The health of the planet may be linked to humanity’s psychological health. Embracing an encouraging worldview of beauty and creativity can enrich our spirits, revitalize our lives, and maybe even save civilization.
Jeanine Canty tries to walk in the forest behind her house every day. With her dog roaming by her side, she quietly observes her surroundings—the elements, the animals, the wild— keeping the earth and all its beings in her daily prayers. She has come full circle from a “crashed” worldview that encompassed the pain of racism, addiction, the loss of loved ones, and breakups to a healthy and more balanced one. “Spending time outside and seeing and repatterning, I feel like I’m moving in the right direction,” she explains, as she talks about leaving behind fear and negativity and stepping into compassion, love, and power.
Given that she found strength by connecting with nature, it’s no surprise that Canty is at the forefront of the field of ecopsychology, where psychology meets environmental studies. At Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, Canty is a core faculty member passionately engaged in ecopsychology, multicultural studies, and environmental studies. She explains that tending the earth is tending ourselves and that the health of the planet is a mirror image of our own health. “If we look at how humans . . . are disconnected from the earth and how this is actually an illness, a psychological issue, one that has paralleled the ecological crisis and how they just go hand in hand, then it’s clear that we need to address the psychological issues around that and really change our paradigms and actions. It we don’t, we’re not going to reach healing.”
Canty assures us that the ecological crisis is a powerful opportunity. “There is no doubt in my mind that humanity is going through deep growing pains,” she says. “We are in the midst of two worlds, one that is transitioning from a culture of domination into a world that is more life affirming, that has a higher level of relational quality and sensitivity, that rests more in beauty and creativity.”
Canty has identified six qualities of people who are energetically shifting to a resilient worldview and to a wider, more wholesome concept of self. These qualities are part of the movement toward a true strengthening of the spirit and planetary healing.
Six Traits for a Sustainable You
A Relationship with the Natural World
Spend time in nature to cultivate an appreciative relationship with Mother Earth. When we can listen to nature through the simplest of acts—caring for a houseplant, observing the moon in the night sky, walking among trees, watching birds—we begin to have a more transpersonal relationship with our environment. As we deeply notice the rhythm of life, a reciprocity of relationship arises and we begin to gain guidance from this quiet contemplation. An alignment with the natural world occurs, and a larger consciousness can awaken within.
A Spiritual Practice
Each day, spend time opening yourself to a relationship with the sacred. A spiritual practice is different from a religious practice, which can often be a secondhand experience. While many people come to spirituality through religion, it generally comes through a deeply felt firsthand experience. This experience can also be cultivated by practicing mindful meditation or connecting with the natural world. Healing comes about when we are able to identify with something greater than ourselves, which in essence unifies us. When we can retrain our minds to connect with our hearts, our bodies, and the earth, suddenly the craziness that most of us live with is quieted. We can get to that stillness where real beauty rushes in.
An Acceptance of, and Despair over, the Ecological Crisis
As we realize that the earth is experiencing a crisis, we must acknowledge our own ecological despair. The ability to learn from anguish allows us to connect more deeply with these painful issues, which awaken us to propel real change. We work through our layers of resistance to move into a space of clear acceptance. This new space allows for hopefulness and the recognition that although the crisis often feels overwhelming, many people are actively engaged in shifting the paradigm.
A Commitment to Self-Care
Spend the time necessary to take care of yourself and to feed your soul. The work of healing the earth is powerful and can be exhausting. Many activists become situated in perpetual anger because they are using up all their energy and not fueling themselves. We must remember to celebrate this planet as a magical and amazing place. If we neglect our own health and emotions, we will only perpetuate the problems.
A Transformed Worldview
When we begin to transform our worldview, we cultivate the insight necessary to be truly awake to our own reality and the reality of others. These radical transformations of perspectives may occur through such varied experiences as addiction, abuse, racism, education, breakdowns, and divorce. With a transformed worldview we are able to question social or cultural assumptions. Most of all, we develop compassion, which extends our worldview even further.
Altering One’s Thought Patterns
Here we move out of the realm of abstraction and into daily action. We can understand things theoretically and eagerly talk about what we should do as we embrace a new worldview. However, it also necessary to change our behavior, not just with activism in the world but also in our smaller and simpler daily interactions with ourselves, our community, and our coworkers. We begin to move away from unhealthy relationships with suffering or underlying stories of self-critique and feelings of defeat. We move to a practice of natural interconnectedness where we are sustained by meaningful relationships with the earth and each other.