Tree Games

Trees have a history and mythology of being sacred beings with the capacity for healing. Many people are drawn to trees for various reasons – because the trees seem to have character, because they’re stoic sentinels of the forest, because they offer shelter and comfort. But can a tree communicate with a person through some sort of energetic or psychic capacity? You can try this game to find out.

This activity was inspired by a friend named Geoffrey McMullan, MSc, who lives in Ireland and specializes in wilderness therapy and tracking. He uses nature in his work as an addiction counselor, and has observed incredible results from his patients and clients in how they relate to their addiction or find inner wisdom through their relationship with the wilderness. One of Geoffrey’s nature games involves forming a deeper connection to and communication with a tree, stepping a good distance away from the tree, then, while blindfolded, seeing if you can find your way back to the tree. You use almost all the senses to experience and get to know the tree, and then transcending those senses to feel a connection to a tree that has less to do with logic and analysis and more of a spiritual consciousness that can’t be explained or forced.

child and tree

I think this is a fun activity to try with a few friends or older children (12 years old and up) who already have an appreciation of nature and an openness to try new things.

I have selected the Flatirons Vista Trail as a suggested location for this activity, but any trail with the following aspects will work:

  • Heavily wooded with aspens, pines, or spruce.
  • Not along very steep slopes. Ideally a wooded area that’s as flat as possible.
  • Somewhere you can safely go a little bit off trail without trespassing on private property or disturbing the landscape too much. You’ll want a little privacy and quiet for this activity.
  • Avoid areas with scrub oak, junipers or a lot of pine kill (can be hazardous during windy or wet conditions).

The Flatirons Vista Trail runs through the northern edge of Jefferson County Open Space land, which is a 7,390 acre parcel west of Rocky Flats between 120th Avenue and 80th Avenue. The City of Westminster boasts (in their Feb/March 2010 Issue of Westminster City Views) “No other city in metropolitan Denver has 5 miles of

public land between its western edge and the foothills. Over 43,000 acres of property both within and abutting Westminster preserve this amazing ecosystem.” Indeed, as you’re walking westward toward Eldorado Canyon and the foothills, all you see are rolling hills and trees, and maybe the occasional herd of cows since this land is used for grazing. This is a trail that’s close to Boulder, Broomfield, Westminster, Arvada and Golden, but feels spacious and quiet, at least once you get far enough from Highway 93.

Instructions for Tree Games

Find a spot among the trees where you and your partners in this game can feel comfortable, safe and have some privacy. You may need to walk off the trail far enough so that you can’t be easily heard or hear other hikers pass by, but not too far away that you lose your sense of direction to return back to the trail. On the Flatirons Vista Trail, once you arrive at the second cattle fence where the trees begin to get thicker, you can venture south along a clearing the trees where it appears a few vehicles may have traveled in the past. There are relatively flat areas of trees where you can do this activity.

You’ll need at least one other person and some sort of bandana or blindfold, or if you don’t have anything to use as a blindfold, you can go on the “honor system” and just keep your eyes shut tight when it’s your turn.

The “blind” person is led to a tree while blindfolded and introduced to the tree by the seeing partner.

“Tree, meet Bob. Bob, meet your tree.”

Then the blind person is allowed to spend time getting to know the tree. They can touch the tree, smell the tree, and use all of their senses other than sight to get a feeling from the tree. They should not open their eyes or take off the blindfold at this time.

The seeing partner quietly sits and observes, allowing at least 15 minutes of quiet time for the blind person to get acquainted with their tree. Some questions for the blind person to consider privately may include:

What gender is your tree?

How old is your tree?

What mood is it in?

What is the feeling you’re getting from this tree? Happy, sad, angry, depressed?

Is there anything this tree wants you to know?

The seeing partner should ask these questions all at once at the beginning of the 15 minutes of quiet time, allowing the blind partner to formulate their own questions or responses when they’re ready.

At the end of the 15 minutes, the seeing partner gently suggests that the blind partner let them know when they’re ready to be taken away from their tree. Once the blind partner expresses they’re ready, the seeing partner takes them away from the tree, randomly walking in different directions in order to disorient him or her. The blind partner keeps their eyes closed or the blindfold intact during this phase of the game.

When the seeing partner is satisfied with this disorientation task, they can do one of two things, depending on the landscape:

1. Allow the blind partner to open their eyes or take off their blind fold and find their tree.

2. Ask the blind partner to (while still blind) point to the direction where they believe their tree to be, then guide them in that direction so they don’t trip over rocks and twigs. Occasionally stop and have the blind person reassess the direction they feel they need to go.

With either of these options, the seeing partner should affirm or reject the blind person’s choice of tree or direction. In other words, if the blind person is pointing in the wrong direction to walk, let them know. Or if they select the wrong tree, let them know.

When the blind person finds their tree, they should open their eyes or take off their blindfold and touch or embrace the tree to see if its energy has changed in any way. Does seeing the tree change the feeling of being with the tree? How?

When I played this game with my 12-year-old, both she and I found our tree, although we made a least one wrong assessment of the direction we needed to go to find it at first.  The highlight of this game, surprisingly, wasn’t finding the tree, but feeling it’s energy while we were spending time with it. We both felt a resonance to something older, more rooted in the environment, both literally and figuratively.

A Secret World in the Bobcat Ridge Natural Area (Loveland)

bobcat ridge natural area viewLocation: Bobcat Ridge Natural Area, West of Loveland near Masonville

Directions: From I-25, take Hwy. 34 west to Loveland/Estes Park. Turn right (north) on CR27 where the sign indicates Masonville. Go north on CR27 approximately 4.7 miles and turn left (west) on CR32 at the Bobcat Ridge sign. Go another ¼ mile to the parking lot for Bobcat Ridge Natural Area.

Duration: 2- 1/2 – 3 hours

Route: The Valley Loop Trail, a 3.8 mile roundtrip.

Access Notes: Some trails may be closed due to muddy or slick conditions, so check before you go. The parking lot fills up fast, even on a weekday off-season, so arrive early (before 10 a.m.), especially if you want solitude. Dogs are not allowed, but horses and bikes are allowed. There are many flash flood warning signs surrounding the parking lot and access road. Check the weather before you go and be cautious about using this trail during times when heavy thunderstorms are predicted.

The hike

After blasting past the mile markers on I-25 at 75 m.p.h. and then driving through the strip-mall-lined streets of Loveland, the first impression you get when you step out of your car (especially early in the morning) at the Bobcat Ridge parking lot is…silence. Blessed, soothing silence. Sure, once in a while a plane will rip through the sky overhead and rumble its way east or west, but otherwise this long valley nestled between Horsetooth Reservoir and the western foothills is calm and peaceful. To the east of the valley are red-capped cliffs that are reminiscent of extreme western Colorado and Utah canyon country. To the west are rolling hills that bear the scar of a fire that raged through the hills in 2000. Charred tree trunks dot the hills where the fire destroyed the forest, but to the north and south the hills appear untouched and green with pine and spruce.

view of valleyThe valley is lush with native, tall grasses that cover the gently rolling ground. In spring through fall you’ll hear meadowlarks calling out with their distinctive chortling warble, or you may spot one perched atop a thick blade of grass or a shrub. There is a historic cabin along the Valley Loop trail (if you start counterclockwise) as well as a few present-day ranches and small farms that are situated to the north of the parking lot.

The Valley Loop trail cuts across the valley meadow and up into the pines at the base of the burn area, affording you a beautiful and expansive view of the valley below and Horsetooth to the east. If you choose to go on the Ginny Trail further west, you’ll get an even better and higher view of the western mountains as well as the valley. Adding that trail will probably add another hour or two to the total hike.

I did this hike in very late winter, right before the first day of spring, on a day when it was mostly clear and sunny and the high temperature climbed up to a pleasant 65 degrees. This is a good hike for either cloudy summer days, or in the spring and fall, because most of the trail is exposed and I can imagine it can get fairly beastly on a hot summer day. The exposed nature of the trail can also make it a challenging hike on windy days.

A Secret World

deer scatOne of the first things I noticed on the trail was the large amount of deer, elk and coyote scat right there on the trail. It was everywhere! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much scat without being deep in the woods somewhere west of the foothills. The coyote scat is obvious, since dogs aren’t allowed on the trail and this stuff was full of gray fur from the rodents they’d been eating. I didn’t see one single deer or coyote while hiking, which made me wonder when these animals actually come out to hunt and defecate on the trail. At dusk? In the middle of the night? I realized there’s a secret world that I’m not privy that exists when I leave or sleep at night, and I found myself imagining catching a glimpse of it. There’s a sign at the parking lot that access to this area is only allowed from dawn until dusk, so I doubt very many people have seen the secret world of coyote packs hunting down voles and deer herds foraging in the meadow.

This scat was evidence of beings that were in existence somewhere now, napping or hiding in their dens or foraging in more remote and private areas of the woods during the day. They are just out of reach and out of eyesight. But they exist in this moment in time.

Then there are the creatures that existed in a different moment in time, creatures that I know very little about and have never seen, nor will you or I ever see, alive and in person. Those are the creatures that lived on this ground 28 million years ago, when the Front Range was a different eco-system and the entire region between Kansas and the deserts of Nevada began to rise to form the Rocky Mountains. Volcanoes erupted up and down the Front Range in throughout Colorado. All that remains of the sedimentary blanket that extended west before the Rockies formed are blocks of rock that rise perpendicular to the ground. These rocks can be seen along the trail, some as large as suitcases and some like books, lichen-covered and dusty, sticking straight up or at a 45 degree angle out of the ground.

The burned out trees speak of a moment in time in the past when these hills were burning almost out of control. In February, 2009, the fire burned about 52 acres here. In 2000, a fire burned more than 20,000 acres.

rocks jutting out of groundThe activity

This is a good activity for kids ages 6 and up as well as adults.

Find a place to sit for about fifteen minutes where you can have a good view of something that feels compelling.

Take a few minutes to think about everything you’ve seen and heard that is evidence of a being passing through and living its life in a different time in the past. It could be animal scat from the day before, a dead tree, a sedimentary rock formation millions of years old. What other evidence have you seen that speaks to a secret world, or of creatures that can be thought of or heard, but not seen?

Imagine seeing the past like a slide show. First, 30 millions years ago when this area was much, much flatter and the mountains hadn’t yet formed. What do you see in your mind’s eye? Then the upheaval of the ground and the formation of the Rockies. Ancient horses and mastadoons, then the ice age, then the arrival of humans, all the way up to the present moment. You are sitting here, a snapshot in a moment of time. See it as you see a time-lapse series of photos. See trees grow and decay, snow melt and fall, erosion reshaping the hills.

Imagine what this land may look like in the future, in months, then years then millennia.

How does it feel to see yourself here in such a brief moment in time?

How does contemplating all the beings that were here before you, even only minutes ago all the way up to hundreds of millions of years ago, make you feel about being here now?

Does imagining all the things that have lived and died here make you feel more like a part of the Earth or less? What is your part in the story?

Author, philosopher and anthropologist Loren Eisley once pondered what human or non-human creatures a million years from now or longer would think if they came upon his bones in the sediment. Here he was, examining ancient bones in the desert, wondering who would examine his bones in the future.

Almost everything that has ever existed, still exists in some form on Earth. Decaying plants and animals break down into chemicals in the rock or nutrients in the soil, which then get absorbed into new beings like trees and insects. The Earth takes in sunlight energy and a few random rocks and dust from space, and churns out new forms of life every day. If you were to view the Earth from space in a time-elapsed series of photos, you’d see the face of it swirling, shifting, moving underneath the constantly moving clouds. Landmasses pulled apart and stacked back together in different arrangements. Ice encroaching and receding over mountains and oceans. Water moving like blood, circulating from the air to the land and back out to sea.

The Earth is in constant state of change, from the molecular to the global level. The arrow of time never changes direction as far as we know.

What evidence of its existence do you think modern Industrial Civilization will leave behind in the landscape?

Addressing Activist Burnout

This is a guest article written by my friend and colleague Scott Brown:

activists protestingLooking back on my career as an environmental campaigner is a bittersweet experience. There were many highlights: Getting the news that the hazardous waste incinerators I’d been involved in helping to block would not be built; learning that the chemical company we’d targeted had decided to not produce CFCs (chloroflourocarbons); making headlines through research, large protests, and civil disobedience; and many other positive decisions and developments that I felt I had helped influence. Not to mention all the wonderful people met and relationships formed.

At the same time, I have to own the fact that unconscious forces in my psyche were driving my behavior and attitudes, and that I did not really mature as a human being over that span of those years. Like so many activists, I was angry and felt victimized. I believed that shame and blame were appropriate and effective tactics to use against my “opponents,” and I took myself and my work very, very seriously. I was burning out and this only fed the anger and resentment. I was also not as effective as I could have been with a healthier attitude.

Thanks in part to the wake up call in the form of a failed marriage, about five years ago I realized it was high time to make a fundamental shift in how I approached my activism and the world in general. It was time to do my own inner work and bring consciousness to what had been unconscious and automatic for my whole life. I don’t think I’m alone in this respect, either in the degree of unconsciousness or in the desire for change. I was fortunate to have been guided to teachers who could help me find a new, peaceful way to live and work.

Shortly after starting that journey of training and transformation I knew that part of what I wanted to do was share what I was learning with other activists. I knew that my main contribution to healing the planet was to help heal the people—to make the link between body, mind, spirit and action, to put some meat on the bones of Gandhi’s dictum to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If we want a nonviolent world we must begin with ourselves and practice nonviolence in a dedicated and consistent way.

So it is with happy heart that I offer, along with John Ehrhart, the upcoming Introduction to Restorative Activism workshop. My hope is that it will be fun and engaging, and that on-going communities of support may emerge. Information on this workshop can be found at

For the Great Turning,
Scott Brown

Scott is cofounder of Open Path Trainings and Restorative Divorce. He is trained in peacemaking, mediation, restorative justice, and the Hakomi method of psychotherapy. Currently finishing a Master’s degree program at Naropa University in Transpersonal Psychology/Ecopsychology, Scott worked as an environmental campaigner for 15 years with Greenpeace, the Idaho Conservation League, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. He can be reached at or 720.565.9388.

Are You Experiencing Eco-Anxiety?

sad face

You’ve just finished reading a particularly disturbing article online about industrial agriculture and its unsustainable practices and you’re furious. You spend an evening watching the movie Collapse on Comcast On Demand and you feel slightly depressed about your future. You’ve been talking to your friends about the economy and now you’re worried about what’s going to happen when the recession ends and inflation kills the value of the money you’ve been conscientiously saving in the last few years.

It just seems like it’s always something that’s ruining your optimism and desire to feel that everything is right with the world.

You feel pretty good about your job, but someone just told you that there will be no use for your profession after Peak Oil. You have been living within your means but now you worry that you own no land and won’t be able to grow your own food when food shortages strike. You’ve been buying “green” and organic products for years but just read a headline that Whole Foods is destroying the planet.

Argh! You’re this close to giving up on everything you’ve come to believe and just going back to a life of blissful ignorance about the state of the Earth. What’s the point? You tell yourself. You are only one person and you can’t save the planet. And besides, all this is stressing you out.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re experiencing eco-anxiety. That’s what ecopsychologists call that underlying feeling of fear and anger over the injustices and destruction of the planet and its inhabitants. I suspect this is fairly common, but the problem is that there are no statistics to back that up, because quite simply, no one likes to talk about it.

So if you know you’re feeling eco-anxiety, what can you do about it?

The Problem With Doing Something About It

I read an article in Time Magazine online a couple years ago where ecopsychologists were treating people with eco-anxiety. The article advised that in order to feel better, you should choose to do something to help a cause you feel passionate about, or prepare some kind of personal action plan.

So let’s say you do that. Let’s say you prepare for collapse by paying off debt and learning how to grow food. Or, you donate money to the World Wildlife Fund or the Wilderness Society because the thought of hundreds of species of animals going extinct every year is too grim to even contemplate.

You join a group or an organization, even a movement like the Transition Town movement (that’s what I did). But sooner or later it will dawn on you while you’re boiling jars of home-grown pumpkin in the pressure cooker or learning how to fix a bicycle flat that it’s not enough. It can NEVER be enough.

You’ll be sitting in a seminar where you’re learning about how to circumvent the illegalities of rainwater catchment and you’ll suddenly be hit with how ridiculous it is in the face of what you know is coming down for all of us.

The scope and breadth of the problems we’re facing as a civilization won’t be solved if by magic suddenly everyone grew their own carrots and peas, stored rainwater in a barrel and occasionally rode a bike to work. That’s because when the sh** hits the fan, your job will cease to exist and there’s no way in heck you can grow all your own food on a suburban plot and hope to survive for more than a week. There are people in the modern, Western world right now who are burning furniture to heat their home because they can’t afford to eat and keep their thermostats set at a comfortable temperature.

You soon come to the realization that even if you were to do a little something every day (like reducing your trash or eating less meat), or even change your life completely (by moving away to a self-sustaining communal farm and totally disconnecting from everything and everyone you know), it still won’t stop the destruction of the rainforest or the fact that when the climate switch gets flipped (and it will) and starts a negative feedback loop, we will have been too late.

An A-Typical Bit of Advice

In our fast-paced, gotta-have-it, have-no-time culture, we love problem-solving with the quick fix. I know, because I have spent the last three years writing attention-getting marketing copy for internet-based companies that sell information and self-help products.

What I learned during that time is that people don’t want to hear about how to fix their deep-seated issues or spend long hours slogging through intense and painful therapy.  They want to know the “3 Easy Tips” for making the person of the opposite sex INSTANTLY attracted to them. They want to know the 1-step plan or the 5 mistakes to avoid and by doing so, change everything forever. If anything I was selling even smacked of sounding complicated, it had at least better be entertaining.

We want the quick fix, and we want it to be fun. AND effective.

There’s no quick fix for eco-anxiety. Sure, there are stop-gap solutions such as taking a walk in nature, volunteering at a nonprofit or learning a new skill for self-sufficiency. But unless you get out of the mode of doing and actually stop to confront your feelings and talk about them, you will become what I call an “angry activist.”

Angry activists are those blessed souls who have spent hundreds of hours in thankless service to a cause, only to feel utterly helpless against the onslaught of ignorance and continuing environmental destruction. Angry activists develop a contempt for those they see as being the “cause” of all their frustration: namely, people who drive SUVs or watch blue ray DVDs on their high-definition televisions. You know—“those people.” I have no such contempt because a) I’m one of those people and b) I am a product of our culture—we all are. I have compassion for all of us. We are all doing the best we can with what we know. There was a time not too long ago when I had no inkling of such terms as global warming or Peak Oil. There was a time not too long ago when I thought recycling was a pain in the ass and a waste of time, and so did most of my neighbors. Times have changed, I have changed, and I see everyone I know (SUV-owning and not) professing some level of concern over what they know is wrong with our system.

Angry activists are no help to their cause. They can’t help but sound judgmental, even to those who agree with their ideas and feel an affinity with their philosophy.

Therefore, you can spend your time doing, doing, doing, but still feel like you’ve gotten nowhere. You’re still bitter and scared and furious and sick with worry.

The best chance you have to deal with eco-anxiety is to actually admit you feel it and talk about it. Talk about it to yourself, then with your spouse or partner, then with your community. If we ignore and repress our feelings, they will only come back stronger and in other ways.

A caveat: just be careful who you talk to. Not everyone is aware of all the issues facing our civilization. Sometimes trying to tell someone how worried you are about your future because of Peak Oil will backfire if the person dismisses you because they don’t know enough about it. “What are you talking about? We won’t run out of oil anytime soon. We’ll be using alternative energy before that happens, anyway. Chill-ax, dude.” They smirk at you and you kick yourself for even opening your mouth, because now on top of feeling eco-anxiety, you worry about being labeled an “alarmist” or a purveyor of “doom and gloom” by someone you like.

Find someone you trust, who shares your knowledge and viewpoint about that which most makes you feel despair. If there are workshops in your area on Awakening the Dreamer or The Work That Reconnects, participate in them. Get online and find websites that write about the issues you’re most concerned about and post comments and share ideas. Get a group of friends together with the expressed intention of “venting” your feelings on the state of the world.

By participating in such communal discourse, you’ll find you feel so much better, at least for a while. You’ll be amazed at what a relief it is to know there are others out there who share your concerns and frustrations. After being in the Transition community for the last year and a half and having sat through many lectures and discussions on various eco-topics, I know how energizing it is to be a part of a community that’s taking steps toward a positive direction, however small. It is heartening to listen to someone voice the feelings I myself have been hiding for months, maybe years, and finally be able to admit them to myself and to someone else in public and NOT be ridiculed.

It is only after we’re able to face our fears that we can be a force for change in the world. With denial and repression, there is only anger and despair.

7 Signs You’ve Become Disconnected from Nature

logs1. You view nature as a “resource.”

Nine thousand years ago, when human beings began to cultivate the ground and grow their food on a more organized and systematic scale, we began to see ourselves as being in control of the land and of nature. For our civilization, it was a turning point. Agriculture and animal husbandry allowed civilization to flourish and develop. We began to tame the forests and prairies and build expansive cities where great minds could invent and explore and innovate.

However, in the process of all this so-called “progress” we’ve become convinced we are somehow separate from nature. We’ve somehow forgotten that we, too, are animals and that we need a healthy and thriving ecosystem in order to breathe, eat, feel content and safe. We are not exempt from the laws of biology and physics.

Like animals, we need to eat and take shelter. But unlike animals, we take much more than we need and we enslave and marginalize those of our species that we see as inferior or undeserving. We compete instead of cooperating. We spoil and poison the land where we live.

We have forgotten that everything is connected; that when we blow off a mountaintop in order to extract coal, we pollute the waterways and air and cause suffering in other ways; that when we kill off the predators in an area to protect our livestock, we see an explosion in the population of herbivores, who soon decimate the landscape with their foraging.

If you know you’re guilty of seeing nature only as food or a “resource” to be exploited or used up, you probably need to spend a week enjoying the beauty of nearby wilderness, to see how there is intrinsic value in nature, not just economic value. Because without a healthy ecosystem, you yourself will become diseased.

buildings reflection2. You have no idea what the native plants and animals are where you live.

This is because you don’t go outside enough to have a chance to see them, or you simply aren’t aware of what grows naturally outside of the pristinely maintained shrubs and lawns of your suburb. (By the way, most of the weeds on your lawn are not native; they were imported many decades ago as seeds in cargo ships and on the clothing of travelers and pioneers.)

If you spend a lot of time outside, whether on daily walks or just relaxing in your backyard, you’ll notice some things. You’ll notice what time the sun rises and sets each day, and you’ll look forward to the solstice and the shift toward longer days. You’ll know the average first day of the first frost, or exactly when in the spring trees start to bud in the spring.

If you know all this, you’ll be aware when the climate changes and things start to go awry. You’ll see more or less of a bird species and you’ll realize that a warm winter and a sudden spring freeze means no fruit from your plum trees in the summer. You’ll know that less fruit year after year means less birds and animals.

When you’re aware of the ebb and flow of the natural process where you live, you know immediately when something isn’t right, or is out of the norm. Not only that, but you’ll know the effect those changes will have on the wildlife and landscape in your city. Not many people can do that. Maybe that’s one reason why some climate change skeptics might think temperatures getting a little warmer (or colder) is actually a good thing.

3. You feel an underlying sense of despair about what’s happening to the Earth.

You watch the news, you see the kind of books that are appearing on the bestseller list year after year, and you’ve seen documentaries that have enraged and depressed you. You know that we’re experiencing a rate of species extinction that is so pervasive and accelerated, it’s rivaled only by what happened in the Permian era, or maybe the Jurassic era that wiped out the dinosaurs. And yet, no comet has collided with our planet. The source of the impact this time is humans.

You’ve heard about climate change and peak oil and you’re disturbed and frightened by what you imagine might happen to civilization a decade or a century from now.

And yet, you have to live in this world and participate in society just like everyone else. You still have to drive to and from work. You eat food you know is probably tainted with GMOs and imported from ridiculous distances away. You feel like you need to own certain things in order to function in this world—like cell phones or computers—but these things are making you feel more stressed and disconnected.

You know things have to change, but you don’t know how. You want to do something, but you don’t know what. You feel a vague sense of doom and despair that never quite goes away.

If you’re feeling this way, the best remedy might be to shut everything off for a while and go spend a weekend in a natural setting. When you spent time in the woods or in the peace and solitude of nature, you realize that there still is a sense of order and sacredness in the world.  You feel aligned with the world in a way that’s ancient and unshakeable. The despair dissipates for a while, because you sense that whatever happens, that mountain will remain in its glory centuries, even millennia from now.

Another remedy is to do something—join an organization that is working toward changing the paradigm of our culture.

4. You’re feeling down and you don’t know why.

Human beings need a connection to the natural world in order to feel mentally healthy and whole. Whether that connection is a pet, a garden, a tree or a nearby park—it doesn’t matter. Studies have shown that spending time in a natural setting can be psychologically healing and relieve stress. One study in particular done in the U.K. concluded that individuals who spent the same amount of time walking in a park each day reported feeling less depressed and stressed than another group that spent the same amount of time walking in a mall.

So if you’re feeling down and you don’t know why, take a walk outside, preferably somewhere with plants and animals and the sound of birds chirping. You’ll feel a little bit better, and if you do this often enough, it might just keep the blues at bay.

5. You saw the movie “Avatar” and now the real world seems gray and depressing in comparison.

A recent article on CNN reveals that some people who saw the movie “Avatar” feel depressed and even suicidal over the idea that the utopian, beautiful world of Pandora does not exist on Earth. One moviegoer posted this on an Avatar forum:

“When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed … gray. It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning. It just seems so … meaningless. I still don’t really see any reason to keep … doing things at all. I live in a dying world.”

While I haven’t seen the movie myself, I’ve heard from several people that it has “ecopsychological” undertones. It appeals to our desire for a better connection to our world, for a more sustainable relationship with the Earth that would allow the possibility of the kind of beauty and prosperity that’s depicted in the movie.

If Avatar depressed you, you probably need to find a beautiful place in nature and spend a little time there.

6. If had an acre of land and you suddenly had to grow all your own food, you know you’d starve.

If things got bad economically and there were food shortages, or if you couldn’t afford store-bought food for some reason, you suspect you’d be in trouble.

Not just because you may not own enough land to cultivate, but because you wouldn’t know what to do with that land if you had it.

That’s because you have no idea about how to mend the soil, how to grow food, and how to save seeds. It’s not your fault, really. Agriculture and animal husbandry isn’t something that’s taught in public schools, not even rural ones.

Blame it on the industrialization and globalization. Even people living in the West knew how to be self-reliant probably up until fifty years ago. During the Depression many of those that survived and thrived did so because they were able to grow their own food. Victory Gardens that sprang up during WWII provided 40% of the American population’s vegetable and fruit needs. When Cuba faced an oil crises in the early 90s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, most people lost an average of 20 pounds because they were eating less and walking more. Fortunately for Cubans, they didn’t starve en masse because many city dwellers still remembered how to cultivate the soil and grow food, so when the government mandated that every available inch of ground be used to plant crops, an urban revolution took place. Empty lots became community gardens and rooftops became lush with edible plants. People knew what to do, and if they didn’t, they had relatives and friends who did.

You don’t have to grow all your own food now. You don’t even have to have land. But it’s good to learn how, whether through renting a plot in a community garden or volunteering at a local CSA.

It’ll make you appreciate the soil, the climate and the land where you live.

7. Your idea of a good time is Las Vegas, Monday Night Football, and spending the entire day at the mall.

Hey, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy watching sports once in a while or letting it all hang out when you’re on vacation. I enjoy shopping and entertainment just as much as the next person. It’s when you rely on those things for your sense of fulfillment and joy that it becomes a problem.

What happens when the TV stops working for some reason or you’re unemployed and can no longer afford to go shopping? What happens when vacations become staycations due to budget constraints and you’re faced with an entire week at home with no money to spend on outside entertainment?

The bigger question is—are any of these activities really contributing to your physical and psychological wellbeing?

There is such joy in seeing mist float over a lake. The sound of rain dripping off trees or the wind combing through a meadow can put you at ease. A deep red desert canyon is both mysterious and timeless to contemplate. None of these things—short of the resources it may take to drive to where they are—cost money to enjoy. You can even find a trail near your house and spend an hour watching birds. Nature is everywhere. You are nature. You belong to this Earth, you just need to find your place in it.

Paradigm Coma

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
— Rumi
dog sleeps on railroad tracks
Paradigm coma

I tend to slip into a paradigm coma every now and then. I go back to sleep. I forget everything I’ve learned about peak oil, impending economic collapse, climate change, species extinction and go back to living according to the prevailing western paradigm: keep striving for more, keep improving your assets, success equals money and affluence. This is the paradigm where we are so well off that we can’t concern ourselves with social and environmental problems at hand; we’d rather gossip about the sex lives of celebrities and entertain ourselves with fantasy in some electronic form.

I don’t know why I keep falling back asleep. Is it because it’s so hard to change your paradigm once it’s been programmed in you since birth? Is it because I simply can’t accept that anything bad will happen to me/us? Is it just my optimistic nature?
Sometime in the next several weeks I will be co-facilitating a “Work That Reconnects” workshop with my friend and fellow ecopsychologist Donna Dubois. I’m looking forward to providing a forum for people to express their feelings and angst over this very issue. I need the support and understanding of people who know what it feels like to be at the windowsill of two worlds.
I’m also planning on hosting a book discussion group with Carolyn Baker’s book, “Sacred Demise: Walking the Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse” an examination of the heart and soul of our predicament.
Meanwhile, whenever I feel myself seduced into slipping back into my western paradigm coma, I ask myself what really matters and what will have real meaning in my life. What thrills my heart and soul, no matter how many years have passed and no matter where I am in my life? The answer is always the mountains. The mountains are my constant lover.

Winter Hiking with Children

Bear Canyon Trail
Skye pauses along the Bear Canyon Trail

My daughter’s winter break is winding down and the day after tomorrow she’s going back to school for the last half of sixth grade. It was a beautiful winter day today, sunny and mostly clear, calm, with temperatures in the mid-40s. I took her on a one-hour walk along the Bear Canyon trail, directly south of NCAR in south Boulder.

I started thinking about what kinds of contemplative activities we could do together along this hike that I would recommend later for parents and their kids on similar winter days. The most obvious ideas came first—asking her to tell me what she thought the animals and insects were doing this time of year. She’s 12, so her answers came easily and with a lot more sophistication than I expected. She named a burrowing insect that hibernates in winter, and described what prairie dogs might be doing when it’s cold out and the ground is covered in snow (“mostly hanging out in their deep burrows, coming out occasionally to try to find grass”). We saw birds flittering about, but not as many as there are in the spring and summer. Even though we didn’t hear any insects, she did spy one lone grasshopper warming himself on a large boulder.

Everything is quieter on a winter hike. The snow muffles much of the ambient sound anyway, but the silence is mostly due to the low population of birds and insects this time of year. The sound of the water trickling through the half-frozen creek underscored the quiet and felt soothing, like listening to a fountain.

Up ahead, only minutes after we started on the trail, Skye pointed out the two cone-shaped hills below NCAR and asked if we could climb to the top of the tallest one.

“It’s bigger than it looks. It’s also harder to walk up there than it seems.” I warned.

bear canyon hill
Skye summits the first hill south of NCAR

She didn’t believe me until we were much closer and she realized that the hills were quite steep and quite tall. But she wanted to try, so I stepped back and watched her as she trudged upwards. She made it as far as the first summit, looked around, then beckoned me.

“Come up here, mama!”

No thanks, I said. I’m not in the mood to suck air on that steep walk up. I’ll just stay down here and take photos…

This gave me an idea for hikes with older children such as Skye. They already have an idea of what animals are doing in winter and may find the activity of talking about that a little anticlimactic, but Skye’s desire to scale the hill was interesting. I asked her why she felt she wanted to get to the top, and how she felt when she was there.

She said she wanted to see all the way around, and when she got up there, she felt tall with achievement. It reminded me of the scene in the movie “Into the Wild” when Alexander Supertramp scaled the rocky hill above his campsite near the Salton Sea.

animal tracks in snow
Animal tracks are easily seen in snow

When she returned to the trail I asked her to look around and tell me where she would love to explore, if she could. She pointed up at a north-facing slope on the other side of the creek, where animal tracks led into the trees.

“I want to go there, because it looks mysterious. I want to know what’s on the other side of that hill.”

We couldn’t go there because we couldn’t cross the creek, and neither could any other hikers, so we knew that the tracks crossing the slope could only be wild animal tracks—most likely deer or fox tracks, maybe coyote. The tracks were everywhere. That’s one of the features of hiking in snow that’s fun for kids—seeing where animals roam around in the fields and forest when no one is looking.

We were just about ready to turn back when the trail narrowed and was enveloped in shadow. Skye wanted to keep going because she said she loves darkness. I asked her why and to describe the kind of darkness she’s referring to. She said she likes dark woods, small rooms, or going outside after sunset. I kept asking her how it makes her feel and what it reminds her of, and why it soothing to her.

This could be a question you might ask your older child on a hike. Ask them to look around, especially if you’re in a location where you can see far down valley or up at the mountains. Where would they like to explore, assuming there could easily get there or fly up there? Why? How does it make them feel to look at it?

When I’m taking a walk or jogging in the morning and see a dark, misty cloud cover the Front Range mountains I’m drawn to them the same way Skye was drawn to the shadowed hills on the other side of the creek.  I want to be there. I want to explore that mystery, to be in the middle of that gray darkness, to feel what it must feel like to be surrounded by shrouded peaks. There’s something comforting and thrilling about it that compels me to stare at it until I feel it in my bones.

Our walk today was brief. Just enough time to breathe in some fresh air and see what nature is up to this Monday in January. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about hiking with my child it’s this: keep it relatively short. Have a reward at the end. Today, it was lunch at Subway.

The Trauma of Living in Two Worlds

CranesCarolyn Baker, author of “Sacred Demise: Walking the Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse” writes in a recent article that we are all experiencing some sort of psychological trauma because of what we have seen unfold in the last decade. The shock of 9/11, Katrina, neighbors losing their homes, resource depletion, endless war and increasing personal hardship has made us all suffer from a form of PTSD. Whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, we are psychologically affected by what we are seeing, experiencing and hearing each and every day.

I, too, feel traumatized and changed by everything I’ve been learning in the last several years. Four years ago, I thought the only thing standing in the way of having a better and better life each year was my own ambitions and motivation. I looked forward to always having more: more happiness, more prosperity, more money, and more fun in the future. After I learned about the realities of Peak Oil, climate change and resource depletion, my world turned up-side down. I could no longer assume that life would just keep getting better and easier—not for my family nor for society.

I had what’s called a “peak moment”—the moment that comes right after fully understanding the predicament humans are in on the planet and realizing that you can no longer go back to assuming things will be normal again. This is the moment when you see the futility of the paradigm of western culture—the paradigm that economic growth is necessary and good and must always be the focus of our collective talents and energy. Endless growth in a finite world is physically impossible, and the limits to this growth have already started to manifest around us. Here in the Denver area, it’s not difficult to see the end result of building too many strip malls and having too much development. Businesses are closing left and right, home prices have been dropping, and vacant retail buildings have started deteriorating after a decade or more of disrepair and exposure to weather.

And yet, despite the obvious evidence, there are two new WalMarts being constructed within 12 miles of where I live. And yet, city councils of five adjoining towns are considering a proposal from a developer to build a major freeway on the far west of town, where they hope to also build more strip malls, more office buildings, and more homes.

This is insanity. We live in a culture that doesn’t see how completely insane its actions are. We assume what we’re doing makes sense. We see it as “progress.” We listen with hope and impatience to mainstream media give us updates weekly on how fast we’re recovering from this economic blip and getting back to normal.

But what is “normal”?

Is normal going back to building more strip malls and tract home neighborhoods where there was once farmland? Is normal pushing mortgages people can’t really afford? Is normal encouraging people to take on more and more debt (individually and on a public level) that can never be repaid because we won’t have the resources to fuel the growth that is necessary to pay off that debt?

I don’t live in a normal world anymore. I live in two worlds, actually. One world is the world I grew up in and have been socialized by. It’s the world that’s telling me it’s ok to believe that technology will solve all our problems and that if we’re not making more money this month than last month, there’s something seriously wrong with the picture. The other world is the one where I see the reality (kind of like Neo finally sees The Matrix). This is the reality where our unexamined assumptions have led us to polluting 70% of our waterways, turning fertile soil into a chemical sponge, exterminating species, and basing our entire survival on a resource that is getting more and more challenging to find and extract. In this reality, the world has a different future than the one that’s being advertised on T.V.

In my world, in the way I hope it will be, the future is where people matter more than money, where everyone realizes the intrinsic value of nature, and where every problem isn’t automatically solved with some object that can be mass produced, marketed and distributed (with the lowest cost basis and therefore highest profit margin possible).

These two world views are completely in opposition, and yet I must live my life believing both.

Living in these two worlds has made me feel traumatized.  It has affected me deeply. I began to feel that my job had no meaning, that writing marketing copy was just one more way I was contributing to the insanity. I listened to the directives to work harder to make more profit and I wanted to laugh the hysterical laugh of the lunatic! I was being told to believe the destructive lie, to live it, to embrace it as my mantra. I tried, but I failed to see any other vision behind this besides the mindless striving for more—the disease of modern society.

Whenever I feel the trauma creeping up within me, I know that I have to go get grounded—fast. I escape from the chatter and noise of this insanity and go off into the mountains or into the woods. This is where I can finally exhale out the pent up tension and fear and clear my head. Nature doesn’t require anything of me. The trees stand quietly, embracing me in their shadows. A squirrel trills out a call that sounds like a cross between a joyful proclamation and a warning (depending on my mood). The wind descends down the valley and cancels out all other sounds for a few seconds. There is peace. I am enough.

This place has been here long before the age of industrialization. It will be here for a good, long time after industrialization finally sputters and runs out of steam. The trees don’t care about profits and politics. The mountain could care less how many gadgets I own or if I’m wearing the most fashionable technical gear. This is where I come to just BE, this is a place where I belong because I, too, am nature.

There are many good ways of dealing with and tending to our trauma for what is happening in the world. We can get together with friends and envision what world we want to see in the future. We can prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We can teach others what we know about gardening, canning, chicken-keeping and other “lost” skills. We can talk about our feelings—the more we do so, the better. And finally, we can just go and be— in the woods, in a meadow, on top of the mountain. We can find that place in our soul that longs to connect with the land from which we were created.

Contemplative Outdoor Activities for Children

Richard Louv states in his book, Last Child in the Woods, “The shift in our relationship to the natural world is startling, even in settings that one would assume are devoted to nature. Not that long ago, summer camp was a place where you camped, hiked in the woods, learned about plants and animals, or told firelight stories about ghosts or mountain lions. As likely as not today, “summer camp” is a weight-loss camp, or a computer camp. For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear —to ignore. A recent television ad depicts a four-wheel-drive SUV racing along a breathtakingly beautiful mountain stream—while in the backseat two children watch a movie on a flip-down video screen, oblivious to the landscape and water beyond the windows.”

If children don’t feel a connection to nature, and don’t see the importance of conserving the integrity of the natural world, where will the Earth’s future environmental stewards come from?

Teaching children that all life is connected is important, so that when they become adults they understand the importance of careful research and planning when it comes to technology and development, so that we don’t lose species. They’ll know that we cannot survive without a thriving and healthy ecosystem, and that an ecosystem consists of everything from clean water to healthy soil to insects and birds. Many critics of conservation and proponents of things like drilling ANWAR and the Gulf of Mexico say that environmentalists care more about polar bears and reindeer than they do about people.

That statement implies that we don’t need polar bears, or caribou, or any other animal for our survival on Earth. What these critics don’t consider is that when you lose a keystone species such as the caribou, or you obliterate pests in agriculture you also threaten needed pollinators, you are directly affecting what happens to humans.

We need to teach children how to enjoy and respect nature, so they’ll be able to make the right decisions for their future.

These are a few no-cost or low-cost ways of enjoying time outdoors with children.

What Animal Are You?

This is an activity for children ages 6-10 that can be done while walking in a wilderness area or trail. This activity will help a child realize that animals need hiding areas and appropriate habitat to live.

Talk to the child about the kind of animals that may live in the area you’re walking. Ask them to describe what animals they imagine might live there. Then ask them to pick an animal they like the most out of the list you came up with together, or the animal that’s most like them. Ask them to imagine what they would do to find food. Where would they go? What would they eat? What would it taste like? Then ask them where they might go to rest and sleep when they felt tired. Help the child by pointing out possible places—rock outcroppings, under logs, burrows, in a thicket. Have the child tell you what they would be looking for if they were that animal and needed to find a place to rest or sleep so they weren’t disturbed by humans and predators.

Smell a Tree, Touch a Flower

This is an activity for younger children, perhaps 2-6 years old, as well as for older kids up to age 11. It can be done in the backyard, in a park, or along a trail. This expands the child’s awareness of it’s surroundings beyond the cliché or the obvious.

Ask the child to smell a nearby tree bark. Some trees, like ponderosa pine, smell like vanilla. Ask the child to tell you what they think of the smell. Then ask them to touch some flowers and tell you which one feels softest, or the most delicate.

Ask the child to look closely at the leaves of a tree and see if they can find evidence that an animal or insect visited that leaf.

Draw What You Feel

This is an activity for children ages 4-11. It can be done anywhere outdoors, including a backyard or a park, especially where there are a lot of trees, flowers or animals. You’ll need some paper and crayons or drawing tools to give to the child. This activity builds an empathetic connection between the child’s emotions and what they observe in nature.

Ask the child to look around and draw what they see that makes them feel three different ways: 1) peaceful or happy, 2) worried or unhappy, and 3) curious or confused. They may end up drawing such things as flowers for happiness, or maybe a piece of trash or a dead plant for the unhappy emotion. Give the child ample time to complete the exericise. Then ask them to talk about what they drew and why.

Field Guide Trip

This is an activity for children ages 6-12. It can be done anywhere outdoors, but is best done in a park, open space or wilderness where there are many birds, insects or wildflowers present. You will need a field guide from your region, which you can check out of your local library. Pick any of the following types of guides: wildflowers, trees, animals, birds, or weeds.

Bring the field guide along on a walk or hike and challenge the child to find as many plants or animals as possible that match what they see in the field guide. Read the descriptions of the animal and plant and why what they’re observing is what they see in the book (does it have the same colors? Does it live in the area where it is described?). Ask the following questions about the plant or animal:
1. Is it native to the local area?
2. Does it live here year-round?
3. Where does it go or migrate when it’s not here?
4. What happens to this plant or animal in the winter?

Discuss what you find and then make plans to visit the same area in a month or two to see if different plants or animals appear there.

Contemplative Fishing

This is an activity for children ages 4-12 and involves fishing. If you enjoy fishing, it’s a wonderful way to teach a child about ecology if you bring them along. Learning ecology helps a child understand the interconnectedness of all life.

Ask the child to tell you what they see and hear at the pond, stream or lake where you’re fishing. Do they hear frogs? Do they see reeds and plants near the water? How clear is the water?

A good way to know that fish are actively feeding is to watch for risers. Explain to the child what a riser is (a circular disturbance on the surface of the water that indicates a fish has surfaced its mouth) and what the fish may be trying to catch and eat. Explain why you’re using certain bait. If you’re bass fishing, you may be trying different colorful lures because bass have great memories – and if they got caught and released once with a pink lure, they may be leery of anything pink in the future. If you’re trout fishing, explain that trout enjoy very cold water but they don’t enjoy water that rushes quickly, like in a stream. Ask the child where they see areas that a fish may want to rest or hang out, and that’s a good place to cast the fly.

This is also a great opportunity to talk about the food chain. The insects are necessary for fish to eat. The small fish are eaten by the larger fish, and the larger fish are eaten by ducks, pelicans or other predators like cranes or herons (or humans). The sophistication of your your explanation depends on the age of the child.

Neighborhood Pride

This is an activity to do with your child from toddler all the way to their teenaged years. You take a walk in your neighborhood with a trash bag and pick up trash and debris. You teach the child the value of serving the community, not littering, and having pride in where they live. Smaller children can hold the trash bag, while older children can wear gloves to pick up debris.

Discuss how it felt to do this activity. Was it embarassing? Did it feel good to clean things up? Did the child feel angry about the people who littered? How does it make them feel about taking care of the Earth?

Children’s Garden

You need not have a backyard in order to help your child plant and grow something. This is an activity for children of all ages and can be done indoors on a sunny windowsill, or outdoors in a sunny location. If done indoors, you will need a small pot, some good potting soil and some seeds that your child selects. You can plant beans, flowers or vegetables, but for beginner gardeners such plants as peas and beans do very well and grow quickly with the proper care. If done outdoors in a garden, you can help the child plant the seeds in a tilled, enriched soil and let the child weed and water the area throughout the season.

Children take a lot of pride in growing their own food, as evidenced from my own 10-year old daughter, who loves to pull out beets and carrots that she planted and eat them raw, right on the spot! (after a good rinsing, of course.) This is also a good way to teach children about the importance of good, appropriate weather for growing certain kinds of food, and the importance of enough sunlight and moisture. Tomatoes don’t do well when it’s too wet or too cool. Peas and lettuces wilt in weather that’s too hot. Children also learn what plants look like and where their food comes from, as well as gaining a culinary appreciation for vegetables.

What is ecopsychology?

Sunrise over the mountainsWhat is Ecopsychology and Why is it Important?

Ecopsychology is a relatively young field of study that examines how human mental and physical health is connected to the health of the natural environment. It examines how humans have disconnected from nature and how and why it’s important to reconnect to nature. Ecopsychology also attempts to explain why some people persist in destroying their environment—whether consciously or not—and the best way to motivate and inspire humanity to live sustainably and in harmony with the Earth.

Ecopsychology assumes several fundamental concepts. First, that human are a part of nature, not apart from nature. It assumes that the health of the environment is directly linked to our health, because we are a part of, and live on, the earth. The deteriorating health of the planet cannot be ignored or compartmentalized without dire consequences to the survival of humans.

Finally, ecopsychology assumes that mental health cannot be compartmentalized solely as ego- or self-oriented. Our connectedness to nature is intricately tied to our mental well-being. Our surroundings have a direct effect on our state of mind, as evidenced by several recent studies. One such study, performed in the U.K. by Mind (Ecotherapy: The Green Agenda for Mental Health), reports that “going for a green walk in a park or countryside where one is surrounded by nature reduces depression whereas walking in a shopping centre or urban setting increases depression.”

Our Relationship to Nature

Human beings are indeed animals and a part of nature just as a chipmunk, a blade of grass and a mountain is a part of nature. Humans are not greater than, more important than, or apart from their natural surroundings.

Ecophilosopher and writer Paul Shepard hypothesizes that there was a shift and disconnection in thought about how human related to nature at the rise of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. He states in his article Nature and Madness, “It fostered a new sense of human mastery and the extirpation of non-human life.” (From the book, Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind, p. 24)

After the invention of agriculture, humans began to think of themselves as controllers of plants, and ultimately of animals when animal husbandry developed as well. Perhaps the true break with our natural surroundings didn’t fully happen until the industrial and scientific revolution of the 16th-19th centuries, when nature was seen as dangerous and something to be tamed or exploited. But the seed was planted, according to Shepard, early in our species’ history.

How Connectedness to Nature Relates to Our Attitude About Conservation

Many individuals and organizations recognize the dire environmental consequences of a controlling or use-oriented attitude toward our environment. But many more do not.  It is a type of insanity — the inability to see or care about the fact that misuse of our surroundings is a kind of species suicide. What other animal would deliberately harm the place where they live so much that their very health and species survival was affected? Yeasts or viruses come to mind, as do parasites. Does that mean that humans have become parasitic and toxic to the Earth?

Ecopsychology is a field of study made necessary because of the disconnectedness we feel with each other and nature, and because of the dire situation of the health of our home. We no longer can continue to go on with business as usual, raking our machines and tools across the face of our planet, sucking it dry of life and spewing our garbage into the air and sea. We no longer can afford to think that the Earth will be there for us indefinitely, shiny and new, constantly giving as we forever plunder.

Studies have shown that persons who can relate to nature, or spend a lot of time in nature, may realize the connection to their environment better than those who do not, and consequently are more apt to give more attention and credence to issues such as the need for conservation and sustainability.

“…people high in environmental identity accord more weight than people low in environmental identity to those principles that endow environmental entities with moral standing. That EID score was also related to an increased rating for a fourth principle, ‘managing natural resources for the public good’…” (Susan Clayton, Environmental Identity, pg 57)

James Hillman may have said it best: “Psychology, so dedicated to awakening human consciousness, needs to wake itself up to one of the most ancient human truths: we cannot be studied or cured apart from the planet.”

Re-Connecting to Our Soul Through Nature-Based Practices

Since we are nature, we have an ancient wisdom and wildness in us that we can tap into—if only we slow down and are mindful enough to do so. Tapping into our soul—the core of each of us that is both inside and outside us and that holds our ancient animal wisdom—is done through various means of internalizing nature. This is done by ritual and nature-based practices.

When you’re feeling scattered, stressed, or depressed because you’re spending too much time “in your head” or sitting in a room with electronics all day, you can begin to feel more grounded and calm by simply connecting to a wild place you enjoy, sitting in your backyard, or spending time with a pet. It doesn’t cost money and it doesn’t require that you travel long distances.

Nature is accessible to everyone, regardless of income level or location. Nature can take the form of a tree, a pet, the sky, or a river. One does not need to travel far or have special equipment (other than protective clothing and a comfortable pair of shoes) to enjoy and reconnect to the world around us.