Friday, January 27, 2012

How psychotherapy can save the world!

A close friend of mine, who grew up in New York, told me about the first time she met a tree, at the age of twenty-five: "I had seen trees growing on the sidewalks and in parks, of course. But I'd never been to a real forest. I just ran up to a tree and hugged it. Then I hugged another and another."

Her story struck me as deeply disturbing. Growing up I had spent plenty of time in forests, and I could hardly fathom being deprived of what I consider to be a basic human right: to know the wild Earth and to be intimately connected to Nature.

But her story was more than just disturbing; it was incredibly hopeful. Her recognition of the trees-- like a meeting of old friends-- was immediate. She knew instantly that she belonged to the trees, to the forest, and to what the great Nature poet, Mary Oliver calls, "the family of things."

Her story reminded me of my first experience with yoga. I was also a young woman at the time, eighteen years old. Near the end of the first class, the teacher guided us in a simple meditation. My mental chatter fell away and I found myself in a vast, spacious moment that I recognized as "home." It felt totally new and yet completely familiar, just like my friend entering the forest for the first time.

Meditation and Nature offer the same thing: a direct encounter with the One. We recognize it because it is who we are. The illusion of being separate dissolves and we reconnect to the web of Life, if only for a brief moment. It is this reconnection that I believe is critical for the well-being-- and outright survival-- of the planet and all its inhabitants, including us!

I care deeply about the fate of the Earth and I need to know that my work (as a psychotherapist) makes a difference. So, how can psychotherapy save the world? After reflecting on this question, I realized that when people heal from the limiting beliefs that keep them feeling separate from the world, then at that moment they remember that they belong and that they matter. When this shift in consciousness occurs, love blooms: love for self and love for others. A person who feels connected to the whole will act out of consideration for the whole.

It is my passion and purpose in life to help ignite this shift in consciousness in as many people as possible. Yes, I have a desire to save the world, and I am not afraid to admit it! I know I can't do it alone; I want everyone to connect to this feeling of wanting to save the world! There are as many ways to approach this task as there are people alive.

How does your work help save the world? I invite you to explore this question for yourself. I believe that we all care about saving the world, and when we allow ourselves to connect our actions to the fate of the planet, we can be motivated to make more enlightened and ethical choices.

As women in our thirties, my friend and I frequently walked together through the tree-lined streets of Palo Alto, California. She would often stop to hug a tree, pausing mid-sentence, and unselfconsciously wrap her arms around its trunk and press her cheek to its bark. I would stand and watch this unabashed display of love, and for a precious moment, I would be carried with her to that vast and cozy place of Oneness.

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