An Ecopsychologist On How To Connect To Nature From Anywhere (Even Indoors)
I was born and raised in Suriname, the most forest-covered nation in the world, with 98% tree cover. "Nature Deficit Disorder"—a term that author Richard Louv coined to describe how being disconnected from nature can harm health—was not something I needed to worry about growing up. However, it plagued me nonstop after moving to the concrete jungles of Miami during my adolescence and attending a middle school that had no windows, looked like a warehouse, and felt like a giant freezer.
Children, teens, and adults in industrialized societies are even more cooped up and disconnected from the natural world today than we were decades ago. We now reach for our smartphones and laptops to do almost everything—from completing work to reading to buying groceries. Stay-at-home restrictions and ongoing lockdowns have only made the disconnect from the natural world more striking.
In his 2012 book The Nature Principle, Louv claimed that we must learn to reconnect with nature for the sake of our well-being as a species. He claims that "The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need."
Ten years later, the question remains: Do we stand a chance at a nature-smart future? Will our collective addiction to technology worsen over time, or could the pain of losing our human-nature connection lead us back to the outdoors?
I believe that we can all learn to "renature" ourselves in this tech-obsessed age.
Thousands of hours of shamanic trance work and deep meditations with clients have taught me that renaturing our "denatured minds" is much easier than we realize. This is because we are nature; we don't just live with or in nature. In spite of our ego-mind's sabotaging tendencies, we will never stop functioning like a mini-Earth and ecosystem in our own right, with cells, organs, breath, fluids, senses, body heat, and bones that host and harmonize mystery and core elements of life just like our Earth Mother does.
It's possible for us to connect to this inner nature anywhere—even from indoors. We may not always get to enjoy fresh air, admire nature's beauty, inhale immune-supporting bacteria and healing aromas, get vitamin D from sunlight, and develop the same sensory awareness that we would while forest-bathing, but doing any kind of movement—even inside—can significantly improve our mental health and physical well-being in similar ways.
This three-part renaturing visualization practice can be done anywhere and have a profound impact on our sense of well-being when done on a daily basis:
Re-tree-t in a protective soul sanctuary.
Imagine entering a sacred garden or peaceful natural setting through your heart center. You can do this whether alone or surrounded by people, when meditating or while running a meeting.
Picture this: You find, lean, and rest against an all-encompassing Sacred Tree of Life in the center of your sanctuary. This sacred tree has your back and connects you to your true nature and ancient parents, sun and earth. It mends artificially split polarities—i.e, light and dark, seen and unseen, masculine and feminine, good and bad, success and failure—and connects you to your dynamic wholeness.
Harmonize with the elements.
Consider how the natural elements Air (corresponding with your mental body) and Fire (energetic body) circulate and regulate oxygen, wind, clouds, energy, and heat above, and how the elements Water (emotional body) and Earth (physical body) circulate minerals, nutrients, oxygen, energy, and coolness below to keep your tree alive.
Are you supporting these regulating parts of yourself equally, or are your thoughts and head dominating your emotions and heart? Do you give your body the rest it requests, or do you keep going, even when doing exhausting, soul-sucking work? Do you hinder your growth by avoiding all risk and discomfort, or do you at times dig your roots deep and go out on a limb?
Allow daily cycles of energy to freely move through you by no longer favoring any aspect of yourself over another.
Engage in aligned instead of blind action.
Your tree is like a grounding rod that prevents you from short-circuiting when certain emotions (your energy-in-motion) feel too intense or overwhelming. Re-tree-ting allows you to practice equanimity, which is not a veneer of serenity or calm as many people tend to think. Instead, it's what naturally happens when we root into the balancing powers of the Earth—the same ones that bring tumultuous weather conditions back into harmony and equilibrium.
Equanimity enables the four main parts of ourselves to work in a similar fashion, which helps us to take aligned instead of blind action on behalf of our highest good.
Renaturing our denatured minds catalyzes our innate wisdom and healing potential, which boosts all levels of our well-being. It also enhances our longing to reconnect with the natural world, appreciate the wonders of the elements, and protect sacred life and mystery—both on the planet and within ourselves.
Loraine Van Tuyl, Ph.D., CHT, is a shamanic ecopsychologist and licensed clinical psychologist. She empowers sensitive and intuitive empaths, experts, and transformation leaders with unique holistic and nature-guided methods that help them to Re-TREE-t© in an inner sanctuary, ReNature© their denatured minds, and become the soul authority of their lives and spiritual missions.
Loraine is the author of Amazon Wisdom Keeper: a Psychologist’s Memoir of Spiritual Awakening and Soul Authority: Liberatory Tools to Heal from Oppressive Patterns and Restore Trust in your Heart Compass (April 2022), which complements her online course, HEAL LOVE LEAD with SOUL AUTHORITY™. To learn more about Loraine’s offerings, visit www.theSacredHealingWell.com.