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“Umntu ngumntu ngabanye.”

It is through our relationship with all other beings

that we experience our full selves.

Humans are tuned to relationship. For the largest part

of our existence human beings have negotiated

relationships with clawed kin, feathered otherness,

tumbling rivers, sighing singing winds telling of rain. This

many-voiced landscape speaking in gestures of meaning

that we knew through our skin, our ears, our noses, where

every sound was a voice, everything an encounter. To

all of these voices we replied in our own way, perhaps

through sound or the softest change in mood. And from

all of these myriad relationships came our rootedness in

the web of life where we received the nourishment of


Today we participate almost entirely with a humanonly

world – cityscapes and technologies. Many have

been raised on a vision of nature that teaches of nature

of something that provides for us a supply of ‘natural

resources’. Our language has become transactional.

We imagine the world to be a one way deal. This

misidentification has got us all, as a planet, to the point of

crisis. In essence it is this which is behind climate change,

global warming and all the other technical terms we use

to complicate what is at the root simply neglect of our

wider relationships.

Thankfully the profound impact that nature contact has

on people is being increasingly noticed: reduction of

stress; elevated mood; boosted mental health; relief from

depression and fatigue and a sense of well-being are

only a few.

While the mind and body is affected by this ‘modern’

world, our deepest structures are still informed by, and

adapted to, the animated natural world in which we have

evolved for over a million years. When we remember this

then its not at all surprising that spending time in nature

has a restorative and calming effect on us. The root of the

word “eco” comes from the Greek ‘oikos’ which simply

means home. Eco-therapy is exactly that – home therapy

– the restoration of wellbeing through spending time in

the knowledge of belonging, surrounded by kin. When

we step outside for a walk in nature we are not simply

surrounding ourselves with a pretty scene or getting

some fresh air. What is happening is that we are allowing

ourselves to be re-calibrated, like a tuning fork, to a wider

reality of not-just-human Life. We are reviving an age-old

reciprocity with many-voiced world.

Eco-therapy is essentially the practical application of this,

where nature is the ‘therapist’. Sometimes called ‘naturebased

therapy’, ‘eco-therapy’ or ‘green psychology’,

each is a way of including the more-than-human world

in work with people, earth and wellbeing. Eco-therapy

is supporting people to navigate their way back to

knowing for themselves their intimate dependence on

an expressive and sentient world, and recover their own

two-way communication with Life.

“As the crickets’ soft Autumn hum

is to us

so are we to the trees

as are they

to the rocks and the hills”

– Gary Snyder

By Jess Tyrell: Eco Therapist


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