Writer, producer and coach Kathrin Seitz and Marc Felix, a Camden psychotherapist and student of shamanism, are exploring this winter the phenomenon of relationships — what they are and what they mean for the human experience. In March, they will hold a daylong workshop to invite relationship into lives and enhance the relationships one has. As part of this winter project, they also will venture forth with the broader Midcoast community with this periodic column, to investigate the idea of relationship, that heavily nuanced word in the English language that implies much but is so hard to define.

 

Todd from Rockport asked us about our relationship to nature.

Kathrin’s answer

When I travel away and return to Maine, I notice that I relax once I cross the border on the Maine Turnpike. I know the trees are greeting me, welcoming me home. And I am greeting them, like long lost friends. I exhale, I have entered a land with few people, many trees, lots of water. No more endless miles of strip malls. No more concrete. But rather, one hundred miles of trees, the occasional farm, ponds and then the ocean. My mind empties. I am at one with my home.

When I swim in the ocean or sail in it, I feel as if the sea carries me as it rolls up and down. I give myself to the ocean’s currents. I let go of my petty concerns. Rumi says, just to be held by the ocean is the best luck we could have.

When we spend time in the woods, on the mountains, in the water, on the land — hiking, kayaking, planting, climbing — don’t we feel as if time has expanded or perhaps disappeared? I do. I feel a part of a great web — I feel bound in eternity to the animals, the plants, the trees, the mountains, the great tidal movements of the ocean and the intimate flow of the ponds.

I suspect that we live in this beautiful state because we share an understanding of our relationship to nature. This is a community where folks have a deep relationship to the land and to the water, whether it’s through farming, gardening, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, kayaking or biking. Nature creates community. We are connected to each other because we share something in common.

As spring approaches, as the clock springs forward, and as the March winds howl, let us remember what Henry David Thoreau says:

To be admitted to Nature’s hearth costs nothing. None is excluded, but excludes himself. You have only to push aside the curtain.

Take the time to go outside and gaze all around. Acknowledge the mountains and the sea; greet the trees and the rocks. Look up and enjoy the clouds and the sun. Greet the night sky.

This is the week of the new moon. Let’s watch the moon wax and wane this month. We are blessed to be in this setting. Let us show our gratitude by connecting with the natural world around us.

Marc’s answer

Many of us find that being in nature heightens our sense of connection to spirit. Indeed many spiritual traditions advise going out into nature as the most powerful way to commune with divinity. Being in nature also deepens our connection to ourselves. Out in the natural world we are free from everything artificial and contrived. We can center and ground ourselves. We can get in touch with our own pulse and rhythm. It’s no surprise that a recent study in the Netherlands discovered that people living near green spaces are at a lower risk for anxiety.

The ancient visionaries tell us that everything that exists is alive and has intelligence and consciousness. Shamans and saints talk of all of nature as our relations, our kin: Mother Earth, Father Sky, Grandmother Tree, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. From that perspective we can communicate with stones and plants and they will share their wisdom with us. We only need to approach them with love and sincerity.

Many people find the notion of rocks and plants having wisdom to be a radical idea. Do we need to feel that we’re at the peak of the intelligence spectrum? Tribal cultures have practiced vision quests for millennia. Going into the wilderness alone and communing with the nature spirits is a rite of passage. The goal is to learn your soul’s purpose, achieve a sense of harmony within yourself and then bring that back to your community.

Nature is always talking to us. I believe that everything you need to know about life you can find in the woods.

Even in our highly technological culture, so alienated from nature, we still give flowers. Flowers for birthdays, weddings, to make someone feel better, or to say “I love you.” And of course, there are our gardens. Talk to any gardening enthusiast and they’ll tell you about the healing magic of tending the garden.

We are not separate from nature. We are part of her mystery. We sense this communion when we walk in the woods or listen to the music of the breeze rustling the leaves or smell those fragrances for which there are no words. There’s a hidden mystery in nature, not just unknown but unknowable.

Spring is coming. Go outside. Sit on the ground. Feel the earth and ask her to give you the nourishment you need. And in return, give her your gratitude.

 

In two weeks we’re going to answer a question about the juicy subject of jealousy.


Marc Felix holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and has been a psychotherapist in private practice for more than 30 years. His work radically shifted after completing a two-decade shamanic apprenticeship with an Apache medicine chief. His current work is body, mind and spirit healing of individuals and couples.

Kathrin Seitz has more than 30 years experience in the publishing, television and film businesses in both New York City and Los Angeles. She has been teaching Method Writing for more than six years in New York City, Newport, R.I., Maine and Florida. While working in the entertainment business, Seitz trained and worked as a lay analyst. She took several years of courses, reading all the important psychoanalytic literature, and worked with patients in a supervised setting for four years. Visit kathrinseitz.com.