I’m writing this from the final day of a three-day introductory course in ecopsychology, led by Natural Academy.
That wiggly red underlining indicates that my computer doesn’t recognise ecopsychology as a word, so let’s break it down.
- Eco- comes from the Greek oikos, meaning home or dwelling place — and, by extension, the household or family.
- psych- comes from the Greek psyche, meaning spirit, mind or soul.
- -ology comes from the Greek logos, meaning discourse, speech or reason — or, if you’re a Stoic, ‘the divine animating principle pervading the Universe’.
Ecopsychology is, then, a discourse on the dwelling place of our soul. Or perhaps conversations around the soul of our dwelling place. Or perhaps the two are identical.
Natural Academy prefer to use the term dwelling place over home, not only because dwelling place rolls more deliciously around the mouth, but because home is such a loaded term — for all of us, not least those ousted from or without their own.
Every being, however, must dwell in a place — even if only for this moment now.
Fascinatingly, the origins of the word dwell are more sinister, from the Sanskrit to mislead or disceive.
Perhaps there’s still something of the misleading in the word, that, for many of us, our dwelling place seems deceptively permanent or stable.
In reality, our dwelling is temporary, we’re transient visitors, fleeting expressions of consciousness.
Dwell has a broader, less partizan pattern of meaning, compared to the concept of home, for we can also dwell on an emotion or a thought, lingering, giving over our attention to fix on something important — or unimportant.
But mainly it’s just a lovely word.
So that’s what ecopsychology is — a conversation around the dwelling place of our soul.
A reintegration of psychology and ecology: an acceptance that we are nature.
Despite being pretty cosmic in scope, ecopsycholgy couldn’t be simpler. It’s nothing more than a return: coming back to ourselves as nature.
Over the course of the past three days, I noticed this in myself. Less learning and more remembering.
Like, I know what these white flowers pockering the grass are —
But it takes a smartphone app to tell me what I already know.
I wasn’t alone in this sense of remembering, for there is nothing in our natures that is alien to nature.
Yet, sometimes our disconnection is such that we need a bit of help getting back there, reconnecting, rediscovering the lines of reciprocity that fly between each node of nature’s unique, bountiful, abundant expression.
To see the lines that connect us with the beech bobbing outside the windows we peer through from inside our dwelling place, from inside our skull. The we that reaches out and connects with the touch of bark that reaches out from a branch of beech.
I’m here to learn how to facilitate these reconnections.
Facilitator is another word that’s interesting to explore etymologically.
Facere is Latin for doing or making, thus facilis: easy to do, from where we get the word facile.
A facilitator, then, is someone who makes the doing or making easy for someone else.
As a facilitator of nature connectedness, my job is to make reconnection with nature easy for others. This is a simple task because, of course, a facilitator is not a teacher.
Nature does the work.
All we have to do is clear that path back to nature, hold out a steadying arm, make the going easy.
Bring people back.
Encourage them to dwell for a moment on their dwelling place, on the environment around them in this moment, and to explore what that place is reflecting back to them about this connection we call soul.
And, above all, to invite them into the conversation.
So I invite you to engage directly with your dwelling place, your here and now, and to take two minutes to peer into its corners, scratch and sniff its edges, and expand your appreciation for its wholeness — and, naturally, your part within that wholeness.
Suspend any notions of beauty or judgement and instead wonder what the unique wholeness of your dwelling place could be trying to tell you about your soul’s place and purpose.
Like I said: cosmic.