How the Earth can help you heal
One of the recurring fundamentals of naturopathy is the vis medicatrix naturae — the healing power of nature. This states that nature is the healing force for human beings. The vis is a mysterious, constant force, which is powerful yet very gentle.
The original naturopaths were natural healers in northern Europe during the 1800s. Most notable among them were Vincent Priessnitz of Austria, and Father Sebastian Kneipp of Bavaria, who ran a sanitarium in the forest. The healers provided simple regimes of whole foods, rest, exercise and plenty of fresh air and sunshine, and prescribed exposure to water, called hydrotherapy, to stimulate the vis. The “nature cure” sanitariums resemble modern detox retreats: simple, relaxed, health-giving activities held in natural rhythms and surrounds.
There’s plenty of research showing how nature, aka “green space”, enhances our ability to heal. Merely having a view of a tree from a window instead of a brick wall has been shown to shorten the length of hospital stays. Other studies have shown that being exposed to natural surrounds significantly reduces blood pressure. Even looking at images or thinking about forests can help vital signs such as blood pressure and respiratory rate.
There is some non-peer-reviewed research suggesting that the earth has an anti-inflammatory effect on our bodies. Numerous anecdotal cases show how touching the earth, such as sitting on the ground, for 45 minutes significantly reduces the experience of inflammatory pain. One of my clients swears by lying on the earth for two hours as a total hangover cure. Grounding technologies have been developed to help us have contact with the earth. In general, we are separated from its magnetic forces due to rubber tyres, shoe soles or buildings that prevent the natural currents from accessing us.
I’m not sure about the efficacy of these “grounding” tools but certainly can testify that sitting under a tree, even for 15 minutes, helps me enormously. It is relaxing and reassuring, and gives me a sense of unconditional love, which explains to me the term “Mother Earth”. Effective cleansing and detoxification require these elements of relaxation, ease, love and reassurance.
Your planet, your body
Environmental destruction, in my mind, is totally aligned with destruction of our own bodies. We are defiling our water with all manner of synthetic compounds, our atmosphere with electromagnetic waveforms, our air with particulate matter and our soil with all manner of pollutants. This makes it more difficult for us to use these elemental forces for cleansing, as they did back in the “nature cure” days.
These global commons can no longer be used without consideration of the toxic legacy the industrial era has imposed on them. The air in cities, of course, has always been problematic and in these times of increased urbanisation many more people live in those cities. In modern times, in big metropolises like Mexico City, and quite possibly others, it has been recommended that cardiovascular exercise such as jogging, which draws air deep into the lungs, is best performed indoors.
The amount of nature’s wildness we have access to has reduced significantly. We humans like to tend and cultivate land, so much so that much of the “green spaces” we have are sculpted ones. Not that this is entirely bad; it still provides us with a calming and healing effect. The loss is the access to raw and vital power and diversity that wild nature can provide.
In our contemporary world, there’s not much time to allow natural healing to take place. We are a race of human doings, not human beings. There are so many things we must attend to in order to keep the wheels of our own “industry” going, meet our financial obligations and cater to our social and personal expectations, often in a competitive and grasping manner. There’s a lot of pressure to attend to so many urgent things (emails, reports, deadlines), yet the most important things of life are so often forgotten or put on the backburner. We have forgotten that nature is abundant and there is no need to grasp.
I remember really understanding this when I had hundreds of tomato seedlings self-seed in my Garden the first time. One seed holds the power of an infinite number of plants, fruits and seeds. Nature has the message of gentle abundance within it. Maybe aligning with nature can help us solve some of the dire global problems we currently face. It certainly can give us a sense of true security that leads to relaxation and to healthy balance and effective detox.
Nature brings you closer to the Buddhist notion of oneness and connection; a space consciousness beyond the small self, where thoughts are not important and language is superfluous. A deep ecology process that John Seed (OA) from The Rainforest Information Centre teaches regularly is “breathing with the trees”. This is a meditation to undertake with the eyes open, looking at a plant (tree, shrub, blade of grass).
While breathing out carbon dioxide, we imagine the plant taking it in. Breathing in oxygen, we recognise the plants have manufactured this for us. Continuing this practice, ideally sitting on the earth, for 10 minutes or more helps bring about a sense of interconnectedness that allows you to recognise you belong and are an integral part of the planet, woven into the matrix of it with every breath.
Today, it’s up to us to protect our global commons with each purchase we make and action we take, to protect our lifeblood. We are earthlings, after all, and the vis is our only true medicine.
Sally Mathrick is a naturopath who runs Sparkle Wellness & Detox courses and retreats. See sparklewell.com.au for details.
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