“When we love the Earth, we are able to love ourselves more fully.”
– bell hooks
Eco (the set of relationships existing between organisms and their environment). Therapy (to care for). Deep (extending far from the surface area).
We are born natural beings, yet we often forget this as we age. The message many of us receive while growing up is that we are different from the natural world. And yet, as with all of nature, our bodies and minds are in constant flux: shifting, flowing, eroding, and decaying through the seasonal cycles of time. Even our dreams mimic nature, emerging like mushrooms from the mycelium network of the collective unconscious.
Deep ecotherapy is more than just feeling good about nature. Instead, it is the profound experience of interconnectedness, a sense of belonging recovered within the oldest layers of our animal and spiritual selves. Such an experience of interconnectedness, even when met with pain, can be profoundly healing. The ego becomes less alienated as we open ourselves to others, the world, and the larger mystery of life.
There are many ways to practice ecotherapy but for me it involves an intentional reimagining of ourselves as intricately interwoven with the world beyond our skin. With guided solo time on the land, followed by story-telling and mirroring, we re-myth ourselves into a time of enchantment, of animate nature, breathing, speaking, engaging us. Other practices include deep listening (council), somatic awareness, tending to dreams, active imagination, creating ritual, and mostly, a radical slowing down so to re-member the magnificence and wisdom of self as nature.
And as with depth psychology, deep ecotherapy does not shy away from facing the shadow of our collective histories of colonialism, land abuse, genocide, and greed. Sadly, the “lie of separation” has caused much harm to humans and the ecosystems to which we belong. Thus, as I have come to observe, reparative acts are also deeply therapeutic, fostering generosity, connection, and joy. To live in a spirit of reciprocity is to be like an old tree freely giving away their nutrients to the seedlings of unseen future generations.