Courting the psychological metaphors in nature

Courting the psychological metaphors in nature » Environmental psychology

When seeking change, it can be hard to break the habits of linear thinking and rationalism which often lead to a narrow set of options or an unrealistic sense of urgency.

It can keep us experiencing life as if we are on some kind of racetrack, freeway or treadmill. One cannot ever fully relax because it pushes us to keep moving further along that trajectory – and it is easy to feel like everyone else is already further ahead.

How can we change our trajectory? How can we reimagine the future, and learn to ask different questions?

Finding a metaphor within nature can guide us to a more nourishing way of thinking about change within ourselves, and within our culture. The guidance of the natural world is never rushed. We can begin to relax into our unique pace or oubaitori* (a Japanese idiom that means we all grow and bloom at our own pace).

We can do this by noticing what engages us, what resonates with the energy of our imagination, and what is telling our story.

For me, the Strangler Fig has become an important metaphor and symbol of transformation. Since I moved to the subtropics of eastern Australia, I have been fascinated by these trees. They arrive unbidden in the fork of other trees, and gradually grow roots down into the earth. They germinate in the scantest conditions, often only a tiny collection of nourishment in the fork of another tree. Walking around my farm, I see their glossy leaves and vigorous red tips emerging all over the place.

Observing the fig trees, I know the energy of the great forest that was here for thousands of years before the land was colonised, is still present in each seed. They are wild and determined and they know exactly what to do. If allowed to grow long enough, over time they will deprive their host tree of nutrients and become a majestic canopy species of the subtropical rainforest.

A few years ago, when I was feeling stuck in my job, and worried about the imminent threat of the coal seam gas industry, and ecocide in general, the strangler fig offered itself to me. It showed me that transformation is happening all the time, in a multiplicity of ways, and will continue to happen. It showed me that by becoming its full self, it created all kinds of opportunities for other species and dramatically changed its landscape.

Like the seed of the strangler fig, we may find ourselves living in a culture that doesn’t feel entirely comfortable. It may nurture us for a while, and provide a foundation, from where we can put roots down into the rich soil of presence and begin to take responsibility for who we become.
Strangler Fig suggests to me that focus and intention are important. Being ourselves, fully expressed, is essential. Deprive the noisy, argumentative world of our energy, and we see it wither. Breathe in our local ecology.

By taking time to dialogue imaginatively with the natural world, we can experience the stirrings of the wild aspect within ourselves. Feeling differently can support our need to think differently and respond differently. Perhaps some of our concerns can feel less urgent, less necessary even, as we embrace the confidence and creativity of our ecological being.