Manu Mathew Counselor India Bible College and Seminary Kumbanad
Human beings are closely related and attached to nature. We can assume that the environment has an affirming rootedness with the holistic entity of an individual. So it is worthwhile to explore the role of nature in holistic healing.
Ecology and Holistic Healing
Holism refers to the concept that human beings should be viewed as unified wholes that are more than the sum of their respective constituent elements. This concept subsumes the related idea that although different aspects of functioning can be specified such as mental or physical health, all aspects are part of an interrelated system where change in one part effects change in the whole. Alfred Adler, founder of individual psychology noted the importance of holism in understanding an individual. Holistic healing thus designates the restoration of the wellness of an individual in the total entity.
Ecology deals with the existence, sustenance, relations and interaction of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings in the ecosystem. It is also restating and reaffirming the significance of nature in the existence of human beings. Ecological dimension of holistic healing has theological, psychological and sociological significance.
The created cosmos existed as a system where life originates, develops and sustains in mutuality. The relation between human and nature is based on a vision of God who created heaven and earth as an independent organism but sustains in unity. God placed human beings along with an array of living and non-living creatures. They were assigned as the steward of the earth to relate with nature through hard work and care. But in contrast man started to exploit and manipulate the nature and its resources. This resulted in complete disharmony in the created order and impaired the cause of creation.
K.C Abraham, a prominent Indian theologian explained the importance of restructuring the traditional theological view of anthropocentrism and dualism that position humans being superior to nature. He proposes for an eco-justice hermeneutic through reading the ‘Bible with Earth. Human being as the ‘dominant’ (Gen 1:28) among all has negatively implied for mistreatment and exploitation of nature. Jurgen Moltmann, a reformed German theologian argues that the meaning of the word ‘dominion’ can be translated as communion or fellowship with nature and not necessarily against nature.
It is interesting to notice the role of environment in the formation of the personality and ministry of Jesus. It is very well to assume that the complete life and ministry of Jesus was very much linked to nature. The narration of environment such as the sea, desert, mountain, plains and plants, presented in the Gospels expresses the role of nature in the personality and ministry of Jesus. In other words the nature becomes the platform for most of the healing interventions in the ministry of Jesus. He has abundantly used the elements of nature for offering holistic healing. Royce M Victor, an Indian theologian quotes the role of a ‘tree’ as a natural symbol, in the life of Zacchaeus in bringing reconciliation with God and holistic healing in his life.
Environmental degradation is the result of destructive attitude of men against the divinely destined healing relationship between men and earth. Imbalance occurs in the system of life also affect mental wellbeing of people. Kurt Lewin, a German Gestalt psychologist articulated that human behavior is a product of personal and environmental factors. Following Lewin, an American developmental Psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner in his Ecological systems theory, proposed that a person’s development was affected by everything in their surrounding environment. The object relations theory poses that the quality of our current relationship with the natural world is deeply influenced by whether our internalized natural objects are primarily positive and nurturing or threatening and toxic. The ‘biophilia hypothesis’ defined by Edward Wilson suggests human identity and personal fulfillment somehow depend on our relationship with nature, and that the human need for nature is linked not just to the material exploitation of the environment but also to the influence the natural world has on our emotional, cognitive, aesthetic, and even spiritual growth and developments. So it is clear that the nature has a deep and intimate role in the psychological formation and wellbeing of an individual.
The eco system is a dynamic complex of various interacting elements as a functional unit. So in a sociological view, nature models and directs a life of commonality, unity and affection. It also promotes social concern and justice in sharing and conserving the natural resources with generational consciousness.
A part of the church’s calling for today is to deal with the need for reconciling with the wounded soul of earth. The pastoral responsibility lies in bringing back the lost relationship of earth and human beings and thus establishes holistic healing. It is prudent for counselors in this era to integrate various methods into counseling pattern with their clients having the therapeutic goal of holistic healing.
Ecological Derivatives of Healing
Howard Clinebell, a prominent pastoral theoretician has propagated Eco-therapy in which he considers ‘nature’ an essential element for personal growth and well being. He states that an holistic relationship with nature which encompasses both nature’s ability to nurture us, through our contact with natural places and spaces, and our ability to reciprocate this healing connection through our ability to nurture nature. Healing and growth occur when we are closer to nature. In this sense, eco-therapy place humans within a healing relationship with nature. He identifies the global environmental crisis as one of the most critical health problem and will continue in the generations to come. So centered on the vitality of nature is the ultimate source of therapeutic healing.
Eco-spirituality can be defined as the manifestation of the spiritual connection between human beings and the environment. It clearly identifies and acknowledges the creator above the creation. It is an awareness of a creative source that transcends the material aspects of life and gives a deep sense of wholeness or connectedness to the universe. Eco-spirituality calls on to consider the value of all living beings and questioning selfish attitude of men for his materialistic attitude. It understands the position of human beings to be closely related to all other life forms within an interrelated, interconnected web in the divine design. The spiritual significance of ecology needed be professed in the creed of worship. Thus the quest for spirituality fulfills through an active relationship with nature.
Eco-education is an attempt to promote the awareness and understanding of the environment and its relationship with human beings. Educating the generation at formative level in more of an experimental strategy about the significance, resourcefulness and importance of conserving and relating with the nature is beneficial. Eco education needed to include developing skills and attitude to live corporately and peacefully with nature.
Natural Healing Sources
The nature promote healing through a system of care through which life sustain. The cooperative attitude with nature could bring healing by resetting the distorted order. An alternative nature friendly lifestyle and ecological responsible behavior that adopts the habit of conserving and sharing that serve to restore the relationship with nature. Studies suggested that personal well-being can be enhanced by involvement in environmental activities. Ecologists have discovered that many plants and animals contribute to produce chemicals that protect human health. Ayurveda and other prominent medicinal exploration from the nature is also a natural assurance for the physical and mental cure. By maintaining the habitats and natural livelihood of indigenous people groups such as of adivasis are vitally important to maintain and promote natural resources. The energy or nutrition needed for the physical sustenance result in mental wellness also. Exposure to sun light is highly recommended for the physical health. Naturopathy is another treatment method emphasizes assisting nature. It is based upon the tendency of the body to maintain a balance with the nature and to heal itself. But it is also important to critically analyze the uncertainty of unscientific therapy methods.
‘Nature’ in counselling paradigm
Since nature has a significant role in the holistic health and wellness of a person, it is important to extend an integrative action plan that facilitates change and growth. The healing significance of nature is worth to inculcate in a counseling mode.
Nature as a Therapeutic Climate or Context
Being in a natural context and climate to unfold a growing relationship is crucial for holistic growth and healing. The nature itself supersedes the possible human barriers, blocks, destructive energy and emotions in one’s self which possibly terminate natural growth and development. Nature becomes an agent of unconditional acceptance negating any conditional worth. The counseling relationship with the nature grows and flourish in an interpersonal healing alliance decorated with peace and harmony.
Relating and Exploring with the Nature
The innate ability to live genuine, faithful and joyous lives is crippled by the paralyzing emotions that fill our hearts and souls with harmful and destructive attitude. Settling down at a natural place and spending time in meditating at the cosmic beauty and care helps to recreate oneself by facilitating deep exploration of destructive emotions. The vitality and variety of natural ingredients in the nature are means and methods to facilitate recreating emotional wellness. The nature assures healing experience through nature’s fragrance, beauty, order, soothing sound etcetera as a therapeutic touch.
Receiving Insight from the Nature
It is necessary to learn from the nature and receive insights for personal – relational growth and development. The nature is contributing sufficient and vital insights for the growth and sustenance of living beings in the nature. Order in the nature, seasonal blossoming, natural rhythm and such will vigorously contribute to therapeutic change and growth. The natural therapeutic context and the communication are important to rightly impact the insight from the nature. It definitely needs sufficient exposure and exploration to enhance personal healing through the insight received in the therapeutic climate.
Restoring the broken relationship with nature and human beings bring wholeness and healing. Individuals need to be intimately connected to nature to be whole and healthy. Restoring back the lost relationship ultimately confirms the actual plan of creation. It will be an apt pastoral response to the ecological issue or crisis, to designate and establish the resourcefulness of nature in the holistic wellness and healing of human beings.