for personal and planetary health is to ‘unplug and reconnect.’ This leads to a change in people’s prioritizing of what is important, as the environmental crisis is seen as directly connected with personal health issues: ‘When the role of nature’s role in health – physical, mental and spiritual – was introduced into (a conversation with college students), the tone changed; what often began as a fatalistic, intellectual discussion about the hole in the ozone layer quickly turned personal … I sense that these young people, who belong to what could be
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considered the first de-natured generation, hunger for a greater purpose … Even dormant, the seed of nature grows with just a little water.’ (Louv, 2005). This theme is deepened by ecopsychology, depth psychology and related disciplines. Using the premise that psychological health is reliant on a strong lived experience of connection with nature, Bill Plotkin, a depth psychologist living in Colorado, specializes in assisting people to engage with their ‘wild souls’ through vision quests and wilderness experiences. Mapping out the connection between ‘nature’ and the human soul through numerous books, he says: ‘to speak of wildness is to speak of wholeness … to be whole is to be able to embody the wild mind.’ Humans are part of nature. The human mind has evolved from nature, and is, like nature, ‘diverse, multifaceted, complex and self-organising.’ Western science has barely begun to understand the natural complexity of mind, and so cannot adequately treat mental imbalances, or even recognize that the mind and body are connected. But by ‘rewilding’, by entering Nature and fully experiencing it on her own terms, we begin to rebalance and heal the mind. Furthermore, we become more aware, more conscious, more emotionally engaged with the wonders of wild life: and we can begin to heal the negative impacts of human activity on the Earth. ‘Once you open your heart to the trees, you don’t want to hurt them.’ North American Elder Indigenous peoples who have retained the ability to live in harmony with nature, understand that a lived interconnectedness with the wild environment is all that is necessary to have mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. As put by Yankunytjarra Elder Bob Randall, in his documentary “Kanyini”: “The purpose of life is to be part of all there is … Everything living is family. The trees, the kangaroos, the emus … we are connected to everything else, and the proof of that is being alive; the connection is to everything around you. You are never alone. You are one with everything out there … Every inch of this land is sacred. Everything is created in a perfect state, and so we become part of all that. This connection is what makes you feel so good, so alive …” Bob Randall goes on to say that when his people went walking in the desert, they always felt ‘strong’ because everything around them was strong and alive.
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When the white settlers came, not only were the people massacred, raped and dispossessed of their home (ngurra), their knowledge of land and country (tjukurrpa), their family (waltja) and their spirituality (kanyini) … the land also was devastated. So now the healing has to occur at two levels - for people and for country. Because law, family and spirituality are tied to the land. If the land is sick, people get sick. And vice versa … only sick people are capable of harming the land. Herein is a powerful point to make on the subject of Healing Ecology: We cannot try to heal human minds and bodies without giving attention to our ‘country’, the landscapes where we can find belonging. Not only this, but our families, our communities also need to be reimbedded in nature, in earth systems, in landscape. Even at a physical level, indigenous societies have understood through history that the land must be kept healthy to provide the foods and medicines that keep people healthy. To this day, there are diseases considered incurable by Western medicine, which can be treated effectively with a pharmacopeia of plants (and animals) found in the ecuatorial rainforests. And yet, these rainforests, along with the last remaining indigenous cultures in the world who live in harmony with them, are disappearing. We are destroying our own life-support systems, our food-banks, our medicine cupboards. The only way forward is to embrace the importance of preserving natural ecosystems for our own health: to see ourselves as connected with those ecosystems, at all levels – physical, psychological, spiritual. In summary, the pursuit of healing is a complex process involving personal, community and ecosystemic repair and renewal. At no time in history has it been more critical for us to invest in taking the first step towards healing at all these levels. This first step is to begin dissolving the illusion - grown through Western religion, science, economics and technology - that we are separate from nature. To reclaim our instinctive selves, our wild connectedness, our evolved wisdom for living in harmony with mother Earth – this is healing ecology. Resources and links Louv, Richard 2005, Last Child in the Woods Plotkin, Bill, Wild Mind: A field guide to the human psyche. Available for download from Animas Valley Institute: www.wildmindbook.com Plotkin, Mark: ‘What the people of the Amazon know that you don’t’ (TED talk). –
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Access via www.roamingthemind.com Randall, Bob ‘Kanyini’. Documentary available on youtube. Roszak, Theodore 1995, Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, healing the mind. Wilson, Edward 1984, Biophilia For more on global-scale two-way healing from an indigenous perspective: Arkan Lushwala (2012) ‘Time of the Black Jaguar”. For a webcast interview with Lushwala go to www.pachamama.org/webcasts For a Buddhist perspective on “Healing Ecology”: David Loy, www.davidloy.org. This article is the intellectual property of Liz Downes, 2015. May not be used without permission. Liz Downes has a background in mental health work, community development and environmental activism. From years of immersion experiences in wild places and indigenous communities, she has developed a special interest in the importance of re-learning indigenous ways of relating to the Earth, to heal the human and environmental crises of our time. She is currently taking postgraduate studies in international development.
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Healing The Earth, Healing Ourselves: An Ecotherapy of Wholeness An Introduction To Ecotherapy "...The promise of ecotherapy lies in the possibility that such work can initiate healing rooted in our affinity with the natural world and can sponsor sanity in a world gone mad.. By any name it is a homecoming of sorts to the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, and tastes of the only world we will ever know”. -David Orr in “Ecotherapy” Ecotherapy is an emerging field of practise which recognises the mutually healing effects of the human-nature connection. Ecotherapy arose out of the theory of Ecopsychology, which identifies modern humanity’s disconnection from nature as the root cause of environmental and mental health crises. Ecotherapy seeks to enhance personal and planetary wellbeing through practices which catalyse a profound personal and cultural reconnection with nature, which ultimately has health benefits for all beings... The Healing Power of Nature “ There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer”. CALVIN COOLIDGE, speech, Jul. 25, 1924 There is a growing body of research into the health benefits of spending time in nature (for example, see Richard Louv’s book “The Nature Principle”). The benefits for physical health are well known, such as fresh air, Vitamin D and exercise. There is also extensive evidence that being in nature is beneficial for emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. For example, research has demonstrated that time spent in nature can be as effective as medication in treating mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression (see the famous MIND study from the UK). The more research is being done in this area, the more we are realising that being connected with nature is fundamental to human wellbeing at all levels.
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Immersing our senses in nature and feeling the physicality of our bodies is the simplest and deepest form of Ecotherapy. This source of power is available to us whenever we need it: it is as simple as stepping outside, and feeling the natural elements. Wherever we are, there will always be sky, air, earth, sun, a tree or bird, if not a wilderness landscape. Nature’s Medicine “I must go to Nature disarmed of perspective and stretch myself like a large transparent canvas upon her in the hope that, my submission being perfect, the imprint of a beautiful and useful truth would be taken. JOHN UPDIKE, The Centaur Nature is more than a passive background for our journeys. She is awake and pulsing with life. Nature’s healing medicine comes in the form of signs, synchronicities and symbolic messages which arise from the direct experience of relating our full selves with the natural world. She speaks to us in every moment: a burst of sunlight, a dainty wren, a clap of thunder, and the flight of an eagle. She whispers stories to us in every blade of grass and stormy sunset; we need only pause and listen to awaken to her healing medicine that can give us new insights about our lives and our place in the world. Belonging To Life “The deep, personal realisation of our billions of years of evolution in this universe, AS this universe, of the fact that we BELONG here, this is the fundamental healing that we all long for.” (Seed, 2001) All life is interconnected, as humans we also belong in the family of Life. To deeply experience this belonging is one of the most profound and satisfying feelings that we can have. “In the deep silence of the forest I can hear the Roar of Life. It is the pulse of the Earth. It is the blood in my veins. The ancient strength of the mountains. The heavy summer wind. The rush of a wild waterfall tumbling down granite. The Roar is in every move of the spider’s abdomen as she weaves herself into existence. In the call of the kookaburra and the slinking silence of a skink. The Roar entices us, calls to us, reminds us who we are. The Roar is outside of time, it is the eternal flame, moulding and merging the magic of existence. When I hear the Roar, I know who I am: I am Life merging with Life. I am the Roar.”
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Healing Into Wholeness “"Ecotherapy begins with the fact that we indeed live in the lap of a great intelligence..... It is a practical acknowledgment that health, healing, wholeness, and holy are related not just by linguistic accident but by the fact that they are one and inseparable." David Orr Healing with nature happens when we involve our whole being in our experience of nature: our body, mind, heart and soul. Much more than an intellectual idea, our deepest experiences of nature are integrated whole experiences. It is this total engagement of mind, body, heart and soul which can lead to profound experiences of wholeness. As we heal into our own wholeness we simultaneously heal into the wholeness of the earth. “I sat on the earth and breathed the cool air. Mesmerised by the flicker of flame, a soft crescent moon and the rhythmic croaking of frogs. My heart was full with love for this place and the certainty that I belong, here on this Earth. In that moment of integration I felt whole and fully alive: I felt myself, the fire, the earth, the trees, the sky, the people, all immersed in a continuous harmony. The fire held so much power within it, all the power of our ancestors, the power of our pain, and the beauty of our pain…when we sit by this fire the whole of creation sits with us, the whole unfolding story since the beginning of time. Life bears witness with us. And the mystery, the overwhelming mystery of this creation, dances before us and invites us to play, singing: “Humble yourselves in the arms of the wild.” (Baillie, 2005). Ecotherapy invites us to experience our inter-connectedness with all of life, and align ourselves with the healing and natural intelligence which flows between us and our Earth. As we align more closely with the natural world, we become receptive to experience nature as our healer and wise teacher. As we experience this connection, we simultaneously forge our sense of empathy and loving concern for the wellbeing of our precious planet Earth. Rose Baillie has been researching and facilitating Ecotherapy and Deep Ecology processes for 20 years. She has trained and worked in psychology and mental health as well as in ecology and environmental education, and has a Masters degree in Social and Sacred Ecology. Her connection to ecotherapy also reflects a deep personal quest for healing through nature and for nature.
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Medicine for the Earth Rivers have always reminded me of the magic of life. My love for rivers led me to wonder whether or not it is possible to reverse river pollution, which led to an interest on a broader level of the reversal of all environmental pollution. In 1978 I graduated with a BA in Biology specializing in Marine Biology from San Francisco State University. My curiosity of the question of reversing river pollution led me to apply for a Masters degree in biology. My thesis proposal would be on the issue of reversing pollution. The school I had applied to was excited about my thesis proposal and it looked like I was getting ready to walk down the scientific road of exploring this issue. At that time I had a realization, which was, I did not want to stay in the field of science. I ended up enrolling in the California Institute of Asian Studies (now called the California Institute of Integral Studies) where I began to pursue a master’s degree in counseling psychology. During my time there I took a course on shamanic journeying. Shamanism is the first spiritual practice of humankind, which dates back at least 40,000 years. Some anthropologists believe it goes back more than 100,000 years. The core method in shamanism is the shamanic journey. The shamanic journey is a way to access spiritual information by traveling into non-ordinary reality and to engage with helping spirits; compassionate spirits for direct revelation to answer questions and receive healing help. I started practicing shamanism in 1980 and my own personal practice led me to explore with the spirits the issue of reversing environmental pollution. One of the most important messages I was to receive over my twenty years of journeying on this was it is who we become that changes the world and our environment not what we do. Harmony within will create harmony without. So the true work is learning how to change our thoughts, attitudes and belief systems. We actually have to work with “ the alchemy of the soul” to really be able to change our inner environment as our inner state of being is reflected back to us in the outer world. The literal definition of alchemy is “working within and through the dense darkness inside.” This is big work and involves committing to spiritual practices that we must engage in daily and throughout the day. Stories that come from the Bible, from the Kabbalah, and from various Taoist, Hindu, yogic, alchemical, Egyptian, and shamanic works show that miracles were
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once an everyday occurrence. I researched different spiritual traditions to give me clues to how miracles were performed by ancient cultures, mystics, and saints. As I read about miracles a formula of elements that seem to be part of all miracles started to form. The formula that came to me is a hologram. The elements cannot be taken separately but combined with each other create transmutation. The definition of transmutation I am using is the ability to change the nature of a substance. The work of effecting environmental change is how to change toxic substances into neutral substances. The formula I arrived at is intention + union + love + focus + concentration + harmony +imagination = transmutation. For all miracles to happen we must hold a strong intention of what we want to see happen. Intention creates action. This involves concentration. We know that a key to the success of spiritual practice is the ability to concentrate. We must also be able to maintain a focus on our short term and long term goals. All miracles involve union with a divine force. In the bible when Jesus says to heal in my name the true Aramaic translation of this is to know God and heal as God does. This means to have union with the creative force of life is essential for true healing to take place. Sai Baba, a guru in India, is known for his miraculous acts and healing abilities. He says: “The only difference between me and you is I know who I am and you don’t” (meaning he knows he is divine). These are just a couple of examples of what different mystics say about union. Love is an essential ingredient in all miracles as it is only love that heals. Techniques don’t heal. Where there is an open heart there is the energy to bring through miraculous and magical energy. Love is the great transformer. I have already mentioned harmony as it is known in the practice of alchemy that harmony within will create harmony without. Disharmony creates disease; harmony creates beauty and health. Imagination is another key in performing the miracle of transmutation in that we must be able to envision an environment that is pure and clean and which supports all of life. Caroline Casey an American astrologer says: “Imagination lays the tracks for the reality train to drive down.” With our imagination we have to ability to sculpt our world. To add to this formula there are more principles to remember. As we change our perception we change our reality. To change our perception to create a reality of a clean environment we must be able to see the beauty in all things. To see the
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beauty in all things we must live in a state of appreciation and gratefulness. There are two phases of the work. One phase of the work is to learn how to recognize that we are more than a body, our thoughts, and our past experiences. We are spiritual light and we are divine at all times. We are not separate rather we are connected to one source and to a web of life. Imagine a hand where one of the fingers drops to the floor and thinks it can have an independent life without being connected to the body. That is what is happening today. Humankind is acting like separate fingers that have forgotten the connection to the original source of life. In our egoic states, we perceive ourselves as separate from each other and the rest of life. Life circumstances and our relationships with others trigger negative thoughts and feelings. As human beings it is important to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings. It is also important to acknowledge that there is energy behind our thoughts and feelings that we can send out to others and into the environment. In shamanic cultures it is understood that there is a difference between expressing anger and sending anger. It is healthy to have a range of thoughts and emotions. The work we must do is to learn how to transmute or transform the energy behind our thoughts and emotions into love and light. In this way we can feel the depth of our feelings but not create any harm by doing so. We must again recognize as all ancient cultures did that words are vibration. And when we speak out loud we send a vibration out into the universe that will manifest back down on others and us. You might remember when you were a child saying the phrase abracadabra. This is actually an Aramaic phrase “abraq ad habra” and it literally translates to “I will create as I speak”. In my book How to Heal Toxic Thoughts I teach how to work with the transmutation of negative states of consciousness and how to work with the power of words. The second phase of the work is gathering together in community to do ceremonies to reverse the pollution that we have created. My book Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins goes into detail about the above material. After I wrote the book I started some scientific experiments to check out if the practices I wrote about
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will truly transmute toxins. I have been working with intentionally polluting deionized water (pure water with no minerals in it) with ammonium hydroxide a common and dangerous pollutant in our environment. As ammonium hydroxide is a strong base it is easy to check its presence with the use of pH strips. I have worked with many groups of students at this point. With every group I have worked with using the principles I wrote about, the water has changed a pH of 1-3 points toward neutral. We have prepared for days but once we begin the ceremony work it has only taken approximately 15-20 minutes before the water changes. From a scientific point of view this would be seen as impossible. Since these initial experiments I started using a gas discharge visualization camera which is based on the Kirlian effect. We can now take pictures of the change in energy of the substances present in our circle. Besides water we have put in the circle a peach, some soil from a road, and some cheddar cheese crackers. To see some of the pictures we have gotten you can visit www.medicinefortheearth.com and click on results. It is important to note that in our ceremonies we have not tried to manipulate the environment. We have not focused on the substances on the altar of our circle. We change ourselves with the understanding that our outer world will reflect back to us the inner changes that we make. This way of perception goes back to the ancient and esoteric principle of “as above, so below; as within, so without”. Alchemists did not actually change lead into gold. The practice of alchemy was about changing lead consciousness into gold light consciousness. As we begin to change our consciousness and get in touch with the light inside of us we can effect great changes in our outer world. It is who we become that changes the world not what we do. All life is made of light. We are all light. Everything is light. In remembering this we can transmute everything in our outer environment and what we take in to pure healing light. All spiritual traditions teach that everything manifests on a spiritual level before manifesting on the physical. Where we have power right now to create change on the planet is by incorporating spiritual practices into our lives. Copyright © 2012 Sandra Ingerman. All Rights Reserved Sandra Ingerman, MA, is a world renowned teacher of shamanism and the author of 9 books including "Soul Retrieval" & "Walking in Light:The Everyday Empowerment of Shamanic Life". She is the presenter of 7 audio programs, and the creator of the Transmutation sandraingerman.com
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From Mourning into Daybreak We’ve forgotten how to mourn. Lost the art of grieving. No-one keens anymore. Women in Greek tragedies knew how, But these days, we medicate. We veer away from the depths, and so we rarely reach the peaks. Now, we are an unfinished circle because we don’t acknowledge the pain, grieve our losses, complete the cycle of mourning. How will we ever see daybreak without mourning? If we don’t feel what hurts, surrender to its demands, Speak the wound, How can we really begin to heal? I understand young people’s prolific piercings now, Black rings and claw-like ornaments jutting through your skin, Wanting to wear some mark of your realness, your courage, Your willingness to feel pain. It’s a modern-day sun-dance. Proof that you’re not to be counted among the anesthetized, The opiated populace lulled into false security, Who’ve chosen this way of shutting down, This course of least resistance, this blithe consumer life, seeking ‘safety’ in lieu of feeling. I was pierced this summer, Feeling the sudden loss of a friend’s best friend Knowing I had no words – I encouraged her to dive down, fully – To sing for her cherished friend, To wail, paint, dream, carve, dance the sadness, Let the loss impregnate her belly, Without hurrying the passage.
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When my father died, I felt the rock I stood on Suddenly gone, my self in free fall. A friend warned it might take a year for me to heal. It was at least that, and it was longer. I was grateful for the crystalline time. Long, elastic months of feeling transparent, Of squinting at the striking brightness of colours, line and light, Of oscillating between emptiness and attunement The tenderness of tears always a breath away. I was appalled to discover our illiteracy toward death, And envied the Japanese tradition of wearing a black armband For a year following the loss of a loved one, So that everyone knows not to treat you the usual way. The tattoo I got this summer – permanent art marking my impermanent body. A gift to myself – the pain a strange kind of prayer, making good on my promise to remember the hand of the divine feminine always holding my heart, having my back. A huge crow swoops to meet me, his large beak stuttering open, he croaks his hello, frog-like. I think he must be drawn by the bones the dogs have left ‘round, carrion for his dinner But it’s me he’s focused on, inciting a conversation. When I respond, he flies closer, perches to stare at me, Beady black eyes glow against shiny indigo feathers. He caws in clusters of three, his wings inflating with each inhale, Cccaaaawwww, cccaaawww, ccccaaawwww. My responding calls intrigue him, and we converse, An arc of connection cutting through the apple crisp autumn air.
He pauses, turning his head to an improbable angle to suck water through his long thin beak from the shallow pool puddled in the cement birdbath. I wonder is he a bird of sorrow, or a creature of connection, And know he is both. I learned this duality from my father A man whose lion heart was far too big For the losses his love suffered in its youth. A Jewish man who loaned his collection of Santa Clauses out to a different shopkeeper each year, So that his whole West Village neighbourhood could enjoy them. His emotional voice was always tentative, Feelings muffled to lessen the risk His loss of love twisted into fearfulness of losing face. But felt, his affection was a tender bath of papalove, The sun I basked in when I was small, Arms I could count on – except for those contracted moments when the shadow of loss chilled him. Isn’t it strange, how unspeakably beautiful life becomes, Whenever death draws near? It hovers close now, all the time, with extinctions everywhere, 1800 species disappearing every day – my mind reels at it, staggering. The tundra melting, trees tilting drunkenly as they lose their ground, entire cultures losing their life ways The terrain too erratic for hunting, anymore.
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Who mourns these losses? To enter that one-ness, the kinship of the crow, We must first feel the pain. When I knew I’d never have a child, I vowed I’d have myself. I wept with relief when the wise man told me I had more children to care for in this life Than I could if I had my own. How can we close the circle, Bring the cycle complete, and not go mad with grief? Afraid I’ll start wailing, I rock inwardly, and don’t stop. Yearning to speak out, I feel fearful. The voices within me are at once so young, And also ancient, sitting stone still and calm. They knows the words that must be spoken, Giving them voice raises quaking within me. I ask that the elder hold the young one, Lend her stillness, offer her strength, Let her fear melt against my heated rocks. How will we grieve for the vividly coloured corals bleached white, For the animals brutally hunted, for all those whose habitats have been logged to make mail-order catalogues, phonebooks and newspapers? The crone wants to shake us all awake, screeching Don’t you get it? This is no time for small talk This is a time for mythmaking This is a time for epic poetry This is a time to tell the tales that’ll become our compass For the days ahead.
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A time to remember the grace and celebrate the magic that infuses and informs this world. We live on the only planet we know of Where the sun and moon appear the same size. The only planet where an eclipse is possible. Doesn’t that seem like instructions to you? To awaken from this self-induced slumber To emerge from this contracted isolation We’ve got to drink down the darkness And dive to our deepest fathoms, Peel off our fancy garments of presumed protection, To land at the bottom, naked, cold and bruised, With nowhere to go but up. Time we shed the venom that got us here, the red rage of blame and shame. And chose instead the anger that Rises, pure and clean, up through our feet. That draws us to our full height, knowing what must be done, Sparking us to stand up for what we love. How else can we begin the healing? Indra’s web is dangling, and can’t be repaired with band-aids. No sutures, butterfly closures or Elmer’s glue can fix it. Only our tears can begin to mend its tattered strands, tears and giving ourselves to keening, pining, grieving Mourning how much is dying, mourning so that the light can return. The revolution must have dancing, the women know this. The music will light our hearts on fire, The stories will bathe our dreams in honey and fill our bellies with stars. The interlacing of our souls enlarging our humanity, Our rhythms will merge with the heartbeat of the Earth.
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What breaks the mourning open for me? It shines through my connections, my friends, my kin Some who are human, and some who are not. I soar in the sea, glide stealthily among sea turtles Swoop over snowpack, eagle shushing, Lazing lizard-like on warm boulders amid frigid rivers Slurping oysters gathered fresh from moist sand. I am lifted by the courageous uprising of women, and girls, And of the emerging voice of the feminine within us all. And I keep feeling strengthened by my kinship with the land, With the high desert hills of Northern New Mexico, Her mountains first called to me twenty-some years ago, And weâ€™ve barely stopped talking, since. We gather to imagine whatâ€™s next for Bioneersâ€™ place with people named Regenesis. To envision a future, they began with an ancient past, A time when our desert landscape was submerged, underneath a shallow sea. Then took us travelling through a time when the Galisteo basin was verdant and lush, with 40,000 Anasazi people living, loving and farming there. We sit, they said, on an alluvial fan, A place where the mountains meet the plains, A place where a riverbed splays, opening her legs to a widened basin, A place where a great open hand of sand forms, To mark the fertile zone where two ecosystems meet. We dream the past forward, envision cultivating gardens, planting orchards, restoring the river, reclaiming the flyways.
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Tickled by the magic of landing on this fulcrum, I pray for the help of the invisible hands of those who came before. At dusk, I wander down the arroyo by our house, Further up the same canyon. Flanked by criss-crossing dogs chasing scents, a crow swoops low over my left shoulder, cawing. At the bottom I stop, standing still on a sandy spit Savouring the dry, clean air of the ponderosa forest, Glancing down, a perfect white shell catches my eye, spiralling pristinely, speaking to me in sacred whispers of life before. As my friend Akaya Windwood so lovingly reminds me, The world shifts every time a woman speaks her truth. May it be so. Thank you. Nina Simons is President and Co-Founder of Bioneers, an organization that identifies, features and disseminates visionary and practical solutions to our most pressing social and environmental challenges. She leads their Everywomanâ€™s Leadership program and edited the book Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart, used in college courses on cultural diversity, leadership and womenâ€™s studies.
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Recognising the Truth of Impermanence —Healing through Grieving "The primal human walks through a world that is experienced as completely continuous between inner and outer. He or she sees spirits in the forest, perceives meaning in the movement of two eagles across the horizon, recognizes significance in the conjunction of two planets, experiences a world in which the human being is completely embedded in a larger being that is ensouled, the anima mundi." (Tarnas, 2001, p7). How did humans lose the memory of wholeness, so beautifully described here by poet and author, Richard Tarnas? The illusion of separation has grown with the distance between the human and the consequences of their actions. Part of our healing may be through creating a more localised world, closing the gap between cause and effect, revealing the connected nature of the Universe. Deepak Chopra (2006) said: "All healing is the restoration of the memory of wholeness.” We are all one, healing is re-membering with the Universe. Francis Weller advocates restoring our wholeness, to heal the suffering of Mother Earth and Humanity, through the subversive practice of Grief (Weller, 2014). Why is grief subversive? According to Weller: “Grief undermines the quiet agreement to behave and be in control of our emotions. It is an act of purpose that declares our refusal to live numb and small. Grief is necessary to the vitality of our soul, it is infused with life force.” (Weller, 2014). In the ancient world, the consequences of human actions were proximate in both time and space. Deeds, both good and bad, were mostly immediately evident to ones' family, village or community; and the doer was either praised or held to account. This is how it has been for most of human history. In the modern industrial world, the consequences of our choices and actions are mainly radically offset in time and in space. This is new in human experience. We have become separated from these consequences. If the consequences of our actions were right in front of us, our choices would likely be quite different. Indigenous people in Tanzania, whose forests have been clear-felled by a multi- national food company to grow kidney beans, now have little
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money to feed their family. If we could look into their eyes and feel their pain, we might choose a locally grown substitute. The modern human economic experiment, of exponential growth in material and energy use, has caused entropy increase on Earth to speed up dramatically; and is now clearly pressing hard against ecological and resource limits. With easily accessible energy in decline, recent economic growth has been engineered through escalating debts. All debt is a claim on future energy. Growing debt assumes growing access to cheap energy and resources. Globally, debt has doubled since 2010, calling forth more future energy than we will ever be able to access, and large-scale debt defaults are inevitable. The default of major countries and international banks will likely be followed by financial collapse, commercial collapse, economic collapse and, if we are not prepared, social collapse. Finding our role in this great human drama will require us to open our hearts, to grieve for what has already been lost. Richard Tarnas (2001, p23) believes that: "... it will take a fundamental moment of remorse, a sustained weeping and grief, a mourning. It will be a grief of the masculine for the feminine; of men for women; of adults for what has happened to children; of the West for what has happened to every other part of the world; of Christians for pagans and indigenous peoples and Jews and Muslims; of whites for people of color; of the wealthy for the poor; of human beings for animals and all other forms of life." Frances Weller (2014) reassures us that: “Grieving does not diminish our capacity for resistance and activism, indeed it is profoundly complementary. People opposing destruction and loss sometimes become weighed down with unexpressed grief and hardened hearts, or feel burnt out. Grieving can release the weight, soften our hearts, and enable us to act from the much deeper ground of love and affection, recognising a deeper bond or kinship with the rest of life. An open heart benefits the whole community” (Weller, 2014). The Mayan Shaman, Martine Pretchel (2011) asks “If you have two centuries of people who never grieved properly when they lost the things they loved, where does that grief go? Where does the energy go? It becomes ghosts to inhabit our grandchildren. All of you are carrying them.”
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Similarly, Frances Weller suggests that a heart suffering from “unmetabolised sorrow, not mitigated by the whole community, hardens, becomes highly self-centred, and turns away from what is beneficial to all of us; and that expecting people to process their grief alone has left a toxic legacy” (Baker & Weller, 2014). He believes that transition to a sustainable culture will require restoration of the heart, unravelling our private pain, and beginning to see in one another a place of refuge. “During the descent into deep grief, this time of living in the ashes, you are broken open to a deeper realisation of the fragility and exquisite quality of being a human being, of being in this body. You are ripened, and you come back up carrying gravitas—a wisdom that can only come from this thorough descent.” (Baker & Weller, 2014). This is the kind of ritual we need, to fully grieve the predicament of Mother Earth and Humanity. “When you grieve for the thing you got, it’s praise. When you praise the thing you lost it’s called grief. You have to praise life all the time!” (Pretchel, 2011). Likewise, Stephen Jenkinson (2014) says “Grief is a sign of your life stirring towards itself! Do it! Know Grief and weave it into life itself.” Awakening fully to the truth of impermanence; grieving purposefully, fully, and together will bring healing, and the visceral knowledge of our underlying unity. This is compassion. This compassion entails open-hearted forgiveness— forgiveness of ourselves, of our oppressors, of those who have precipitated or facilitated greed, war, destruction and injustice. This compassion will involve an understanding of their suffering, and their experience of separation too. With forgiveness in our hearts, gratitude arises—gratitude for the remaining natural world and our oneness with it, gratitude for the privilege of bearing witness to the great human drama, gratitude for the opportunity to serve our families, our communities, and our Mother Earth.
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References: Baker, C. & Weller, F. 2014. Interview with Francis Weller. http://prn.fm/lifeboathour-022314/ Chopra, D. & Twist L. (2006). Lynne Twist and Deepak Chopra discuss fund-raising, money and spirituality. The Human Forum Conference. Puerto Rico. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhfTyraUwas. Uploaded May 11, 2007. Jenkinson, S. 2014. Dying. Stephen Jenkinson returns in Extraenvironentalist #80. https://soundcloud.com/extraenvironmentalist/episode-80-dying-wisdom Posted Aug 6, 2014. Pretchel, M. 2011. Grief and Praise. Uploaded on Jan 9. https://www .youtube.com/watch?v=RdbsAIOaF5E Tarnas, R. 2001. Is the Modern Psyche Undergoing a Rite of Passage? Retrieved December 10, 2014. http://www.jung2.org/ArticleLibrary/Tarnas.pdf Weller, F. 2014. In Baker, C. All Roads Lead To Grief. Befriending the Dark Emotions. Session 3 (Section interviewing Frances Weller). This article is the intellectual property of Wendy Klason and Phil Baulch, 2015. May not be used without permission.
Phil Bauch: ‘I grew up in Western Victoria and owned a large motorcycle dealership and a seaside surf shop until I realised that fostering consumerism did not fit my ethics, and began “New Earth Systems”—creating solar air heating, low-energy cooling and ventilation systems; to help people become energy independent. I've studied Permaculture, the relationship between energy and the economy, and campaigned on environmental issues. Also studied and taught at The School of Philosophy and Changing the Dream.’ www.newearthsystems.com.au Wendy Klason: ‘Five years of counselling, focussing on mindfulness and Energy Psychology melded my passions for effective healing, compassion, and quantum physics. Recent personal loss, whilst studying grief counselling, confirmed for me that grief work is crucial for our healing, communing, and Joy. A Holistic Counsellor, student of Classical Yoga and meditation, and the custodian of Banksia Ridge wildlife sanctuary/healing centre, I am also the founder of Friends of Banksia Ridge. BSc (Hons)(Quantum Physics), DipEd, PostgradDipPsych, Grief & Bereavement Counsellor.’
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I Am I am the breath of air I am the dawn light I am the heat of noon And the darkness of night I am the strength of the ocean I am the height of trees I am the breadth of the desert And the vastness of seas I am the clay of the earth That is folded to form I have the passion of fire To ride the wild storm I run wildly with wolves And then for awhile I will walk by your side For a day or a mile I am me, I am you We are but the same We are one, we are only We are more than a name Clare Roberts is a shamanic practitioner. ‘Through my shamanic practice not only do I offer healing to individuals but also to the Earth. I lead group healings, which are a very powerful form of healing. Using medicine drums we align ourselves with the Earth’s vibration through an altered state of consciousness.’
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A Vision for Healing Ecology Healing Ecology—can it become a hallmark of the 21st century? Healing Ecology comes into being through restoration of an understanding of how human wellness is wholly integrated with the wellness of the natural world. Healing Ecology has ramifications for ecosystems, species, agriculture, science, urban planning, healthcare, education, and more. Perspectives and actions grounded in Healing Ecology move us beyond the mistaken view of humans as separate from other life forms on Earth, and into choices that honour the reality that what we do to the planet and her creatures, we do to ourselves. Through exploration of Healing Ecology, we find motivation to solve the environmental and human health problems that result from our mistreatment of the natural world. In the modern centuries, humans have advanced enormously in supporting our own well-being through modalities ranging from public sanitation and modern medicine to psychology, fitness, and the self-help or self-development movement. It’s time to surpass our focus on ourselves, however, and nurture mutual flourishing with all members of the life community on planet Earth. Our personal and planetary healing lie not only in tending and restoring our own minds, bodies, and souls, but in a deep, heart-centered attentiveness to the wisdom and well-being of the Earth’s bodies in all their forms. For our survival and the well being of Earth’s life system, it’s time to extend our self-care to our precious life support system, our larger body, the Earth. I believe we are ready to educate one another into awareness that the personal care products we apply to our bodies end up in our drinking water—so they had better be safe and clean; that the particulates our machines emit into the air drift into our lungs—so we need to clean up our air; that cavalier treatment of soil means our food cannot provide all the nutrients we need for full health, so soil care is part of self care; and that harming plants and animals through habitat destruction and other means hurts not only those creatures but also our own hearts and happiness. Uniting our self-care to Earth care means becoming a harmless—and a life nurturing--presence on the Earth. It means caring for the Earth as though she is an extension of our own bodies, minds, and souls. In a world governed by the wisdom of Healing Ecology:
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Each person cares for water and air as though they are her own life’s blood— because they are. Every person respects and cares for the soil as though it is his own flesh— because it is. We all respect and care for the members of the plant and animal kingdom as though they are our siblings, providers, teachers, and companions—because they are. All of us care for the Earth as though she is our source, our mother, our nourisher and keeper—because she is. Through a vision and practices of Healing Ecology, we restore our connection to the Earth. We tend to the Earth as part of the joyful work of tending to our own bodies, minds, and souls. As Healing Ecology comes increasingly into being, “wellness” refers to interrelationships among all members of the life community, not simply the well-being of an individual human or group of humans. As we re-discover why and how to interweave our self-care with Earth care, we value the ways in which indigenous wisdom, religious teachings, and modern science together demonstrate how the survival and flourishing of all members of the life community are intertwined. Healing Ecology applies our growing awareness of interdependence to our 21st century beliefs, lifestyles, and cultural practices in order to ensure well-being for both people and planet. In a world guided by Healing Ecology, we end our abuse of the Earth because we realize that it is a form of self-abuse; we treat the Earth as our sacred home; we honour the existence of all forms of life because doing so brings healing and wellness for all. Chara Armon is a teacher, scholar, mother, and gardener. She writes at http://mutualflourishing.org and www.owningpink.com. She is the creator of the Healing Earth, Healing Self Telesummit, offering speakers who discuss spiritual and scientific understandings of the relationships between Earth’s well-being and individual wellness (www.healingearthself.com). Join Chara on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MutualFlourishingForSelfAndEarth, or write to her at email@example.com