Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and Deep Belonging to the Earth

Free Ecopsychology Webinar this eve July 30, 2020

From Ownership to Belonging: Ecopsychological Models of Relationship with the More-than-Human World of Nature

It’s becoming increasingly obvious how our collective behaviors are bringing the living world as we know it to the brink of destruction. Ecopsychology teaches us that understanding the implicit ideas beneath such behaviors can help us shift them. The currently dominant industrial growth society contains several deeply-seated cultural assumptions that have contributed to our shared situation. This lecture unpacks some of these, then offers alternative models of relationship with the more-than-human world of nature that are often found in older cultures worldwide. Inspiring stories will be told, and participants will be given an easy contemplative nature-connection exercise to do at home.

In this lecture, we will learn (3 points):
• Largely unquestioned dominant cultural assumptions that have led to widespread environmentally destructive behaviors
• Three alternative models of human-nature relationship, some held by older cultures across the globe
• An easy contemplative exercise to come into more conscious, joyful, and mutually beneficial relationship with the more-than-human world right outside your door

7 pm EST. 1 hour, plus perhaps a bit more for Q&A. Free!

https://www.embodiedphilosophy.org/from-ownership-to-belonging

 

Japan! May 14, 2019

I’ve not posted here for some time, having frittered my labors on Facebook instead. Welcome back to all of us!

Hopefully this short series will be fun for you to read. I’m off to Japan for 12 days with my BFF Julianne Skai Arbor (aka TreeGirl). We will go to INFOM, the international conference of Forest Medicine, and also visit Shinrin-Yoku sites on our own for independent research. Plus, Japan!! I’ve never been.

I landed in Narita/Tokyo last night after a 12 hour flight from Denver. Non-stop. Even though I’ve lived with it my entire life, my father being a pilot, I will never stop seeing flying as anything but a miracle.

Looking out of our hotel window, I was amazed to see that we were 12 stories above a giant forest! I thought of this whole area is being one giant city but I was wrong. In my jetlagged sleep, half in and out of a hypnagogic state, every time I came back from the bathroom or whatever, I repeatedly dreamed that I crawled back into bed in the hollow of a giant tree; part of that forest outside the window. I was held cozy in the tree’s body. It happened so many times that it seems it must have been true. So I already love Japan.

Then breakfast included fish! What other delights await?

 

Climate Crisis Solutions conference October 19, 2016

I’m pleased to be one of the presenters in Ohio this coming weekend at the 63rd annual conference put on by the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions. It will be held at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, from October 21-23, 2016.

The presentations cover a wide variety of topics related to climate change.

 

Climate Crisis Solutions: Charting a New Course

100916conferenceschedulewebwithtimes

 

My two presentations are:

PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOP:

Stones as Mentors: Spiritual Ecotherapy    Tina Fields

As you face the big issues like climate change along with figuring out how to best live your own life, have you ever wished you had a wise elder around to give you perspective and advice? Engage in an ancient and powerful animistic practice that works with the oldest parts of the earth – stones – to gain insight into a life question. Participants will experience how the natural world can serve as spiritual advisor.

and

Fostering Nature Connections and Joy as a Resilience Strategy     – Tina Fields

Along with structural alternatives, psychological and spiritual resilience need to be cultivated in order to effectively meet the enormous challenges and coming changes posed by climate change. Allowing the feelings that arise to be recognized and flow though us is a key element – both the harder feelings of pain, fear, anger and denial, and also the joy and mysteries of being alive at this time. In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to express their feelings about the situation of climate change, and to explore their own deep and abiding connection with the more-than-human world.

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I’m especially delighted that two of my former students will be attending, and one, Catherine Phillips, will assist with the Stones as Mentors workshop.

Hope to see you there!

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Ginger Protector September 28, 2015

organic yellow ginger root

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Do you ever get the spine-tingling feeling that the more-than-human world is looking out for you?

I went to make a drink the other night that involved ginger. In an attempt to save money, a week or so prior, I had made my own ginger tea (brewed from grated ginger root peelings left over from a meal in which I’d eaten the root itself). A small bottle of what I hadn’t yet used was kept in the fridge.

I’m not a butterfingered person; I’m quite facile with my hands. I rarely fumble or drop things. But this day, as I went to pour some of the ginger elixir into my cup as the last ingredient, I knocked the cup over and its entire contents spilled out onto the counter and down on the floor. The ingredients are expensive, so I wasn’t happy with myself about this waste. Sighing, I cleaned it up, and then carefully made another.

The same thing happened all over again – the ingredients poured out all over. I cleaned it up. And then it happened yet again. The third time, the bottle itself slipped from my fingers.

What is going on? I thought. Then I looked more closely at the ginger brew. The bottom third of the bottle, which I had now reached, contained small puffs of mold.

I sat down, heavily. Who knows what kind of mold this was, and what effects it might have had on my health had I unknowingly drunk it? Perhaps it would have been fine. But I suspect otherwise.

When such things happen, a person has many possibilities for interpretation. Maybe I was just not paying enough attention to what I was doing. That happens. Or maybe my hands suddenly became clumsy due to some other factor. But three times? The event was so anomalous, and repeated three times like in a fairy tale! So I, an unrepentant animist, think the ginger was looking out for me. And I feel enormous gratitude over spilled drink.

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Archangel Michael. Source: nikkiboruch.com

Archangel Michael. Source: nikkiboruch.com

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It’s the Autumnal Equinox as I write this, which the Christian church overlaid with a celebration called Michaelmas. Archangel Michael, for whom Michaelmas is named, is known to serve as a protector. He’s actually appeared to me personally not only once, but twice, in hours of need. …Me, a pagan, who doesn’t “do” iconography of good vs. evil; neither devils nor angels. But that’s a story for another time.

Some scholars have pointed out the parallels between Michael and the pre-Christian Irish god Lugh. At least Lugh is another form easily recognized as a holy agent. But the grand Archangel Michael in the guise of a hot yellow root?!

Why not?

I’m also reminded of the wonderful Greek tale of Philemon and Baucis, humble peasants who were visited in their home by beggars who turned out to be disguised gods. Their generosity with food and shelter to their unexpected visitors ultimately allowed them to live when the rest of the entire stingy village below got inundated the next morning with a covering flood. So there. Love these cautionary tales. Plus they got to live out many post-human-death years as entwined trees.

The message is, you never know who you’re really dealing with.

There’s Don Juan’s crow that isn’t a crow. And the old Irish poem that ends with the line, “Often, often, often goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.”

All of these serve as good reminders to treat the entire world as divine, particularly the humblest manifestations. If such stories speak true, sneaky godlings get a kick out of testing us that way.

And if you’re thinking, wow, what crazy unscientific thinking she’s exhibiting here, please consider premier psychologist Carl Jung’s observation in Modern Man in Search of a Soul:  “The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.”

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botanical print ginger

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Bonus: Two Recipes for Delicious Ginger Drinks

…I suggest you drink them fresh. 🙂

Hot Ginger Drink
Grate ginger.
Boil it in water, and add a sweetener to taste.
Drink this hot.
It not only tastes yummy, it’s good for soothing throats when you have a cold.
You can also buy this sort of mix commercially at Asian grocery markets. I like two brands in particular:

Ginger Brews

 

Moscow Mule
(An adult beverage made of non-alcoholic “ginger beer,” vodka, & lime)
In a medium-sized glass, squeeze 1/2 lime over 3 ice cubes and drop the peel in on top.
Add one jigger of vodka.
Then fill the glass with “ginger beer” (which is basically ginger plus sugar, brewed and fermented till it’s fizzy. My favorite brand is Fever Tree – it’s delicious and healthy to boot, with no corn syrup in it, but it’s pricey. To make your own version, add a dollop of strong ginger tea and a bit of sweetener of your choice, then fill to top with carbonated water.)
Stir and enjoy.
I hear that some people think a copper cup enhances the flavor. Never tried it myself.
This drink is super refreshing in the summer after work.

 

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That lovely ginger root pictured at the top of this post was grown by my friend Hugh Johnson, a.k.a. “Biker Dude”. He runs the largest organic yellow ginger farm on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Chances are high that whatever organic yellow ginger you find in mainland grocery stores will be some of Hugh’s.

If you buy ginger, please buy organic if you can. It makes a difference to your health, the health of the planet and the health of the farm workers.

And do yourself a favor sometime: try organic yellow ginger. Mmm. Believe it or not, it’s really really good sliced raw on Newman-O cookies.

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Machine Moment September 17, 2015

2face_sewingmachine_behindthevoiceactors.comWe who enjoy material prosperity in the modern day Industrial Growth Society are expected to chuck out imperfect possessions that we don’t use anymore and go buy new ones.

However, I like to repair and repurpose things, so I’ve been doing some mending.

Some of the clothes on the pile are nearly worn out. But that’s because they’re favorites and therefore too beloved to just let go softly into that dark night of the rubbish bin or consigned to a second life as cleaning rags without a fight. Others, I want to alter in some interesting way; to usher their good raw material into a new and more currently useable form.

Even though I’m much more skilled at sewing the archaic way, with a simple needle and thread, I got our old sewing machine out for the first time in many years to make the work go faster.

“Faster,” she said. Ha! As soon as I attempted to begin, the thread snarled up in incredible thick tangles over and over behind the bobbin. This being on the bottom side of the piece, I didn’t notice it until quite a few inches were already sewn and I was congratulating myself on the excellent choice to employ some metallic plug-in help. Then the snarl caught on the foot hardware and everything stopped cold. I turned the work over, and omg. In certain places, what was intended to be a neat row of small stitches was a mass two inches thick and a half-inch deep! What a mess.

I tried a few more times, with no luck. As a last desperate resort, I finally broke down and got out the owner’s manual to try and understand what was happening. Not surprisingly, this helped. Improper settings for the kind of material, thread, stitching style, etc., had indeed caused part of the problem.

But really, getting deeper to the core of the issue, machines have never liked me.

You’d think they would cut me some slack due to my family: my dad, a mechanic, served their kind his entire life. He worked on aircraft, cars, motorcycles, and small stroke engines like chainsaws and outboard motors. He even single-handedly rebuilt three-and-a-half P-51 warbird airplanes from the WWII era, one from a husk found abandoned out in the desert. And my mom cared for this exact same sewing machine for decades. Where’s the gratitude?

But machines don’t seem to think that way. It’s all about their needs and their individual relationships with us soft-bodied creatures, and something about me is apparently just too much water to their oil.

Thinking about it, maybe it’s because I’ve not given this one a name, nor painted Celtic knotwork all over it, or suchlike. I seem to get along better with the machines that I anthropomorphically spoil, or at least art up. Or perhaps it balked because I don’t use it enough, and it feels under-appreciated; without a strong purpose. Hm.

You reading this: how do YOU personally develop a mutually happy relationship with the machines in your life? Inquiring, frustrated minds want to know.

For myself, I think I am better off sticking mainly to simpler tools like the hand needle, thimble and thread. Even with it occasionally drawing blood and me taking a lot longer to complete tasks, there’s less wariness between us. We know what to expect from one another. We can get along.

 

Jay Bird Service April 21, 2015

stellers jay mid-flight

I am allergic to bee and wasp stings, so when I realized that wasps were building a large nest beneath the porch roof right above my front door, I naturally felt concerned. Every time the door opened, there was a high chance that a wasp would fly in – and then I would have to deal with it. I lived alone and was new to this community, so didn’t yet have any brave helpers to call upon to remove any interloping hymenoptera, let alone the whole dangerous nest.

When a wasp came into the cottage, I felt both scared and relieved to have noticed it before I inadvertently touched or grabbed it along with whatever it was sitting on. I would carefully capture the beastie against a windowpane with a drinking glass and a piece of paper, take it outside, and release it in a nearby wild field. But that nest? That was beyond me. If I messed with their nest in this warm weather season when wasps don’t sleep that deeply, there’s no way I could’ve gotten out of being stung. So I was stuck, and the nest’s presence there felt like a time bomb.

One day, something amazing happened.

I was inside, thinking about this dilemma – what to do; how long it would be before I wind up taking a trip to the ER; whether or not I should compromise my deeply held ethics by just using some bug killing spray like most Americans would without batting an eyelash.

At that moment, I heard a giant clanging sound outside. Clang, clang! Bang! What on earth was going on out there? I looked out the window, and noticed my porch wind chimes swinging wildly – but there was no wind. I went to the door for a closer look.

As I watched, I saw the source. A Steller’s Jay was swooping down under my porch roof, repeatedly, his wings hitting the wind chimes as he swooped and dived. Why was this happening? I went closer yet to investigate.

What happened next, I would never have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes. That jaybird swooped down one more time, then hovered, fluttering, beneath my porch roof, and snapped off the entire wasp nest with his beak. He then flew off with it to that same field where I had been releasing each individual wasp and threw the nest down in the grass over there.

I don’t know why he did that. Perhaps it was in order to eat the larvae later. But why go to the trouble of moving the nest for that, thereby riling up the entire swarm of adult wasps?

All I know is that this bird’s act served as an incredible kindness to me. He took the wasp nest far enough away where it would do me no harm. In one clean swoop, my worries were over for another full year.

A month or so, some afternoon guests (humans) and I were sitting together in lawn chairs in the back. They were admiring the many birds who came to my feeders and small open water source. But when a jay came among the songbirds, they expressed disapproval. “Jays are such nasty birds,” one opined. “Always thieving, and their voices are so loud and unpleasant. I wouldn’t let them feed here. If I were you, I’d chase them away.”  I just laughed and told them I saw things a bit differently from that. Those jays can have anything they want from me, forever.

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Notes:

I have no idea about this bird’s gender, but decided to go with the pronoun “he” in this story to offer a bit of concessional balance to its main point of view that bucks current societal norms.

I enjoyed writing this love letter to a member of the avian family Corvidae, which includes crows, ravens, jackdaws, magpies and others along with jays. Thanks to my students in Transpersonal Service Learning at Naropa University for inspiring me to finally write it down by sharing their own wonderful stories of awakening through bird encounters.

Photo credit: Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) photographed mid-flight, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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Caliban, Prospero, and the Animate World April 30, 2013

Two types of relationship with the animate world, as seen in The Tempest‘s characters.

Which do you most resonate with?

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In his new article, Prospero – Shakespeare’s Shaman, Robert Tindall proposes the interesting idea that Prospero’s island in The Tempest can be seen as “a metaphor for the realm of the transpersonal unconscious.” And he offers up Caliban and Prospero as, in essence, models for two types of relationship with the animate world.

[Edward] Tylor’s theory of spiritual evolution is dramatically realized in the characters of Caliban and Prospero, who both perceive the cosmos as vital and sentient, yet from different ends of the spectrum. In Caliban’s naïve animistic consciousness, trees, streams, stars, are all alive, filled with music and strange wonder, and his most haunting evocation of that sentience comes in the lines:

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices That, if I then had waked after long sleep, Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming, The clouds methought would open, and show riches Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked, I cried to dream again.

I like Tindall’s descriptions here, but personally feel leery of the idea of spiritual evolution: it smells of musty old linear hierarchical thinking. Caliban’s relationship with the place is much more primal, indeed – but is it lesser? Need these two go together?

The way in which these two characters are often portrayed, like in the images below, subtly gives us the message that it is lesser indeed. And there’s a scary bit of western egoic chutzpah evinced in Tindall’s line,

… Prospero’s magic perfects God’s creation.

caliban and prospero

This pairing of primal connection with lesser, and a more complex relationship involving the will to control with being somehow superior, unconsciously whispers in the collective western psyche. It echoes early European explorers’ views of indigenous peoples they encountered whilst seeking gold and land to colonize. These ancestors were taught by the Church to view our species as caught between the angelic and demonic realms; the latter, of course, being rooted in the earth and the former in the aether.

caliban prospero angel

Moving forward in time, contemporary industrialized western culture as a whole tends to overvalue the cognitive mind, neglecting the gifts of other ways of knowing like kinesthetic, emotional, and spiritual – the very ways that can lead to a deeper relating with one another, with our own bodies and souls, with the numinous, and with the wild planet. Exiled, people both shy away from, and hunger for, these.

Tindall may well agree with this.

Could it be that Caliban, with his indigenous visions and uncanny local knowledge, represents that mythic line, that symbiosis of human and animal that Euro-Americans simultaneously abhor and secretly yearn for? Is not the island itself, stranded half way in a dream, the shamanic realm where powerful magic and discourse with spirits and supernatural beings is possible?

If the island is a metaphor for the realm of the transpersonal unconscious (where Shakespeare, who wrote three of his greatest plays simultaneously, no doubt resided for much of his creative career), Caliban, we suspect, is the genius of the Earth — “You earth, thou” — the impulses arising from the depths, the wild vitality, the Dionysian trickster, which still sparkle in the Bard’s work.

And he offers a beautiful alternative view of how the cognitive mind might be put to more skillful use. Where might the state of this world be right now if the field of natural science had remained separate from the damaging philosophies emerging from the so-called “Enlightenment” – for example, the ideas that nature needs to be controlled and that all physical matter is, in essence, dead? And how can it be made different if based on a radically different view of the world – an animistic one based on respect rather than conquering?

If Caliban is mother nature’s son, Prospero is her shaman. As a Renaissance magician, Prospero has a similar mode of perception as the savage Caliban — he releases spirits imprisoned in oaks, calls forth mutinous winds and, above all, creates visionary worlds that enrapture their beholders — yet his apprehension is aesthetic, not raw or sensual. In Prospero, Shakespeare gives us a glimpse into one of the directions that science, as we now know it, was developing in his time (and would have kept developing if not for the interventions of the Inquisition, Galileo, and Descartes).

…Rather than splitting the atom, Prospero catches rides on the movements of the stars.

Two types of relationship with the animate world, as seen in The Tempest‘s characters.

Which do you most resonate with, and why?

Personally, I’d like to work toward a world where our species’ Caliban and Prospero natures can dance together in tandem: the raw and sensual with the aesthetic and visionary.

Now that would make a paradise island.

Purr.

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To read Tindall’s full interesting article published April 18, 2013, go to Psychedelic Press U.K.:  http://psypressuk.com/2013/04/18/prospero-shakespeares-shaman/