Blog

Why Hiking is Good Therapy

fay canyon
“For me, hope arises from outdoor activities that empower people to incorporate Nature’s wisdom into their lives….They help us unashamedly love wildness, Earth and each other because balanced life feels good.” -Michael Cohen

I was on a hike with my parents, in Sedona. My dad has cerebral palsy, affecting the way he walks, and this was the first time I’d ever hiked with him.

When we began the hike, a nice guy patted him on the back, saying, “Good for you.” That was annoying and patronizing, I thought. But later, when I asked my dad how he felt about the numerous people who stopped to congratulate him, he said he felt loving-kindness; that back in the day, he would have felt shame, and contempt toward anyone who brought attention to his disability. Now, he felt supported and encouraged. Years of practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation helped him to accept praise and make this little trek through Fay Canyon.

And while I normally would have blazed down the trail to get a workout and arrive at the majestic red rock formations at the end as fast as I could, I was forced to slow down and notice the trees, which my mom helped me to identify—the silvery-green cypress, and the blue juniper berries sprinkled over red earth.

Later that evening, I learned about a person named Michael Cohen who developed an ecopsychology program close to where I live. Ecopsychology promotes the idea that we live in relationship with nature, and that deviation from this natural order causes disruption–a view held by many indigenous cultures and largely overlooked in our own.

Cohen writes, “For me, hope arises from outdoor activities that empower people to incorporate Nature’s wisdom into their lives. These activities act as responsible rituals and therapy. They mandate that our honed sense of reason and language awaken, enjoy, trust, celebrate, integrate and act off our many natural senses. They catalyze lasting bonds to the global community. They help us unashamedly love wildness, Earth and each other because balanced life feels good.”

Being in nature always helps me feel grounded. I hope you can make time to find peace in nature as well, if that resonates. ❤

References:

The Soul Unearthed: Celebrating Wildness and Spiritual Renewal Through Nature, Cass Adams – Sentient Publications – 2002

https://www.apadivisions.org/division-34/publications/newsletters/epc/2011/10/ecopsychology.aspx

From Shame to Self-Compassion

sunset-401541_1920

When I talk about self-compassion, people often want to know where to start. Self-compassion might seem hard to attain, almost a platitude.

And I get it—I used to have a lot of anger and shame and the idea of accepting myself seemed counter-productive. How could I accept such bad feelings? I wanted to pretend they weren’t there and just…be better. But they showed up in vivid dreams and destructive patterns in relationships. I had strong physical sensations (that always had me going to the doctor, until I realized they were caused by anxiety) and pretty unhealthy coping behaviors. I did some good things with my life, but underneath it all I felt like a fraud.

I can look back on all of that now and see how distorted my thinking was, how “unreal” that sense of inadequacy is—but it can sure feel real. That’s why pushing it under and ignoring it doesn’t help.

Because the thing with deep, entrenched shame—and I’m talking about the kind of feeling that makes you believe you can’t be happy, or loved, or even want to exist—is you can’t just talk yourself out of it. Until you’ve transformed it by walking through its fire and learning different ways of responding to that pain, then it will continue to disrupt your life.

All things happen in cycles. I’ve had profound moments of forgiveness and inspiration. Months later, I would experience an upwelling of the same old anger and hurts. Because I had the experience of compassion for myself, I had a softer way of responding to the pain. I became a little less reactive and the shame was quicker to dissipate. I felt more empowered by my choice in how to respond to what I felt, and I could accept the struggle. I tried difference techniques and perspectives, and went with the practices that resonated with me, discovered things I loved in the process.

Many people despair that they continue to feel their shame despite the work they’ve done for themselves. And because they continue to feel this, they compound the shame with more shame over not being over it already, or messages they get from others about what their healing should look like.

Just because you have the tools doesn’t mean you’ll feel 100 percent better. You are using those tools to build your new way of being from the ground up. While there might be some setbacks and getting stuck, there will also be joy and empowerment as you find your way. You’re courageously looking at your “dark” or “unwanted” personality traits, and this isn’t easy to do. The process lies in finding the support you need to figure out the original source and function of these feelings, and learning to change your relationship with yourself and the world around you.

When I was in art school for painting, a teacher told me that my process was too inefficient because I made a big old mess in the beginning, then created something beautiful in the end. But that just was my process!

I don’t mind any of the chaos behind me, because that’s what it took to get me where I am now. That’s a feeling I want for everyone, on their own timeline, not anyone else’s. It’s powerful when you learn to give yourself grace, to treat yourself well in some of your darkest moments. We don’t have to rush or beat ourselves up to get it done. ❤