Stone Age Psychotherapy

Stephen Covey, author or Seven Habits, may have described my energy of late (based on life and world events) as focused too much in my circle of concern and not enough within my circle of influence. This kind of energy leads to a feeling of helplessness (especially for a rehabilitating control freak like me).

As I think back on my life when this overwhelmed energy also rose during tough times (parent’s divorce, dad’s death, 9/11 …), I realize my pattern of healing — Get Outside! Whether walking on the creek out my childhood backyard or sitting on the edge of Lake Michigan on Northwestern’s campus or breathing deeply in a pine forest, something healing and powerful happened. I regained emotional strength and remembered small steps I could take to influence my future. Nature was big enough to hold and soften my energy. Theodore Roszak, editor of the book, Ecopsychology, shared the term “Stone Age Psychiatry” in describing nature’s healing power. Further, environmental philosopher, Paul Shepard, in the same book, speaks “of the self with a permeable boundary…constantly drawing on and influencing its surroundings, whose skin and behavior are soft zones contacting the world instead of excluding it…a kind of vision across boundaries.” (p. 13).

And so last week-end I escaped to the most powerful nature I know in the winter, Yellowstone (feeling very grateful to live close by), With its 300 plus geysers , thermal features, infinite forests and rivers (and few people in winter), it can give and receive a lot of energy.

If we listen, nature speaks to us, but not in words. It speaks in the calls of the ravens, the wind through the trees, the gurgling of rivers and mud pots, the explosions of geysers. In her song, love weaves around me. She nurtures, and in return, I want to nurture back. She awakens and strengthens my heart. How could all of this have been created if something didn’t believe in beauty, in joy, in possibility?

In the snow, one can read the story of recent events – rabbits hopping by, an owl that jumped down from a tree, otters who slide down a river bank. Life, connection, resolve. That is what nature gives me. She refuels me to fight the good fight; to never give up, to open my eyes wider, to remember reciprocity, mutuality, connection.

Even in the coldest winter, under the snow, life is quickening. One can feel it. Flowers will burst forth. Perserverence.

So bundle up. Go outside. Slow down and expand out. Breathe deeply in. Appreciate. Receive and give back. Close your eyes and allow all the wisdom of all of those skin cells to soften the edges between all that separates us. And hear earth’s call. She needs us as much as we need her.

To stone age magic and love,

And Happy 150th birthday to Yellowstone!

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