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The eeai is a committed ‘not for profit’ community of both members and subscribers, who together introduce, support and promote the practice of professional ecopsychology and ecotherapy on the island of Ireland.
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Lit

By Aidan Ring


Gifts from the Natural Word |  This edition’s research contribution explores humanity’s relationship with fire. It was written by Aidan Ring.  Aidan is our interim newsletter co-ordinator and a much valued eeai volunteer.


‘Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin’ 

(There is no hearth like your own hearth)

Old Irish proverb

 

Scholars from many ancient civilisations identified four classical elements as the essential materials from which everything else was made; Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Now, while modern Chemistry has identified over 100 unique elements, the actual building blocks of matter, the four classical elements symbolise humanity’s quest to understand the nature of things. This quest has shed light upon our history, a story which we can now tell with more precision than ever before. And none of this illumination would be possible without fire, the most elusive, dangerous and mysterious of the classical elements but also the most vibrant, playful and alive. Why is it so relaxing to watch flames slowly play over a log in a fire? Why do young children play with matches? Why is the red light of early dawn such a feast for the eyes? Though we may not realise it, we are creatures of fire. Human beings, uniquely amongst Earth’s species, have unlocked its secrets… and boundless potential. As Pyne (2012) points out ‘So while the earth had long experienced fire, it had not truly known a fire creature… The creature that possessed fire had a power unlike any species before it.’

 

Living Flames

In the natural world, a fire regime refers to the pattern of frequency and intensity of wildfires that occur in a particular ecosystem over an extended period of time. Like climate, a fire regime is a statistical composite. Fire-dependent organisms are ones which, to survive, depend on fire regimes at some point in their life cycles. Sound strange? Well, consider the scrublands of Australia’s Outback which are regularly lit ablaze in the dry season, or western North America, where wildfires have become endemic and infamous in recent decades. The plants living in these regions, known as Pyrophytes, actually depend on seasonal wildfires as a trigger for germination. Indeed, fire-adapted ecosystems exist all over the world (Kozlowski, 2014). Wildfires clear out dead vegetation, enrich the soil and facilitate reproduction. Perhaps fire is not the first thing that one would associate with survival… but hardly anything could survive without it.

And that includes us.

 

Camping in Cobram at Easter

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Meet our People


eeai |  New Interim Committee Chairman | Rob Lewis

About 7 years ago, I was out for a walk in the Wicklow hills with two of my housemates and close friends of many years. We lived together, socialised together, stayed up late chatting to each other and played on the same sports team, yet in this moment with them, as we hiked, I noticed that we were talking in much deeper and more connected way than we usually did at home, and thus began my introduction to Ecopsychology and Ecotherapy.

I grew up by the beach, surrounded by lots of open space, so nature has played an important role for me. Everyday I would come home from school rush through my homework or at least pretend to rush through my homework so that I could go out, I would grab my dogs and my football cycle past the beach and meet my friends in the fields to play football. If they weren’t free I would take my dogs and just walk with them, if I was tired I would call the more lazy of my two dogs, she would lie down and I would use her as a pillow and watch the clouds, listening to the birds. When I was energetic I would explore the hedgerows looking for places to build a hut or climb some of the trees.

In the summer we would go down the countryside and stay in a place for weeks at a time that had no electricity, we ran the lights of the car battery. Here I would spend my days playing tip the can in the dunes, swimming or just going on long walks. One of my favourite days was me and my friend spending two days digging the biggest hole on the beach that we could manage. I feel lucky, especially in today’s world that I grew up with so much access to, and interaction with, Nature.

But to return to that fateful walk in Wicklow, after completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, I enrolled in a H Dip in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and it was during this time that I was out for that walk with my friends in Wicklow. Our experience out there led me to this Aha! Moment of why don’t people combine nature and therapy. I went home and began researching and came across Ecopsychology and Ecotherapy.

I got to read articles by Hayley Marshall and the late Martin Jordan. I got in touch with Martin who was a great support in guiding me towards more research and articles, and more importantly introducing me to David Staunton. My engagement with Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology was initially as a consumerist; I felt good in nature, it helped me relax and I figured clients could benefit from it too. This led me to research less from a interconnectedness with Nature, rather a scientific look into how nature affects the body and mind.

As a Psychotherapist, I do enjoy knowing why things work, the growing evidence supporting the importance of nature on both our mental and physical health excites me a lot, but more importantly the biproduct of this interaction with nature is hopefully a renewed desire to protect and preserve our natural environments. Over the years my focus has grown to recognise the interconnectedness between us and our environment on a deeper level.  

My Psychotherapy practice is called “Kinship” as a key factor of how I work is helping clients gain deeper relationships with those around them and within themselves. Kinship, though, takes on a deeper meaning developing more than just human to human, recognising a kinship with the planet too.

Will Parfitt writes “I live my life in relation to other people, other creatures and the earth herself… we are all part of a bigger relationship that includes all of life”. This symbiotic relationship can be related to the Native American proverb: “We breathe what the tree exhales; the tree breathes what we exhale. So, we have a common destiny with the tree.” (Floyd Red Crow Westerman, 2012).

In Ireland Ecopsychology and Ecotherapy is still relatively new, what excites me though is how associations like the EEAI can firstly help increase awareness in many areas of society, not just Psychotherapy. As we connect together sharing knowledge, resources and experience we will hopefully see an increase in outdoor activities and ecological behaviours. Our planet is suffering, but the more we help others reconnect with her, the better her chances of recovery are, and, as I can do that while working, I’m in my element!

Nature’s Houses

 

By Aidan Ring


Gifts from the Natural Word |  This edition’s research contribution is by Aidan Ring.  Aidan is our interim newsletter co-ordinator and a much valued eeai volunteer.

 

Trees are magnificent

A friend of mine once remarked to me that ‘trees are nature’s houses’. As a fact, this is indisputable; the older and larger trees in forests can house thousands of species of plants, animals and insects. As a metaphor, it works perfectly; where we human beings make our homes in buildings made of concrete which will, one day, fall, the animals inhabiting the world’s forests make their homes in trees which will, one day, fall. However, it is well to remember that there was once a time when trees were our homes too. And the difference between our old homes and our new homes? The old ones are alive. This is why they will continue. Buildings are an invention of very recent human history. Before cities, there were trees. And after cities, there will be trees. In fact, the oldest tree in the world, a Bristlecone Pine on the east coast of North America, has been growing for over 5,000 years, since 3000BC. It was around this time that the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities were first being constructed by our ancient forebears. Think of how many generations of human beings have come and gone in the meantime! There are living trees on Earth which pre-date recorded history, pre-date writing itself! Very few human beings will ever have the privilege of watching the entire life cycle of a tree, myself, at 25 years old, included. However, I can imagine few more inspiring privileges.

Indeed we have much to learn from the natural world about growth, patience and the nature of change. Although they are biologically engineered to fulfill one task, (that of growing as high as possible) they pursue this task with a passion! In our modern world of impatience and instantaneous gratification, the idea of engaging in one project for your whole life is so alien. READ MORE

On becoming a tree hugger by Matthew Henson

Meet our members |  This edition’s bio contribution is by Matthew Henson. Matthew is an IAHIP and UKCP registered existential psychotherapist, certified wild therapist, qualified trainer and group facilitator.

 

Say it once and say it loud: “I’m a tree hugger and I’m proud!”

The first ecopsychology workshop I attended, in I think 2009, was facilitated by Nick Totton in Derbyshire. I had reservations about the weekend, which I talked about in the opening round. I was anxious that the workshop might be too ‘airy-fairy’. I had been reluctant to tell friends and family that I was attending because of the projected judgements I feared they might make. I informed the group that, in short, I was worried that the workshop might be for tree huggers and, if it was, what would that say about me? It was a serious hurdle I had to overcome if I was to be fully present during the weekend. I was not, and never would be, a tree hugger!

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Clean or Serene? by Aidan Ring

Gifts from the Natural World This edition’s research contribution is by Aidan Ring. Aidan is our interim newsletter co-ordinator and a much valued eeai volunteer.

 

What’s your initial reaction to hearing the word ‘dirt’? It’s probably that dirt is a bad thing, it makes you dirty which is to be avoided, right? When your kids are wearing clean clothes, they are instructed to not go playing in the dirt! It’s interesting what a hard time dirt gets when you consider that mostly, when we’re talking about dirt, we mean garden soil, that black substance from which all of our food comes. We need dirt to survive and yet we scorn it at every turn. This is reflected in the common dirt-related expressions e.g. Laying in the dirt; playing dirty to win; this place is filthy dirty etc. This aversion to being unclean is not surprising considering modern society is only possible through combating the spread of disease with good sanitation and proper hygiene. However, recent research indicates that, quite apart from feeding us, dirt, or soil as gardeners call it, can have benefits that reach far beyond our kitchen cupboards and into our very anatomies.

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