Overview of the Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook and Program

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is a blending of Mindfulness and Ecopsychology. MBE uses nature to facilitate mindful awareness. MBE is used as a framework for helping individuals and families to find deeper connections in their own lives, and to give more meaning and enjoyment to the activities of daily living.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden

0.0 Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy

Do you enjoy nature? Have you ever been camping, hiking or canoeing? Do you enjoy hunting and fishing? If so, you are probably already aware of nature’s power to relax and heal. A large and growing body of research demonstrates that nature is good for the mind as well as the body.

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the moment in which you find yourself by focusing on your immediate experience rather than on ruminations that may be producing stress depression, or anxiety. The benefits of mindfulness as a tool for stress reduction and self-improvement have been thoroughly researched. Mindfulness works so well in this capacity that it has been referred to as the “penicillin of mental health.”

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is a blending of Mindfulness and Ecopsychology. MBE uses nature to facilitate mindful awareness, the first skill of MBE, covered in the materials for Session 1.

For those of you interested in learning more about mindfulness and ecopsychology, there is an extensive list of citations and references at the end of this book.

MBE is used as a framework for helping individuals and families to find deeper connections in their own lives, and to give more meaning and enjoyment to the activities of daily living. By re-integrating ourselves with nature, we are able to tap into nature’s healing power and to heal the earth as we heal ourselves.

0.1 What is Mindfulness?

Think about the last time you were stressed out or depressed about something. Hold that thought in your mind and ask yourself, “Was the stress due to something that happened in the past? Was it about something that may or may not happen in the future? How much of what I was anxious about has to do with right now, at this very moment, as I read this sentence?”

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what is happening right now, in this moment.

By focusing on our experiences in the now, from moment to moment, we come to realize that we are free to choose which thoughts and feelings to pay attention to, and which thoughts and feelings not to focus on. This doesn’t mean that we’re trying to stop thinking or feeling. It means that we’re just making a conscious choice on how much attention to focus on those thoughts or feelings.

Living in the Moment

The past only exists in our memories. The future is only a projection of the past. Anxiety about future events is the result of playing the odds based on past experiences and expecting similar occurrences to happen in the future. Mindfulness is a way of using the present moment to choose what to believe about the past and the future. We can choose which memories to pay attention to, and which projections about the future to focus our attention on. Mindfulness isn’t about trying to make anxious or depressing thoughts and feelings go away. It is about choosing whether or not to dwell on such thoughts and feelings.

Try this: Imagine that everything that has ever stressed you out or depressed you is written on this page. Now hold this book about six inches from your nose, or as close to your face as you can while still being able to read the words on this page.

With the book this close to your face, how much of your surroundings can you see? If you’re like most people, you probably can’t see much of anything in the immediate environment except this book. If your stressful thoughts and feelings were written on this page, they’d be in the way. They’d be blocking your view. When we let our stressful thoughts and feelings occupy all of our attention, then like this book, they tend to block our view of anything else that might be going on in our lives.

Now instead of having all your stressful and depressing thoughts written on this page, imagine that they’re written on a boomerang. If you tried to throw that boomerang away, it would eventually come back to you. If you weren’t careful, it might actually smack you in the head on its return trip!  The harder you try to throw this boomerang away, the faster it comes back to you. When we try to “throw away” stressful and depressing thoughts and feelings, they tend to come right back at us as well. That’s because, like it or not, stressful and depressing thoughts and feelings are just as much a part of us as happy thoughts and feelings. Trying to throw them away is trying to throw away a part of ourselves.

What if, instead of trying to throw that boomerang away, you simply set it in your lap? If you did this, those negative thoughts and feelings written on the boomerang would still be with you, but they wouldn’t be blocking your view. You could still see and interact with the world, but you also wouldn’t be trying to throw away a part of yourself.

Mindfulness is a way of setting that boomerang of stressful and depressing thoughts in your lap so you can see the world around you. It’s not a way of trying to throw those thoughts and feelings away. Remember, if you try to do that, the boomerang may come back with a vengeance! Instead, mindfulness is about learning to accept that such thoughts and feelings are a natural part of existence, and accepting that we don’t have to let them keep us from interacting with the world unless we consciously choose to do so.

0.2 Upstairs Brain vs. Downstairs Brain

Feelings of depression, anxiety, sadness, and other emotions are generated in a part of the brain called the limbic system. This ‘downstairs’ portion of the brain is only interested in three things: Fighting, fleeing, or freezing. In ‘fight’ mode, the downstairs brain wants to protect you from harm by fighting against the threat. When it is triggered, your heart may race, your palms may get sweaty, and you may have a sharp increase in irritability and anger. In ‘flee’ mode, you may experience a similar adrenaline rush, but in this instance your brain is preparing your body to run away from the danger. In ‘freeze’ mode, we tend to retreat inside ourselves. This is the deer-in-the-headlights feeling of “If I’m very quiet and still, the bad thing won’t see me.”

Whether you’re in fight, flee, or freeze mode, your downstairs brain is preparing you to deal with a real or perceived threat in the only way it knows how. When your downstairs brain is engaged, the upstairs part of your brain tends to get overwhelmed. The upstairs brain, which consists of the neocortex of the brain, is the part responsible for thinking things through, figuring things out, and solving problems. When the downstairs brain takes over, the upstairs brain is out to lunch. That’s why when you’re emotionally overwhelmed it is nearly impossible to figure out a way to deal with it. Upstairs brain is all about finding solutions to problems, but downstairs brain is all about fighting, fleeing, or freezing. When your upstairs brain is overwhelmed, thinking things over isn’t going to work. That’s because at that point your downstairs brain is in charge. For those times when your downstairs brain is running the show, mindfulness is a way of disengaging from the thinking cycle for a while so that you can re-center yourself and reconnect with yourself and the world around you.

0.3 Doing Mode vs. Being Mode

Another aspect of mindfulness is stepping outside of doing mode and entering into being mode.

When we’re caught up in thought and feeling cycles that lead to depression and anxiety, we usually feel that we should be doing something to fix it. The problem with this is that sometimes there is nothing you can do to fix a problem. Mindfulness is a way to escape this cycle of trying to fix things by simply focusing on our moment-to-moment experience. When we are doing this, we are in being mode. In being mode, we are not trying to fix anything. We are not trying to go anywhere. We are not trying to do anything. We are not trying, period. Trying is doing, and being mode isn’t about doing.

In being mode we are free to enjoy our experiences from moment to moment by focusing on what our senses are telling us rather than focusing on trying to find a way out of a problem. When downstairs brain is engaged, and upstairs brain is temporarily disconnected, moving into being mode allows us a little breathing room.

0.4 Thinking Mode vs. Sensing Mode

The way to move from doing mode to being mode is to shift our mental energy from thinking mode to sensing mode. Our brains only have a finite of energy to spend on any given task at any given time. If we have a stressful or depressing thought cycle going on, we can shift energy from what our thoughts are telling us by engaging our internal observer to start focusing on what our senses are telling us. As you read this paragraph, can you feel your breath going in and out of your lungs? Were you even aware you were breathing before you read the previous sentence? When caught up in thinking cycles, we’re focusing on the boomerang. But by shifting our attention to our direct experiences and focusing on what our senses are telling us, we’re able to move into sensing mode.

When in sensing mode we are no longer giving energy to ruminating cycles that are leading us to states that we do not want to experience. We are able to move to sensing mode by focusing first on our breathing, then on our direct experiences of the current situation. We do this by using all of our senses, in the moment, to explore the environment around us. What do we hear? What do we see? What do we smell? What do we taste? What do we feel? By asking ourselves these questions, we are able to move into sensing mode.

A Tale of Two Wolves

Two wolves live in each of us…the “good” wolf and the “bad wolf.” The one that wins is the one you feed.

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those who have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like drinking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings myself many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But the other wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.”

“Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

A Tale of Two Wolves, based on a Cherokee legend as re-told in The Mindful Mood Management Workbook by Charlton Hall

The more energy we spend on sensing, the less energy we have to spend on thinking. Based on the tale of two wolves above, we could see the two wolves as “thinking wolf” and “sensing wolf.” The more energy you give to sensing wolf, the less energy you give to thinking wolf. The less energy thinking wolf receives, the weaker thinking wolf becomes. Conversely, the more energy sensing wolf receives, the stronger sensing wolf becomes. By shifting from thinking to sensing, you’re not trying to ‘kill’ the thinking wolf. You’re not engaging in doing by trying to make the thinking wolf go away. You’re simply depriving it of energy so that it may eventually go away on its own. Even if it doesn’t go away on its own, you’re not focusing your attention on it. Since your attention isn’t on it, thinking wolf can’t grab you by the throat, refusing to let go.

 It could be said that focusing on what your senses are telling you is a type of thinking as well, and that is partially true; however, the difference is that focusing on what your senses are telling you is a type of thinking devoid of emotional content. If you’re in a thinking cycle that is causing you anxiety or depression, then anxiety and depression are emotions. But unless you hate trees for some reason, simply sitting quietly in a forest and observing a tree as if you are an artist about to draw that tree, is an exercise devoid of emotional content. By focusing on the emotionally neutral stimuli found in nature, we give ourselves the opportunity to feed the sensing wolf.

The exercises in this workbook all involve a type of doing, but it is a type of doing that is emotionally neutral. The exercises here, unless otherwise specified, are a type of doing that trains your brain to focus on your experiences in the here and now, devoid of troublesome emotional content.

0.5 Basics of Mindfulness

Going back to the anxious thoughts you recalled when you read Section 0.1, ask yourself this: Was the anxiety a product of the circumstances in which you found yourself, or was it a result of what you believed about those circumstances? If the anxiety was a result of the circumstances themselves, then nothing can be done to change the situation, because we can’t control what goes on outside of ourselves. But if it’s the result of what we believe about those circumstances, we can consciously choose different beliefs that don’t lead to anxiety and depression. The essence of mindfulness is accepting that while we cannot change what goes on outside of ourselves, we can change our beliefs about it so that we become proactive rather than reactive.

Mindfulness accomplishes this goal through several basic skills. The skills of mindfulness used in Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy include: Observing, Describing, Fully Participating, Focusing on One Thing at a Time, Being Non-Judgmental, and the Power of Intention.

0.6 What is Ecotherapy?

For most of its existence homo sapiens has lived in harmony with nature as hunter/gatherers. Such a lifestyle requires a vast knowledge of the seasons, and of the patterns and habits of wildlife, and of plants and herbs and their healing powers. Industrialization and urbanization are fairly recent phenomena on an evolutionary scale. We still carry the genetic memory of our ancestors who lived in untamed nature. Our brains are wired for the outdoors and nature. A growing body of research demonstrates that not only do we feel better when we make time for nature, it is actually a requirement for good physical and mental health!

The field of ecopsychology studies how humans interact with nature. Ecopsychology is a philosophy combining elements of psychology and ecology. It is the philosophy that mental health is contingent upon the health of the environment. Humankind and the environment are part of an interrelated system. We are not separate from nature. We are a part of nature.

At its core, ecopsychology suggests that there is a synergistic relation between planetary and personal well-being; that the needs of the one are relevant to the needs of the other. In short, what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves. Ecotherapy is the practical application of this knowledge. In ecotherapy nature is the “therapist.” In practicing the techniques of ecotherapy, we allow the healing power of nature to work its magic on us. Hölzel et al (2011) demonstrated that meditative states of mindfulness stimulate neural growth in the cerebral cortex in the areas of the brain responsible for emotional regulation, good judgment, insight, and impulse control. Nature experiences have been demonstrated in several studies to produce meditative states (fascination, relaxation, and mindfulness).

Experiences in and with nature, or natural experiences, are ways in which we consciously choose to allow nature to work its healing magic on us. Some types of natural experiences include:

Facilitated Wilderness Experiences

In these types of experiences, a trained facilitator takes you into the woods for an adventure. These events can be anything from a wilderness experience in ecotherapy led by a therapist or counselor, to a hunting trip led by a wilderness guide. Kuo & Taylor (2004) demonstrated that therapy and other activities conducted in outdoor settings reduced symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Whittington (2006) found that wilderness skills training gave adolescent girls increased self-esteem and self-confidence and helped to shatter gender stereotypes.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal as nurture

Animal therapy in the form of contact with pets and/or wild or domesticated animals enhances self-actualization and can lessen symptoms of depression. Antonioli & Reveley (2005) found that simply swimming with dolphins can greatly reduce symptoms of depression. Other studies have shown that owning pets, or even just watching fish in an aquarium, can greatly reduce stress. Equine Therapy uses horses to facilitate mental and physical wellbeing. There are many other ways that animals can help us lead happier lives, as any pet owner can tell you!

Therapeutic Gardens

Sempik & Spurgeon (2006) demonstrated that therapeutic gardening reduces stress and lessens symptoms of depression. Blair (2009) discovered that gardening can be used as a means of helping school children to enhance self-sufficiency, social identity, meaning, and self-integration. There’s just something very healing about planting something and nurturing it as you watch it grow.

Vacations

Sponselee, et al (2004) discovered that outdoor activities reduce stress and restore energy. If you’ve ever had to miss a vacation, you’re probably painfully aware of the regenerative power of taking a week or so off to spend time in nature. Roggenbuck & Driver (2000) found that you don’t need a facilitator or guide to enjoy health and well-being benefits from the use of wilderness areas. There’s a reason we’re attracted to beaches and national parks!

Architecture Incorporating Natural Spaces

Nature can be incorporated into the home environment through the use of plants, an aquarium, or even recorded nature sounds. Alvarsson et al (2010) studied the positive mental health effects of listening to nature sounds.

Outdoor Classrooms

Purcell, et all in 2007 revealed that outdoor classrooms enhanced many critical factors of the educational experience, including: Enhanced retention, better focus, more attention to detail, less hyperactivity, more relaxation, increased confidence and self-esteem, and better cognitive functioning

0.7 Characteristics of Natural (Nature) Experiences

In a 2005 study on the effects of nature, van den Berg and ter Heijne introduced the concepts of focused attention and fascination.  Focused attention is a concentrated cognitive effort to avoid distractions in the environment, while fascination is a natural interest in the environment, requiring no effort of concentration. The study found that wilderness or nature experiences produce fascination. Fascination has been demonstrated to reduce stress, improve concentration, and promote overall wellbeing.

A natural environment (including flora, fauna, natural scents, music or natural sounds, etc.) promotes fascination and requires less reliance on focused attention. With less demands being made on focused attention, more cognitive resources are available for the heightened awareness necessary to achieve a peak experience or a meditative state.

Studies in the past have concluded that experiences in natural spaces lead to increased self-esteem, an increased internal locus of control (meaning that people feel in control of their circumstances instead of being controlled by their circumstances), deep reflective experiences, vision-questing (determining a life path), enhanced abstinence effects for people with addictions, feelings of connectedness to nature; feelings of oneness, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, enhanced stress management capabilities, better immune system functioning, lessened recovery time from illness or surgery, and better quality-of-life ratings from people who live in suburbs designed to incorporate green spaces.

0.8 Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy: An Integration of Mindfulness and Ecopsychology

Black Elk, Oglala Medicine Man

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”

–Black Elk, Oglala Shaman (1853-1950)

For hundreds of centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution, people lived together in small tribes, whether in nomadic bands or geographically fixed in location in villages or towns. Evolution wired our brains for nature. But with the advent of agriculture, we settled down more and more, and built cities. With cities came modernization. First we built mechanical machines, then, with the discovery of electricity, we began to build electric machines. Thomas Edison’s invention of electric light forever robbed the night of its power to evoke mystery and terror by creating a perpetual electric twilight in our towns and cities, making more hours available to labor in the factories. The more domesticated we became, the more the wilderness retreated beyond the city limits. We ceased to mark time by the cycles of the seasons and began to keep time by the factory whistle.

Our minds retreated from nature, but our bodies did not. Evolution programmed us to need nature, and our bodies and minds still respond to it.

Our modern, mechanized lifestyle has brought about many changes for the better. We live longer and more productive lives, but our hearts still long for the cry of nature.

Ecopsychology studies the relationship between mental health and the environment. This field of research views the mental health of humankind as a part of the geo-ecosystem that is the living planet we call Earth. If all life on Earth is interrelated, and human beings certainly are a type of life on Earth, then what happens to the rest of the planet affects us all. Ecopsychology recognizes that not only does the environment impact our physical health, but it also has a direct influence on our mental health. While artificial, stressful, polluted environments have the power to harm, nature has the power to heal, both physically and mentally.

From the perspective of ecopsychology, everything is connected to everything else. According to this paradigm, people don’t exist in a vacuum. They are part of the larger system of their neighborhood, and of the even larger system of their particular societies, and ultimately the system of all life on Earth, circles-within-circles. Each of these systems communicates to us in different ways, and we interact with each of these systems. The individual is not only a part of a system of interacting human beings, but also as a part of an ecosystem. We interact with the environment, and the environment interacts with us. For those who know how to listen, the wind in the trees can sing. The view of a mountain range or a moonlit ocean can tell a story. The smell of the first flowers of spring can speak just as clearly as a loved one’s voice can. The touch of a ray of sun can be as powerful as a lover’s caress.

On the other hand, a crowded, polluted city street can communicate as well. The messages we get from our environment have an impact on us, whether or not we are consciously aware of that impact. This environmental impact changes our sense of self, and our sense of wellbeing. If we could make a paradigm shift to a lifestyle that makes room for nature, what would that do to our sense of wellbeing?

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is one of the paths to help to make this paradigm shift. MBE is a 12-week nature program. Each session meets outdoors for about 90 minutes and is guided by a trained MBE facilitator. This handbook was designed to accompany the 12-week program, but if the program isn’t offered in your region you may also use this book to complete the exercises on your own. A facilitator manual is also available for mental health professionals interested in training in the program. For details, visit www.mbft.org.

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy is a set of 12 skills and a 12-week program. Each session of the program focuses on one of the skills of MBE. The outline in the next section below is an introduction to MBE and an overview of the content and topics of each of the 12 sessions. The rest of the book is divided into chapters. Each chapter focuses on one of the skills of Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy. If you are completing this workbook as part of a workshop, your homework is to read the material for each session prior to participating. The activities in each session will be done during the workshop, so don’t try to complete them ahead of time. Just read over the materials so you’ll have a good idea of what to expect in each session.

If you are completing the workbook on your own, feel free to do the activities at any time, at your own pace. Many of the activities require or suggest outdoor locales. You may use your own best judgment as to whether or not the weather is appropriate in your location for any suggested activities. If you’ve had to postpone an activity due to bad weather, make an effort to try it again when the weather is better. In doing so you’ll get the full benefit of each exercise.

0.9 Outline/Overview of the Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) Program

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy consists of 12 skill sets. The Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy program is a 12-week program, with one session per week. At each session, one of the 12 skills of Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy is discussed and practiced. The skills of Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) include:

Session 1: Mindful Awareness

Mindful Awareness is a way of tuning in to what is happening right now, at this moment. It is a shift from doing mode into being mode. Mindful Awareness involves the skills of Observing, Describing, Fully Participating, Being Non-Judgmental, Focusing on One Thing at a Time, and the Power of Intention. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) teaches you these skills.

Session 2: Radical Acceptance

Mindful Awareness teaches us the art of acceptance. Emotional reactions to our circumstances are natural, but that doesn’t mean that we have to respond to these emotions. The mindfulness skill of acceptance teaches us that we can experience these emotions without engaging in cycles of behavior that lead us to negative consequences. Acceptance teaches us that we are not our thoughts, and that we are not our emotions. At any time we can choose which thoughts and emotions we wish to respond to. If, at any time, we should engage in thoughts and behaviors that lead to negative consequences, this does not mean that we have become bad persons. This simply means that we are human beings, and as humans we are entitled to make mistakes. Each mistake is an opportunity for growth and learning. Forgiveness is a skill and an art. The place to start with learning the art of forgiveness is in learning first to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) teaches you the art of Radical Acceptance.

Session 3: Wise Mind and Wise Body

When you are being logical, rational, and devoid of emotion, you are said to be in Rational Mind. When you are allowing your thoughts to be driven by your emotions, you are said to be in Emotional Mind. The idea of Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy is to achieve Wise Mind. The Mindfulness concept of Wise Mind is the joining of Rational Mind and Emotional Mind in perfect balance and harmony. It is a moving beyond opposites to a mindful state of acceptance. Likewise, when we come to realize that there is no line between mind and body, and that they are one and the same, we are able to move beyond the duality that implies that mind and body are separate entities. From there we see that the body can change the mind, and the mind can change the body. Wise Mind is the first step to living in True Self. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) gives you some of the tools you will need to help you develop your own Wise Mind and your own Wise Body.

Session 4: Letting Go

The art of Mindful Acceptance can best be described as the Art of Letting Go. Once you have done everything in your power to solve a problem, you have done all you can, so at that point worry and stress is counterproductive. Note that letting go of the stress and anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean letting go of the problem itself. For example, suppose you have a car payment coming up, and you don’t have the money to pay it. This would naturally cause you anxiety. If, after brainstorming for solutions, you find that you still don’t have the money to pay the car payment, then at that point you’ve done all you can do. So at that point, you let go of the anxiety associated with the problem. That doesn’t mean that you let go of car payments altogether. You’ll make the payment when you can. In this instance, “letting go” just means that you won’t worry about not being able to make the payment. The energy you might have used worrying about the situation could be put to better use in trying to come up with solutions. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) teaches us how to let go through the power of radical acceptance.

Session 5: Living in the Now

Living in the Now means leaving Doing Mode and entering Being Mode. In Being Mode we learn that there is no past, there is no future. There is only this present moment. Living in the Now means allowing yourself to be in this moment…here and now. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) teaches you the skills of Living in the Now.

Session 6: Centering

Centering yourself is allowing yourself to get in touch with and being open to your True Self. It is allowing yourself to realize that you are perfect just as you are, even with your imperfections, because those feelings and desires are also a part of who you really are. If you accept your imperfections and integrate them into your way of thinking and feeling about yourself, you will obtain peace of mind, and you will be centered. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) teaches you how to Center.

Session 7: Connecting

Suppose you could take all the spiritual paths practiced worldwide, put them into a cauldron, and boil them down to their essence. What would remain? I believe that the common thread to all spiritual practices is a feeling of connection. In this sense, spirituality means connection to others, or connection to the divine, or simply connection to nature and to ourselves. In short: spirituality is connectedness. If you think back on the spiritual experiences you’ve had in your lifetime, do recall feeling connected on some level? Many describe spiritual experiences as a sense of oneness. Oneness implies connection to something outside ourselves. In this sense, even an agnostic or an atheist could achieve spirituality through connection. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) can be one of the paths you use to re-connect to spirit.

Session 8: Nature as Metaphor

Each of us lives in our own personal fairy tale called “my life.” We all have good things that happen to us, and we all have bad things that happen to us. We create our own personal myths by choosing which things to focus on in our own lives. The good news about the myth of our lives is that we are the authors. So if we don’t like the way the story is going, we have the power to do a rewrite at any time. We can’t always choose the circumstances of our lives, but we can always choose the story we create about those circumstances. If you go out into the woods and start observing things, you will notice something begin to happen. You will begin to create stories about the events you observe there in the forest. These stories that spring to mind in the woods can tell you a great deal about what is going on in your own unconscious mind, if you know how to pay attention to them. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) teaches you how to pay attention to those stories.

Session 9: Nature as Teacher

Our ancestors knew hundreds of medicinal uses of local plants and herbs. They knew the seasons, when to plant, when to harvest, how to forecast the weather by the behavior of plants and animals, and a host of other things based on their observations of nature. The lessons our ancestors learned haven’t gone away. They’re still there, waiting in the forest like an open book. All we have to do is to learn how to read it. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) teaches us the language of nature so that we may read its “book.”

Session 10: Nature as Nurture

A large and growing body of research has demonstrated that nature has incredible healing and nurturing powers. People who go into the woods become calmer, more relaxed, less stressful, and healthier. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) can be used to tap into the nurturing power of nature.

Session 11: Nature as Healer

Research continues to demonstrate the healing power of nature. People in hospital rooms that have windows overlooking a garden recover faster than those who do not. People who swim with dolphins recover from depression more quickly than people who take antidepressants. Children with ADHD who play outdoors regularly display fewer symptoms than those who do not. These are just a few examples of the many beneficial effects of the healing power of nature. Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) helps you to connect to this healing power

Session 12: Living in True Self

Do you remember a time when you knew exactly who you were, what you wanted to be, and where your life was going? When you do something that isn’t healthy for you, or make a mistake, which part of you is it that recognizes the mistake? What part of you is it that holds the highest dreams and aspirations for your life? Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) recognizes that part of you as your True Self. The ultimate goal of Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is to realize your True Self, and to live in it. Doing so allows you the opportunity to re-connect in positive ways with nature, with others, and with yourself.