“When Cuyamaca Burned,” the author’s boyfriend (at the time), in Rancho Cuyamaca State Park, 2005

Everyday, worldwide reports grow dimmer.

From a 75% decline in flying insect biomasss to between .01 to .10% of all species becoming extinct each year, today we know that our destruction of nature is also rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food and water to billions of people. 
The United Nations reports that our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years and, for the first time in human story, more than half of the world’s population is located in urban areas. In order to work towards solutions for climate change and habitat loss, we must understand the roots of what got us into this predicament.

I think, therefore I am.

In 1637, Rene Descartes wrote, “Cogito, ergo sum.” Credited as the first thinker to emphasize reason for developing natural science, Cartesian theory also asserts that each individual is a liberal, autonomous subject. It is the separation of intelligence (mind) from the experience (body.) Thus, the duality between Earth and man, and mind over matter, was born.

Nearly four hundreds years later, and we are raised in homes cut off from the natural world, where temperature and light are controlled and, where, for the most part, we do not experience any physical discomfort. Today, the majority of us no longer know how to sustain our own livelihood. E.g, we don’t know how to build shelters, erect an outdoor fire that we cook over, or how to grow and hunt our own food.

Inversely, indigenous people have been living in symbiotic relationship with nature, forever. In response, we have systematically erased their cultures, taken their lands and forced them to adapt to our ways. Still, our native peers have continually demonstrated that we are not separate from the world around us.

In 1979, Laguna Pueblo scholar Paula Gunn Allen wrote:

We are the land. That is the fundamental idea embedded in Native American life. The Earth is the mind of the people as we are the mind of the Earth. The land is not really the place (separate from ourselves) where we act out the drama of our isolate destinies. It is not a means of survival, or a setting for our affairs. It is, rather, a part of our being — dynamic, significant and real. It is our self.”

One solution, then, lay in our embodiment and re-connection with our whole selves, as well as with each other and our planet.

Facilitating elders through a session of “MEDs” — meditation & movement, exercise & dance - outdoors.

Embodiment is to give concrete form. It is to make corporeal, to organize and incorporate. It is also to embrace or compromise. Passion, purpose and power all reside within our bodies. So too does empathy.

We do not feel the shame, failure and discouragement we are reaping upon the planet because we have been raised within a world culture that celebrates colonialism and power-over as a means to take what one wants, while imposing what others need. After thousands of years of force and coercion, human trauma is now wide spread across our planet.

Accustomed to violence as entertainment, we live with an absence of meaningful touch and connection in our lives. Instead, our assailable bodies are bombarded by endless notifications ping’ing across multi-media accounts. These mirror the daily assault of unnatural light, pulsating images and deafening noises that accompany a manic paced society.

Our resulting de-sensitization has made us acutely uncomfortable with the sensitivities of real-time human interaction, and has also resulted in our immunity to feeling the suffering that our separation from nature, both within and without — along with its accompanying lack of vulnerability — creates.

Embodiment is the pathway for transforming our deepest pain into our greatest power. Although, we have to first recognize that we are in need — a near impossible task when we are disconnected to our feeling & sensing bodies.

Yet, we can distinctly recall our blissfully embodied childhoods. Times when we, perhaps, chased half-naked after fireflies, tumbled over the earth, played with our neighbors and felt held by loving parents. By the time we reach adulthood, however, our wildness has been bred out of us and we have come to primarily inhabit a world within our minds. Tragically, today’s child spends less than half of the amount of time outdoors than we did.

Today, we spend upwards of 93% of our time indoors, with 1700 hours a year spent at work, where we are largely stationary and rely solely on our brainpower to produce results. 76% of us spend 200 hours a year commuting alone, between jobs that rarely fulfill any sense of real purpose within us and our homes, where we are too exhausted to do anything but continue to check out of our bodies. We feel miserable and we don’t know why.

With seemingly no one to talk to, we are unable to express our feelings and to identify and name our emotional states. And we accept this as just the way it is because it is how we were raised. We feel hopeless about changing any of it, so we disconnect from our bodies as well as from our deeply felt senses of conviction. In the process, we squelch our innate desire for living a passionate life mired in justice and purpose.

Long before Descartes uttered his fateful words, man had rendered vulnerability a weakness.

Our desire to control our wide-open nature was partially motivated by our wishes to alleviate the pain and mortality that are par for course on planet Earth. Thus, reclaiming natural death and loss as a vital part of our life cycle is essential to our positive, forward movement.

In coming back to our bodies, we also need to remember how to share our tools and resources, and how to merge with our inherent nature once more. When we allow ourselves to feel the destruction that our individual choices are inflicting, we will be more willing to divest from the big-box stores, where disposable goods are loaded in by the truck full, as well as from any corporation that values profits over people and the planet.

After all, it is our very dis-connect that has allowed us to grossly consume single-use products without any regard for the future that our children and their children will be inheriting. We have lived like isolated islands — hoarding box store, seasonal stuff in 2-car garages - for too long now.

What’s more, is that we have been raised to view all of this as normal. Our television shows, and all the other media that we actively consume in almost every moment of our domesticated lives, reinforces all of this behavior as status quo. All of this culminates in a populace of people that that don’t know how to get some of their most basic needs met.

Coming back to our bodies, through meditation, somatic experiencing, the expressive arts, or a dance & movement practice, is how we begin to feel once more.

We can re-connect with our gut intuition, to the songs our hearts yearn to sing and to our voices that demand we speak up on behalf of our planet.

We must mend the divide within. We are not our minds, or our egos and identities. We can’t think our way out of the mess that this impossible duality has created. Technology, and the 3.5 hours a day the average person spends on a screen, is not the solution, either. We have to rewrite the story altogether.

Sentio, hic erit.

I feel, so here I be.

Let us feel our despondency and hopelessness. Let us admit to ourselves that we are not doing this well. We have to reclaim our whole, feeling bodies so that we can authentically realize what is really happening versus residing in the fantasy of a non-existent future.

Let us feel this mess we have made and mourn the loss of all the creatures that might not ever exist again. Let us allow our anger to be heard and our rage, about the errors of our ways, be released — most specifically, by people of color.

We have to remember how to play and be vulnerable; how to touch without sexual motives; and how to discover surrender in each other’s arms.

We have lost fundamental connection, yes, but we can reverse this trend. We do it through embodiment. When we are regularly meeting our primal, human needs for vulnerability, connection, touch and intimacy, then we are less likely to buy items we do not need, support systems that are immoral, and look outside of ourselves for solutions that have always existed within.

Join the author for weekends of Nature Embodiment & more.