Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ordinary Earth Returns: People Need a Place

April 15, 2010

The importance of a sense of place to psychological well-being became evident during my travel to Israel. While we understand many psychological difficulties in terms of relationships (particularly parental), or development, or even the body, rarely do psychologists venture into the significance of space and place. Human geographers like Yi-Fu Tuan, Nigel Thrift, Steve Pile and Derek Gregory (to name a few) have written extensively about the mutual influence of space and consciousness.  Clinicians have not focused on it as much, but my thinking is that we can learn about another facet of our minds from these geographers . (more…)

The Negev: Desert People

April 11, 2010

After passing through a fertile agriculture zone,  one confronts the sand dunes of the Negev. In this dry, hot place, the evidence of human innovation is everywhere. With bold sweeps, the land rolls seemingly endlessly onward.  Yet, human communities live within this the expansive collage of sand, rock, and the majesty of the maktesh, exemplifying the link between the possibility of geography and that of the human spirit.   (more…)

The Galilee and the Golan

April 2, 2010

As we leave the city of Jerusalem, we leave behind the fragile fabric of the diversity here. Tze-tze and peyes blend with young men in t-shirts and jeans, long-skirted women with scarves about their heads push their strollers past young women in short skirts, then a woman draped in cloth from head to toe continues on her path to somewhere unknown wishing not to be seen. As the city stays behind, the hills appear, green tufts of dense bush and grass decorating the sweep of rolling sandy waves. If the city is about the complex tile work of international (or interfaith) cooperation, the landscape to the North demands attention be paid to people and their borders. The land here invites us to interact with it. “Come play, ” it calls forth with a breeze that compels one’s skin to loosen and allow for flexibility of mind body and soul. (more…)

Ordinary Earth Travels

March 26, 2010

Photo by Annie Griffiths Belt

These past few months, I have been exploring the role of mind, body, culture and geography in personality development.   Why?  I think I’m searching for some way to assist the people with whom I work, some way to think about their struggles that uplift humanity.  Sometimes people need  deep understanding rather than diagnostic codes. Sustainability occurs in the human heart and mind.

I will be spending the next two weeks in Israel.  It will be my first visit to this complicated country. If one is interested, as I am, in the intersection of landscapes, physicality and the mind’s transcendence, the ancient cities of Israel, and the people who live within, may tell a story that will inspire an encounter with fresh perspective. Every experience deepens the one that came before. Starting Sunday, March 28th,  I’ll share what I learn about our ordinary earth, from a new place.

People Don’t Always Act in their Best Interest

March 9, 2010


Some people have been debating whether or not scientists should become climate change activists or if they should stick to the data. The concern is that the general population seems less worried about environmental issues.  Given our culture’s typical reliance on external solutions to problems, it doesn’t surprise me that journalists and pundits are looking to Obama, scientists, activists, politicians and economists to motivate change. As someone who helps people transform less than optimal behavioral problems into opportunities for accomplishment, lets begin with this fact:  People don’t always act in their own best interest.  Usually, what most motivates people to behave in a manner that affirms self and others is direct  emotional enlivenment that connects to an inner conviction or memory.  Let me provide an example from my work to illustrate how it might be possible to get people interested in climate change. (more…)

Nick Totton and the UK ecopsychologists

February 12, 2010

Yorkshire countryside, UK, photo by hchalkley

Having read my Wasted and Bombed paper, Nick Totton contacted me. He is a body therapist with an MA in psychoanalysis from Yorkshire, part of a network of British therapists of different specialties working on the interface between psychology and the environment.  Check them out.  And here too. Totton is currently editing a collection of writing on ecopsychology for the journal he edits Psychotherapy and Politics International . He is also working on a book which is intended to bring together ecopsychology, ecotherapy, and political issues.  I had the opportunity to read his enlightening key-note address to an Adventure therapy conference.

He wrote: “But as a therapist, I am also aware of the need for a change of mind, a huge shift of consciousness, if humanity is going to take a different path into the future. That is why I have become involved with ecopsychology – an involvement which stems from my work as a body psychotherapist: it seems to me that a positive relationship with the other-than-human is founded in a positive relationship with our own embodiment.”

Between Glenn Albrect in Australia, Thomas Doherty and Peter Kahn on the west coast and now these folks in the UK,  along with myself and the folks at CRED in NYC where I have spent some time learning and researching, it does feel as though there is a growing international interest in the unacknowledged relationship between our psyches and our environment.  Thrilling, really.

The Pope says Green Begins at Home

January 5, 2010

In his New Year’s address, the pope called on Catholics (and I assume the rest of us can participate) to consider protecting the environment a personal responsibility as well as a political event. The Pope said, “An objective shared by all, an indispensable condition for peace, is that of overseeing the earth’s natural resources with justice and wisdom.”

If we don’t protect our planet and treat it as the sacred entity that supports life, we risk our own lives, we threaten humanity.  Political decisions and legislation often brings about social changes. Copenhagen was a little more important than the Pope might wish to acknowledge. Yet, I also believe that change begins at home.  Most of us wonder, what might living differently entail? How would it help me? What follows are three things anyone can do that will help the environment and support psychological health.


Recession Dogs

March 16, 2009

One sign that it is a bad economy is that people are taking better care of their dogs. During the past months the park has been more crowded with people walking their dogs on weekday mornings.  They are also walking at a more leisurely speed . Normally people arrive bundled and scowling, steaming coffee cup in hand,  pulling on the leads to rein in their dogs’ wanderlust.  Lately, the dogs are allowed off leash as their owners chat.Some have no job to hurry to.  Others have a job, but no real work to rush toward.  Free to roam, the dogs amble more spritely, unlike the mornings of a few weeks ago when they hung their heads, nose to the ground, as they accepted another walk on the leash.  I guess the same is somewhat true of the owners. They too had been walking on a leash known as the deriviative based financial tightrope. Now that the fall has taken place, they are more free  to explore.  Its a bit more dangerous, and the worries are very real.  Yet, like their dogs there is a bit of a spring in their steps. Its as though something good will come of this, and not just for the dogs.

More on Birds

March 16, 2009

One of Riverside Park’s Red-Tail Hawks was spotted in a tree near the tunnel at the 83rd street entrance to the riverwalk.  The kids watched in awe, feeling sprited and enlivened by his presence.  Why do these wild birds make us so happy?  Do they remind us that we can still be free? Yes, but I think it is more complicated than that.  It seems more like running into people you haven’t seen in a while.  If feels so good to know that the connection is still there despite all that has happened.  It is a reminder that the past still lives somewhere even if it is in a memory or a momentarily revived passing connection to an old relationship.  We miss our collective past, a time when the natural world was more a part of us.  A hawk that thrives in a city like NY supports our belief that that a long lost time can still be a part of who we are.


March 14, 2009

The temperature reached 50 degrees in New York City.  Our dog was activated.  He held his head high as he scanned the open field before him, looking for a playmate, sniffing the air replete with the odor of emergent plant life.  A red-breasted robin moved his head side to side while hopping toward a fallen log.  Will people begin to feel better now that the winter is recedes?

The longer days already invite more contact with other people.

We are not separate from each other, this earth and us.  We impact each other daily.

Starting today, I will be tracking small everyday interactions that take place between humans and nature, between  our ordinary selves and our ordinary earth, and thinking about what prevents us from taking care of ourselves, each other and our planet.

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