Climate change is so big, what can I do?
We are at a critical time in history, the choices we make today have implications beyond our awareness for the future of our planet. We can feel so daunted
What does it mean to connect with the elements? At first this sounds like an “out there” idea, but instead it can be deeply meaningful and accessible. The elements – water, earth, fire and air - are present everywhere and even course through us at any given moment. Take water for example, with the vast spring rains we are having. We are quick to complain about the rain and yet all life on earth, including our own, depends on this life giving source of water. Water flows through our bodies and we cannot live without it.
The element of earth includes the soil from which all food grows and our bodies; the winged ones, the four-leggeds, and the two-leggeds. Earth is the vast awe inspiring vistas from which we stand and the intimate protective forests we are nurtured by.
The element of fire connects us to the sun’s radiant heat and light. After coming back inside from the damp cold spring’s wind, my five year old remarked “I’m grateful to have a warm house.” To connect with the element of fire can be holding gratitude for warmth and light.
The element of air flows through our lungs and cells even without any conscious effort. We exchange air with our plant neighbours and air flows over the globe.
As we connect with the elements, so too do we come to acknowledge their degradation. There is the pollution of air and water, the disruption of the balance of the climate, the loss of habitat and the extinction of species. As we open ourselves to both the blessings and the pain of the elements we are changed. We can no longer turn a blind eye. The weight of acknowledging the earths’ pain is heavy and yet it propels us to make necessary changes. If we revere life’s dependence on water, we are more likely to protect the vitality of water. If we are grateful for a breath of fresh spring air, we might work towards reducing our carbon output.
Some believe that the elements are sacred, that spirit is present in air and water, earth and fire. To honour the elements is to offer respect to the sacred presence in all things. The next time you are outside and a gust of wind blows by, I invite you to pause and connect. As you notice the air, perhaps you may bring to your awareness the wind that flows across the planet, the air that has circled the earth for ages past and ages to come, the breath of your life, of all life, and the spirit that infuses it all.
Earth blessings to you.
Join me in this free workshop to gather as community, share our gratitude for this earth, express what it is like to be awake to the pain of the earth at this time, and to invite hope and healing. March 27, 5:30-6:30 John McCrae Public School, Guelph https://www.facebook.com/events/398070877689740/
There are times in our lives when we come to realize that the ways we have been living are no longer good for us. Ways that once may have helped us cope with challenges now stifle our life energy.
I am discovering that the ways we as a culture respond to the earth crisis of our time is connected to the ways we as individuals deal with challenges in our personal lives. We feel overwhelmed, powerless, deeply troubled and we don’t know what to do about it.
Our patterns to want to avoid big challenges, to not feel powerless, and to avoid pain is one story we have been living by. But when we widen the lens to consider the broader perspective of what this pain is telling us, we see there is wisdom in the distress. The old ways of being with others and of how we treat the earth are no longer of benefit. Letting go can be disorienting as we find ourselves in the unknown.
When we open ourselves to the possibilities, what we discover is that there already is a new narrative emerging. The patterns we have been holding to will soon fade away, like the spectacular fall leaves around us. They will decompose, provide nutrients for the coming years, and new life will emerge. The patterns will re-emerge but with different understanding, a wider purpose for how to live.
We can see this new narrative already taking shape. People are distressed about the plastics in oceans, people are engaging in earth-promoting practices like being part of building sustainable communities, many young people continue to seek out eco-related work.
How can we make choices that are rooted in the values we hold of loving and respecting ourselves, one another and the earth? I believe some of the ways to start shifting our patterns is having the courage to face our pain. When we do, we can see that our distress holds wisdom. Our pain can be a necessary precipitous for change.
How do we engage in the work to bring about a new narrative in a way that does not deplete us? For depleting our inner resources is no different from depleting those around us or our natural resources. How might our work to create a new narrative come from a place of balance? How might we continually reconnect with the sacred life energy of the earth to reinvigorate our spirits and purpose?
As each of us continues to strive for a better world, I invite you to pause and notice the vast beauty all around you and to let the hope of possibilities call you.
Blessings of the vibrant fall leaves.
Ways communities are building resilience and fostering mental health as climate change continues: https://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/5-ways-communities-are-coping-with-climate-anxiety-20180822
What is your vision for the future of our lives here on Earth? This is a question I have been asking others and myself for the past several years. Recently I came across a response that felt like an 'aha' moment for me. Rather than our current using the earth to meet human's consumption, we can participate in symbiotic - or mutually beneficial - relationships with nature. We can relate with other living beings, the elements, and systems of the earth in ways that promote our wellbeing and theirs.
In my work with groups or individuals outdoors I often include a piece of intentionally shifting into reciprocal relationships with nature. What I have found is that we tend to relate more on an intellectual level at first. We focus on breathing out carbon dioxide to a plant who breathes out oxygen to us. We contemplate whether we should pour water on the roots of a tree. After taking time to sink into this experience, what I find is that we shift more into emotional or spiritual ways of relating with nature. As we deepen ways of relating with earth that are mutually beneficial, we seem to tune into what feels like natures’ desire to receive our awe, our gratitude, our attention. And we feeling rejuvenated.
Today I went for a cold winter's cross country ski through forests, past farm fields, and around a quiet frozen lake. The trail crosses over a marshland on a board walk blanketed in snow. I paused to appreciate the cattails and their role of filtering the water. The mostly frozen creek flowing through the marsh appeared so clear and crisp. The winter sun held low in the sky and sparkled off the moving water. As I stood in awe of the cleansing cattails and the vibrant water, the tension within my body dissipated, heavy emotions released, and my gratitude for these beings was amplified. Experiencing this marsh as a transformative place raised in me an attunement for water’s life force and a heightened desire to protect this vital element. I wondered if perhaps this was an example of a symbiotic relationship.
What are ways each of us individually and collectively might open more into symbiotic relationships with earth? How might the earth be impacted if we tuned into and shared moments of awe with nature? Perhaps in cherishing the natural world we are then more incline to behave with respect. I wonder if by extension of loving the earth we can participate in healing with the earth?
Blessings this winter.
I recently was honoured to interview Linda Buzzell, a leading Ecotherapist and Ecopsychologist, on our reciprocity with nature. https://vimeo.com/254918594
Come join a community event I will be facilitating to participate in reciprocity with earth. At the Guelph Resilience Festival Thursday March 22, 6:00-7:00 http://guelphresiliencefestival.ca/event/ecotherapy/
Ecotherapy: Healing Our Relationship with Earth.
Ecotherapy is a much needed response in this era to bring light and intention to our relationship with earth. This workshop offers experiential opportunities to settle into a sense of how the earth heals us and ways we in turn can participate in the earth’s healing. Intended for those who are looking to further deepen a sense of connection with nature and to step into new meaning for ways of relating with our earth.
“We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. And touch. And hear.” – Richard Louv.
As we nestle into these dark days of winter we are called inward to pause and reflect. The long nights and cold days invite a slowing pace and an opportunity to reflect. The plants buried under the glittering snow have sent their energy stores back to their roots and many creatures are hidden away in their inner dens. We too flow to this rhythm of introspection.
I have had the opportunity recently to go out for a number of snowy-filled sessions, equipped with our scarves and snowpants. I have witnessed first-hand people’s courage to step into these frozen places; to name and open up the challenges they are holding, to sink into their deeply felt emotions. I stand alongside as people invite the death of a way of living, to be present in that place of unknown, and to watch with hope for something new to be born. I am struck by their inner guidance to do this work, to trust in the pull toward wellness, and I notice as they develop a hardiness to be able to do this work.
With each outdoor session we enter a place of miracles unfolding. The calls of winter birds respond to our presence, the silent wisps of winter winds carry prayers of those beyond our time, and dancing snowflakes enfold us in their magical comforting presence. Together we lay tracks in the snow and set out a new path beyond.
Living in this time when busyness can fill the air, I invite you too to welcome the silence of snow, to allow the shimmers of snowflakes to catch your heart, and to notice within yourself the gifts of winter.
May these days of dark hold your spirit's calling.
“Snow falling soundlessly
in the middle of the night
will always fill my heart
with sweet clarity.”
Each one of us has our unique interests and passions for getting outdoors, whether it be hiking, bird watching or gardening. There are many ways to get into nature, promote health and enjoy ourselves.
There are also activities with the sole purpose of immersing ourselves in nature. It can be a chance to open ourselves up to the earth, to listen to the language of the world, to revive ourselves, to literally ground ourselves, to re-member ourselves as a kin amongst all species of life, and to discover our unique role in the health of the universe.
With numerous activities for nature connection, I want to share one in particular, the nature ally exercise. First find a place outside with as few human built structures around, a place where you feel safe and supported. As you arrive bring your awareness and gratitude to the beings here. Draw to mind a specific question or theme that has been playing out in your life lately. It can relate to you specifically or be as broad as the universe. As Joanna Macy reminds us, ‘the personal is the planetary.’
As you notice the forms of nature all around you, open yourself to being called by a particular piece of nature. This form has its inherent wisdom that it can share with you; offer your respect. Take some time with your ally, allow yourself to tune into the language of this companion. Consider the experiences of this part of nature, where it came from, what it has witnessed. Receive the wisdom that this ally offers you; it may not be immediate, allow for the process to unfold.
As you transition to leave, offer your gratitude to your ally and all of the beings that nourish and support life. Your thanks could be with a nod, words or touching your forehead or hand to the ground. Give yourself time to process this experience, perhaps as you walk, journal, or talk it over with someone.
I would love to hear about your experiences!
Many blessings, Melissa
It is an age old existential question: What happens to us after we die?
Children of very young ages ask this question. My son started to ask this question at age three. My first response was “That is a very good question. Even adults don’t know the answer for sure.” Then I choked back tears as my son observed “You miss your mommy, don’t you?” And all I could do was nod.
Every culture and religion has a set of responses for this question, and every person has their unique views on death. Where do we go? Is there an afterlife? Do our spirits carry on?
Recently I came across a very literal Indigenous perspective. Our bodies decompose, we become soil, soil feeds the trees, trees provide homes for birds, and so it continues. When we witness the birds frolicking, or inhale a breath of fresh oxygenated air from the neighbouring trees, we can feel connected to ways this person carries on.
If we looked at the natural world as reminders or incarnations of our loved ones, how might we relate to the world differently? For me, it is comforting to consider the very particles of my mom’s body carrying on in the particles that nourish me now. And, beyond my rational mind, there just seems to be something about robins that makes me feel a little closer to my mom’s presence.
Every once in a while, while I’m playing in the front yard with my children, and a robin joins us, I look up, share a little smile and say to the robin “Aren’t they incredible?” I can only feel in return an acknowledgment that yes, they really are.
In my part of the world, this summer has seen abnormally high heat and uncharacteristically low rainfall. It started in what is usually a wet spring and has seemingly gone on day after day and month after month. For me this has been a daily reminder of the extreme weather conditions attributed to climate change.
After about one and a half months of essentially no rain, one night it rained – in fact it poured. I was so relieved that I ran like a child through the rain in our backyard, and at night, I slept soundly. I woke to realize how relieved I felt with the rain. I had a window into what our ancestors might have experienced in the face of their water sources drying up, then being revived. As a human living at this time, where I live, and with what culture I was born into, I am afforded the privilege of having endless access to clean drinking water. My response was not based on personal lack of water.
Before the rain I had not acknowledged how impacted I was emotionally by these specific signs of climate disruption. For me that one rainfall felt like such a weight off, as though life on earth could go back to the way it had been. It was as though all the impacts of our tinkering with the earth’s natural rhythms and life could once again be in synchrony and balance. What I experienced after waking up that morning was how intimately impacted I as a human am by the health and ill health of nature. I wonder if earth is speaking to us, uttering a wakeup call into new ways of being.
Why have we come to believe we are separate from the natural world?
When you think of the evolution of humans, we have always been directly tied to the natural world. From living in caves, to hunting and gathering, to farming – it has only been in the last several generations that we spend so much of our time indoors.
We are influenced by understandings to ‘subdue the earth,’ to buy more than we can afford, to eat more than our bodies need, or to see earth as objects that we can just take. There is a lot of ill health in these forms of thinking and behaving. We have learned to see ourselves as separate from nature, that we are somehow disconnected from and above the natural world.
I wonder how our culture might be different if when we each turned on the tap, we visualize ourselves alongside a river scooping a handful of water? If when we ate, we remember the farmers, the soil, the sun, the rain? When we step outdoors we notice the bird songs, the feel of the breeze on our face, the scents in the air? I wonder if by remembering the ways we are dependent on and connected with the earth, we may make subtle shifts in how we relate to the world. We may begin to reclaim our place as kin amongst all the beings of the earth.
My Dear Mother Earth,
As we turn toward the sun, the warming air fills my breath. The promise of buds take shape and my spirit swells with birdsongs.
Your being is the comfort of cedar bogs, the nourishing flow of water, the cheerful emergence of flowers in the forest carpet, and the cool soft give of earth beneath my feet.
Under the tired leaves of past seasons you offer rest to my loved ones, and the vibrant shoots emerge from which my children will grow.
Your loving and patient presence transforms my fears into soft humus. My hopes, deeply rooted, expand and reach toward the sun.
With hands embracing soil, I offer gratitude.
I see constant reminders in the media and around me of the hurts of our land. Today I went on a rainy spring hike to my local nature spot and even there I found stakes in the ground delineating where there will be construction and the trees have already been cut down. I feel sad, I am grieving the loss of something dear.
The destruction of our earth is so very big, the timelines to change feel so tight, and the solutions can feel just beyond reach. I teeter between feeling overwhelmed and feeling the need to do something. I feel far more productive when I busy myself with the frenzy of daily life, anything to keep me from feeling powerless.
Additionally, I feel shameful that it is my very actions that are contributing to the climate crisis of our times. I drive a car, I live where there once was a forest. Worse yet, I am leaving it up to my children and their children to contend with the consequences.
I am pulled into a sense of responsibility to do something; I feel hopeful and I feel called into action. I care deeply about the earth, my life source and my home.
I paused on my hike to bask in nature’s beauty and power. The pond before me had been renewed by the cold of the winter and now the rains of the spring. The droplets were splashing the water's surface, sending out waves of their impact. I watched the ripples meet new ripples and was reminded of the ways things are changing. There were more organic options at the grocery store this week, when I'm out I can spot new solar panels I hadn't seen before, and in my work I hear ways nature brings such a sense of health to people's lives. I turned my face up toward the rain clouds as my offering of thanks. I felt peace.
Hello, and welcome to Healing Spaces Therapy. I'm so happy to begin this journey of wellness with you.
Even if you are not looking to do therapy but you are someone who values nature and are interested in ways to deepen this, please feel free to contact me. I am grateful to be part of broadening our wellbeing to include the whole earth.