1. Ecopsychology: Seeking Health in an Ailing World Feb 2004. For Resurgence Magazine.
2. Creating Psychotherapy for a Sustainable Future. For Psychotherapy and Politics International Vol 2 No 1 200
3. Making the Sea Change: From Chaos and Inertia to Creativity
Ecopsychology: Seeking Health in an Ailing World.
By Mary-Jayne Rust Feb 2004. For Resurgence Magazine.
My client brings a dream. She is standing amidst lush rainforest as termites destroy the trees. Finally, she is left alone, all the forest has been consumed and its inhabitants are extinct. She tells me that her childhood environment, her personal space, was devoured by her family, and how she eats too much when she feels alone in the world. But she also admits to fears about our future, our human consumerism and the disappearance of our forests.
Over the course of time we weave a web between personal and global. She finds forests to stand in. She tells me she feels more connected to others and the world. Her eating problem seems less like an irritation to be banished or cured, and more like a messenger from a system which is ailing from global to local. She still needs to act locally to take care of herself, but her wider perspective helps us to find a context for her problems. When we conceive of our distress in this more holistic way, perhaps there is a chance for deep reconnection with the wider community. Our personal burdens become shared burdens. Meaning returns to life. For it becomes ever more apparent that what we do to ourselves we do to the earth. What we do to the earth we do to ourselves. This is Ecopsychology.
Ecopsychology is a movement which has emerged in the last two decades. Most of its practitioners and theorists are based in the USA, with a growing movement in Australia, South Africa and the UK. A wide range of practices are evolving, including working with people inside, outside, on the land, and in the wilds, to directly experience and explore the human-nature relationship. While wilderness is hard to find in the UK, projects are growing in urban and rural situations, making use of gardens and parks.
A good example of Ecopsychology in practice is The Natural Growth Project, part of the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture in North London. They use allotments as their location for therapy sessions with asylum seekers and refugees. These people who are so very badly hurt by other humans, as well as being dislocated from their homes and country, often find it easier to connect to nature first, before daring to risk human relationships again. Tending allotments is community building, in the widest sense, and a perfect seedbed for therapeutic dialogue. Digging the soil, composting, nurturing plants and weeding provide wonderful metaphors for nursing the human soul. (Grut 2002)
A fundamental belief of Ecopsychology is that our current dilemmas result from the Western paradigm in which we humans regard ourselves to be the dominant life form. We treat the rest of life as a resource to be used for our benefit, alienating ourselves from nature in the process.
Our attempts to dominate and control nature spread right through our systems, beyond our natural environment. We see it in the human community, where those humans who appear to be closer to nature, such as indigenous communities, women, black peoples and working classes are oppressed. We see it in our internal worlds where intuition and instinct, powers usually associated with the feminine and nature, are to be reigned in, if not burnt at the stake. We see it in the running of corporations, in political policies, and in spiritual paths offering liberation thorough transcendence of the body. In all cases there appears to be a deep fear of the wild, of being taken over by the world of the senses and instincts. There also lies an understandable wish to ensure our survival in the face of nature's destructive powers.
Psychotherapy is not immune from this prevailing paradigm. Certain kinds of psychotherapy can place more importance on the capacity to think and symbolise, over and above a bodily knowledge. This profession has grown up in urban environments and its theory and practice focusses on human-to-human relationships, as if our well-being was unaffected by the rest of life.
Ecopsychology attempts to address and shift these patterns of oppressor and
oppressed, so that we can once again relate to nature as a living, breathing
force. This is complex. Expanding our ways of thinking and feeling takes time.
When I work as a therapist I often feel like I am in a room on the Titanic.
My client and I are doing some fine work towards personal liberation, but we
do not mention the sinking of the ship. Other times, I feel like I am up on
deck, playing with the string quartet. We are both aware of the situation, and
choosing to engage in beautiful, finely tuned work. This may not save our lives,
but it seems like the only possibility in the face of such overwhelming disaster.
And then there are glimpses when together we can look reality full in the eye,
and see the connections between personal, familial, social, and environmental
distress. These moments are profoundly meaningful for they provide a context
to personal pain. Instead of feeling that 'something is wrong with me', there
is more insight into how and where
pain arises in the larger system. Rather than feeling so weighed down by the darkness and impending doom, there is room for excitement about feeling that one's own healing journey is part of a collective response to an ailing world, in all its many layers. This is not to deny that some pain belongs with the individual, or with the family. Simply that when we bring the bigger picture more fully into view, the more we can make sense of self in the world.
Bereavement, for example, can become more than the grieving for a lost loved one. It includes the multitude of losses we suffer daily, from the intrusion of 'development' into our most precious and loved natural areas, to watching the decline and pollution of our childhood landscapes, to the loss we can sometimes identify with when large scale disasters happen to other communities.
In turn, nature can be a potent solace for those in grief. At one point in my practice, I had two clients who each lost their second parent at around the same time. Both were left modest sums of money and both made snap decisions to buy a small house in the wilds of nature. They each admitted that their instant purchase took them by surprise, was uncharacteristic, and came from a deep bodily knowing of what was right, with no chance for their minds to enter into debate. It became clear that their intense need to simply be in nature was of great importance in their process of grieving. For being in nature is being amidst life, it is reconnecting with the Great Being from whence we came. Is it surprising we seek Mother Nature when our personal parents have gone? One client described this as her first spiritual experience.
I have been talking about our relationship to the natural world 'out there' as a source of deep healing for humans. But we humans are part of nature. Each time we eat or breathe we can see how intimately we are connected to our surrounding ecosystem. We are animals, with instinctive natures and sensual desires. We often speak of our own 'inner nature' and the importance of being in tune with a kind of ecosystem within. But how does this kind of Ecopsychology happen in practice?
When someone comes to me with an eating problem, they are confused about what their body wants. They are caught in the trap of trying to impose dietary regimes on their body, for they no longer trust their bodily instincts. In the fear of being ruled by their desires they have resorted to taking executive decisions with their minds, to rule OVER the body. No wonder the body rebels. Learning to cherish, respect and listen to the wisdom of our animal bodies means overturning this way of operating. I can ask, Am I hungry? If so, what do I really fancy eating? Am I full? If I am not hungry, what is my emotional hunger seeking? Such attention to listening is a discipline of a different kind to that of dieting. It is a Buddhist mindfulness, a moment to moment attention to what is happening in the present. When we develop such precise attention, we can begin to distinguish between the different and subtle bodily messages, which tell us precisely what is needed in any given moment. If we can hear, trust and respond to our bodily nature, we can be naturally led to a size and weight that decides itself, a sustainable weight.
Distinguishing between physical and emotional hungers can be a major watershed for many. For responding to the calls of emotional hunger will lead us into all kinds of territory, not just to do with family history, but beyond, into the nature of consumerism, into devouring and being devoured, our social, biological and evolutionary histories. Our emotional, or soul hunger, might tell us what we are yearning for on a more collective level, such as a yearning for community, a yearning for wilderness, a yearning for love, a yearning for home and to belong to a tribe.
Discovering our yearning, in all its nakedness, is a central part of the therapeutic process, for our yearning is the rudder of our lives. It emanates from the opening of our hearts and show s us where to go next. If we dare to follow, and we can endure the path in all its joy and pain, our compassion and wisdom grow. We extend our capacity to identify with the pain of the 'other', be they human or not.
Arne Neass, one of the founders of Deep Ecology, a closely related field to Ecopsychology, defines our capacity for identification with the ecosystem as our Ecological Identity. This increasing ability to move beyond the individual self he calls the move into the Ecological Self (Naess, 1988) . Whatever theoretical base we choose to use as an Ecopsychologist, it would need to acknowledge our interdependence with the greater whole of which we are simply a part. Since the major part of therapeutic work is, in the end, devoted towards developing our compassion for self and others, we must include our compassion for the other-than-human world in this equation. A sign of mental health then becomes our capacity to consider what is best for the whole, in any given situation.
Ecopsychology can provide a much needed space for the deep emotions we feel in the face of global events, from guilt, to impotence, to rage, to sadness, to joy, awe and wonder. The more we can express and explore these issues, and integrate them within our search for health, the more available we are to listen to the cry of our ailing world, and the more we know the gifts that each and every one of us has to offer to the restoration of ourselves and the earth.
Grut, Jenny The Healing Fields. London: Frances Lincoln, 2002.
Naess, Arne Self Realisation: An Ecological Approach to Being in the World. in Seed, John et al Thinking Like a Mountain. Toward a Council of All Beings. New Society. 1988.
Creating Psychotherapy for a Sustainable Future.
For Psychotherapy and Politics International Vol 2 No 1 2004.
By Mary-Jayne Rust.
Abstract: This paper asks how psychotherapy needs to change in the service of creating a sustainable future. It examines the meaning of sustainability and explores the concept of self in relation to nature and culture, with the help of descriptions from an indigenous cosmology. The paper asks how we identify with the larger whole, and why we disidentify and diconnect from it, and suggests that psychotherapy is a powerful tool for reconnection with our world, but that it would benefit from expanding beyond its human-centredness to embrace our relationship with the other-than-human world. This would involve relating to nature as subject and embracing our anthropocentrism. This paper questions how this might play itself out both in our everyday lives and within our internal worlds.
In order to create a sustainable future – and what could be a more pressing matter - we must change the way we live. Such a change goes way beyond a practical fixing of social and environmental issues. Rather, it demands a paradigm shift, which affects each and every one of us in all areas of our lives. While political policies need to change, we also need to take individual responsibility for how we contribute to the degradation of the environment.
As a psychotherapist who works in a room, in a large city, I am interested to explore how such a paradigm shift affects my practice. Over the past decade I have become increasingly unsettled by the tension I experience between the patience required to engage with another in the process of long, slow, detailed and deep change, versus the urgency to create a sustainable society for future generations of humans – indeed, for all life on this planet.
The question that arises out of this tension is: how does psychotherapy need to change, theoretically and in practice, in the service of creating a sustainable future? This is complex, for it ranges from how cultural and global affairs affect and shape our internal and external worlds, to how we feel about being part of the very consumer culture which is causing this crisis, to how we conceive of, and connect with, nature, culture and the larger whole, to how our long, slow, deep process of change might contribute to the creation of sustainability, and more.
If we do not make these connections to the dilemmas of the wider world, are psychotherapists in danger of relieving peoples’ anxiety, only to place them back within a society that is deeply out of balance? So the cry of ‘something is terribly wrong’ is seen as just to do with ‘me’, rather than to do with ‘the human community’s relationship with the rest of the world and my place within that’.
Before I address this question, I will first flesh out the meaning of sustainability and its relation to psychotherapy.
What is Sustainability?
To be able to sustain something is to be able to continue on with it in a lasting way. A sustainable society is one that can continue into the foreseeable future, without putting itself into a life-threatening situation, nor jeopardizing the survival of future generations.
Our Western consumer lifestyle is entirely unsustainable. We are witnessing a worsening social and environmental crisis unfolding within Industrial Growth Society, as it spreads rapidly across the globe. The most troubling symptoms of this crisis are global warming, a widening gap between rich and poor and a mass extinction of species, which is proceeding at a faster rate than all five other mass extinction spasms within the history of life on earth.
How did our society become so unsustainable? At a deeper level, it has much to do with the way in which we relate to, or perceive, nature. For throughout our long and complex history of colonization of nature and peoples has arisen a hierarchy in which the white, western, middle-class, modern male stands at the top, dominating all other life forms in a series of decreasing rank. The other-than-human world sits firmly below humans, as a collection of resources to be exploited as we wish.
But this is not just about an outer nature, or certain peoples. This is a struggle between a dominant, controlling, logical, intellectual, ‘above nature’, modern mind versus the intuitive, sensual, emotional, ‘close to nature’ archaic mind. This archetypal split has become ever more exaggerated by the direction of our culture. The further we retreat from the wilds of nature, the more our archaic mind and animal nature has been denigrated. Psychotherapy has grappled with this split since the time of Freud.
So creating a sustainable culture, a project which began several decades ago, requires a re-visioning of all that Western culture has denigrated, a reintegrating of what has been split apart. It involves challenging centuries of dominance and oppression of peoples and nature.
During the last few decades, various psychotherapists have been exploring how dominance and oppression within the human community becomes internalized. For example, feminist psychotherapists have written extensively about how a patriarchal society can shape the individual psyche through the nuclear family, from the earliest moments of life (Eichenbaum & Orbach 1982). Similar work has been done by other therapists in the area of race (Morgan 2001). These influences necessarily come right into the transference and counter-transference. One might call this the exploration of the social aspects of sustainability within psychotherapy.
We have yet to explore anthropocentrism more extensively, the dominance and oppression of the other-than-human world by humans. For we increasingly treat nature as object, not subject, relegating it to, in David Abram’s words, “a conglomeration of objects and objective processes independent of subjectivity and sentience”(Fisher 2002, ix) This could be said to be at the heart of our environmental crisis. For if we no longer try to control or manage a wild and anarchic nature, we must learn how to live with, and relate to, our precious nature.
As psychotherapists, we are still entirely concerned with human relationships, not acknowledging the part that the other-than-human world may play in our lives. As Harold Searles stated, over forty years ago,
“The nonhuman environment….is, by implication, considered as irrelevant to human personality development, and to the development of psychiatric illness, as though human life were lived out in a vacuum – as though the human race were alone in the universe, pursuing individual and collective destinies in a homogenous matrix of nothingness, a background devoid of form, color, and substance.” (Searles 1960, 3)
A movement called Ecopsychology has emerged in the last two decades, attempting to connect psychological and ecological worlds. (See Prentice 2003 for overview on Ecopsychology movement). It speaks about the psychological roots and impact of our current environmental crisis, of the healing power of nature, of the insights that a psychological approach has to offer towards the current paradigm shift, and more. Most of its practitioners and theorists are based in the USA, and are rooted in humanistic psychology. These Ecopsychologists are developing a wide variety of practice, including working with people outside, on the land, in the wilds, in order to experience and explore the human-nature relationship (eg Grut 2002). Other practitioners are expanding and challenging our current psychotherapeutic methods in urban settings, looking at the role of the other-than-human world in developmental and psychological health (Johnstone 2002). There are also a few writers from other traditions, such as psychoanalyst Harold Searles (Searles 1960) and C. G. Jung who have written on aspects of this field many years ago. Indeed, Jung claims that his relationship to the earth is the foundation upon which all his work rests, and his writings are full of interesting insights about our relationship with nature (Jung, CG 1967).
In this paper, I will explore some aspects of how we might expand our current ways of thinking and practice within psychotherapy so that we take account of, and relate to, nature. This, I suggest, is a key part of creating a psychotherapy that is in the service of a sustainable future.
Fundamental to dismantling anthropocentrism is to acknowledge that we humans are part of a web of life, rather than superior to it. I will start by asking what concepts we have to speak about the ‘larger whole’ around us, our ‘eco-pscyhe-system’. How does this relate to our concept of ‘self’? Here I will draw on the description of self from an indigenous culture, which weaves self, culture and nature together into a seamless whole. I will ask how and why we identify with, and disidentify from, this larger whole.
I will discuss how our current struggle between modern ‘above nature’ mind versus ancient ‘close to nature’ mind becomes internalized – for this is surely the way in which anthropocentrism is reflected in our inner worlds. If we can but relate psychotherapy more closely to the issues of the wider world, it becomes a powerful tool for the creation of a sustainable self.
Seeing Ourselves Within a Larger Whole, an ‘Eco-psyche-system’.
Most kinds of psychotherapy now recognize the importance of the ‘relational field’ between therapist and client. We no longer see ourselves as separate beings, but as an interdependent community. What if we extended this human relational field into a relational field of life, and considered our ecosystem to be one great bodily interdependent system that we all lived within, one that was infused with psyche? For under, over, beside and within, without and through our human communities, is our ecological family, our habitat, which sustains us, nourishes us with undying beauty, teaches us about light and dark, elements, and the cosmos through the sky by day and night, and more.
Similar ways of seeing ourselves in relation to the world is not new. Anima mundi was a term used by Plato to mean “the whole of the cosmos as a single great organism” which has feeling, intelligence and soul. (Roszak 1992, 139). Modern Ecopsychologists refer to the work of astrophysicists Lovelock and Margulis and their Gaia hypothesis, which suggests that the earth’s entire organic-inorganic system can be considered a living being intricately tied together through feedback loops and homoeostasis. Lovelock and Margulis named this system ‘Gaia’ after the Greek Goddess of the Earth. (Dunann 1997, 251). Most indigenous cultures understand that humans are part of a larger living system. If humans do not respect this system, then the resulting imbalance will cause illness, community disharmony or disturbance within the other-than-human world, such as bad hunting or drought. (Von Hildebrand, M)
C.G Jung is one of several psychotherapists who names the larger ‘being’ that we inhabit, and to see our connection with it as an important part of healthy development, and of the healing process. He called this larger being ‘the Self’, with a capital ‘S’, while the self with a small ‘s’ he saw as a reflection of the great Self. Part of the difficulty with Jung’s concept of the Self is that it has become rather mystical, divorced from its physical manifestations. Jung himself says that the Self is synonymous with God (Jung 1977 Vol 7, 238) This is confusing in a culture where God is seen as separate from physical matter, or when spirit is primary and matter arises out of it. Jung did not intend the Self to be spirit divorced from matter, but more like some kind of energetic system, both matter and spirit at once, which has its own intelligence. Like the Chinese Tao, it is something that is eternally mystifying, an intelligence way beyond our understanding, and hence very hard to speak about. (Ibid Vol 18, 720)
I have referred, here, to several forms of larger ‘bodies’ that we inhabit. Margulis and Lovelock’s Gaia refers to the earth’s living system. Plato’s anima mundi refers to the living system of our cosmos, while Jung’s ‘Self’ speaks of the Great Beyond. What matters, here, is that we acknowledge that we humans are part of a larger, living, eco-psyche-system; that we are utterly dependent on, and nourished by, this larger body in all kinds of ways; that this larger body profoundly affects our development and health.
What are the implications of this perspective in practice? Acknowledging and exploring our relationship to the earth-body-psyche could take many forms. We might explore the idea that place plays a part in shaping our psyche, alongside the influence of our particular human community; that a relationship with mountains might be utterly different to a relationship with flat lands; that some places feel like ‘home’ and others do not, wherever our place of origin; that human-made urban environments would shape our psyche in quite a different way to a rural upbringing. Particular land formations, such as caves or rivers, might be especially relevant for certain individuals.
Part of exploring landscape includes climate, and relationship to elements, such as water. Most people have a sense of where they feel most comfortable, but how far do we explore the psychological dimensions of these most fundamental aspects of life?
Along with place, we could explore our relationships with other-than-human beings. Most children yearn for a special relationship with an animal; this is not necessarily a substitute for human relationships, but an experience of a different kind of relationship, of equal importance. Or could a relationship with stone, for example, be a part of getting to know about the ‘I’ that is composed of stardust, that goes backwards, and forwards, to eternity? In his autobiography, Jung describes how, as a youth, his relationship with stone helped him to know the eternal part of himself:
“I was brooding….at such times it was strangely reassuring and calming to sit on my stone. Somehow it would free me of all my doubts. Whenever I thought I was the stone, the conflict ceased. ‘The stone has no uncertainties, no urge to communicate, and is eternally the same for thousands of years,’ I would think, ‘while I am only a passing phenomenon which bursts into all kinds of emotions, like a flame that flares up quickly and then goes out’ I was but the sum of my emotions, and the ‘Other’ in me was the timeless imperishable stone”. (Jung, 1967, 59)
Just as we learn to be aware and take care of other humans, so we might develop an awareness of the other-than-human world. Part of psychological health might be seen as a desire to nourish and take care of this ‘parental’ eco-psyche-system, that has nourished and taken care of us. Along with individual and familial restoration, could psychotherapy also recognize the need for earth restoration as an essential part of its process?
These are just a few examples of the many different ways in which we could explore our relationship to the other-than-human world.
A Perspective from an Indigenous Culture: A More Inclusive Vision of Self.
If we are to see ourselves as interdependent with the great web of life, we need a concept of self that is more interwoven with nature and culture. We are used to defining ‘self’ as all that is contained within our individual skin. Other cultures have differing views of where an individual self begins and ends. Buddhism claims there no such thing as self, since it implies something static, and all things are always in a process of change.
Since most indigenous cultures regard humans as living within an inextricably linked web of life, it is interesting to recover their way of seeing, where human community and nature intersect within the human individual. I am not saying this can be simply grafted onto a modern healing system. But since their vision of self is within all of our histories, it provides inspiration from which we can create a concept of a modern ‘sustainable self’.
The following quotes are from a piece written by Jeannette Armstrong, a woman from the Native American tradition by the name of the Okanagan. She describes the individual human being as made up of four main capacities, of equal importance, that operate together: the physical self, the emotional self, the thinking, intellectual self and the spiritual self. Each of these capacities
“can loosely be described as what joins us with the rest of creation in a helpful way”, and each “is an internal capacity parallel to what is thought of as ‘mind’.”
(Rozsak 1995, 320).
Of the physical self, Armstrong says:
“We survive within our skin inside the rest of our vast selves….Okanagans teach that our flesh, blood and bones, are Earth-body; in all cycles in which the earth moves, so does our body……. Our word for body literally means ‘the land-dreaming capacity’ ”. (Ibid, 320-1)
Of the emotional self, she writes:
“We use a term which translates as “heart”. It is a capacity to bond and form attachment with particular parts and aspects of our surroundings. ……..We never ask a person, “What do you think?” Instead, we ask, “What is your heart on the matter?” The Okanagan teaches that emotion or feeling is the capacity whereby community and land intersect in our beings and become part of us. This bond or link is a priority for our individual wholeness or well-being.” (Ibid, 321)
The thinking, intellectual self she describes as:
“The words that come closest in my interpretation have the meaning “the spark that ignites”…..We use a term that translates as “directed by the ignited spark” to refer to analytical thought. …. the other capacities we engage in when we take action are only directed by the spark of memory once it is ignited. We know …that unless we always join this capacity to the heart-self, its power can be a destructive force both with respect to ourselves and to the larger selves that surround us. A fire that is not controlled can destroy”. (Ibid, 321)
Lastly, she writes of the spirit-self:
“The spirit-self is hardest to describe. We translate (it)… as ‘without substance while continuously moving outward’. ….this self requires great quietness before our other parts can become conscious of it, and that the other capacities fuse together in order to activate something else – which is this capacity…..this old part of us can “hear/interpret” all knowledge being spoken by all things around us, including our own bodies, in order to bring new knowledge into existence”. (Ibid, 322)
One really gets the sense this that we are more like the limbs of a whole earth-body, rather than separate individuals, and that our health, in all ways, depends on our bond with ‘our vast selves’.
How would this compare to our psychotherapeutic ways of conceiving the human self? To some extent these aspects are already reflected in our ways of thinking. We have made great progress in retrieving our emotional and intuitive selves from a place of denigration and even madness. But psychotherapy’s relationship with the body is still tentative, and an extension into relating with the body of the earth is non-existent, apart from recognising our need to be grounded in the world of ‘objective’ reality. The spiritual self is still only for certain ‘fringe’ therapies, although it is a place in which we can consider the existence of ourselves living within a larger whole, albeit a mystical one, unrelated to matter.
What of the self in relation to the wider world? Andrew Samuels speaks of the political development of the self. (Samuels 1993). Norwegian ecophilosopher Arne Naess coined the term ‘Ecological Self’ back in 1973. He sees the key feature of this term as the extension of our capacity to identify. He writes:
“The ecological self of a person is that with which this person identifies” and
“We may be in, of and for nature from our very beginning. Society and human relations are very important, but our self is richer in its constitutive relations. These relations are not only relations we have with humans and the human community, but with the larger community of all living beings.” (Seed et al, 20-1)
It is this capacity to identify, and the extension of it, that I will discuss next.
Identity, Identification, and Relationship: How do we Identify?
The vision of the Okanagan people reminds us that a human being is both bound by skin, but also extends beyond that, to ‘the rest of our vast selves’ and that ‘our flesh, blood and bones, are Earth-body’. How might we form an identity that is differentiated from our larger eco-psyche-system but, at the same time, be able to identify with that beyond our skins?
Our identity, or self, is by no means a fixed or separate state, but more of an ongoing flow of experience that moves between different psychic states, feeling differentiated enough from the other, to be able to identify with, and relate to, while remaining grounded in one’s own identity. Part of the experience between therapist and client requires a strong enough sense of identity on the part of the therapist to be able to identify with some potentially extreme states with the client, the sense of falling apart, or the experience of traumatic and undifferentiated states of being, as well as being able to think and feel through the experience.
Identification is, then, part of getting to know the other, and oneself. An individual identity is never fully formed, but is in a life-long process of growing, shedding and constantly changing, in relation to all that surrounds us. While our culture would encourage an adult independence, implying separation, an Okanagan and relational perspective encourages interdependence, implying differentiation from, but always in relation to, the rest of life. Identification helps us to form an identity and connects us to the other in relationship; the root of the word ‘relate’ is to ‘carry again’.
The process of identification involves many aspects of ourselves from a bodily, visceral, physical experience, to a stretching of the imagination into the others position, to a thinking and feeling through.
Jungian Analyst, Roderick Peters links this imaginal process to the body. In his paper, ‘The Eagle and the Serpent’ (Peters 1987) he illustrates how these creatures often appear in his patients’ dreams, and in stories through the ages. He describes how both the eagle and the serpent seem to stand for particular archetypal experiences, engaged in an age-old struggle with one another. He describes ‘serpent-mind’ as an experience of the dark earth, a power of a deep and inward kind, piercing and paralyzing, associated with the elements of water and earth, and with femininity. It is more aligned with earth-based, shamanic or pagan spirituality, rooted in matriarchal cultures. ‘Eagle mind’ he describes as an experience of flying above things, getting an overview, associated with the masculine gods of power and war. In symbolic terms it is fire, air and spirit; it is linked with the sky gods of the more recent patriarchal cultures, who replaced the earth gods.
He then connects the experience of eagle-mind with our more recently evolved central nervous system, and serpent-mind with the older, autonomic nervous system (ANS). Of the ANS he writes:
“We see the ANS as the anatomical basis of the ancient ‘serpent-mind’; the mind of the realm of blood and viscera. This mind is lodged deep in collectivities. Blood-mind belongs, as it were, to universal blood; if I see someone gashed and bleeding, my blood-mind is affected almost as if it were ‘my’ blood. It is as if there were no boundary between me and that wounded person…it is an activity of the ancient mind.” (Ibid, 373)
This is a fascinating description of how we might identify with the other through a part of our bodies. He continues:
“The experiences of one’s bodily self which come when ‘I’ consciousness allows itself to descend into a participating awareness of autonomic system arousal are …our real connection to the past; we can go down and down through the unending evolutionary layers within our bodily nature, and feel a sense of linking up with the dimmest and deepest roots of life. Through it we can know renewal, as if we have touched vitality itself. The descent feels full of dangers because we know we have gone into the power of the old serpent…. The ‘I’ that consciously experiences the activity of autonomic matter is all but submerged in feelings of oneness, oceanic feelings, feelings of isolation, abandonment, eternity, infinity, fear, love, hatred, rage; all the passions in fact.” (Ibid, 373-4)
Indigenous cultures enable a deep reconnection with this ancient part of ourselves through ritual, where an altered or trance state of consciousness allows each individual, within a group, to expand into the vast self as fully as possible, while being held within a contained space, so as not to fragment completely and go mad. It is said that this practice of regular reconnection has always been necessary for humans, because their capacity for consciousness tended to separate them from the rest of life (Seed et al 1988, 35-9). As Okanagan teaching reminds us, if our thinking capacity becomes separated from the rest of our selves, it has great destructive potential, which we are now seeing played out.
How do we reconnect with our vast self in modern culture? Sexual union is perhaps the most frequent and profound way we have of feeling some kind of body-mind sense of merging with another, and orgasm a momentary release from ‘I’ place. Indeed, there may be many ways in which human individuals and communities connect to one another, but there are few practices that reconnect us together through our whole beings, bringing together individual, culture and nature. Food, alcohol, sex and drug binges are like remnants of this struggle to reconnect, symptoms of a society that fails to meet this deep inner longing.
A regular practice of reconnection with our vast self is, I suggest, vital to the creation of a sustainable future. Losing a connection with the earth, with our bodies, with a regular experience of ‘serpent mind’, with the ground of our being, leads to a vicious circle of destructiveness towards self, other and the earth. Alongside this, the process of globalisation disconnects relationships and erodes our capacity to identify. Understanding our capacity to disidentify is also important in the creation of sustainability.
Destruction, Splitting, and Disconnection: Why do we Disindentify?
Rix Weaver, an Australian Jungian Analyst, wrote (some 20 years ago):
‘Who is calling me to establish a relationship? Is that not the question of today? To answer it we have to realise the pain and agony of the primeval forest, to know it as our own.’ (Meier 1985, 89)
Deep Ecologist and rainforest activist John Seed suggests that if we could identify with the other-than-human world, we would be less likely to abuse it. (Seed 1988) If we had a wider sense of self we would know and feel the damage we were doing to our larger body. This is more apparent when living as a small tribe compared to the complexity of living in a large city. How far can we truly identify with another species? A great deal of terrible abuse and destructiveness happens between humans; what happens to our capacity to identify here?
Identification with the other is far more complicated in our modern world. We are constantly receiving news about the state of the planet; it is overwhelming and impossible to identify with the all the tragedy and injustice we hear of. We all find ways of dealing with and protecting ourselves from this; most of us use splitting and denial as a means of getting on with our daily lives.
The process of globalisation enables disidentification, for we are increasingly disconnected from the origins of things. Many people are now displaced from their land of origin and from their extended families. We are rarely aware of how food is produced, or how the clothes we wear, and the multitude of things we use daily, are made. How do we really feel when we discover that our t-shirt is made by a child in a sweatshop on the other side of the world? How do we feel when we make ourselves aware that the meat we are eating is from an animal kept in appalling factory farms, dosed with anti-biotics, and killed in inhumane ways? It is easy to ‘forget’ these things when buying a neatly wrapped portion of chicken from a huge, sanitized supermarket, when the slaughterhouses are behind closed doors. We are so used to regarding the other-than-human world as something completely other, the silent other. Disidentification with certain human groups, using the same psychological mechanisms, enables the same kind of terrible violence to life.
This breaking of connections between humans and the world around them leads to a breakdown of trust in society. As psychotherapists we are witness to the more covert spread of internal fearfulness and breakdown of trust, even in our own common sense. The epidemic of eating problems amongst young, western women, and increasingly men, is a prime example of how such lack of trust has got right into our very relationship to our bodies, such that many people do not know how to listen to, and trust, their own hunger and fullness signals. This reveals an extremely fundamental disturbance in the relationship between ourselves and the world, which has come right into the earliest relationship between mother and baby, between mind and body. (Orbach 2003)
Cutting off from such feelings of pain in the process of disidentification involves a bodily numbing process. I was made more aware of this in a supervision group, which was focusing on the social and political material in our work as therapists. We were all given the task of listening to, watching or reading the news with our bodies and we all returned with a similar story. While members of the group had each listened with a different part of their body, no one had been able to sustain this, because it had become too painful. In cutting off from a level of bodily identification, from a way of relating through serpent-mind, we lose the ability to respond urgently, and it is all too easy to become used to a degraded society where pathological states are normalized.
In a traumatized world, there are still many ways to reconnect. Psychotherapy helps us to reconnect with ourselves, with other humans, with our individual human origins. Can it also help us to reconnect with the other-than-human world and, in turn, with our vast self?
The Need to Bond with Nature.
Despite our long history of withdrawal from an intimate relationship with nature, it is often the case that humans yearn to spend time in nature to restore, heal and reconnect with themselves, and with that beyond themselves. This may be a holiday in a beautiful place, or simply a few hours in the local park, or in our own patch of garden. Most people need to connect with nature, as if it provides a safe and containing space in which to fall into reverie, or to fall apart and reintegrate, bathed in the beauty of the earth. At other times, nature reminds us of the forces to be reckoned with, that we humans are not omnipotent. Yet this important aspect of our lives often remains unarticulated and taken for granted. I am sure we can all identify with the following experience that Jung describes so beautifully:
“At times I feel like I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons”. (Jung 1967, 252)
Such deeply healing experiences often go entirely unacknowledged in the process of psychotherapy, as if the experience of being in nature is just time-out and disconnected from the ‘real world’ of life and work. Bonding with nature, even union with it, may be one of the only ways we have left in our modern world of profoundly connecting with something beyond the individual self and our human community, a way of reconnecting with our vast self. Most kinds of psychotherapy do not recognize the capacity for humans to have an experience of union with the other as part of adult maturity. Many Eastern religions would describe this capacity for union with the other, while paradoxically remaining oneself, a glimpse of enlightenment. Consider the following description by someone who experienced union with rock:
“I had just finished (some)…of the most enjoyable climbing I’d ever experienced….. I set up a hanging belay, sitting in my harness adrift in a vast ocean of pale, warm rock. … I found myself looking across to the cliffs….seeking out shapes formed as the patterns of shadow changed with the setting sun. …I suddenly felt myself falling. This sensation of movement only lasted a very short time before I realised I wasn’t falling at all, but the rock face on the opposite side of the valley seemed to be hinging backwards from it’s base….
Next, I felt this incredible wave of warmth, like diving into a tropical sea. …This was followed by a feeling of intense calm … I felt myself fall again, this time alarmingly backwards into the rock, merging with the rock face behind me. I melted into it, and I was suddenly aware that I was no longer a separate human form perched high on a granite wall – I was the granite wall. I could not feel myself as separate. This merging felt like continual movement, it was a sensation like swimming and the awareness of moving through liquid was very strong, although I had no concept of the surface of my skin.…
I felt a sharp intense pain in my right quadriceps….. This had the effect of waking me up, an awkward term because I was not asleep…. The burning sensation was a tear that had fallen from my cheek and landed on the skin of my bare leg. I was, by now, crying. My state was different now, there was no melting into the rock and the valley walls were solid and static. But I was infused with a feeling of incredible calm, I felt elated beyond description…it felt like there was no greater experience of life beyond the experience I had just had.” ( Key 2003, 10-11)
This experience seems to be born out of an intense body-mind concentration and intimacy with the rock, followed by a dramatic shift in focus or gestalt. However, it took the author two years before he could speak about this, for fear of how it would be understood. For we have no frame for understanding and valuing such experiences within our culture, other than madness. Some psychotherapists might even frame it as a regressive yearning for a mother-baby merger experience, the rock simply being a mother object, not a being in its own right.
Dave Key describes how this experience changed his life. For him, the merging with rock was feeling the earth as the rest of his ‘vast self’. For example, he could no longer throw anything away; he had to recycle. He then discovered that many rock climbers knew the experience well; in fact many describe it as addictive. Perhaps this experience of merging with another is a greatly nourishing and absolutely necessary part of being human. It is simply another kind of experience, at the other end of the spectrum from separation. As this example shows, it is possible to identify with the other-than-human world. Once we feel deeply connected to our vast self, we feel a wish to look after it, to return the nourishment we have received. This reconnection is a move towards sustainability, a deep change.
Psychotherapy and Reconnection.
Psychotherapy explores this longing for reconnection within a ritual space, indoors. We spend our time helping individuals to reconnect to ‘the other’ as therapist, to their current human relationships, and to their familial origins. I have been suggesting ways in which we can extend this reconnection to the earth, by being more receptive to an ongoing relationship to place, to other-than-human beings, and to various other aspects of our relationship with nature, both developmentally and in the present. These different kinds of relationships with the other-than-human world are often in existence, but not articulated or recognized as an important part of shaping the psyche, nor of the healing process. This is challenging our objectification of nature, and exploring how we might relate to it as subject. Once we form a relationship with it, we are more likely to take care of it.
How do we see anthropocentrism shaping our internal worlds, and how might it reveal itself in the therapy relationship? Using Peters’ imaginative way of illustrating modern and ancient minds as eagle-mind and serpent-mind, we might say that we were in the grip of anthropocentrism if we wished for the eagle to always win the struggle, so that the serpent is overpowered, under control, or even dead. This might show itself in a multitude of ways; for example, as a disrespect for ‘uneducated peasants’ whose lives are seen as less than a modern, Western, educated life. Or it might be a disrespect for indigenous knowledge, regarding it as ‘primitive’, rather than a highly sophisticated form of knowledge that we find hard to comprehend. Or it might be a hatred of the body, of the feminine, or of any of those aspects of life and peoples that have become associated with being ‘closer to nature’.
We can see, here, that anthropocentrism is entirely interwoven with racism, sexism and other forms of dominance and oppression, which various writers have already pointed out (see Prentice 2003, Fisher 2002, Seed 1988, Kidner 2001). When we see this parallel, we are reminded of the interconnections between the colonization of a nature that threatens to overwhelm and endanger our safety, and the colonization of peoples who have been associated with nature, and are therefore felt to contain the same threat. Indigenous peoples, black peoples, and women are just some of the human communities that have been tarred with the same ‘wild, unruly, animal-like and even mad’ brush, labeled as ‘primitives’ or ‘witches’.
So anthropocentrism might shape our psyches in the form of a disrespect and denigration of those parts of ourselves that are closer to nature, our animal selves, our other-than-human selves, the wild parts of ourselves. This includes the feminine and the ‘other-than-Western’, not because they are necessarily closer to nature, but because they have been associated with nature by Western culture. This cultural perspective serves as a backdrop within industrial growth society, and is woven into our individual lives in different ways according to our family of origin, and place of origin.
Some good examples of how this process might manifest can be found amongst women with eating problems. For dieting is a case of eagle-mind controlling the wild nature of the body. Clients with eating problems dislike their bodies, for they do not conform to the thinness that Western culture declares as success.
Respecting serpent-mind involves trusting and listening to the body, sinking down into it, re-learning how to read hunger and fullness signals, knowing the difference between different kinds of emotional hungers. While this may involve quite a long process of taking apart the years of control, learning how to respond to what the body is saying, eventually the body will find its own ‘set point’, a weight that is optimal for that person. This sustainable weight can never be found through the repeated attempts to control the body, for it is not respecting the body as subject, that it may have its own system of wisdom which we can only begin to understand by patiently learning how to relate with it.
I imagine that many psychotherapists are already working in the service of sustainability by helping their clients to retrieve and reintegrate serpent-mind; to be aware of, and to explore, the struggle between eagle and serpent within, so that both kinds of thinking can be valued. For despite the fact that psychotherapy has emerged out of Western culture, and is profoundly influenced by it (as our conceptual frameworks reveal), there are still many ways in which its methods run counter to Western culture. It values a rich inner life
over the goal of materialism, it encourages a listening attitude and the forming of relationships; it is about exploring fear, rather than colonizing wild and unknown territory in order to control fear and anxiety.
Indeed, psychotherapy may encourage the struggle between eagle and serpent to turn into a more fertile relationship, as in an early Mesopotamian myth where,
“at the beginning of things, the eagle and the serpent had sworn a solemn oath of friendship. The eagle had its nest and its young in the top of the World Tree, while the serpent and its young lived at the bottom. They undertook to protect and provide food for each others young” (Peters 1987, 362)
Within the experience of transference and counter-transference, deep attunement with a client is possible through serpent-mind, going deep down inside, into the darkness of the body and feeling realm. Through serpent-mind we pick up all kinds of feelings, images and bodily states within the field of the client. It has more to do with subjective experience and identification with the other. Our eagle mind soars above to get more of a whole picture of things, to think things through. This is more about getting an objective picture of the whole situation, disentangling oneself from the identification with the other. This movement between these two realms enables the development of wisdom and compassion, both intrapsychically and between therapist and client.
While we may be already supporting this paradigm shift towards sustainability in many ways, it would seem important to bring to awareness these pressing issues, to look more closely at the ways in which we may blindly support cultural belief systems which are destructive to our species. For the current eerie silence amongst the psychotherapy profession about environmental issues may speak volumes about the fears we may have about tackling the overwhelming, complex, and painful territory that lies beneath the surface. Perhaps it is made more difficult by the fact that, as inhabitants of the rich and powerful West, we are all oppressors, as well as being oppressed by this cultural system.
I have been exploring how some aspects of the theory and practice of psychotherapy might change in the service of a sustainable future. I have suggested that this requires a
paradigm shift, a dismantling of the hierarchies that facilitate dominance and oppression with the human community, and between humans and our environment. Fundamental to this shift is to respect that all aspects of the living system that we inhabit are capable of subjectivity. This involves expanding our theory and practice to bring into awareness the larger whole we belong to, our eco-psyche-system. I have explored how we might identify with, and differentiate ourselves from, this larger whole.
I have highlighted a parallel process between sustainability in Western culture and in the human individual. For if we live within a society that is deeply unsustainable, that
disconnects, that promotes separation, this will be reflected within all parts of our living system, and within our intrapsychic and interpersonal human relationships, leading to the breakdown of trust and the creation of terror within that system.
Psychotherapy encourages reconnection and relationship within and between humans, a revaluing of what has been lost and denigrated; it attempts to include all parts of any system. Disconnection and reconnection, separation and bonding, are then valued in themselves as part of a necessary cycle, two ends of a spectrum which we may flow between. Diversity is recognized as a necessary foundation for creativity. However, we must take care not to limit ourselves to human relationship within a Western frame. Discovering a sustainable psychotherapy involves embracing cultural bio-diversity. It challenges us to go beyond the colonizing monoculture of the white, western, middle-class, urban dominance within our profession, to acknowledge our dependence on the other-than-human world, and on the other-than-Western world.
My main focus has been to explore the human-nature relationship, and I have suggested that a relationship with the other-than-human world can be a powerful, healing and intensely nourishing place, an avenue of connection to the larger whole. Further, this reconnection involves a bodily and imaginative process where we can rediscover our vast selves, breaking the bounds of our limited, personal psyche, dissolving the inner-outer split.
Finding a sustainable self involves a process of eagle and serpent minds working together, moving between a soaring above, differentiated, objective view, and an earthy, inside, embodied view. As with the feminist psychotherapy movement, it may take some time to become more familiar with the issues of sustainability within ourselves as therapists, and within our culture. Only then can we be more aware of how and when to work with these issues within the therapy relationship. These reflections are some thoughts along the way.
‘A human being is part of the whole, called by us "universe," limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons close to us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from our prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all humanity and the whole of nature in its beauty’. (Einstein, A )
Armstrong, J The Keepers of the Earth. In Roszak, T, Gomes, M, Kanner, A (Eds) Ecopsychology. Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1995.
Dunann Winter, D Ecological Psychology : Healing the Split between Planet and Self
Addison Wesley Longman, 1997.
Eichenbaum, L & Orbach, S Outside in Inside Out: Women’s Psychology: A Feminist Approach. Harmonsworth, Penguin 1982.
Fisher, A Radical Ecopsychology: Psychology in the Service of Life. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.
Grut, J The Healing Fields. London: Frances Lincoln, 2002.
Johnstone, C Reconnecting with our World. In Chesner, A & Hahn, H (Eds) Creative Advances in Groupwork London: Jessica Kingsley 2002
Jung, C.G. Memories, Dream, Reflections. Fontana 1967
Jung, C.G. Collected Works. London: Routledge, Kegan & Paul 1977.
Key, D The Ecology Of Adventure. Master of Science Thesis, Edinburgh: Centre for Human Ecology, 2003.
Kidner, D. Nature and Psyche: Radical Environmentalism and the
Politics of Subjectivity. New York Press, 2001.
Meier, C.A A Testament to the Wilderness. Zurich: Daimon Verlag, 1985.
Morgan, H Exploring Racism. Paper delivered to International Association of Analytical Psychologists international conference Cambridge June 2001
Orbach, S Relational Psychoanalysis and Feminism. Psychotherapy and
Politics International 2003; 1 (1) pp 17-26.
Peters, R. The Eagle and the Serpent. Journal of Analytical Psychology 1987; 32, pp 359-381.
Prentice, H. The Cosmic Spiral. Psychotherapy and Politics International 2003; 1, (1) pp 32-46.
Roszak, T The Voice of the Earth. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
Roszak, T, Gomes, M, & Kanner, A (eds) Ecopsychology. Restoring the Earth, Healing
the Mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1995.
Samuels, A The Political Psyche. Routledge, 1993.
Searles H The Non-Human Environment in Normal Development and in
Schizophrenia. NY: International Universities Press: 1960.
Seed J, Macy J, Fleming P, Naess A, Thinking Like a Mountain. Towards a Council of
All Beings. New Society, 1988.
Von Hildebrand, M Personal Communication on Indigenous peoples of Colombia.
Making the Sea Change: From Chaos and Inertia to Creativity
by Maryjayne Rust
My talk today is about how we find a place within ourselves to take action
from - for riding out as the hero so often causes more problems.
The first half is a series of reflections on the state of inertia – how does it come about, and how do we find a way through it? Then I will move on to talk about the image of The Fool as a different place to take action from.
Image of tsunami
The recent tsunami, albeit an act of nature, felt like the gods are shaking and waking us up to the realities of global warming, urging us to make a sea change. We are reminded that we are fragile beings on the skin of a giant who erupts out of our control. The wave that followed felt of archetypal proportions, flooding land, people and psyche. I’m sure thousands of people have had tidal wave dreams; these dreams evoke fears of breakdown, loss of self, as well as yearnings to dissolve in the ocean of life. If things are out of balance and we fail to listen, then nature – both inner and outer - will simply rise up and drown us in what has been kept out. Old structures are dissolved in seconds, everything is turned upside down to make way for a new order.
Image oil burning
Many warnings are coming to us now, both dramatic and subtle. Estimates vary about how much time we have left before global warming becomes
irreversible – some suggest as little as ten years. We may have another 50 years left of fossil fuels. Nobody knows for sure. But we do know that we are facing serious destabilisation of the global climate, a major energy crisis, a mass extinction of species, as well as many other changes that I’m sure people here today are aware of.
When we hear the many news stories about ecological change, we are again and again reminded that our whole earth community is affected – everything is interconnected and interdependent. One of the stories that affected me recently was of Inuit mothers whose breast milk has high levels of PCBs. These pollutants move to colder climates and become more concentrated as they move up the food chain. The fat of sea mammals is loaded with a variety of long-lived toxic chemicals which are then passed onto humans. As a result, Inuit mothers are being advised not to breast feed their babies. Mother’s milk and the groundwater of the earth, both are contaminated. There is no pristine wilderness left. We are all affected physically and emotionally from our earliest experience.
Image Earth from space
Making the sea change is complex. It’s a paradigm shift, to do with how we relate to ourselves, each other and the rest of the earth community. Industrial Growth Society elevates humans to the top of the hierarchy of life, treating the rest of life as a resource to be used for our benefit, as an object without feeling or soul.
This hierarchy echoes throughout our human communities and internal worlds.
In our long journey towards modernity, those peoples and qualities associated
with the “dark past” of wild nature have been oppressed. White,
middle class, urban-dwelling intellectuals sit at the top, while women, black
peoples and working classes are still carrying the projection of being “closer
to nature”. We see the same splitting within our internal worlds where
intuition and instinct, powers often associated with nature and the feminine,
are to reined in, if not burnt at the stake. We see it in the running of corporations,
in political policies, and in spiritual paths offering liberation through transcendence
of the body.
Image caged tiger
There is a deep fear of the wild, of being taken over by the world of the senses and instincts, or of things that science cannot explain. Perhaps the war on terror is an attempt to eliminate fear once and for all.
Making the sea change is welcoming back that which has been dominated, oppressed and disrespected – peoples, animals, land, as well as qualities within ourselves.
In the face of this our changes are slow and small. Inertia is rife. As a therapist I believe that change springs from listening attentively to where we are, listening with ears, eyes, body, heart, imagination. So my talk today starts with listening to our inertia, trying to understand how it happens, to see whether this brings change.
Image 3 wise monkeys (see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil)
1) Inertia can happen when what we are facing is too big to comprehend
Fears of an approaching apocalypse can make people freeze, like rabbits in headlights, unable to think or act. When something is too painful or complex to think about, it’s easy to go into denial. “It won’t happen” or “They’ll find a cure” or “People have always made pronouncements about the end of the world….”. We split off and repress feelings like guilt, powerlessness, rage or pain, when they get unbearable. We see this very clearly in family patterns around abuse. Silence reigns and woe betide those who speak of the unmentionable – people get very angry and upset with them. Those systems will only crumble when people are brave enough to stand up and tell the truth and they may well feel they are going mad in the process. They imagine it’s the end of the world. But apocalypse comes from the Greek, meaning “revelation, an uncovering of what has been hidden”.
The psychotherapy community is not immune from this silence, possibly because our work has a history of being so split off from politics.
Image Man with tanks Tiananmen Square
Psychoanalyst Hanna Segal writes about silence and the nuclear threat in the 1980’s. She says:
“Psychoanalysts have a specific contribution to make. We are acquainted with the psychic mechanisms of denial, projection, magical thinking. We should be able to contribute something to overcome apathy and self-deception in ourselves and others. When the Nazi phenomenon was staring us in the face, the psychoanalytic community outside Germany was largely silent. This must not be repeated. Mandelstam said, “Silence is the real crime against humanity”. We psychoanalysts who believe in the power of words and the therapeutic affect of verbalizing truth must not be silent”.
Image Bush wearing ring of power
2) The other side of inertia, taking action, can all too easily turn into being the hero going off to fight battles, to save the world
If the hero isn’t mindful, he is fuelled by rights and wrongs, ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’. He easily creates ‘the other’ as the enemy. People around the hero can feel judged and accused. His wonderful, active and forceful energy gets things done, but he is in danger of turning into that old patriarch, a judgmental and rigid ruler, interested in winning - and possibly humiliating the enemy. It’s the road to burn-out. We are straight back into the old paradigm of domination and oppression. This Old King has no time for the qualities of slowness, pondering, feeling, dreaminess.
For anyone who is not familiar with ‘Lord of the Rings’, Bush is wearing Frodo’s ring of power in this image. Frodo, a down to earth Hobbit, is the only one capable of withstanding the dark powers enveloping the world. He goes on a long journey to destroy the ring …..but the ring is still with us – the problem is of ego and power.
If the hero is informed by something greater than him/herself, then the journey towards sustainability becomes one that can nourish the soul, rather than yet another tiring battle to fight. The hero learns to relate to his inertia. It becomes a two-way, mutual helping process, where the sea change for the planet is at the same time a personal sea change. Aboriginal educator and activist Lilla Watson acknowledges this when she says,
"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time....But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
This is Ecopsychology: the simultaneous weaving together of the journey towards personal and planetary well-being.
Image Supersize Me.
3) Inertia is deepened by the distractions of consumer culture
We’re living in the midst of a giant eating problem. Our increasingly
busy and driven lifestyles can be a way to block thinking and feeling. We become
disconnected, then, from our bodies. Trouble begins when becoming environmentally
responsible means giving up, being ‘good’, being deprived. It’s
a bit like when a GP tells a compulsive eater to diet; for many this is like
red rag to a bull, the mere thought of no treats triggers a binge. Dieting doesn’t
work when it’s a regime imposed on the body, ignoring feelings of hunger
and fullness. It can also make a person fatter because their whole internal
ecosystem becomes disrupted.
Image Terry on island
a) Listening to, and distinguishing between, the variety of different hungers can be hard when eating has served as a palliative. A river of unfamiliar feelings are unblocked which can feel unbearable. But continuing to listen to all parts of one’s being, body and psyche, brings change. It’s about relinquishing control, exploring and getting to know the ecosystem bound. As a client said to me recently, “Stopping bingeing is really hard, but what I am left with is an awful lot more interesting”. This process is about reconnecting to feelings, reconnecting with the body.
As Mary Oliver says in her poem, Wild Geese:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
The question is, though, is this process transferable from the safety of the therapy relationship into consumer culture? What of our collective hungers? Yearning for community, yearning for the wild, yearning for home, for ancestors, for elders? An important part of the recovery process is that feelings are included.
Image Munch ‘The Scream’
b) Joanna Macy and John Seed are environmental activists who understand the burn out in activism if feelings are not acknowledged along the way. Heroes who go out to save the world must have hope. But what about their despair? They facilitate Deep Ecology workshops using creative experiential exercises as well as discussion for people to collectively express grief, rage, despair about what is happening to the planet. As activists, they found their work to be empowered when they could acknowledge their feelings, allowing space for The wounded hero.
Image: My Name’s Chellis and I’m in recovery….
b) In the 1970’s a wave of feminist consciousness raising groups enabled women to bring together personal and political, enabling social change for women. In the last decade I was a member of an Ecopsychology group, (a small group of PCSR), bringing together personal, political and ecological. I arrived to the group feeling as if I was a therapist on board the Titanic, practicing in a small room where no-one was mentioning the looming disaster. It felt mad at times. The group was a place where we could feel safe to admit our worst fears, as well as our vulnerable visions; to see the links between the big picture and our work as therapists. But it was also a place where we could laugh, eat and share our lives. Community groups provide a vital container within which we make connections between global and local, as well as connections of the heart. Could we see a wave of green cr groups?
Could GP’s benefit from making links between personal and planetary well-being? Could teachers include these kinds of insights within personal/social religious education?
4) Inertia is made worse by disconnection
Turning a blind eye is easy in this society. Most of us are disconnected from
the origins of things we use and eat, or where our rubbish goes. And many people
are disconnected from their land of origin, or the land of their ancestors.
Our lives are no longer intimately connected with the lives of other creatures,
plants, landscapes or with the daily rhythms of nature. We are taught that we
How possible is it for us, now, to listen to and trust the body of the earth? Animals could sense the coming of the tsunami waves and fled to higher ground. But humans no longer watch the animals. Even the knowledge that the sea suddenly goes out a long way before the wave comes is enough. The 10yr old girl who remembered this from her geography class saved a whole beach full of people. And some humans CAN feel what is coming.
We are still finely tuned, wild creatures if we allow ourselves to stretch deeper and beyond our skins. Listening to everyone who shares our home and garden makes for change within ourselves. Making sure that the hedgehog, the birds and the insects all have homes means entering into and learning about their lives. Then it’s no longer possible to use weed-killer, to neaten the ivy, to remove all the dead wood for it’s obvious that we kill our friends, their homes and eventually the poison returns to us. We are witnessing the sixth mass extinction of species, and any way in which we can create wildlife habitats will help. It has now become law that farmers must leave wild a strip around every field, encouraging more wildlife to inhabit agricultural land.
Image plastic bottles
Not knowing where things go makes it easier to get rid of things. Last year I was staying in India in a temple on the side of a mountain in the Himalayas. The only way they had to dispose of plastic was to burn it or bury it. It made me feel sick in my body to witness this burning in the exquisite mountain woods. The solution was simple: buy no plastic. Plastic bags were banned for you could see what happened to the guts of animals when they accidentally ate the bags. Some died as a result.
Image child labour
Reconnecting to the origins of all that is in our lives helps to bring back compassion. The documentary that revealed the conditions of workers in cocoa plantations brought pressure to bear on the chocolate industry. Gap and Nike have been shamed by revelations of using child labour and working conditions in factories in the Far East.
Image of factory farm - 3
Closer to home, if we had regular footage about the inhumane methods of industrial farming I’m sure the meat industry would suffer. This image shows a pig unable to stand in a pen with another pig who is dead. If information speaks to our bodies we can FEEL the suffering of others, there is a sense of disgust and compassion. I will never forget the time a friend told me that milk contains 8% pus from the infected udders of cows. Regular milk was hard to drink after that! Information is not forthcoming in an age where corporations seek to hide. The onus is still on us, as individuals, to investigate and be awake to what goes into body, soul and the land…..the question is, WHY NOT eat local organic food?
5) Inertia happens when we live with myths which no longer make sense
Image of bikes…
A powerful myth of modernity is about how much progress we western humans have made. As we head towards ecological disaster, this myth is being exploded. Changing lifestyles challenges those myths. I experienced this in a small way when my partner and I decided to give up our car.
I need to preface this by saying that we can only do this because we live near a tube in London, and I am a keen cyclist.
I imagined it would be hard to give up what used to feel like an extra room almost, my safe and instant vehicle. Driving feels powerful, having a nice car is cool. Public transport seems expensive and time consuming as well as inconvenient - and for women unsafe. Most importantly, perhaps, having a car carries with it the notion of FREEDOM – a very potent and manipulated concept in western society.
At first it felt like a deprivation and really inconvenient. But after a while I realised that I had gained time to read and ponder on buses and tubes. I had liberated one possession to look after, and my bank balance looked healthier. It was also much more enjoyable to travel in the open air on my bike and I felt fitter. In fact, it felt liberating, rather than a restriction of my freedom.
What I hadn’t expected was such a strong reaction amongst my friends and colleagues. Everyone suddenly expressed their guilt that they weren’t doing this too. It was quite hard to talk about freely.
On a deeper level, cars and bikes carry very different images. Arriving on my bike is sometimes less than glamorous and takes me back to adolescence. I realised that having a car is one of the rites of passage into adulthood. Giving it up felt like going backwards, losing an object of power, like being a child again in the passenger seat.
The psychological aspects of taking these kinds of actions may account for
why so many people cannot make the shifts required. There are images, stereotypes,
associated with downshifting, which run counter to modernity. It is not yet
cool to be green. If you don’t feel like you belong to this tribe, it’s
hard to make the changes. In order for the majority to make this sea-change
it must somehow become re-associated with modernity.
Image anti smoking campaign
To pollute must become as uncool as it is to smoke.
The best thing about giving up our car is feeling empowered, that I am acting
more in accordance with my beliefs – even if there are many other ways
in which I don’t. Flying is one of the most destructive things we do as
individuals (to live within your eco-footprint you are allowed one long haul
flight every 20 yrs) - and this is something I find hard to relinquish.
Taking action changes psyche, says the Norwegian eco-philosopher, Sigmund Kvaloy:
“Some Greens say that we can and should start by changing ourselves first, and through that get ready to change the system. But this is still building on the view of a human being as a soul separated from the body and the environment. Instead of observing from a safe river-bank, you should step into the river, be grabbed by the current, and forced to learn how to swim. It's then that you have a chance of being shaken so that you are changed, and through that you change the system. That's when you learn to accept that nothing is permanent, that everything is time, and that time is creativity. Only then will initiative and responsibility replace passivity”. (Kvaloy 1990)
5) What about Inertia and Therapy – Do Therapists need to Make a Sea Change?
There is a great deal to be said about the greening of therapy practice and theory. I will just touch on a few things here.
Psychotherapy is PART of making the sea change in many ways. It reconnects people to their emotions, instincts and intuition. It also reconnects us to our personal origins, re-integrating what has been repressed. It helps us to see how our past informs our present, rather than seeing it as something to be got away from. Hopefully, if the process is a helpful one, it enables people to be more compassionate, and to unlock their own gifts so that they can be more fully themselves in the world. Some therapies reconnect us to our bodies.
However, psychotherapy has grown up in urban environments and is very human centred. Harold Searles writes in 1960:
“The nonhuman environment is…considered entirely irrelevant to human personality development, and to the development of psychiatric illness, as though human life were lived out in a vacuum – as though the human race were alone in the universe, pursuing individual and collective destinies in a homogeneous matrix of nothingness, a background devoid of form, colour and substance”.
Image of child with animal, child in tree
a) Take attachment and loss, for example. Ecopsychology recognises that we make attachments with our WHOLE environment and these relationships shape our psychic development along with human relationships. Conversely, we experience loss in relationship to the rest of life: loss of wild places; loss of species and our relationship with them; loss of such basic things like clean air, water, soil; loss of childhood places, to name a few. These attachments and losses exist in their own right. They do not have to be symbolic of human attachment and loss.
Image veg garden
It’s a two way relationship. When grieving, nature consoles. Many humans who have been so badly treated by other humans can only recover through connecting with the other-than-human world first. “Healing Fields” by Jenny Grut describes moving therapy work with victims of torture and asylum seekers on allotments in London, where therapy sessions take place on the land while digging, weeding and planting.
Does our new attachment to technology replace our relationship with wild nature? What becomes of our inner worlds as a result?
Image Milky way
b) Psychotherapy suggests that we project ourselves onto and into humans in order to re-discover parts of ourselves. Ecopsychology suggests that we project ourselves into and onto ALL that is around us to realise
ourselves. We are what we eat, breathe, and surround ourselves with. We realise ourselves through our connection with the rest of life. Jung was a psychotherapist who grew up in rural Switzerland; he wrote extensively about his own connection with inner and outer nature. He describes here how his relationship with stone reveals and connects him to the eternal part of himself:
At such times (of brooding on God etc) it was strangely reassuring and calming to sit on my stone. Somehow it would free me of all my doubts. Whenever I thought that I was the stone, the conflict ceased. “The stone has no uncertainties, no urge to communicate, and is eternally the same for thousands of years,” I would think, “while I am only a passing phenomenon which bursts into all kinds of emotions, like a flame that flares up quickly and then goes out.” I was but the sum of my emotions, and the “Other” in me was the timeless imperishable stone. (MDR P59.)
It is easy to forget that we are all stardust.
Image MJ in rainforest
c) If we are shaped by our WHOLE environment, it follows that what we call the Self will be made up of, and interwoven with, the rest of the earth community.
Jeannette Armstrong, a woman from the Native American tradition by the name of the Okanagan writes:
“We survive within our skin inside the rest of our vast selves….
Okanagans teach that our flesh, blood and bones, are Earth-body; in all cycles
in which the earth moves, so does our body……. Our word for body
literally means ‘the land-dreaming capacity’ ”
d) We also internalize cultural attitudes towards the rest of nature, towards
the earth. Like racism and sexism, anthropocentrism shapes our internal world
dynamics. People distrust parts of themselves which appear “closer to
But of course the real way we therapists learn about this is to jump in the river and make the changes within our own lives. Then we notice how the ecological comes through dreams, through bodily symptoms, through relationships. Then it becomes more apparent in our work and it’s possible to make the links.
I want to stop and take stock here. I’ve been talking about ways in which
inertia creeps over us, and ways to recover from that state of denial, ways
in which we can make changes within our lives.
But is this really enough?
image dark clouds looming
6) Inertia is affected by the big picture….
Even if we were to make the UK live within it’s footprint, even Europe, we still have the USA, 4% of world’s population, responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. With India and China joining us in our consumer lifestyles we have a small window to make an enormous change. Even if we do achieve world wide sustainability, we still only have ONE EARTH which can support a limited population of humans.
Image Statue of liberty with ‘free to consume written on
Part of our Myth of Progress is that technology brings us Freedom. Now we see the shadow of our technological progress looming large, as our freedoms are challenged on many levels.
If there’s one thing that drives me into inertia it’s when I open up and look at the big picture. My small changes seem trifling.
The question is, what is really going to make a difference?
Image ‘plutonium is dead end’Greenpeace
James Lovelock, famous for Gaia Theory, says that we must convert to nuclear power, and fast. But I cannot agree at all. For me this is simply using the equivalent of orthodox medicine – we may cure the symptoms temporarily but meanwhile producing waste that is toxic for thousands of years.
Small changes can grow large if enough people join in, creating a flip-over effect. And the small changes are still important because in making them I shift my own inertia and learn. They affect my heart. They connect me to others on the same journey. For me, this is where big change might really happen – between us, in a way that may not be expected.
If we listen to inertia and allow the chaos to be, and we allow the unconscious to inform our conscious doings, then perhaps we have a chance of being creative, of finding solutions that we couldn’t imagine at the outset of the journey, the kind that appear in visions. I’m tempted to change the subtitle here: From Inertia through chaos to creativity.
So at this point I’m taking quite a surprising direction…to talk about the image, or archetype, of The Fool who embodies this energy of leaping into the creative unknown. Most people will have come across the Fool in the plays of Shakespeare or in the Tarot cards, and his image lives on as the joker in today’s playing cards. Like the hero, the Fool embodies action, but he does not ride out in battle. I think the Fool gives us a new way forward in this time of ecological crisis, for he steps out of inertia with openness and a willingness to listen.
Since the Fool could be either male or female, I’m going to interchange ‘he’ and ‘she’.
Parsival is this kind of hero, at the start of his journey seeking the Holy Grail. He has been brought up by his mother in a lonely forest, to prevent him from following in the footsteps of his father. Ignorant of the world, Parsifal grows up a "guileless fool" who goes on a long journey eventually reaching a place of compassion, where he is able to ask the old King Amfortas, “What Ails Thee?”
Image Fool and Lear
The Fool image appears in Shakespeare, for example in the play of King Lear.
Here is a wonderful image of the only person who can get through to Lear in his most tragic time. Lear is the epitome of the broken down Old King whose ego rules. The only way to make Lear see his folly is for The Fool to speak in riddles, the language of the unconscious. The Fool symbolizes the forces of chaos and license, while the king represents those of law and order.
Image Waite deck
The Fool appears in the Tarot cards. He is the number 0 as well as number 22, the beginning and the end of a journey of individuation through the archetypes of the major arcana.
The Fool fearlessly begins the journey into the unknown. To do this, she does not regard the world she knows as firm and fixed. She has a seemingly reckless disregard for obstacles. She sets off with gay abandon with the innocence of a child coming into the world, full of trust, alive, playful and completely open to whatever comes her way in the present moment. This openness invites synchronicity. The Fool is the energy in all of us that is seeking to become full individuals, which carries vital, fresh inspiration without judgement.
He holds in his left hand a white rose, symbol of purity and spirituality. In his right he holds his material possessions. His journey is a weaving together of the material and spiritual.
This image is double edged, she is carefree: in stepping off the cliff will she fly or does she not see the danger coming?
The Fool’s friend is his dog, his animal instincts, close to the earth. He is in touch with intuition and instinct, welcoming the surprises life has to offer.
Image of jester
The Fool remains in packs of cards as the joker, the wild card who can pop up at any time and stand in for any other card.
Image fool in animal skin
The Fool is sometimes depicted with an animal skin on; he is a child of nature.
Those in the throes of convention look at the unconventional, non-conformist personality and think “What a fool”. They don’t understand the Fool's actions. But The Fool has roots in tradition as one who is closest to the spirit world. In many tribal cultures, those born with strange and unusual character traits were held in awe. Shamans were people who could see visions and go on journeys. Those with physical differences had experience and knowledge that the average person could not understand. The Fool is close to God. Her number zero is a circle which represents both emptiness, the VOID, and infinity, the place of chaos, pre-creation, containing all possibilities yet not manifesting anything. (http://www.marydelave.com/)
Image CC Fool
Artist Cecil Collins writes:
“Our society has rejected the Fool ….(because) they are frightened and disturbed by (him), because he is the child of life, and not of abstract virtue. The Fool is purity of consciousness. This purity is a cosmic folly that is utterly detached from what most of the world thinks worth doing; it is detached from the deadening edifice of clever ambitions, of power”. “The Saint, the Artist, the Poet, and the Fool, are one. They are the eternal virginity of spirit, which in the dark winter of the world, continually proclaims the existence of a new life,.” Cecil Collins, The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings, pg. 81, paperback ed. (Vision of the Fool)
Image Yorkshire Falls
The Fool represents the irrepressible Vital Spirit, overflowing its banks, roaring across the landscape, and carving new pathways where it will.
In other cultures, and within our history, the Fool has been given a ritual place within society. The Saturnalia, or Festival of Fools, was a Roman holiday lasting seven days during which restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Class distinctions were abolished. Masters served their slaves. It was a time of reversal of the normal, chaos before rebirth, and therefore of fertility. In this way the law of the old year was broken down and the new year welcomed in afresh. Eventually this ritual became absorbed in the celebration of Christs masse. http://peterconrad.tripod.com/seasons/christmas/saturnalia.html
When a culture ceases to honour this energy, it will find a wilder way to emerge. Ecotherapist Howard Clinebell writes:
“Like all repressed memories, repressed wildness continues to haunt our
‘civilized’ lives. As these energies accumulate, they may eventually
produce wild, irrational and often violently destructive mental processes or
behaviour. This destructiveness may be turned inward on ourselves in masochism,
irrational (perhaps psychotic) ideation, or potentially suicidal depression.
Or the repressed energies may be directed outward at civilized society”
(Clinebell Ecotherapy P30)
What of the fool in relation to sea change? When the time comes, as it always does, when the old rules, conceptual structures, prejudices and beliefs are no longer adequate to the challenges at hand, then a Divine Maniac is needed. He or she lives in a private world, and so is not bound by the shared conventions, preconceptions or norms of the society. The Gods - or Chance - select the Fool who will become the saviour who will transform society. She is elevated as leader for a short time (for only so much madness can be tolerated), and must undergo many transformations before, with luck, she rejuvenates the world. (The Pythagorean Tarot by: John Opsopaus)
Jung describes how he consciously submitted to an experience of ‘stepping of the cliff’ just after his famous break with Freud. He struggled with feeling foolish, but what followed was a deep change in his life. He simply stopped, not knowing what to do next and said to himself,
“Since I know nothing at all, I shall simply do whatever occurs to me”.
He then describes:
‘Thus I consciously submitted to the unconscious. The first thing that came to the surface was a childhood memory from perhaps my tenth or eleventh year. At that time I had a spell of playing passionately with building blocks….. This moment was a turning point in my fate, …….it was a painfully humiliating experience to realise that there was nothing to be done except play childish games. .…..Naturally I …asked myself, ‘Now really, what are you about? You are building a small town ……as if it were a rite’ I had no answer to my question, only the inner certainty that I was on my way to discovering my own myth. For the building game was only a beginning. It released a stream of fantasies which I later carefully wrote down…..this sort of thing has been consistent with me and any time in my later life when I came up against a blank wall I painted a picture or hewed stone. Each such experience proved to be a rite of passage for the ideas and works that followed hard on it.’ (MDR P )
Image: footsteps in sand
The Fool is not interested in saving the world. She is simply being herself, one step at a time. One of the most potent places we have left to reconnect to this place inside ourselves is by spending time outdoors, in wild places. It brings us back to simple pleasures. It’s a place in which we can fall apart and come back together.
It’s about reconnecting to a powerful source of inspiration; we learn from the organic way in which ecosystems relate. It’s about re-encountering the mysteries of life. And wrestling with nature is the only place where we can encounter a power more than ourselves. It puts us in our place, it helps us find our place. Without this we cannot and do not know ourselves.
Image misty mountain
D H Lawrence:
When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forest again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
To quote Jung again:
“Walking in the woods, lying on the grass, taking a bathe in the sea, are from the outside; entering the unconscious, entering yourself through dreams, is touching nature from the inside and this is the same thing. Things are put right again.” (MDR)
The hero tries to solve problems of the world by conscious methods alone. The Fool starts out with a different attitude, of openness, of being in touch with body, earth and unconsious, in the moment.
Jungian analyst David Tacey writes that consciousness may be a work against nature, but individuation – that is allowing one’s conscious journey to be informed by the unconscious – is a work with nature.
Image – Viola as clown
Activism and the Fool
Often those who dare to take action are called foolish or naïve to think that what they do will change things. Yet it often this down to earth, acting from instinct, yet informed by vision that really makes for radical change. For these people are radically in touch. Combined with compassion and persistence makes for the visionaries of life, like Ghandi.
The image you see here is of a friend who became ill after getting burnt out through GM activism. Part of her recovery was finding her a different place within herself from which to be an activist – her clown.
So I will finish by acknowledging two environmental activists of our time.
Both are heroines but neither act from the place of a driven hero (or so it seems to me!)
Both seem to embody the Fool’s instinctive and visionary stepping into action – but both will have drawn on far more than the Fool to achieve what they have done.
And both may have been considered foolish by others for their actions and vision, yet neither were afraid of this.
Image JBH in tree
Julia "Butterfly" Hill who lived on a 200-foot-tall ancient redwood tree named Luna from December 10, 1997 to December 18, 1999, north of San Francisco. She says, "Here I can be the voice and face of this tree, and for the whole forest that can't speak for itself."
Julia and several earlier Luna tree sitters occupied the old-growth giant to keep it, and nearby trees, from being cut down by landowner The Pacific Lumber Company, which agreed to save the area in exchange for her exit from the tree and $50,000 -- which went towards university science research.
Image Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai founded the green belt movement in Kenya in 1977. The group has planted more than 30 million trees across Africa, primarily by village women, in attempt to stop the massive deforestation of the continent.
In using forests to combat drought and ensure biodiversity, activists like Wangari make an essential link between environmentalism and peace, by ensuring humans stay within the productive limits of their supporting ecosystems.
Armed conflicts bring death and misery to millions of people in scores of countries around the world every day. Since 1989 the number of civil wars has tripled. Many of those conflicts are over limited resources or diminishing land, driven by over-exploitation of natural resources.
When forests that have housed and protected indigenous populations for thousands of years are cut down, natural borders and buffers between people disappear. Sources of livelihood become scarce. Severe drought and ecosystem collapses bring competition and war.
Wangari was beaten, harassed, and thrown in jail many times for her efforts to protect the environment. Throughout her struggles, she has used the power of non-violence and creative resistance to advocate for democracy and foil crimes against the planet.
Wangari Maathi has just won the Nobel Peace Prize.
She says, “We must clothe the earth in her green dress again”.
There’s a danger when talking about people like this that they get elevated onto plinths. And we throw mud at our leaders who don’t get it right. I hope they can simply inspire us today to step out fearlessly and find our own visions today.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes