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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Juric says he believes that, as a result of being exposed to ecotherapy, people ultimately live a more compassionate, more awake life.

John Scull knows all about the difference between traditional psychology and ecotherapy. As a registered psychologist for 35 years and an avid outdoorsman, he practiced ecotherapy for the last four years of his career, he tells me during a phone interview from his home in Duncan on Vancouver Island.

Scull studied under Cohen, who spoke about the powerful sensory and nature reconnecting processes that enables us to restore wellness to our nature-disconnected psyches.

"It's more than just walking in nature," Scull said. "Anybody can go outdoors, but that's not therapy. You've got to be outdoors and mindful of your connection to nature and that's what ecotherapy is all about. Going out and really processing the lessons that nature has to teach us about how to live our lives and how to be in the world."

This is a three-stage process, he explains.

Part one is to give yourself an intention before you go out in nature, part two is to be quiet when you're there, and part three is to process the experience and bring it back into your life, done with a therapist and also with journaling.

One of the exercises, out of the hundreds used, involves going out and breathing in a plant. Yes, it sounds odd, he says, but what it means is to go out and find a plant, and hold the image in your mind of how the plant is producing oxygen and how you're producing carbon dioxide and meditate on that connection while you're breathing and then hold your breath too.

"It's a really good way to get people into the notion of inter-connectedness," Scull said, "that they're not alone, that they have a reciprocal, interactive relationship with the natural world, that without plants we wouldn't be able to breathe and without carbon dioxide, plants wouldn't be able to breathe.

"There's a lot we learn from interacting with the natural world. We learn about things that are permanent, we learn about things that are interconnected — the idea is to learn to live our life in more harmony with the way nature works. The only way you get that is by experiencing it mindfully."

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