What is the nature in Nature-Connected transformational life coaching?
Although most people feel they have a grasp on how therapy and coaching works, bringing nature into our transformation and changes is generally not well understood. From the biology of being around trees and plants, to nature as a mirror of our personal healing and struggles, to the deep connection we can have with ourselves and the earth, nature can be a part of all aspects of our personal growth and healing.
The nature of healing
Psychologists know; it is not possible to process deep or intense emotions (heal emotionally) when our emotions are overwhelming us. It is also not possible to process deep or intense emotions when they are out of our awareness. Between those two states – being out of awareness and overwhelmed – lies a balance of calm, non-judging, accepting awareness. It is within that balance that emotional healing can occur. When I work with people, I help them get themselves to that healing place, and then we can apply other tools and techniques to move into transformational change.
The healing of nature
Walk into the park or nearby woods, and you almost instantly feel it. That sense that there is a greater amount of peace than you usually feel. It is almost as if you can start to really breathe again.
In the last decade, researchers have been interested in the ways in which just being in nature affects humans. The question that is posed in these studies is basically this: Are you happier and less stressed when you spend time in nature?
The answer that is revealed, in a very significant way, is: Yes!
Research also indicates that in addition to people saying they feel less stressed, their bodies are exhibiting less stress. That is, the biological indicators of stress are reduced when people spend time at the park, in the woods, or in the forest.
Getting out into nature is the first step in bringing our emotional life into balance. In nature-connected transformational work, one of the first things we discuss and develop is your connection to nature and find ways for you to be more connected to nature. Whether it is in locating a place to be in nature, or finding your sit spot, managing the challenges that come up with sustained nature-connected practice, or dealing with not having enough access to nature, we find ways to increase your nature connection.
HOW you go into nature also changes what you receive from nature. In nature-connected work, we talk about the manner of how you might go into nature that would be most helpful for you. Some of these activities, such as; surround awareness, mindful slowing, walking with spirit council, understanding what the robin knows, and receiving the forest, are fun as well as useful methods of really being present with the forest, making the most of your time in the woods.
A natural mirror
Nature also assists in helping us find emotions that lie outside of our immediate awareness. To understand how this can happen, think of nature as being one, big, tapestry upon which we can project, or superimpose, what is happening inside of us. The childhood activity of seeing figures in clouds is similar to what we can do as adults with the forest. When you look out into the woods, you will see a vast array of things that are involved in their own life events. Birth, growth, challenge, resolve, death….all of the things in nature-from the ants to the trees-are involved in those aspects of life. These are also the same events from which human emotions arise.
When we spend time in nature in an open and receptive manner, we tend to become aware of and pay closer attention to those things that are depicting our own challenges. In essence, our inner world is mirrored outside of us through the lens of our own, deeper, psychology, helping to bring deeper emotions to the surface and to see more clearly the challenges-and potential- in our own lives.
In nature-connected transformational life coaching, we get the opportunity to learn about this process, find ways to engage in it, and then share and sift through with another person what we are noticing, what arises within us as we do so, and where that leads us.
In a wonderful manner, once the emotions are more present and engaged, when we are out in nature there is less likelihood of them overwhelming us because of the natural soothing properties of nature. In this way, nature assists in both bringing the emotions into awareness and not overwhelming us so they remain in the balance of calm, non-judging, acceptance, where they are available for processing and unburdening
There are other ways nature helps in the therapeutic process of mental health. One of these lies in the fact that when we are out in nature, more of our senses are activated than when we are inside. This is important because when we are in the process of psychological healing, we want to utilize our whole body, not just portions of our mind in order to make the kinds of changes that are actually transformational. Sometimes we just need to get reacquainted with the senses that have become dormant through indoor living. Sometimes we need to become aware of senses we never were taught are there.
What we usually think of as our usual senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight, are actually just the beginning of senses we have available to us. Two other senses: proprioception and enteroception, are also very important senses. Proprioception is your body’s felt sense of embodiment, and place in space. Enteroception is awareness of internal body processing, such as feeling hungry or starting to feel ill. To be fully human, we need to be in contact with both of these additional senses. In fact, when we have lost full contact with these senses, we often call what occurs “symptoms”, such as the loss of feeling connected to yourself or losing our appetite or desire to move and be physical.
One way nature helps us get in contact with all of our senses is that it doesn’t have road signs! When we start moving off the grid and then off the trail and more deeply into the world of nature, we move from our head to sensing our whole selves, and all of our senses become more active. In the wild we have to pay attention to everything we see and hear, as well as things such as the quality of the ground we are walking on, the amount of moisture in the air, the subtle smell of another animal close by, mirror sensing, body radar, proprioception, and interoception just to keep ourselves safe and oriented. In nature, we must use, and will thereby cultivate, a connection with all of our senses. Thus helping us get out of our thinking space and more aware of and more sensitive to our whole being.
Nature without as nature within
In addition to nature being a natural mirror, and helping us get in touch with more of our senses, when we begin to interact with nature, our inner life can come alive. Here we are not just observing the tapestry of the woods and sensing our own struggles being mirrored back, but we get to move with, touch, smell, hear and manipulate the things in the woods. Rocks become questions or decisions we are pondering or people with whom we have a relationship, and can be carried, placed and left behind, thrown into the woods, or arranged as a mandala-the better to see and organize what we carry within. Trees become phones to carry our heartfelt messages to ones we no longer can see, or guides to show us what strength means as we push on them knowing their roots grow deeply in the dirt-much as we are striving to be grounded and strong. Paths become a metaphor for moving forward. We draw a line on the path behind us, we bow in honor of that direction, but vow: “I will never go that way again”, then mindfully turn and look with new eyes on the direction we have chosen as we begin a mindful walk forward.
In nature, we can combine a multitude of therapies used in the therapy office, such as; sand tray therapy, art therapy, music therapy, movement therapy, internal family systems, psychodrama, and more, all done in the life-sized “office” of the forest.
Ritual and ceremony
Many people equate ritual and ceremony with a church or religion. In the nature-connected work, formal religion is not a part of what we create, unless you have a particular faith that you follow and want to incorporate that into your work. The sacredness of all and everything is, however, a foundational belief in the work, and so that belief is enacted within the rituals and ceremony we choose to do that helps you flow into or complete personal transformation.
A ritual is an action performed by an individual to bring forward that which lies inside of them. At the same time, as we perform a ritual we are seeing what we are bringing forward which then works to change us on the inside.
Some rituals are simple. For example, remembering how your grandmother cared for her flowers and her love for you, as you do your weekly watering of your plants, helps to instill the sense of being loved, held, and in belonging to a community that stretches both backward in time and forward to your descendants. Some are more complex, such as gathering specific rocks that represent important people or events in your life and creating a path that you mindfully walk every day for a week. Some can be done almost mindlessly, yet become a part of the way we look at the world, such as saying “thank you” to the water every time you take a drink.
Ceremonies are different than rituals. In a ceremony, we begin as one person and become another. The ceremony most often thought of is the wedding ceremony. We begin as an individual, bonded with one another but uncoupled. We end the ceremony with the announcement: “I now pronounce you…” and with an introduction to those attending as the “new” you.
Ceremonies run backward from how we usually think of our lives. In our life, we think we are moving from birth to death. In a ceremony, we first, symbolically die and are reborn as something new. To die means we leave something behind. We will never be able to go back. Yes, someone can get divorced, but they will never return to the same person they were prior to the wedding.
In nature-connected work, ceremonies are utilized to mark a significant change and to complete the process of what has been transpiring. For example, after significant work regarding the forgiveness of someone for a serious transgression, we can perform a water ritual to wash the emotional remnants of the past away. Often, ceremonies are held in the presence of others to bear witness to a person’s transformation and commitment to continue living in their new way.
Nature and you
These various forms of using nature in our psychological process and healing are just a sampling of what we can do with nature-connected transformational life coaching. It is your creativity, your connection to nature, and what you want to accomplish that determines what happens in the woods. In that way, the possibilities are endless.
If you want to change your life, reach out today.