After my book ‘With Nature in Mind’ came out earlier this year I have been reviewing where I next take my ecotherapy work. To explain why I wanted to reflect on my work I need to go back a few years….. Ever since I left the NHS I have wanted to set up ways in which the work I have developed could be passed on to others. I have been creating my own form of ecotherapy, borrowing, adapting and inventing activities, and an approach to connecting to nature in a deep way using mindfulness. I have a background in education and it seemed natural to want to share my own learning and experience with others.
In 2011 I decided that this goal could be achieved in three ways and each would feed the other two. The first was to continue offering ecotherapy sessions and training courses to people, mostly in the mental health field. The intention in the training was to show the potential of ecotherapy in an experiential way and to provide information on how to run sessions.
At the same time I decided to increase my on-line presence. I completely redesigned my website with help from a professional. The site was set up to advertise workshops & walks, explain ecotherapy and offer evidence as to its effectiveness in improving mental health. The website has undergone many changes since then as the software has improved and my confidence in using it has increased. I decided to write a blog, and as you can see the contributions have not been as regular as I would have hoped. At some stage I overcame my resistance to social media and created a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. I only really bother with the first two. Even then I will always choose going outdoors to spending more screen time telling people what my thoughts are. Today it has been heavily raining all day and this has encouraged me to write this piece.
The third goal was to write a book, a manual on how to do ecotherapy. The book forced me to really think hard about how I do ecotherapy and why I think it is so effective. My thinking came out of my practice, running workshops and leading sessions. The intention of the book was to explain what ecotherapy is, provide quality evidence as to its effectiveness and to describe how to practice it, including descriptions of over 100 activities. The emphasis was on improving mental health – for all. The book, when it was written, seemed like a pulling together of various strands of thinking and practice at a point in time.
All three goals have been achieved. So what next I thought? I realised I had been, to some extent, giving out and focusing on others well-being to the detriment of my own development. I came to the conclusion that I needed something like a sabbatical year where I was relieved of as many responsibilities as possible so that I could focus more easily on key concerns. It required me to do less and to be more selective about how I use my time. I was and still am in the very fortunate position of being able to live on a pension and to have very low material needs in order to be happy. And so I have begun a process of letting go, an emptying in order to create space for a new creativity to emerge in my work. I have no idea where this will lead me, and that is exciting.
Sometimes, if a well is being lined with stones, it cannot be used when work is going on. But the work is not in vain, the result is that the water stays clear. In life also there are times when man must put himself in order. During such a time he can do nothing for others, but his work is nonetheless valuable because by enhancing his powers and abilities through inner development he can accomplish all the more later on.
from the I Ching, the hexagram The Well.