Nature Easing Environmental Anger, Anxiety, and Grief
(Editor’s note: this article was written for a course at Rockhurst University on “Writing for the Environment.” Students paired with nonprofit organizations to create articles and other supportive content. It was a wonderful collaboration with some really insightful and articulate students! For this article, Anna watched a pre-recorded presentation of Five Essentials for a Resilient World and Self-Care for an environmental activist group. This guided meditation, suggested journaling topics, and reflections came from Anna’s experience with that presentation. After each question, consider journaling your response – in writing, drawing, poetry – whatever medium calls to you!)
Journal to Reflect on Sami Aaron’s Wisdom (Creator of the Resilient Activist)
Sami has explained that environmental activists regularly feel sadness and anger because of environmental issues that are constantly occurring. The trees, the native plants, the animals, the water, and every living being speaks through us: Please appreciate us enough to let us live.
What Nature do you wish to see on a daily basis? What parts of Nature do you fail to appreciate?
In response to the Nature we fail to respect, I have heard many complaints from people who dislike dandelions: “They are weeds!” I ask that person—have you ever seen a happy bee on a dandelion? Have you ever tried dandelion tea, dandelion root soup, or dandelion flower jelly? Dandelions give health to insects and humans. Can we give them back appreciation and respect?
Some people may not think a thing about killing or spraying herbicides on dandelions. This relates to our problem of empathy for our Earth. Many environmental activists, as Sami emphasizes, feel the pain of the Earth struggling to live AND they have to constantly be surrounded by people who act like there is nothing wrong. The anger, sadness, and anxiety that come at the small and large scale of environmental destruction is a threat to our mental health.
Sami brings up a 2013 Research Study from Sustaining the Conservationist:
“Environmental work is emotionally laden because of the struggle on behalf of ethical positions and the daily experience of loss and frustration” (Fraser 2013)*
If you feel strong emotional distress from Nature destruction, reach out to your support group (a friend, partner, family, teacher, etc). Join an environmental activist group in order to see that you can help humans achieve respect for Nature. You can also volunteer at a local, environmental non-profit. Furthermore, you should be aware of Climate Psychology Alliance North America where you can find a climate-aware therapist and other mental health resources.
Sami brought up the important Eagle and The Condor Prophecy brought to light in the 1990s. It regards Native knowledge (symbolized by the Condor) and Modern Technology (symbolized by the Eagle). In order to restore balance to the world, the Eagle and the Condor must come together. We cannot sustain the life of all beings without both Native knowledge and modern technology. Think about this in terms of your experiences in life.
What actions can you take to allow for a resilient future for Nature?
What actions can you take to allow for your one wild and precious life to be more resilient?
What lines can you draw between your responses about Nature and yourself to foster life/resiliency?
The Resilient Activist Speaks of 5 ways that you can increase the resilience of humans and the planet. I will list these out with my favorite examples of each. Check out this link from us to see explanations: Five Essentials for a Resilient World – The Resilient Activist
- Reconnect With Nature: walk barefoot in the forest, experience darkness in Nature, sit still and watch wildlife.
- Respect All Life: minimize plastic use, choose to not eat meat, or at least support farms where cows and chickens are able to be themselves in a state of freedom. Respect yourself with self-care habits like exercise, gardening, and nourishing food.
- Rewild the Planet: give money to land conservation projects, plant native plants and trees.
- Revamp Our Spending: buy from local farmers and small businesses.
- Replenish Our Resources: start a compost, stop using salt on concrete to protect our water.
Lastly, I would like to finish this journal article with self-care so that we can sustain our environmental activism. Please join me in this meditation. Perhaps someone at your work or another group would be able to read it aloud to you.
Guided Earth Mindfulness Meditation by Anna Gilmore
I encourage you to play a YouTube video with nature sounds or be outside and stop often to journal your thoughts.
Welcome to this Guided Earth Mindfulness Meditation.
Let’s first connect to our breath. This is your focal life source. Give your breath loving attention all the way to the top of an inhale and to the bottom of an exhale.
If your mind fills with a thought, gently go back to your focus on your breath without judgment. Let your breath do its comfortable rhythm.
We will breathe for 5 minutes. Let any emotion you feel pass through your breath. If you are doing this alone, breathe for as long as you would like.
What emotion or emotions do you feel when Nature is destroyed? Let this emotion flow in you during an inhale and out of you during an exhale.
Repeat to yourself the mantra: I honor my pain for the world. My presence can bring goodness to Earth.
Repeat for as long as you need.
Now I want you to draw from the hope residing in the deep roots of the plants.
Envision your favorite spot in nature. What feelings arise in you?
What do you hear?
What do you smell?
Allow yourself to go to this place and rest there for a while.
Breathe with the particular aspect of Nature that you find hope in.
As this meditation ends, give yourself the freedom to release your mind from constant thought and emotion. Keep the ability to appreciate Nature and other moments as you go from place to place.
Artwork and Photographs by Anna Gilmore
* Fraser, J., Pantesco, V., Plemons, K., Gupta, R., & Rank, S. J. (2013). Sustaining the conservationist. Ecopsychology, 5(2), 70-79.