Within our existing society, we suffer (in varying degrees) a separation from other living beings and forms in the natural world. This suffering threatens our mental, physical, spiritual and collective wellbeing. This separation is at the root of the climate crisis, created and perpetuated by humans during our relatively recent history.
The essence of ReWilding is about enlivening and deepening your connections within the rest of the living world. Being immersed in the wild helps you reclaim your ancient knowing of ecological self, alongside individual, relational, and cultural selves. ReWilding is an integrative therapeutic approach and aims to restore your optimal wellbeing through being in reciprocal and reverential relationship with the rest of the living world.
Generally, humans have forgotten our sacred/spiritual role of guardian and lover of Mother Earth. Collectively, we need to transition to new ways of fulfilling this role. ReWilding offers you support and encouragement while you grapple with the uncertainty, ambiguity, and not-knowingness of this transition. Part of our disconnect from the more-than-human world is rooted in our loss of ancient animistic and archetypal knowledge. Reclaiming this knowledge, in whatever tradition you may have ties to, can be a profound shift in your ecological consciousness.
ReWilding is grounded in the principles and philosophies of Deep Ecology which recognises all living beings and forms as equally worthy as human beings. It emphasises the fundamental interconnectedness of the living world. Early thinkers in this movement, Arne Naess and Joanna Macy, highlight the need for profound change to the economic, technological, and ideological structures of human existence, which continue to do alarming damage to the ecosystems we live within.
Research evidence of the effectiveness and benefits of ReWilding as a form of Ecotherapy
The evidence that time spent in nature positively impacts mental health outcomes has increased markedly over recent years (Burns, 1998/2014; 2009; Buzzell & Chalquist, 2009; Cooley et al., 2020; Dolan, 2021; McEwan et al., 2021; Naess, 1995). Ecotherapy “acknowledges the vital role of nature and addresses the human–nature relationship” (Buzzell & Chalquist, 2009, p. 18).
This expansion of psychotherapy into natural environments has been shown to provide therapeutic outcomes for individuals suffering from mild to moderate anxiety and depression, as well as grief, social isolation, various forms of trauma and other mental health challenges (Summers & Vivian, 2018). Evidence also shows that ecotherapy enhances mindfulness and reduces overall stress (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Summers & Vivian, 2018).
There is evidence that ecotherapy can help with anxiety about the changing climate, including trauma resulting from extreme weather events, and more broadly, with healing the rift between modern individuals and nature that can lead to a less well-defined malaise – our sense of separation and isolation from nature – that affects the wellness of most of us in some way (Clayton et al., 2017; Cunsolo et al., 2020; Jones, 2010; Roszak, 2001; Totton, 2011).
The recognition that human and ecosystem health are deeply interconnected has been heightened by current global and local events, including increased incidences and severity of fires, floods and pandemics. The resulting eco-anxiety, trauma and ecological grief becoming noticeable in communities affected by severe weather events and climate change can be address through ecotherapy (Clayton et al., 2017; Cunsolo & Ellis, 2018; Hayes & Poland, 2018).
ReWilding as Ecotherapy with Groupwork
Groupwork recognises humans as fundamentally social beings within many human contexts. Ecotherapy broadens our understanding of 'social' to include the rest of the living world within which all human contexts are embedded. Ecotherapy and Groupwork support each other well, each broadening and deepening of the other.
Groupwork is a very fruitful way of exploring your relationships within groups. The therapy group reflects the nature of groups in your life, and you'll have the opportunity to strengthen your sense of yourself personally, and feel to more integrated with your community, family and social network.
An ecotherapy group adds the vital dimension of our ecological selves in relationship with the many beings within, and the whole of, each ecosystem. Groupwork with an ecotherapy focus enables our many selves to ebb and flow between the figure and ground of our attention and curiosity, seeking growth and integration into wholeness and interconnectedness.
Group members can bring all sorts of life experiences to process together, perhaps difficult or traumatic. The therapy group becomes a supportive environment, through the sharing of feelings and experiences. You will see yourself through the eyes of others and notice familiar patterns of relating, thinking, and feeling.
An ecotherapy group also offers you a view of yourself through the many 'eyes' of complex beings in the wild ecosystem we have our sessions within. Your growth and development emerges through exploring and experimenting with new ways of being, in the mutually open space of the group. The group will also be a place for discovering and enabling your creativity and aspirations.
Over the course of the eight Waiheke Island sessions we will be immersed in four locations, each twice. These settings will be in the bush, beach, wetland, and grassland. They will all be easily accessible, via maintained tracks, for anyone able to walk for an hour, over gentle uphill, moderate terrain (weather conditions may add a level of difficulty). We will be purposefully sustaining a slow pace of walking, probably slower than you are used to.
We will pick you up at Matiatia Ferry Terminal, off the 8am ferry from Auckland City, for a short van ride to our indoor space.
Initially, we will spend time together as a group saying hello and introducing ourselves. After morning tea we will travel to and transition over the threshold into the therapeutic space of the wild. Body, breath and ritual will assist our transition.
Following lunch, you'll have the opportunity for time alone to become more immersed and connected with all aspects of your surroundings. We will offer you guidance for deepening this experience. We will also offer you an activity that explores a particular aspect of your experience.
Coming back together as group is the space to share and process what the experience was like, and how it fits into your history and sense of self. This enables you to recognise how deeply interconnected you are with the rest of the living world, as well as your social and cultural ways of being. Essentially this means enlivening your Ecological Self.
After a quick snack we will journey out of the wild, cross the threshold to the van for travel back to the indoor venue to tidy up and then head for the ferry terminal.
Over the course of the sessions we'll offer you a particular focus on certain aspects, features, and elements of our living world. These may be such things as the concept of time, the seasons, weather patterns, tides, phases of the moon etc. Waiheke Island has so many stunning features and non-human occupants for us to get to know better. We will also be holding the effects of the climate crisis in mind, having the opportunity to process what this means for us each, and collectively with all in the living world
The purpose of the Zoom sessions is to sustain our connections as a group between Waiheke sessions. Together, we'll explore how we are bringing our sense of connection and relationship with the living world, into our everyday lives. We'll be offering you activities and resources to assist you in this process, and it will be great to hear what works well for you, making a difference in your life, your relationships, and your sense of self.
It will be important for you to have a quiet, private space, free from interruptions for the 90 minutes of each Zoom session.