“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us
‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
I am quite amazed at the blank looks I get from people when I tell them what I do.
It is as if something in the modern human consciousness has evolved to sabotage certain information. From my experience, mentioning that we can benefit from nature and that we are nature in essence practically puts people to sleep. Even people that seem somewhat generally interested tend to look at me like my dog does sometimes.
On the other hand, there are people who practically fall off their stools with enthusiasm because they get it. I have met a few of these people.
So, what is it? How can it be useful? Do we need it with all of our technological advances? I can only offer my own experiences to attempt to answer these questions and hopefully reach the seemingly unreachable.
When I was young, something inside me told me that nature was a safe place to go. So I did, often. I never questioned this impulse and just accepted it for what it was. It did not need to mean anything at that age and with all of the pressures of growing up, it felt natural to retreat to the woods because the woods didn’t judge. I did not need to be anyone but me in that magical place. There were always things to learn, to see and to be amazed at and I never felt alone like I did at school. Later on in life, alcohol and drugs eased that loneliness and those feelings of not fitting in.
Yes, I tried conventional therapy. I even went as far as getting a degree in psychology to try and figure myself out, but I always ended up back in the woods for some reason. When I finally sobered up and got my life together, things started making sense to me. I really was no different than everyone else, but I was just a bit more sensitive to modern civilization. It affected me in a negative way.
Why was I so comfortable in nature and why did it always make me feel better?
I became fascinated with indigenous people and read everything I could get my hands on. I noticed that these people were happy and I, like all of us, had a desire to be happy. Then I started reading Emerson, Muir, Thoreau, Twain, Einstein, and a list of other great thinkers and discovered that I was not alone in my deep love for the magical influence of nature.
Then one day, while I was trying to come to terms with the fact that traditional psychology was not consistent with my true beliefs, I met a girl who was studying ecopsychology. It was as if someone turned the lights on and I was hooked forever.
Common concerns like, “Can I make a living doing it?” and “Will anyone be interested?” never surfaced. It did not matter because, to me, it was real and I loved it. The rest is history.
The more I opened myself up to that truth, the more magical my experiences in nature became. It is as if I finally gave myself permission to follow my heart and my heart spoke loudly to nature. Naturally, nature reciprocated. Just the simple act of trusting and honoring nature’s wisdom catapulted my senses into another dimension. I have had hundreds of experiences that go beyond words. Nature’s wisdom is non-verbal so there is no confusion. What feels and looks real is real. Magic is real because I experience it often. What is magic to us is common to nature. It has always and will always exist in nature. Nature holds all of the answers to all of my questions.
Last weekend I was on a solo camping trip and I just happened to be drawn to a spot on top of a hill. As I reached the top, I felt an energy that was reaching out for my attention. I walked a bit
farther and found a tree with an old rusty cable wrapped around it, restricting its growth. Without giving any thought to the situation, I spent the next hour unraveling the cable. As I finished and started walking back down the hill, something struck me.
The process of freeing the tree from the rusty cable changed me in a way that now makes sense. I realize that I had no expectations when I removed the cable and did it for no other reason than it just seemed like the natural thing to do at the time.
Human beings usually act on expectation of a certain result and usually expect to be acknowledged for this act and/or to benefit in some way. Removing the cable from the tree freed me because I had no expectations. Picking up old beer cans and plastic bottles in the woods produces the same results.
Realizing my essence, which is nature, has changed the way I view the world. It simplifies things that I normally struggle to understand. I do not have to go to great lengths to get clear on issues when I ask nature for help. I cannot distract myself when I am in nature because there are no distractions. If I sit long enough, there is no separation between me and nature. Love is the end result which I believe is what we all seek somehow. In nature, I am loved and I am love. I am everything and I am nothing and that gives me great peace.
So, do we need it? Does it help?
Yes and yes, because we are it at our core and that will never change. Realizing and experiencing this deep connection with ourselves (nature) is an immensely powerful transition especially for those of us who feel disconnected and alone. There is no blame, it just is what it is for many.
Technology has been chipping away at our reality and it’s subtle until something shifts inside us. Many people reach for antidotes that ease the pain temporarily. Unfortunately, it comes back and taps us on the shoulder when we are at our weakest and then we are in trouble.
Modern forms of therapy and medications are much like a band-aid unless you have the time and money to wait a couple of decades for results that may or may not come. Nature has all of the answers that we need, but the trade off is a willingness and commitment to humbly believe that it works for humans too. The insanity that we are somehow different from other creatures keeps us in bondage of this truth. Our ancestors relied on it, but it somehow got lost in our evolution. The good news is that it never left and will always be available to those who seek it. All it takes is a little bit of guidance and that is what ecotherapists do.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
~ Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Rich Wright is an ecotherapist, creative writer, poet, activist, avid cyclist and outdoorsman. He is the founder of Northwinds Ecotherapy, a nature based business dedicated to teaching the ancient wisdom of Native Peoples and to help people reconnect with nature in order to restore well-being and find purpose in their lives.
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