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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"I reflected a lot on how change is so natural, yet so difficult for most people, including myself," she wrote. "I reflected on how I would let go of old patterns that are not serving my life's aspirations."

As for integrating back into: "normal" society, Laura admits that at first it was a bit of a culture shock.

"Everything felt so speedy and noisy when I got back, but I've been able to maintain that inner stillness and peace that I cultivated on my retreat. I'm noticing when I need to slow down. I see now the real value of cultivating a calm and peaceful perspective and lifestyle."

Global perspectives on ecotherapy

Juric, who has studied psychology and philosophy and also works as a school counsellor, says his journey into ecotherapy was spurred by a walking tour he did in 2011 with a poet, David Whyte, through the Lake District in England.

"Poets are more eloquent and effective than many psychologists and deliver material in a far richer and deeper way," he said. "They possess the unique ability to take you places as a listener in a way that's lyrical and rich and frankly, hypnotizing."

This experience created an incarnation within him, he recalls, leading to his inspiration to run ecotherapy retreats.

He says he is constantly amazed at the many healing qualities of nature.

"Intuitively we go to nature, we return there to the natural world, to be reminded of what it's like to live in a state of rested simplicity."

In addition to this, it is a sober reminder of our place in the universe.

Our human ego can get away on itself, he notes, with our ambitions and grand plans for the world and ourselves.

"There's a sense in which that is noble and important, but there's a sense in which hubris can set in — we can lose sight of our place in the world and going back into nature restores perspective, it puts us back in our rightful place in the context of a larger organism, of which we are just one small part. We don't even merit a blink of an eye in the geological life span of the Earth, it's humbling, and we need humbling."

So how exactly does ecotherapy differ from traditional models?

"In the traditional model you are in a room and it's you and a therapist, in a controlled setting," says Juric. "I'm not interested in providing counselling but having said that, the effect is therapeutic, pennies do drop, and people see things in a different way that they had not before. I am inviting them to consider a line from a poem in light of their own life, how the poet's question might be answered by them. It's open-ended for them — it's where they want to go. It's their personal journey and I don't know the depth of their journey."

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