14 December 2016 I have been leading two hour ecotherapy sessions on a Wednesday in Eastbrookend Country Park Dagenham, East London since 2009. They are open to anyone although I have targeted people who have experienced emotional and mental distress. Numbers of...
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...
I seem to be getting more requests to run workshops for particular groups this year, which is very enjoyable. Just over two weeks ago I ran a one day workshop for the Forest Farm Peace Garden in Hainault East London https://forestfarmpeacegarden.wordpress.com . I'd...
One of the participants walked into the cafe where we meet this week and announced 'I got involved in birdwatching because of you.' He is a working class man in his late 50's who has been coming for about six weeks. I asked him to explain. He told me that after I had...
The title grabbed my attention immediately. Was the book suggesting that the buddha and the early buddhists specifically went out into nature to meditate, that they saw something special about being in wilderness? The answer, from my understanding of the author, is a tentative yes.
SAD There are people who become more depressed during autumn and winter. It is called Seasonally Affective Disorder or SAD for short. For example a study in Norway found modest increases in levels of depression between November and March among 10,000 men and women...
What the worst situation you can imagine being confined to? A Saudi prison, Guantanomo Bay? Maybe a concentration camp under the Nazis like Auschwitz? Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychotherapist and doctor, survived four concentration camps including Auschwitz. While...
Today's WIN (Well-being in Nature) walk began just as the rain was stopping. The leaves were falling continuously as we did our relaxation exercises in the woods and it felt really mild for November. We decided just to go for a wander and not aim for anywhere in...
Autumn Colours On this weeks Well-being in Nature walk there were nine of us. At one o' clock the rain stopped and the sun came out as it so often does on our walks. Today was the day to appreciate the changing colours of autumn. A final fling of reds, greens, yellows...
I am a romantic who loves science; they are not incompatible in my mind, but Wordsworth was writing at a different time. An important taoist concept is dynamic balance, and that when things get out of balance then forces always come into play to bring about change and realignment. Wordsworth was experiencing directly what was happening to people’s minds as the Industrial Revolution gathered speed. Things were getting out of balance. As he says in another poem, ‘Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours;’
The Romantics, who do not seem to be fashionable today, were like all true artists, ahead of their time, sensitive to the changes and imbalances that were happening in society and the wider world. In Wordsworth’s time Science in the service of the merchant class was in its ascendancy. The Industrial Revolution had begun to realign power in society so that whole new forms of exploitation of working people developed. At the same time more people were seeing Nature only in abstract form. This was partly because the increasing benefits of science and technology reinforced this view. One consequence of the new thinking was the splitting off of the individual self from the world around, it became ‘environment’. A further consequence was the revised notions of the mind as a machine that functions in the head or brain. A further split, enhanced by the scientists’ desire to be ‘objective’, was the splitting off of feelings from the intellect, with the result that thinking became isolated from deeper soulful experiences.
The third poem, ‘Lines Written in Early Spring‘ has Wordsworth again sitting quietly, taking in nature all around him. Here is a sample:
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Also that same year, in ‘To My Sister‘ he entreats his sister to stop working, leave any books, get her coat and come outdoors because spring has started, ‘It is the first mild day of March;’. He encourages her to enjoy a day of idleness, with the lines:
No joyless forms shall regulate
Our living calendar;
We from to-day, my Friend, will date
The opening of the year.
Love, now a universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing,
From earth to man, from man to earth;
-It is the hour of feeling.
I like the plea to tune in to nature’s calendar and define spring in personal terms based on the experience of the day not specific dates. I also like the dynamic interplay between nature and ‘man’, back and forth. This poem is less insistent compared to the challenge to his friend to put down books and come to your senses. It is more celebratory and refers to an experience to be shared with someone he knows will like it.
It is possible to get inspiration for a mindful appreciation of nature by reading poetry from the far East. I would contend that there is also a rich harvest of poetry to be found among our own poets that speaks the same language, if one only looks.