In my ecopsychology practice, one of the ways I talk about working with eco-anxiety or earth grief is through resourcing. We can resource in many ways, through focusing on our breath and letting its rhythm rock us back into a place of calm stasis, by making contact with a true friend and being witnessed in our pain and joy. But one way, my favorite way, is Resourcing with Nature. Not "in" or "from", but with.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a mental spin-out when it comes to relationship problems, creative blocks, work issues or inner critic attacks. At other times it may be our political system, violence against BIPOC, or LGBTQIA rights. Then there's anxiety or grief about Climate Change and our ecological crisis, which is literally a grounded experience, co-arising from both the earth and your own heart. Our reaction to these strong feelings can make the whole thing a very heady experience. Most of us, being unequipped to deal with what may feel like an emotional tsunami, retreat into the defense of thinking. And it can quickly escalate into what I affectionately call hamster wheeling. Circling, frantic thought patterns that tend to bite back upon themselves like an ouroboros. The heart grows heavier, the mind grows more anxious and we begin to frantically search for an answer or fix.
That's when I want you to remember to Take It Outside.
Your first order of business when your feet hit the path is to slow down. Slow your pace and slow your breath. As you walk, notice what information is coming in from your five senses. What do you hear? What are your eyes drawn too? What do you smell? How does the ground feel under your feet, how does the mossy tree trunk feel under your fingertips? If you see a wild edible, how does it taste? Remark upon these things to yourself, continuing to let your breath support you, noticing the earth under your feet.
You will begin to notice that nature is in conversation with you. Even if this doesn't translate into actually hearing the voice of the earth, even if your mind is still squawking away like that crow over there, even if you feel encased inside your own troubles, your animal body is re-engaging with its natural state. Keep going slow, keep breathing, keep touching.
And if you are still seeking answers, then you are surrounded by allies that invite you to go within. There is a way to let go of needing to know, a way to enliven your creative capacity, a key to the imaginal realm.
It all starts with picking up a rock.
- Find a rock. One that calls to you, or that you feel drawn to. Take note of where you find it, because you'll be returning it home when you're done.
- Holding it in your hand, think of a question, as simple as you can make it, about what troubles you. Avoid yes or no questions, instead asking for insight, guidance or illumination.
- Pick a side and gaze at it softly. Bring your awareness to your breath, to the sensation of the rock in your hand. Notice the colors, heft, temperature of your rock.
- Look at the shape and contours, and any markings on the surface. Have you ever found faces in the clouds? In the same way, let your gaze relax as you muse. What do you notice?
- You may notice many things, but keep it simple. Pick out one thing, the one that has the strongest emotional charge. If you don't feel anything but curiosity or a slight blip of amusement, that can work too.
- Return to your question. How might this image pertain to what you are asking? There is no right or wrong answer here. This is not a test to see if you are a shaman with SSMCP. This is an invitation to let your own inner knowing arise. I don't have inner knowing you wail. Well, I'm sorry, you're just going to have to trust me on this one. You do.
Take note of what you have discovered and seen. Take a picture of your rock if you wish. Spend a moment to give thanks, to your rock, to yourself, to the place where you are sitting/standing.
These things have a way of working their way through our subconscious, even if on the surface we "can't figure it out" or "don't know what it means". The more we can avoid over-thinking it, the more we will stay out of our own way.
The simple act of getting outside, into the fresh air, sunshine or rain, helps to rewire our psyche. The bipedal action of your legs moving is a bilateral stimulation that goes a long way to releasing blocked emotions and pent up anxiety. When you engage in divination with a rock, you are "thinking out side of the box". It is an invitation to your right brain, your imagination, to show up and get on board to help problem solve. Your body has knowing and wisdom, muscle memory, and it can jump to life when it comes into contact with life...micro-organisms, plants, wind, bird song. When it comes to eco anxiety and earth grief, taking it outside is the most important thing you can do to support yourself. It will return you to joy, to the whole reason it all matters to you in the first place. Because you love this life, this world, this earth. This is re-membering, all parts of the self coming into alignment and wholeness.
Plus, you just had a conversation with a rock. I dare you to not feel just a little bit magical.
Ever done this before? See something in the photos of rocks above? Leaping out of your seat right now to go try it? I'd love to hear about your experience.
(Title from the book of the same name by Byrd Baylor.)