Environmental Moment by Eileen Haflich

Eco-AnxietyThe chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future and that of next generations” (American Psychology Association)

It is exceedingly hard for many of us, particularly young people, to find serenity when we are constantly confronted with urgently bad news fueled by the fact that on average and we spend 90% of our time inside* detached from the world around us. Anxiety is not only bad for our soul, health, and mental well-being, it does not inspire constructive action. If you are anxious or fatigued by Climate Change or anything else, there is an antidote: Nature.  

Forest Bathing

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” —Albert EinsteinForest Bathing (or Forest Therapy) is the conscious and contemplative practice of being immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. There is increasing scientific evidence that this Japanese practice reduces stress hormones, lowers your heart-rate, and boosts your immune system. Kaiser Permanente has endorsed this practice and has information on their website: Forest Bathing – Kaiser. To practice Forest Bathing, you can simply walk into a forested park and consciously immerse yourself, or you can join a group who does this on a regular basis. Sugarloaf State Park has a once-per-month Forest Therapy program open to the public: Sugarloaf Park Forest Therapy.  

Reorienting Your Perspective

When you look at another person, a flower, a honeybee, a mountain – anything – you are seeing the incarnation of God’s love for you and the universe that you call home.” Richard Rohr “Universal Christ”The theologian Richard Rohr explains to us that all of God’s creation, not just man, has been created in the image of God, imbued wholly with God’s grace and love. St Francis of Assisi clearly felt this way too, he addressed all of nature as his ‘brother’ or ‘sister’. He is the patron saint of animals but he felt equal kinship with ‘Brother Sun’ or ‘Sister Water’. 

In the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author (a Potawatomi) describes the indigenous perspective of nature and man as being co-equals and that the gifts we receive of food, shelter, and warmth from Nature are to be accepted by us with gratitude. At each meal, the plants and animals are thanked for their gift of food; before a tree is felled, they ask for permission; and each morning the sun is thanked for gifting light and warmth.If we shift our perspective of Nature from an “it” to an “us” we cannot so easily detach. Witness this for yourself: Sit in your backyard and read a book thanking the “sister” birds for their song, take a walk in your local park and thank the “brother” plants for the oxygen you breathe, or simply go find a tree and literally hug it and simply say “thank you”.

*According to the US EPA