Getting back to nature

wilderness

If you dig down deep enough, fear is at the root at a lot of different issues.

Maybe you haven’t learnt to drive a car yet because you’re afraid of causing an accident.

Maybe you haven’t quit your dismal job and started your own business because you’re scared of failing, looking like a fool, losing all your money, and/or ending up homeless.

Maybe you haven’t got out of your toxic relationship because you’re scared of being alone, or of the consequences of leaving.  Or maybe you haven’t got into a relationship in the first place, for fear of getting hurt.

As I’ve discovered, the groundwork for understanding the true nature of fear and learning to work through it is, quite literally, to ground yourself in a natural environment.

When we re-ground ourselves and reconnect with the Earth, we find our way back to Love with a capital L – a Love that isn’t dependent on a particular person continuing to support us, be there for us, or make our dreams come true.

This process is at the root of ecopsychology and ecotherapy, although the exercises that I teach aren’t ‘therapy’ in the conventional sense – they can be used by anyone, with or without mental health difficulties.

That doesn’t mean it’s an easy or comfortable process.   The nettles and thorns are just the beginning, and even the potential for disease-ridden ticks or venomous snakes isn’t the end of the story.  When we’re out wandering in the wilderness, we’re alone with ourselves.  We’re unprotected: away from all the distractions that keep us numbed and dumbed, like TV, overwork, overeating and social media obsession.  So the very soulwork that helps us to face our fears is, in itself, fundamentally scary for a lot of people.

It starts with a small, manageable step that most people probably wouldn’t expect…

Getting back to nature.

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The remedy for deep fear is Deep Love

hands

There are so many people out there trying to spread fear, hatred and division.  We notice the violent ones, who make grand gestures and kill a lot of people in a short space of time, but we often don’t notice the ones who work in more subtle ways.

Much of today’s politics is based on fear.  Fear of those people who don’t look like us, or that culture that doesn’t do things the way we do them, or that guy who wants to change the system, or that group that calls itself by a different name and seems to be worshipping a different kind of Divinity.

That’s because fear is a natural human emotion.  It’s evolved to keep us alive, which is usually agreed to be a good thing.   So it’s easy for politicians to exploit it – to appeal to our primitive survival instincts, rather than our higher consciousness that keeps trying to wake us up and tell us the truth: There is no ‘us and them’.  

As I wrote in a poem when I was a teenager at the Drielandenpunt, where the borders of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands all meet – countries that were once at war, but have now turned the site into an international peace park:

And should we speak of ‘them’ at all,

as ‘them and me’, or ‘them and us’,

or should we speak of us and us?

Why all this fuss?

A name is just a name…

 

God, Goddess, Allah, Mungu, Engai Brahma, Jehovah: these are just our feeble human attempts at naming something which is far, far bigger and more beautiful than we can ever dream of.

Muslim, Christian, Pagan, Druid, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jew, Zoroastrian, atheist, agnostic, spiritual wanderer, or whatever other names we might come up with: we are all seekers, chasing sparks of that Divine Love and trying to fan them into flames.

We can’t let ourselves be distracted from our quest by people who don’t understand it, and think that ‘those people’ over there are ‘the enemy’.   A name is just a name…

 

 

 

 

The healing power of song

One of the greatest tragedies of the West is that we’ve lost the magic of song.

In the Maasai community, singing is part of everyday life.  People sing to praise God, regardless of whether they’re Christians, Muslims, or followers of their own indigenous spiritual tradition (where ‘Engai’ is actually translated more accurately as ‘Goddess’).

People sing to preserve their memories and histories, most of which are still unwritten.  All the rites of passage have their own songs associated with them, including weddings, ceremonies to bless unborn children, child-naming ceremonies, initiation into adulthood, and the transition from warriorhood into elderhood (although the latter doesn’t have an equivalent for women), and funerals.

Songs are used to welcome important visitors, to launch projects, or – as in the photo above – to entertain parents at the school Open Day.   Crucially, they can also be used to open people’s minds to the possibility of change: in our project to reduce the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM), we started every seminar and workshop with a performance by a women’s commuity choir.

Yet, in so-called ‘developed’ countries, we’ve created a culture in which most people are afraid to sing.

Shows like ‘The X Factor’, ‘American Idol’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ – where harsh criticism of people’s vocal performance is seen as entertaining – certainly haven’t helped.  But a bigger issue is that, with the decline in church attendance, most people just don’t have a space in which they can sing freely without being criticised or judged.

When I recently started attending my local Baptist church in England and the very first song we sang was one that I recognised from an international church that I used to attend in Tanzania, it felt like coming home.  But traditional church services don’t appeal to everyone, and despite the vast amount of content available on YouTube, a lot of people – whatever their religion – wouldn’t know where to start looking for inspiring, uplifting, soul-stirring, life-changing, motivating songs that can support their own personal journey to reconnection and wholeness.

I’m a huge fan of Jodi Picoult’s book Sing You Home, which has a downloadable soundtrack.  I LOVE those songs, especially ‘Ordinary Life’ – a cry from the heart for LGBTQ rights and non-discrimination – and the title track, a haunting song dedicated to a child lost through miscarriage.

Maybe it’s time we all started learning how to sing ourselves home?