"Ixazuluwa ngokuhamba. Umntu ngumntu ngabanye."
It is solved by walking. 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 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 otherness.
Today we participate almost entirely with a human-only world - cityscapes and technologies. Many have been raised on a vision of nature that teaches that the natural world is something that provides for us a supply of ‘natural resources’. Our language is 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 its root, simply the 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 are 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 it is 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. Ecotherapy 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 a many-voiced world.
Ecotherapy is essentially the practical application of this, where nature is the 'therapist'.
Sometimes called ‘nature-based 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 to me is to support people in navigating 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.
We all need a new psychological sensitivity, a capacity to listen with our third ear for the voice of the animate earth and in time we will find ourselves once again on speaking terms with nature.
The walking itself offers helpful metaphors for self-inquiry and allows a reframing of difficulties, uncertainty and questions, thus helping to find new solutions, perspectives and decisions.
A session is an hour. R550 per hour.
One does not need to be fit.
We walk as slow as is necessary on a private nature reserve in the southern peninsula of Cape Town.