Practice for Nature Connection, Creativity, and Community
I'd like to share a brief practice I've benefited from, focused on cultivating a relationship of reciprocal healing with the rest of nature. "Rest of nature" because we humans are an interconnected part of a glorious and complex whole.
As a therapist, I embrace a narrative therapy approach that supports co-creating a new story of healing and possibility. The practice I'm describing today embraces co-creating a new story of possibility and healing together with nature in a reciprocal way. This can include being co-witnesses, co-participants, and co-storytellers, with the natural world. What does this mean? It's easier to see how we humans are witnesses to what happens with the Earth. But what about vice versa? One example of how I see this happening is the way we as humans are witnessed and supported by aspects of the natural world, which may not get their due in this role. Especially when we're affected by trauma or grief, we may take refuge with an animal, a sacred place in the landscape, an ancient tree. They witness our suffering. We receive messages of hope and comfort from them. We may or may not have the means or awareness to step forward to give something back, or ask what is needed, and that is what this practice seeks to do.
This approach is interconnected and relational, rather than hierarchical or dominance-based. My personal journey has been a path of discovery towards the former and away from the latter, always a work in progress and an area of focus for practice and renewed intention, which is why the practice I'm describing has helped!
The starting point is asking the natural environment "what do you need" as a shift away from a primary focus of thinking "what am I getting out of this?" Reading Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass set me on the path of asking what the natural world needs, and I recommend reading this life-changing book as a foundation for cultivating a more reciprocal relationship with the Earth.
With these concepts in mind, here are some specific steps to take:
1. Choose an activity for seeking connection with the natural world. It might be a hike. It might be sitting under your favorite tree. It might be spending time with a pet. It could be seeking a wild animal sighting. Set an intention for reciprocity and relationship in your chosen activity, asking the part of nature you've chosen to connect with, "What do you need?"
2. Be open to experiences of mutual healing that may come in unexpected ways. Observe. Open your heart and your senses. Consider how interacting with the natural world in a new way might open the door to growth and healing for you, in a way that is also supportive for the natural world.
3. Create (or "co-create") a story of healing through creative means to capture and share the experience. Awe-filled nature experiences can be ephemeral. It can be difficult to describe to others the special thing that happened, the feeling of connection, the interaction. Creative arts may provide a path to capturing the meaning and the role nature played in the interaction. This may be through photography, poetry, other writing forms, sculpture, painting, and so on.
4. Share the story that has been created. This is a way to build community, encourage others in connection with the natural world, embody a new way of being that is supportive for you and for the Earth.
Unexpected experiences may emerge when you try this out! I hope you enjoy this practice of nature connection, creativity and community.
These slides are excerpts of a presentation titled "Healing Together with Nature," originally presented at the 2019 Quantum Storytelling Conference.