Australian sustainability professor Glenn Albrecht has been creating a new vocabulary of the psychoterratic, his word for earth related mental health conditions. He writes:

…we have very few concepts in English that address environmentally-induced mental distress, or conversely, environmentally enhanced positive mental health. What I am attempting to do now is develop a rich psychoterratic typology that provides a language and conceptual landscape to match the rich range of emotions and feelings people have about nature and place.

Solastalgia, in particular resonates. It describes the pain or sickness caused by the loss of solace connected to the present state of one’s home environment:

Solastalgia exists when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under assault (physical desolation)…Solastalgia is the ‘lived experience’ of the loss of the value of the present as manifest in a feeling of dislocation; of being undermined by forces that destroy the potential for solace to be derived from the immediate and given. In brief, solastalgia is a form of homesickness one experiences when one is still at ‘home’.

Casey Yee/Wikimedia Common

We feel it frequently, as do many people we know. The antidote is to periodically “rewild”, a word coined by Julia Plevin, author of the upcoming book The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing and founder of a burgeoning forest bathing club in San Francisco. Spend time outside, especially among trees. Walk in the woods, or a park. Immerse yourself in nature.

Koya Bound / Craig Mod and Dan Rubin

And sometimes, calculated activism is necessary to protect the deeply threatened local ecology. It too can be a healing practice.

Theravada Buddhist’s monks in Thailand follow the Buddha’s example of meditating in natural settings, especially beneath trees.  When faced with devastating deforestation by logging companies, one monk had the idea or ordaining trees, wrapping them in traditional orange robes,  knowing that most loggers would not commit the taboo of harming a monk.

A Buddhist monk patrols one of Cambodia’s “monks’ community forests,” protecting it from poachers and developers. Chantal Elkin, courtesy of ARC


Further reading:
Quartz: There is a word for the trauma caused by distance from nature by Ephrat Livni
Emergence Magazine: Hallowed Ground by Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder

Thanks Cara!

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One thought on “Trees Ordained as Monks, Forest Bathing and A New Lexicon Helps Heal our Connection to the Natural World

  1. And, if those sacred trees ever meet the shredder, they will be chipmunks… alas

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