Vhembe, Sacred Vestige

Submitted by Charlotte von Fritschen 

I have returned, feeling different in my skin, after a short but enlivening visit to a few remote villages in Vhembe, Limpopo. Time seemed slower there, given a certain rhythm by the pounding of grain in preparation for dinner, or the many steps taken to the forest to fetch wood. It is worlds apart from the South Africa I thought I knew: Cape Town; and I learned a lot from their way of life – I believe we all could.

The Vhavenda tribes inhabit the Soutpansberg mountains, nestled in lush Afromontane enclaves, situated in the northern most subtropical part of South Africa. Vhembe, formally Venda, was declared self-governing in 1973 and independent in 1979 by the South African government. Edward Lahiff reflects on how the enclosure of the region allowed for the preservation of many traditional ways of life in his book, An Apartheid Oasis?: Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods in Venda. We were led by Jeffrey Rink, an ecopsychologist from Cape Town who had long since fallen head over ‘hills’, those beautiful green mountains, and in awe of the cultural and spiritual wealth of the tribes.

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Download During Meditation

“Download” During Meditation (PDF 74K)
Submitted by Kathleen Pait

During an immersive group meditation, I experienced an out-of-body sensation that cast me above the group, away from the building, and out of Earth’s atmosphere, where I was presented information from a more evolved being on the current climate problems humanity faces. The following is my recollection of the event, although suffice it to say that words could never adequately convey the soul of the wisdom…

 

If Women Rose Rooted

If Women Rose Rooted: A Journey to Authenticity and Belonging
by Sharon Backie

A Book Review, by Marilyn Steele

Last week I visited a favorite “soul’s place of resurrection”, hiking the Tennessee Valley trail in Marin County to the beach. Author Sharon Blackie defines such a place as one where a soul is happiest on earth and, at the same time, most in touch with all that is eternal.

It was a magical, breathtaking clear sky day where I watched a blue heron stand poised, present, patient at the edge of the blackwater pond spotted with bright green islands of plants. The water broke and rippled as an otter, sleek and shiny, playfully surfaced and dove over and over again in joy.

At the beach, strings of brown pelicans streamed across the water along with smaller black seabirds and sharp winged white birds which just skimmed the waves, chittering and chirping. On the way back, a black snake slithered across my path and into the grass.

What gifts did I carry home with me? Heron medicine. The example of dignity, determination, grace, balance, standing steady as she waited for just the right opportunity to plunge. The reminder to play, have fun, be curious like otter. And of course Snake. Ancient wisdom, prophecy, death and rebirth, transformation, the weaving path of the wild and sacred Feminine. So many messengers on the path showing “This way, this way.”

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Re-Humanizing Nature

Re-Humanizing Nature (PDF, 123K) by Ian Johnstone

“The meaning of things lies not in things themselves, but in our attitudes to them.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Australian Ian Johnstone’s long (24 pages), thoughtful article utilizes the language of poetry (and excerpts from the best of nature writing) in an impassioned plea for :re-humanizing” nature. Written in 2014, Johnstone’s argument is about the dehumanization that an exclusively scientific perception and language has wrought, and the many ways he sees for re-humanizing our relationship with the natural world – a topic as relevant now as it was then.

Transpersonal Narratives in Eco-Psychology

Announcing Transpersonal Narratives in Eco-Psychology – an upcoming CONFER event happening 24-26 November, 2017 at the Eden project in Cornwall.

It’s priced to be accessible to all. Many of our friends and colleagues will be there, and the sessions sound brilliant!

Embodying Nature

How do we quiet the monkey mind and receive our environment? And once we are in relationship with place, how do we engage and interact?

Embodying Nature Download PDF (93K), by Jamie McHugh
In this somatic and expressive approach to becoming more fully human as elemental creatures, Jamie McHugh combines the technologies of breath, vocalization, contact, movement and stillness to occupy the soma/psyche, open the portals of perception and invite in the spirit of place. He discovers how tree, rock, sky, and water reflect aspects of our being through this sensory-motor encounter.

Author Bio: Jamie McHugh is a somatic coach, dancer, and artist living on the California coast. The creator of Somatic Expression® – Body Wisdom for Modern Minds, Jamie has guided somatic-expressive encounters with the natural world for the past 25 years in Europe and the United States.

Photos of Jamie McHugh by Gregory Bartning

Love for Great Basin Bristlecone Pines

I just posted one of my favorite visual/written sequences on Great Basin Bristlecone Pines from writer, photographer and nature-lover David Malinsky in the ICE (International Community for Ecopsychology) blog.

Here is a gallery of some other favorites from his keen eye (open this post and then click the images – twice – to see them full size):

And here are some clues from David on to how to look at them:

1. The images really serve best as a “one at a time” experience, even if they are part of a sequence. They are meant to both hint at something particular, yet at the same time to be naturally vague, and allow for exploration (the “natural” part matters because it means movements beyond the confines of how the human imagination might present something, so that in most of the images there is not a hint of a beginning or end, only a movement). That exploration needs to be untimed, so that the viewer can allow the image to unfold across their own imagination. So if it is to be slide show it must be self-directed, and not automatic. Ideally there would not be a hint of a “next” that is coming up, because that can serve as an unnecessary distraction to the current image. That will be a delicate work around, but the attempt will be to have the viewer one-on-one with both a concept and an image, for as long as they need to be.

2. Part of what will need to be established as an introduction is that these images are not quick splashes across Nature’s canvas, but instead long, slow and purposeful movements across time, which should alert the mind of the viewer to notions of thoughtfulness. There are decades in the making of many of the patterns, hundreds of years for some, and perhaps into the thousands. Many of the curves in the paths are reactions to adversity, so instilling those notions of time is important. Ideally, if developed properly it slows the senses of the viewer, allows them to be suspended in a spiritual weightlessness, and can change to scope of how a problem of their own is being viewed (the magic bell we are trying to ring). There are a lot of possibilities in terms of presenting this time element, like a close-up that expresses slowness of movement, and makes the faded area ancient.

The Edge of the Wild 2016

“Heart Lands”

5th Ecopsychology Gathering
4 – 7 August, Green & Away, Worcester, UK
(shared through Linda Buzzell’s ecotherapy list serv)

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Second Annual Ecopsychology Symposium

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 6.16.01 PMSubmitted by Marissa Behringer from the Center for Community Engagement at Lewis & Clark Graduate School (in Oregon), who says:

We are hosting the Second Annual Ecopsychology Symposium on our campus next month… (June 10-11, 2016)

The event is relevant to folks working in healthcare, education and sustainability, environmental advocates, artists and creative professionals, and really anyone interested in the psychology of the human-nature relationship.

Here’s an event flyer with more information:
Ecopsych-Symposium

Some Good News (for a Change!)

By Amy Lenzo
(first published in the ICE blog)

Two media communications coming out of the first part of 2016 are making my heart sing!

The most recent was Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscars “Best Actor” acceptance speech for his role in The Revenant. In it he spoke out forcefully about the critical threat of Climate Change, giving specifics about the collective response he sees needed to address it and a special shout out for First Nations peoples whose “voices have been drown out by the politics of greed”. It brought a smile to this man’s face as well:

Leonardo-Acceptance

The other was Al Gore’s latest TED Talk on the Case for Optimism on Climate Change, where he talks first about the continuing seriousness and ongoing effects of climate change, and then moves on to share some of the changes we ARE making and how those changes are impacting what is now possible, and what our future can hold. A hugely inspiring talk from this courageous and visionary Nobel Laureate:

Losing Contact With Nature

One woman’s opinion, by Amy Lenzo
First published on the ICE blog

MonbiotArticleOn reading an article by George Monbiot in the UK Guardian called If Children Lose Contact With Nature They Won’t Fight For It … I agree wholeheartedly with Monbiot’s title, but my hackles rise at the (to me) lazy & inaccurate argument that follows, “blaming” the entire problem at the door of on-screen-engagement.

The truth is that while large-scale social conditions have indeed changed our children’s freedoms and access to the natural world (there’s a lot more happening here than the rise of the internet, folks), I believe that those little screens also hold some part of the way back for many of us (and our children).

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Nature’s Healing Touch for Dementia

tree_canopyAuthor, Ecotherapist, and ICE member Linda Buzzell runs a small but very active mailing list for eco-therapists, and there are often wonderful exchanges on it.

One conversation thread I thought was of particular interest started with a link Linda posted to an article citing research about the value of gardening and being outside for the mental and physical well-being of people with dementia.

Linda’s post was followed up with a lovely personal comment from one of the list members about how her mother had spent her last years in a hospital-connected care center with a wetlands park where they would spend many peaceful hours together bird-watching. That post, in turn, was followed by one from another member sharing two videos about Matthew Lysobey, a visionary director of the Arroyo Care Center whose philosophy places the natural world at the center of keeping elders healthy and full of life.

This series of exchanges was both inspirational and of practical value to me, so I thought I would share it here in case it would be of help to others, too.

An Ode to Nature

by Madison Woods
This poem was previously published in Madison’s blog.

Madison Woods writes, creates, and communes with nature from the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. She and her husband founded Wild Ozark, LLC with a desire to align their passions with their livelihoods. Madison offers readers an opportunity to reconnect to nature through her blog, photography, stories and books.
Contact her by email.

Here are the words of the poem, in text:

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Untitled Poem

By Larry Robinson
Sent in by Robert Greenway

Here’s a poem that a former student and now colleague sent in the other day. F’or me, it reveals the way a poem — in part by its very ambiguity, in part by it’s “rhythm” — reveals nature, ecology, big mind, little mind, egoic mind, etc.

easiest-to-relate-to-the-airOnce there was a time when it was necessary
to remove ourselves from nature. Once.
To distinguish, to see within
these selves is the objective. It’s second nature

now. This chain-of-being buried
& nearly forgotten. Paved over in sediment
like walled in cities, lessons in childhood,
other experiences qualified or in need of

the missing link. “Man is held highest on Earth
& below the Angels.” The intention:
toward God. Then later, toward a controlled state –
technology. The competition is fierce

& it is not. An Angel (many?) who inhabits
the rock suggests you skip its flat surface
on the river. Interfacing the world of eyes,
you pick it up: sentient self awareness

beyond the organs of particularity. Yes, you are
the rock & each plant & animal whose dust
compresses here. A moment of your time.
It is easiest to relate to the air.

The Biophilia Hypothesis & Mental Health

This provocative piece questioning the association between ecopsychology and biophilia was submitted by Douglas Radmore, undergraduate student of Criminology and Psychology at the University of Brighton, Sussex (England):

The concept of biophilia is a prevalent one within ecopsychology and is implicated in many theories within the school (White & Keerwagen, 2013). This article will take a brief look into the implications of biophilia and biophobia on our everyday mental wellbeing, with particular focus on disgust based biophobic reactions and their cultural implications.

Download the entire article in pdf format, here: Examination of the Biophilia Hypothesis and its implications for Mental Health.