Eco-psychology reminds us that we are more than our separate selves; all life is intertwined. Eco-psychology weaves together numerous approaches to the relationship between human beings and the rest of the natural world. Primarily through principles of ecology and psychology, the field is developing a verbal language that makes it possible to share concepts, experiences, and ways of perceiving. At the same time, there is a quest to become aware of, and engaged in, modes of communication other than verbal. The challenge and pleasure of physical activity, adventure, and discovery are available to all. If we add other ingredients – experimenting with breathing, with holding intent, with observation, expanding ways of experiencing the senses – it is possible to reach another level – to enlarge the scope of our perception, and open to the transpersonal, to spiritual presence.
Our challenge is to become more conscious of our existence in the fabric of life on earth, and utilize that understanding to live more harmoniously among the weaving of energies that sustain life on the planet. How do we move from the paths we walk in an ordinary way, placing one foot in front of the other, to an awareness of the interplay of subtle energies, the pulsing presences, emanating from the web of life in which we ourselves are embedded? How do we open more fully to the wisdom, the gifts, the needs of our paradise, our natural home? Can we break patterns of behavior that are destructive to ourselves and to the environment – which is, in fact, our selves?
By what transformation of attitude, action, attention, do we come into the realization that we ARE nature – that we are not separate from the natural world? This comprehension occurs as we immerse ourselves in the wild, and has as much to do with ways that we present ourselves as it does with any specific site we visit. Being in silence, moving with intent, we can allow every aspect of the natural world to communicate with us. It is a communication beyond language, one to be learned by being fully present, listening with our hearts, and reciprocating with our actions.
As we grow increasingly aware of our place in the web of life, we realize that every action and decision on our part has its implications for all beings. This reveals opportunities to take meaningful action on behalf of the environment – participate in restoration, political action that protects the land and life forms who can’t defend themselves, paying attention to bioregional solutions to supply and demand.
The new discipline of biomimicry uses nature as model and mentor for new ways of dealing with human problems. It can offer approaches used by a plant, insect or animal as a model for new ways to think about human behavior. Used in this way, nature becomes therapist.
Every place on earth holds unique and specific wisdom concerning the web of life. We take away from our experiences in the natural world not only a sense of place and of pleasure in the beauty we encounter, but also a transformation in ourselves. Recognizing our kinship with other life forms, we can shape a way of moving through troubled times as well as times of leisure and delight through celebrations of all life and meditations about the animals, the plants, and the land itself. In an ancient story from India, the image of Indra’s net graphically and beautifully describes this phenomenon – over the palace of the god Indra hangs a beautiful net that extends through all of space. At each intersection of its filaments, a glittering jewel reflects all the other jewels in the net; each jewel is at the same time reflecting all the other jewels. Whether at sacred sites such as the Ganges, or Machu Picchu, a splendid oak in someone’s back yard, each place on the planet represents a jewel in the net. Each place holds specific truths that are part of the whole fabric of existence.
The earth abounds with many varieties of energies – among them, as Paul Devereux points out, are gravity, geomagnetism, natural radiations, infrared emissions, and natural microwaves, as well as many artificially generated emissions of the modern world. When people sense an amplified energy, and when they intentionally engage that energy through meditation, dreams, ceremony, or shamanic journeys, they often consider the sites of these occurrences as sacred. Treating the relationship with nature as a spiritual path opens the mundane to reveal its place in the jeweled net of existence.
Ginny Anderson holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University, and an M.A. in psychology from New York University. She maintains an eco-psychology practice in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, and a psychotherapy practice near Menlo Park. Ginny draws upon 35 years of experience, in addition to her academic training, to help individuals and groups tap into inspiration, healing, and transformative possibilities through guidance to one’s own wisdom and through interactions in the natural world.
Mountain climbing in the Pacific Northwest as a teenager and young adult offered Ginny her earliest openings to the transformative spirit of nature. While raising five children, working full-time, and earning her doctorate, she found perspective, rejuvenation, and joy through family adventures in the forests and waters of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The human potential movement brought Ginny to the San Francisco Bay Area, and Stanford in particular. Ginny’s doctoral research (Self-Management of Internal Responses: Heart Rate Control) was inspired by Alexandra David-Neel’s work in Tibet with thought-forms. Ginny later traveled to sacred sites world-wide, trekking in Nepal and working deep in the mountains of the Andes with Peruvian shamans, including Americo Yabar and Q’ero elders. There, she received a number of shamanic initiations, including Hatun Carpay. Mindfulness meditation weaves a thread through her practices of shamanism, therapy, and work in nature.
Sacred places in the Andes have been a major inspiration for Ginny’s central project, “Circling San Francisco Bay,” through which she helps local residents explore and work with their own community’s sacred sites. Through public speaking engagements and her book, Circling San Francisco Bay: A Pilgrimage to Wild and Sacred Places, Ginny offers other communities inspiration and guidance in how to find the sacredness of the land wherever we find ourselves. Ginny travels annually to a remote Canadian island for personal renewal, and to share with the women of that community events related to transformation of consciousness.
Courageous women in Ginny’s ancestry foreshadowed the women’s movement in the messages of empowerment that came through her lineage. Ginny’s grandmother was a diviner, and served a wide community of men and women. Feminist spirituality shaped Ginny’s earliest encounters with spiritual ceremony, and guided her through some of the most challenging times in her life. Ginny is a founding member of a women’s circle that spans more than two decades and through which she continues to explore women’s issues via myth, ritual, research, journeying, art, and music. This group also serves as a model of form and intent for workshops and events she creates for her clients.