Psychedelics and Earth-Based Healing in the Time of Climate Collapse
Updated: Feb 2
This article was originally published on the Fruiting Bodies Collective website, edited by Rebecca Martinez. All rights belong to the author, Jessika Lagarde.
We, humans, have created a lifestyle for ourselves that separates us from nature. We don't have our feet on the ground, in the sand, or on the grass. Many of us feel alone or isolated and have forgotten that we are part of something much bigger. We have forgotten that we are each a cell of this living organism we call home: the Earth.
Because this way of life doesn’t serve us, we have become deeply disconnected from our essence, our planet, and one another. Now, we find ourselves amid a convergence of catastrophes: global pandemic, mental health, humanitarian, socio, political and economic crises, war and climate collapse.
I believe what we are really going through is a crisis of meaning, in which we have lost contact with who we are, our values, and our purpose on this Earth. It’s not hard to see how we ended up here.
Domination Relies on Separateness
The relationship between humans and our habitat has changed dramatically in modern times, especially in the past century. We have redesigned our habitats to be insulated from our natural environment, one that we now know helps regulate our nervous systems and provides us a sense of deep belonging. In our current globalized and technological world, this manifests as a physical and psychological distance between us and our home. As a consequence, psychopathologies and destructive attitudes have arisen from this new way we relate to the Earth, culminating in the current environmental crisis and widespread ecosystem collapse.
The faulty idea that human beings have total power and control over nature is favored by the desire for unlimited economic growth and widespread in almost every country in the world. We reduced living entities like trees and rivers and land to “natural resources” and applied a monetary value to them. This domination was supported by technological development and little reflection and awareness of its consequences.
Our distancing from nature is what has carried us far from ourselves. The intricately connected systems on this planet mean we cannot change one thing without changing many things. Isolated environmental problems do not exist, only human-environmental ones. Our current environmental crisis reflects the state of the human psyche, and everything that belongs to our external reality occupies a place inside each of us.
The sustainability crisis and the psychic crisis of our society are inseparable.
Rediscovering the Ecological Ego and our Interconnectedness
Direct contact with nature and the rediscovery of the human being as an ecological being are important steps toward the health of humanity. The way out of the current sustainability crisis could begin with the cultivation of the ecological ego.
The current discord between humans and nature is built by ego, the sense of self as separate from others. In contrast, the ecological ego is the stable state of ego that gives mentally, emotionally, and behaviourally no harm to nature, while also being respectful to all creatures. This makes the ecological ego a critical element in repairing the relationship between humans and nature.
But how can we develop our ecological ego? One way is to provide experiences that bring people closer to nature and natural elements. Experiences that are capable of promoting a deep reconnection with humans and the environment, rescuing the feeling of ethics and integration with the universe, life, and the originality of our own being.
Thus, the use of psychedelics, as well as other practices and activities that connect us to nature, can be catalysts for the (re)constitution of this ecological ego to occur.
Psychedelics and Earth-Based Healing
“I find myself in the middle of the forest, fully immersed by the sounds of birds and other uncountable little creatures. I look at the leaves of the trees, their movements mimicking giggling as the sunlight exposes several different shades of green.
Beside me, a gigantic tree stands tall, and I can see it gently breathing. I touch its trunk and it inflates like lungs, inhaling and exhaling air. I see that the marks of its branches are very similar to the marks I have on my own skin. I hug the tree and I almost can feel it hugging me back. At this moment I know that we are not separate, but daughters of the same source.”
-Author’s personal LSD experience
Researchers at Imperial College London found that a single psychedelic experience (in this particular case study, psilocybin) can increase a person’s measures of "connection with nature". In most cases, these medicines amplify or remind an individual of their existing, forgotten sense of belonging to the Earth.
There are several ways to understand this phenomenon. Consider that psychedelics are a rapid catalyst for consciousness change and can facilitate direct experience, which is the process of acquiring knowledge by fully and directly participating in an activity. In addition, psychedelics appear to regulate our Default Mode Network (DMN), a network of regions of the brain which carry our assumptions about ourselves and the world. Psychedelics can reduce DMN activity and affect our non-dual perception. This results in a union between us (the ego) and our environment which explains the feeling of interconnectedness.
Another aspect that could be further explored is the fact that psychedelics can also enable us to look at life from a distance, fostering a new type of self-awareness that could encourage a broader view of our world, our impact, and our place in it.
But psychedelics are not the only tools we have that could foster this connection. Indigenous earth-based cultures have long known the healing powers of nature and have practiced a variety of ceremonies for personal and community healing. The indigenous paradigm is one that does not separate humans from the Earth to begin with. Examples of these practices include The Medicine Wheel, sweat lodge ceremonies, and medicine walks, among other rituals.
Many ecotherapy practices also prioritize building a two-way relationship with nature, returning care to the Earth, whether it be collecting garbage or planting trees. Ecotherapy recognizes that human beings are not separate, but rather part of the natural world. Such earth-based healing can also help with problems related to eco-anxiety (anxiety related to concerns such as environmental damage and degradation, global warming, or natural disasters).
Walking in parks and forests, outdoor meditations, gardening, and any other approach that connects a person to the healing source in its natural environment can be good remedies for anxiety. Natural environments reduce the body's autonomic nervous system activity, which is linked to more relaxation, less stress, and inflammation. This results in less risk of developing physical diseases, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and emotional ones, such as depression.
Healing Ourselves And the World Around Us
We are in this time of twilight in which we can see the dark and the light. The past global pandemic has shown us that we have to let go of ways of being that we believed served us for a long time. It has shown us that it’s more than necessary to reintegrate the human mind into nature so that we can reconnect our deepest self to the roots from which we all came - the Earth.
We cannot restore human mental health and our well-being if we do not restore the health of our planet. Nature teaches us that we live in a circular story. By reviving the energy and affection that exists in every human being in order to care and preserve - instead of the current continuous cycle of abandoning or destroying - we can assure that our planet will recover and so will our species and society.
“Everything surrounding me is a part of me.”
- The Earth Has a Soul: The Nature Writings of C.G. Jung
About the author: Jessika Lagarde is an experienced plant medicine facilitator, integration coach, educator, and Women On Psychedelics Co-founder. Jessika provides one-on-one coaching, sessions, and group ceremonies for women going through life transitions, such as grief, career change, relationship break-ups, motherhood, or moving countries. Check out her website and offers here.