How I Work
I usually work with groups (but not exclusively) and I’m going to focus on group working here. It is important at the start of the session to get us all physically relaxed. Releasing tensions but more importantly getting people in touch with their bodies. Our bodies are part of nature and so exercise is a way of beginning the process of connecting. I remind people that we are made of the same stuff as the rest of nature. Our bodies are up to 70% water and the clean water we drink has been circulating through life forms for millions of years. Likewise the food we eat, and our breath comes courtesy of all the plants around us. Being in touch with our physical self also brings us into the present. It is from the full experience of the present that we can open up our senses and increase our contact with nature around us.
To further increase that sense of being in the now I follow the physical exercises with a breathing exercise based on meditation. I also encourage people to let go of memories of what has happened that day and what they imagine might occur later; to let go and enjoy being wherever they are.
From ego to eco
I am guiding people away from ego to eco. From little self to the bigger world that is alive around them. In this process some people can have a profound sense of being connected to nature at a deep level. The healing thoughts can come from a realisation that we, humans and animals and plants, share the same fundamental qualities: we are born and we will one day die; we live and deal with good and bad times; we are wounded and we heal. It is possible to break out of our isolated self and recognise we participate in a wider ecological self where matter, air and social connections pass through us continuously.
When the loosening up and mindfulness activities are finished I remind everyone to stay with the open relaxed state we are in. We then move off on a leisurely walk through grassland and woods, open and intimate greenery. In winter maybe we go and feed the ducks, in summer we listen to birdsong. I encourage a sensory openness to smells and sounds which further takes people away from their possible preoccupation with self and outwards to a wider connectedness.
At the core of ecotherapy is the combination of increased awareness of the present and immersion in wild nature. Recovery is often spoken of in terms of changing thoughts and feelings in order to live a happier more positive life. CBT and counselling are two of the methods used for achieving this. I think this is fine and I’m interested in something different. If a person can put aside for a moment their internal dialogue and imaginings of what might happen and begin to pay full attention to what is happening in the present then they can open up to a different way of seeing. If this different way of seeing, attending to the world, is done in nature then the work of ecotherapy can begin. There is a quality of experience that is different when people connect to nature as opposed to human made environments. In wild nature we are surrounded by other living things which grow of their own volition according to their own character. They face similar challenges of survival, and have a beauty we are drawn to.
Sharing the experience
Participating in a group enlarges the experience. We can chat, get to know other people and share our wonderment. If you just want to be on your own in nature that’s fine too, the permissive atmosphere allows for many choices. And for those who are uncertain of others a group walk allows you to chose your distance and how much you want to get involved or not.
My invitation to you is to put a bit of eco into your life and prevent stress taking over. Shake off city life for a bit and reconnecting with life around you. Listen to the woods singing.