The Way of the Nature Mystic
Throughout time, human beings have communed with nature and seen it as a magical source of spirituality.
In ancient times and still among many native communities today, nature mysticism is integrated into daily life. All life forms, including birds, plants, animals, rocks, mountains and rivers are considered sentient and sacred with their own special contribution to the world around us. All beings are of importance, not just in relationship to human beings, but in their own right. Appreciating nature as a sentient being and source of health and healing still runs through these cultures in the form of ritual, prayer and medicine. Indeed, in cultures that have lost this vital connection to Planet Earth, it is seen as kind of a sickness, the disconnection from our planet and the beings that share her with us, causing pain, despair and misery throughout our world.
When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
Despite western culture being the source of our current disconnection to the natural world, it has its own rich history of nature mysticism, stemming back to the ancient tribal people of Europe and later the Celtic peoples and Vikings. In more recent history there have been nature mystics as well, one being St Francis of Assisi, who, during the 12th century was a merchants son who founded a new religious order known as the ‘Franciscan order’ renouncing all material wealth and living a simple life connected to nature. Today, he is known today as the patron Saint for animals.
The Washington Post writes of Francis of Assisi saying:
“Everything spoke to Francis of the infinite love of God. Trees, worms, lonely flowers by the side of the road—all were saints gazing up into the face of God. In this way, creation became the place to find God and, in finding God, he realized his intimate relationship to all of creation.”
Hildegard von Bingen, a Benedictine Abbess, musician, artist and herbalist also spoke of nature mysticism during the 12th century and wrote:
“Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings. Now, think. What delight God gives to humankind with all these things . All nature is at the disposal of humankind. We are to work with it. For without we cannot survive.”
Today we can look back at the past to show us a way forward to create a deep and profound relationship to the more than human world that integrates with modern life. So how might nature mysticism look today? And how can we, of a western background bring ourselves back from an ocean of disconnection and find a way to claim our ancient ancestral ties to this planet?
Modern nature mysticism is a powerful call to return to the source of our human existence – this planet as our only and true home. It is a call that does not deny our modern world but seeks to address the imbalance in our culture that puts rational thought first and the unanswered mysteries of the world second. It is a call back to directly experiencing the world around us and a move away from analysing, categorising everything to make sense of the world. It is a path that stands in the discomfort of not knowing and can look in the face of the unexplained mysteries of the world with the curiosity to discover more.
My work and the work of Tree Mystic seeks to bring the path of communing with nature for wellbeing into our modern lives, offering practices and inspiration so that nature can, once again, become the focal point of our lives, decision making and values. Through combining and aligning different modalities such as shamanism, forest therapy and plant medicine, Tree Mystic is developing a path of remembrance back to ancient times and forward into a new era of conscious humanity.
One of the main ways to do this is very simple – spending quality time in nature. But what exactly does ‘quality’ time mean? Many people profess to spend lots of time in nature, they are jogging in nature with ear buds in, cell phoning on the beach or hiking at a fast pace to reach a destination. Although these activities are all well and good, they involve little if any actual relating with the natural world in which they are taking place. Similar to a couple who spend the evening in each others company, on their cell phones, reading books or perhaps finishing work – they are together physically without any actual relating occurring. To commune with nature, and in fact with anything or anyone, we need to set aside our distractions for a time and just be with it. Sitting still in nature for at least twenty minutes regularly is one of the fastest ways to build your connection.
The practice of forest therapy is a series of invitations that engages you in experiencing nature directly through your senses. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, where I have trained, uses thirteen senses on their walks, the usual five and an additional eight, which overtime can break down the barriers between yourself and the more than human world. Through engaging the senses we move out of heads and begin to discover the world as a direct experience, leading us to discover our inherent oneness with all of life. Forest therapy provides a wonderful framework to begin your journey into nature mysticism.
Nature mysticism also involves ritual, celebrating the solstices, full moon and cycles of the seasons. Learning how to enter into and communicate to the more than human world, for which the sensory invitations of forest therapy create and build the perfect pathway for.
Shamanism is another beautiful pathway, almost inseparable from the path of a nature mystic but perhaps more formal a path, with a clear focus on communing with nature to heal afflictions of body and mind. It has its roots in a tribal past, where the Shaman was a valued part of the community, dealing with all manner of ills from failed crops to ill health. A Shaman specialises in tuning into the forces of nature to provide health and wellness. Tree Mystic offers online and in person shamanic based healing to assist people in clearing what no longer serves them, supporting them to move forward in living a life they love.
Plant medicine is another pathway to bring us in close connection to the mysteries and wonder of nature. Unfortunately our modern world is turning this into an increasingly analytical study without much actual plant interaction. At Tree Mystic, we teach and make plant essences as a wonderful method to not only make healing medicine but also to engage people in opening their intuitive capacities – why are they drawn to certain plants and what is the plant telling them about its healing gifts? Learning how to listen to the voices of nature which is talking to us all the time is a skill and gift that anyone can learn.
Over the coming year, Tree Mystic will be putting together an exciting online and in life program to share the art of Nature Mysticism. Blending together modalities, practices, ritual and celebration across time and cultures, to provide a new pathway for discovering the spiritual in everyday life and creating a new wave of human beings who know themselves to be part of the whole, grounded in their place and purpose on this planet, living a life of service to the earth and developing skills to share with their communities.
Tree Mystic was started by New Zealander, Hannah McQuilkan a qualified Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Aromatherapist and Forest Therapy Guide. Please join the conversation by checking out our ‘Experiences’ page.
Hannah is available to speak and lead experiences anywhere in the world, you can contact her here.