January 10, 2013 Features & Images » Feature Story

The power of nature 

Ecotherapy challenges us to explore the inner landscape of our minds through the rekindling of our connection with the earth

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Dr. Michael Cohen is another such pioneer. A distinguished eco-psychologist and environmental scientist residing in Washington State, he has dedicated his sixty-year career to researching and teaching natural attraction ecology.

The webstring natural attraction model he has developed recognizes humans as being part of the eons-old dance of the web of life — each member of the web, whether it be a bacteria or a human, has its own unique relationship to the whole.

"Industrialized society socializes us from childhood into a nature-disconnected story that excessively exploits nature's balanced essence, even as that ancient energy dances in, through and around us," Cohen explains. "The root of the problem is that we deny we have been indoctrinated into this story — this keeps us tied to exploitative patterns of thought and behaviour that perpetuates the industrial myth."

The end result of living the industrial myth is obvious — we are out of touch with our natural way of knowing and with our inherent sensitivity to the natural world. And it's not just the environment that is deteriorating; our personal and social well-being degrades alongside it.

Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking (St. Augustine)

Having recently morphed into a city slicker myself — following a blissful year of living in a cabin in the woods near Squamish — I could immediately detect the healing power of nature once I stepped from my car, straight from the traffic of the city, into the early morning light, and I inadvertently breathed a deep sigh of relief. Immediately immersing myself into a group meditation session led by the demure and serene facilitator, Sandra Waddle, I discovered as I wound my way through the vivid visualisation exercises, a discernible shift in my body as my city-related stress exited and peaceful thoughts returned.

When we donned on our rain gear and embarked on our first sojourn into the temperate rainforest, Juric encouraged us to search for symmetry.

"What we are looking for is the landscape in transition," he explained to the group as we gathered around, the moss soft under our feet and the constant rain oddly comforting. It's occurring all around us, at different rates, he noted, and we're looking for symmetry with what's happening here in the landscape and what's happening inside us in our own lives.

This is an incredibly personal way to explore the forest, as we take the time to really see the landscape — the boulders covered in a delicate blanket of moss, lichens and tiny seedlings, the swift, unified flight of a flock of twittering birds overhead, and the interesting composition of colours on the leaf of a salal bush. We stop frequently to contemplate aspects of nature — one particularly poignant moment came when we paused to peer into the depths of a deep, still pool in a mossy vale. It was a scene right out of a fairy tale.

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