Self-Compassion: Nature Anchors
by Vania Sukola, RP Registered Psychotherapist
Things in nature can carry a significant story for us because they act as a self-compassionate anchor. Our body holds onto all sorts of memories. Some somatic memories are there to help protect us from that tiger hiding in the bushes nearby. Others help us find that compassion and comfort we need. Many of us experience deep connection with a large body of water, a mountaintop, or hiking in a forest in the Fall. This is no accident.
Whenever I see a peony, it reminds me of my next-door neighbour when I was a child. I don’t recall a lot of what we did together, but I still carry this feeling of appreciation whenever i see a peony. While not all of my childhood memories are easy ones, there is a part of me that connects to my inner child of playfulness and summertime when I see peonies. It’s because I was connected to them as a child and have a deeper story attached to them. Now as an adult with my own garden, they are my most sacred flower.
After my son was born, we planted his placenta under a lilac bush we had transplanted. Each year when the month of June approaches, I don’t just celebrate his special day but also the fresh blooms of lilacs. These two feelings are now forever bonded together. My son has said he also carries a soft spot for his special tree, and that we treat it with the utmost respect. That means only cutting the branches as necessary. His birth story is not an easy one, and yet his presence here on Earth brings me such joy. Establishing myself as a new mom, and getting to a place of strength and resilience after giving birth is now symbolized in this delicate flower.
There has been a resurgence of research that shows how being outdoors in nature is so healing, for our mind, body and spirit. For instance, committing 2 hours over the course of your week is all we need to have this healing energy support us. A wonderful way to do this is to use Somatic Mindfulness, which intentionally directs oneself to a part of our body that feels good, and holding on to it as long as you can. When you can’t get outdoors, why not bring that same sensation indoors?
Many of us get a souvenir to help keep the memory of a trip alive. This talisman is used to help our body hold on to the memory as the body gets to linger on the positive sensation a deliberate way. Adopt this by bringing nature into your home: Maybe it’s a photo, painting, cut flowers, clay piece, or a tea made up of your favourite flowers like roses or mint. I bring in both my garden as well as my creative side when i want to anchor happy memories - I keep an ever-present flower bouquet, shell collections, and a clay replica of my favourite beach inflatable donut. Whenever my eye catches these items, I pause and let the sensation absorb into me. They help me connect to the feelings I want to be more mindful of - joy, rest, love and resilience.
Bringing nature into the home is an act of self-compassion as it can help intentionally shift our mindset to a more positive one. These visual cues can deepen the positive felt sense in your body, or store them for later when you need that hug from nature.
Vania Sukola, RP is a Registered Psychotherapist who has a focus on supporting women with the transitions in their lives. She has a particular speciality in perinatal rite of passage, trauma and guiding women to live the life they love. As a trauma-informed, intersectional Feminist Therapist, vania believes you are the expert in your life. She can be found www.vaniasukola.ca