Deep Elemental Ecology
by Susan Brelin-Bechio
Photo by Ed Kleingeertz

Within nature we can discern a sense of belonging that is not dependent on social structures or human relationships. The wisdom that is contained in indigenous teachings is invaluable at this time. Indigenous peoples carry an important key to us accessing our correct relationship to land. The wisdom they carry is based on a way of life where medicine, spirituality, and law meet to form the basis of a culture. The appreciation and humility that is a common factor with all indigenous cultures is vital for us to re-connect with the earth and ourselves. If, for example, we do not have appreciation and gratitude within a human relationship, we will not truly know the ways to maintain that connection. So it is with ‘Mother Earth’. If there is no ceremony or sacredness in our relationship with the Earth, how will we know what to do to maintain the resources that are available to us?

To understand wisdom we have to bring experiences into life in a very practical way so it becomes part of our everyday life. Ecopsychology bridges the natural ecology back to our own personal issues. Nature has teachings and medicines or gifts, available to us as we learn to read it as one would a book. Often these teachings can replace negative patterns and re-build our foundations that are often lacking due to genetic or social and environmental factors.

Year after year, we are part of, and subject to the seasonal cycles and daily rhythms, completely dependent on the four elements – Fire, Earth, Air, and Water – for our very lives. In becoming aware of this, we realise that our most fundamental requirements for life are inseparable from the land. Therefore, our spirituality and gratitude turn towards what we have often taken for granted or known only in an increasingly abstract way. Our separateness causes a lack of respect towards the Earth and other people. In the same way, we may not recognise the turning of the seasons and the lessons that the changing cycles can have for us.

Seasonal Cycles
All the Seasons are reflective of our own inner world. In Autumn for example, we feel the contraction of the cold approaching; a slowing down starts to take place. We tend to become more introspective and pull back to a deeper place within ourselves, reflecting upon issues that may have lain dormant during the Summer months. We are not putting out our leaves or buds, but are instead nourishing and replenishing our roots, the very foundations of our being.

Winter is the time to reflect more deeply on these inner roots, taking a moment to consider where the instability lies, and how to strengthen and balance these foundational patterns in order for them to be able to support an outward movement and vision come Spring and Summer. Time perhaps to re-educate old, long-held belief patterns and to prepare to embrace the newness of Spring with buoyancy, enthusiasm, and innocence.

Have you ever noticed when we do not let go, that all the dead wood gets carried from season to season? In the process their innocence is lost and so is wisdom, becoming hardened and brittle.



Nature carries infinite teachings, its tapestry so rich and fertile. The animals will often help us regain an instinctual knowing, that ‘gut feeling’ that has often been violated and ignored. These instincts are basic survival forces. Within the elements of Air we observe the ‘winged ones’, the birds, who use the currents of air and thermals with efficiency and purpose. From this vantage point they can see the whole picture; their vision is wide and expanded. This is the lesson we can learn from them. For instance, how to lift out of the detail and over-focused intellect? Birds carry this teaching, however, different types of birds will add to our understanding. An albatross soaring over miles of ocean, a flock of starlings, a kite swooping on its prey, a kookaburra singing with its mate, all have something different to offer us which we can then relate back to our inner thoughts and feelings.

There may be times when you are experiencing an ‘identity crisis’, a collapse of known boundaries emotionally and mentally. At these times we have little external to hold onto, and it is difficult to trust that we will feel secure and safe again. The nourishment or ‘medicine’ of a waterfall could be one way of aiding the healing process. As the water loses its holding structure, it falls, aerating and breaking up stagnation and reforming again in a new way to resume its journey. Such processes in nature reflect something that is happening inside us. In observing or contemplating the waterfall in all its aspects, from fall to flow, we come to absorb the strength and lifeforce assisting our ‘formal’ healing.

Rocks also reflect back to us in a different way. Rocks have definite limits and endurance; they are quite dense and solid. When we become erratic or over-extend ourselves, they can help us find a sense of gravity, a still point that assists us while we reflect on our priorities. All rocks carry these basic teachings, however, if we examine river rocks, lava rocks, sand, moss-laden rocks or red desert rocks, each adds a particular essence to the fundamental teaching.

To observe and reflect upon the natural world in all its moods and nuances is the study of a lifetime. When we sit amongst old growth forests and experience the ancient timeless atmosphere, we may wonder how many of us as human beings will grow to our fullest potential and then rest with the peace and stillness of knowing we have achieved fulfillment in all aspects of our growth. Many forests now are similar to the adolescent phase, the pushing striving growth that we see reflected in the world around us and in human activities. The wisdom of the elders is being lost in humanity and in the forests.

You may find yourself drawn to gaze and absorb the warmth of an open fire as you come to feel the fire within yourself. Examine what it is to have the type of fire that dances and flickers; the deep fire that thaws, which is solid and ongoing in its application; or the straw fire that gives off a quick and brilliant display but burns out quickly.

Look within to where your roots first gripped the earth as a young child. As you formed your early impressions of the world, was it a serene and fertile base? If not, see where your roots need strengthening or maybe where your security issues could be crushing your life energy – like a plant in a pot which is far too small for its roots to grow. Look within and then work with what you perceive, relate to the elements, relate to nature and the forces that are released. You will begin to heal and regenerate your whole being, re-align erratic rhythms and bring a sense of belonging not based on your personality, but on a spiritual knowing that resides in your heart.

Nature is about us. If we take it for granted, and through ignorance destroy that which gives us life each day, before long we destroy each other and our children’s future.