The soft pattering of rain is rhythmic on the hood of my jacket as I stand underneath the canopy of trees — with the grey steel waters of Daisy Lake and the elusive Coast Mountains covered in ghostly veils of cloud serving as the solemn background. I lean against the expansive trunk of a fir tree, as instructed; feeling its moist, hard bark while the accompanying scent of moss and earth fills my nostrils. Closing my eyes, I feel completely and utterly alone, despite the fact there are eight bodies sharing this space with me in the grove.
"Notice how stable, how strong the tree is and allow the energy to flow into you," a low voice emerges from the left side of me.
It is Adrian Juric, our intrepid leader for this retreat on which we are embarking, entitled Understanding Transition in Life: Lessons from nature. Based at the Sea to Sky Retreat Centre (SSRC), a quiet, reclusive Buddhist sanctuary tucked in the folds of the rocks and moss at the edge of Garibaldi Provincial Park; this is quite simply one of the most perfect places to "get away from it all."
Juric reads a poem aloud to us as we continue to lean on our selected tree:
Think Like a TreeBy Karen L. Shr
Soak up the sun
Affirm life's magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
Hear your own leaves rustling.
Afterwards we stand in the hushed quietness, allowing the poem’s melodic words to sink in and its metaphors to play in our minds. For stillness and contemplation are exactly why we are here on this wet and wild winter weekend, as we each grasp in our own way, the incredible healing powers of nature. This emerging field of psychology is also referred to as ecotherapy.
Ecotherapy, what is it?
According to American pastoral counsellor Howard Clinebell — a pioneer of the ecotherapy movement who penned the book, Ecotherapy: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Earth — this therapy, in a nutshell, refers to a diversity of nature-based methods of healing.
According to the website, ecotherapyheals.com, it takes into account the latest scientific understandings of the world and the deepest indigenous wisdom.
"This perspective reveals the critical fact that people are intimately connected with, embedded in, and inseparable from the rest of nature. Grasping this fact deeply shifts our understanding of how to heal the human psyche and the currently dysfunctional and even lethal human-nature relationship. It becomes clear that what happens to nature for good or ill impacts people and vice versa, leading to the development of new methods of individual and community psychotherapeutic diagnosis and treatment."