Nature and the Nature of Healing – How the natural world restores us to our senses – inside and out
Nature and the Nature of Healing – How the natural world restores us to our senses – inside and out.
Janet Thomas’ conference transcript from the 2013 Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference.
Please use caution while read to this presentation. It may be very triggering. All accusations are alleged. The conference and this transcript are educational and not intended as therapy or treatment.
Janet Thomas is a writer and a RA/MC survivor in healing for more than 25 years. Her recent book, Day Breaks Over Dharamsala–A Memoir of Life Lost & Found explores spiritual healing from RA/MC abuse. Her book, The Battle in Seattle, explores global socio-economic abuse. She lives on an island in the northwest U.S. Her topic was: Nature and the Nature of Healing – How the natural world restores us to our senses – inside and out.
SMART Conference Talk / Janet Thomas
August 10, 2013
Nature and the Nature of Healing
Last weekend I spent three days hiking in the peaks of the North Cascades in Washington State. I went with three friends—and it was our fourth year of heading for the hills together. We took long mountain high hikes every day, ate well, slept in beds, and drank vodka and played canasta in the evenings. We had a really good time. This year held a lot of reflection for me–because I was coming here. It’s my third time presenting at the SMART Conference, and when it’s over, it takes me a long time to get over. This time I intend it to be different. That’s what I thought about as I hiked in the peaks and through the wilderness.
Like many of us, I live a much divided life. On the island where I live I am perceived as one thing—in my life as a survivor of Ritual Abuse and Mind Control, I perceive my self—and am perceived by my selves—as something quite different. These two worlds rarely interact. In fact, the three friends with whom I go into the wilderness have all been my friends for more than 15 years. They know my history in whatever way in makes sense to them. I don’t know if they’ve read my book—Day Breaks—which chronicles my healing journey, but they know. And it is rarely, if ever, mentioned—by me or by them. I don’t know if this is a choice—by all of us—or a decision by default. It doesn’t come up. It isn’t mentioned. This year, however, I mentioned that I was coming to this conference and that I would be speaking about Nature and the Nature of Healing. My friends expressed support. And acknowledgment that our trip into the mountains together was well-timed. I appreciated it immensely. And I quietly marveled.
I am humbled and chagrined by how long it has taken for me to attempt even small gestures of sharing about my RA/MC history out loud. The peaks of disconnection between my inner and outer worlds have felt unsurpassable; but being up in the mountain peaks made it simple to say: “I’m going to this conference. This is who I am.” Because there is no disconnect in the wilderness. It is a vast unending connection of life. And everything about healing has to do with how we connect—to ourselves, to our loved ones, to our friends and relatives, to our society, and to our global family. And holding it all together is the natural world. Connecting to nature, and allowing nature to connect to us, is powerful ground on the healing path.
“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” –Simone Weil. She is speaking about place—but I suggest that when we, as survivors, feel our fundamental rootedness to the earth, we become grounded in a natural state of being—the state that was denied us. It is this state that I hiked through for three days last weekend. I was in the wild, and my wild self, that birthright we all share, was free to be—unfettered and unthreatened by humanity.
Ever since I can remember, the smell of low tide, the sound of a bird, the sight of spring; the feel of a gentle wind, the mountains in full bloom, would bring me to tears—not of grief, but of gratitude. I never knew where this deep reverence for the natural world came from and why it had such an impact. Until I realized that my life indoors had never, ever been safe; that it was life outside that had always rescued me, always held me, always reflected something sacred when all around me, and inside me, was profane. If I know one thing about my life it is that I’ve always been saved by nature—long before I recognized it, long before I could name it.
We are born connected to nature. Playing in the dirt as kids literally boosted our immune system. There are countless scientific studies that prove the positive power of being outside. Books that show how essential is our relationship to natural world. Re-connecting to this birthright is reconnecting to our essential selves.
In this talk, because of who we are and what we know, I must first begin by honoring our disconnection to nature. Many of us have had really bad experiences outside—in the woods, isolated and unsafe. Nature was not our friend. It was the witness to brutality. In my own life, outdoor brutality was at night, in the dark woods. And even though I have learned to love being outside under a quiet night sky, a fear of the outdoors at night is still with me. But I am working on it. Because fear has become a sacred messenger: it tells me to speak up and be. And so does nature. And when nature has been a witness to brutality, its outstretched arms can hold grief when nobody in this world can even come close. I have learned this over and over and over. Nowhere else has my grief been so held, nowhere else have I felt so protected, nowhere else has been home to the ecstatic, primitive, grasping joy of life—of coming alive, of feeling alive. From healing the throes of mistrust of others to healing my relationship to my own sexuality, nature finds a way. All I have to do is find nature.
I am not here to tell you that nature is some kind of magic remedy that outsmarts your therapist, or your own inner instincts towards life and survival and healing. I’ve worked with my own therapist for more than 25 years and I would not be standing here without him. He is extensively educated about the binds of mind control techniques–and how to undo them. About the dissociative skills we develop as survivors and how to partner with them creatively to generate healing. From my therapist I learn skills and techniques to negotiate the complexity of my inner landscape. There is nothing either simple or natural about being a survivor of ritual abuse and mind control. Even today, after so many years on the healing path, the words “ritual abuse and mind control” sound unnatural. And they are. They go against the nature of the universe.
Naming nature as a confidante, a healer, a friend, a companion, a constant lover, and as a conduit to the sacred, has been complex and rewarding. I’ve always known it to be true. But naming it has been fraught with all the word traps of the so-called civilized world. As soon as something is named, it becomes fodder for the intellectual grist mill. The pundits of disposable, sound-byte reality. I consciously protect my abuse history from reductionist minds that want to analyze and understand it all within the context of their own experiences—intellectual and otherwise. I also protect my transcendent experiences, my spiritual ecstasy, from the same analysis and reductionism.
Years ago, in the midst of my decline when all I could do was get in my car and drive—sometimes for more than a thousand miles before sleeping—I had a nature-inspired moment that named me so profoundly that I could name it. I had been to the hot springs of Kah-Nee-Tah in the high Oregon desert and was driving back around the slopes of Mt. Hood. I was alone. I was always alone. In those days, Kah-Nee-Tah was undiscovered—funky cabins, hot springs in the river, teepees, ravens, and fix your own food. The sacred nature of the high desert landscape was intact, held and honored by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservations. It was a place I went to grieve. But on that day, during the long drive home, rising through the mountain beauty, the deep pine richness in the air, my grief became something else—a visceral and uncontrollable sobbing that would not stop. I had to pull over to the side of the road. It was all too beautiful. I was crying into the relief of a reunion with joy. A sense, clear as the sky, that all is well. That life starts out in purity and goodness. That the intention of evil is an invention of human beings. An aberration. A violation of what is natural. And as I drove home through the extravagant beauty of the Columbia River Gorge there was a voice was echoing throughout the reaches of my mind. “Everyone needs to know about this. Something must be done.”
In reflection, these days I wonder, “Know about what?” Know about the crimes against our natures, against what is sacred and natural? Or know about the inherent grace and beauty into which we are born? And can we truly know about the one if we don’t know about the other? Can we feel and understand the depth of our own suffering if we cannot feel and understand the depth of the limitless beauty of our existence? And is it limitless beauty and our part in it that claims our allegiance? Or is it the limited nature of our suffering to which we are most loyal? I have to ask myself these questions a lot. For too much of my life I let the suffering prevail. It felt as though my suffering was the only thing that could fully name the evil done to me.
As a child, I had no language to which I could attach my slavery. Just as I had no language to which I could attach my freedom. Naming them both has been a challenge. Words are not experiences. We get essential help from the therapists who know and understand the systematic assault on our small bodies and psyches—and the resulting systems of dissociation that we so brilliantly create. The systems language I learned from my therapist gives me the intellectual and practical insights into breaking the chains of slavery. It is hard work and I start over every day. Acknowledging that this conscious analysis of my relationship to my inner system will never really end, pisses me off. Acknowledging that it gets easier, friendlier, funnier, less systematic, more natural, and more enlightening, is nothing short of thrilling. Acknowledging that I have a natural self and it has a natural home—in wild and free nature—is nothing short of sublime.
How are we naming ourselves as healed? In what—and whose—language are we reclaiming ourselves? Is it the reductionist limited language of the intellect? Or the expanding inclusive language of life, of the earth, and our interdependence with all that is alive? What language shapes our healing? Is it the language of connection or disconnection? Is it the language of who we truly are, or the language of somebody else’s idea of who we should be? This is a critical decision that we must make consciously and carefully. The language of therapy can be just another language of slavery. As MC/RA survivors, how do we lay claim to the language of freedom? Language that neither labels, nor assumes, nor confines.
Nature is nameless language. It speaks to the most profound mysteries with its presence. When we take the time, and the presence, to connect to nature, and let nature connect to us, we are in nameless grace. We are named by grace. That which is inherent within us, is recognized. We have been isolated and tortured by the unnatural – by the power-mongering, greedy, arrogant evil-doers. But what is natural has never left us—either inside or out. Inside, our natural selves went into hiding. Outside, the natural world is often denied to us by the language of deception—otherwise known as progress. But no matter how it is defiled, nature finds a way. And so do we. We are kin to all that is creative.
I had my breakdown into my reality in 1984, when I was 40. It took two years before I knew the words cult abuse. There were no support organizations; there was no information. Facing it all was a lonely isolated experience. An experience I could not then absorb—even though it had absorbed me, entirely—for so much of my life. Those of us whose mind control and ritual abuse uncovering came before these very words were in the public lexicon, knew only unfathomable grief, howling, a confusion of collapsing self and identity, terror. My world collapsed like a lifetime of dominoes. I could no longer make my self up. In therapy, my story came through in flashes of reality in the midst of overwhelming emotion.
As I was taken down by namelessness, all I could do was grasp after and enter nameless nature. Hours in the many square miles of the Arboretum between downtown Seattle and the University of Washington. Held by sea and sky, I would ride ferries—back and forth without getting off. (You could do that in those days.) Seattle had the beginnings of a waterfront park back then; it became a desperate destination. My suffering found its home in nature. And it was nothing I could name. It was instinct. And when I had to begin to really face my own history, I ran further away—to the coast of California between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. It was there, by the roaring Pacific Ocean, where I got the strength to write to my parents and tell them I would not be seeing them for a while. A while became forever. And when I began to knowingly name my past, I ran away closer to home and got a job cooking at a year-long silent Buddhist retreat—in the midst of nature. Each week, on my day off, I drove a hundred miles to therapy where I would crack open my denial just a little bit more. It was nature that named me when I could not name myself.
What we learn in order to survive is impressive. But our minds alone do not know the nature of things outside the experience of our own minds. My therapist has a greater understanding of this and this is his biggest gift to me. I live in an abnormal inner world and he knows what’s normal. To get along inside, I have learned arts of acceptance and negotiation. I have had to relinquish my superior mind to someone else’s knowledge of me and mind control, ritual abuse and the impacts of terror and torture.
My therapist teaches me about the externally constructed reality, the mind control that defined, and sometimes still defines, my experience of life and being alive. For so much of my life my most familiar experience was of disembodied awareness. Awareness with none of the comforts of a bodily home. Awareness does not walk, or talk, or feel, or even think—all those things require a body. Awareness hovers beyond it all. It can recognize but it cannot be recognized. It comes from sensory deprivation. It is sensory deprivation. It is the deprivation of self. For much of my life my body was brought to life by role play. It needed to be a wife. A mother. A girlfriend. A lover. States of suspension were the constant thread throughout 40 years. Until there was collapse; I could no longer make myself up from minute-to-minute. From role to role.
When my years with my therapist began, his skills and knowledge led me into the understanding I needed to work with the system imposed upon me, and the help I needed to unlock all the parts of my very own inherent system—the bodily me, the natural self in-hiding, nameless and real. I reconstructed my life from its beginnings, and uncovered its lies, along with the Nazi-occult partnership with scientists and psychiatrists that manipulated my mind for research and my small body for profit. My therapist’s knowledge took me beyond the personal and I gained context. I learned I wasn’t alone. I learned it was on purpose. I learned about the techniques used on so many children. I learned about our community spread throughout North America, Europe and Australia.
Where do we end and begin? Figuring this out—inside and out—is a life’s work for us. There are no silver bullets. All the techniques in the world are useless if there is not trust. And who do we trust? What do we trust? And what precisely, is trust? More than 25 years of working with a gifted and brilliant therapist—and do I trust him? Yes. Pretty much. I have learned to. But I don’t always trust in his existence. And there is very little he can do about this. This trust—that he exists—is in partnership with my own trust. Do I exist? Therein lies the dilemma.
My therapist taught me how to separate my “self” from the self-assassination that can accompany healing. He taught me to distinguish between the nature of my own self and the unnatural beliefs and constraints inflicted upon me. He taught me not to commit acts of character assassination—including my own. He taught me that it wasn’t my fault. This took a lot of years. It’s still taking a lot of years. And none of it “took” until I could accept help. Until my own mind, ferociously protecting itself, could get out of the way of my own self. The help I needed was offered and available long before I was.
I have gained great survival skills with which to deal with the complexities of surviving. To be connected to nature seems sophomoric and simplistic in comparison. But I would say to you that as survivors, there is nothing as complicated as accepting our place in the natural order of things. Belonging, feeling connected to what is natural—in relationship to others, to ourselves, and to the natural world—is our life’s work. We have all bonded to what is unnatural—fundamental mistrust; existence outside the body—outside our own individual bodies as well as the body of this earth; cellular fear as a norm; fight or flight as more familiar than not; a world—inside and out—without boundaries. When we connect to nature, we connect to what is natural.
The natural world sustained me when I had no natural self. It took far too long for me to know this and name it. And it took the smell of low tide for me to realize the ultimate profundity of its truth. I came home to this truth only recently–but the seeds of it were first planted about 15 years ago by a visit to Wales, where I was born.
I was hiking along the cliffs of the Pembrokeshire coast when I was struck with familiarity. The island where I live is just like this, I thought—not quite as high and not quite as wild but it feels just like this. It was landscape and light and air that felt like home. A convergence of past and future constellated in those moments. I was home. I sensed the presence of freedom; something in me recognized its fundamental place in the world, in my world, and, inarticulately—in me. And suddenly and consciously I recognized the decisions that were made throughout my life that I could not initiate. Decisions that made me. The divine intervention that has been the hallmark of my survival always landed me on the shores of saltwater. It was the pungent, embracing and bracing smell of freedom.
No matter how imprisoned I have been—physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually—I knew the scent of freedom. I knew it through my senses, even when the rest of me was bound by captivity on every level.
And I do mean bound. I was bound by captivity and bound for it. Every part of me that could be trained into submission, that could be diminished, shamed, and eviscerated of existence, knew only the path of slavery. But instinctively, at the very most basic level of existence, I was smelling freedom. I was literally following my nose. And I didn’t know it.
It was a shock of realization when I recognized that I’d chosen to move to an island that featured a version of the coast of Wales. I remember the moment, 22 years ago, when I stood on the shores of South Beach at American Camp National Park on San Juan Island. Bluffs, cliffs, white weathered driftwood, fresh logs just washed up, the far reaches of the Olympic Mountains across waters almost wild enough to be the open ocean. It was fall; a huge storm had just passed through, leaving in its wake a crystal blue sky, an outgoing tide, and a sweet seaweed breeze.
“I can always come here,” I realized. “It’s a national park. All mine.” It was a defining moment, one of those decisions I could never make but always made me. The surroundings pulled me in to the inevitability of living in a place that would become a healing home for decades. Fifteen years later I realized that I’d replicated something from my childhood that represented freedom. The smell of low tide. When I was a kid, if I could smell low tide, I was outside. I was safe. For a moment.
Standing on this shore shouted out “live” to me. It was alive. I was yet to really begin my healing journey and I had decades left to go. But I knew at that moment I needed nature, like a drowning child knows she needs air. It is a nameless, visceral need that knows no definition. It is a need that names us, when we cannot name ourselves. And naming ourselves, and being named in this world, of this world, and by this world, is what heals us.
Freedom is nature’s way. And as survivors it is the way of our deepest nature. How we get back to our fundamental freedom is a journey unique to us all. But nature knows best, and bats last. Connecting to its healing resource, its source of generative power, its relentless being and inter-being, dependence and inter-dependence is a journey home to the self. It is so obvious that we do not see it. So pervasive that we do not feel it. So profound that we fail to grasp it. So simple that we choose, over and over, to ignore it. We have two bodies—the one into which we are born and the one onto which we are born. The body of the earth is ours too. Our bodies cannot exist without it. Every breath binds us to our earth body. There is no separation. Coming home to this is coming home to the full recognition of being. Of Be-ing.
Healing is all about being. Our ritual abuse/mind control torture sent our deep being into hiding we developed what is called rather dryly and clinically, dissociative skill. I would call it something else—something that we all have inherently: creative consciousness. We created ways to survive, ways to associate with the life around us. We dissociated to protect the self that went into hiding, but it is because of the creativity of our original self that we were able to do so. This omniscient self, natural and sacred, gave us permission, and ways, to survive. Finding our way back to this first self is like tracing the creative ability of our fingers back to the creative source of inspiration. Our being is our inspiration—whether we can name it or not. Our being is rooted in the body of nature—whether we choose to name it or not. The full embodiment of being—inside and out—is what it means to heal, to be whole.
We embody life through our senses; and we are told we have five—sight, touch, hearing, smelling, tasting and that ineffable sixth sense—intuition it’s sometimes called. But I have been taught that we have 54 senses. And as we heal our deep self, having 54 senses really helps. There is a lot of discussion about “integration” and its implications of loss. Why would we want to lose our precious parts into one limited whole? I’m not sure I do—although I do want to feel my core-self getting stronger and stronger. Whether as individuals we choose integration or not, having 54 senses expands, explores and honors our complexity.
I was taught about the 54 senses by a man named Michael Cohen who has spent more than 50 years writing about and teaching re-connecting with nature. His online eco-psychology courses are taken by students all over the world. I’ve known Mike for about 20 years and it is from him that I learned to consciously name my experiences with nature. He got his inspiration from the wilderness—and from a researcher named, Guy Murchie, who, between 1961 and 1978, made an exhaustive inquiry into the scientific studies about natural senses. Murchie came up with 31 senses, Mike delved a little deeper and came up with 54. It used to be 53—he added one more just recently.
Each sense is an inherent natural attraction string in the web of life, a webstring that helps to hold the world together, including us.
We are all familiar with the language of dissociative dysfunction and the ways we screw up. What about the language of supreme function—and the ways in which we are inherently perfect. I don’t know about you—but I was taught I was garbage, a throw away, not even recyclable. The language of nature taught me something else. There is no garbage in nature. Everything contributes to the perfection of the whole. When we connect to nature, we connect to our perfection. And connecting through 54 senses, instead of simply five or six, gives us a language of self that can fully embrace all of what and who we are.
The Fifty Four Natural Senses and Sensitivities
The Radiation Senses
1. Sense of light and sight, including polarized light.
2. Sense of seeing without eyes such as heliotropism or the sun sense of plants.
3. Sense of color.
4. Sense of moods and identities attached to colors.
5. Sense of awareness of one’s own visibility or invisibility and consequent camouflaging.
6. Sensitivity to radiation other than visible light including radio waves, X rays, etc.
7. Sense of Temperature and temperature change.
8. Sense of season including ability to insulate, hibernate and winter sleep.
9. Electromagnetic sense and polarity which includes the ability to generate current (as in the nervous system and brain waves) and other fields of energy.
The Feeling Senses
10. Hearing including resonance, vibrations, sonar and ultrasonic frequencies.
11. Awareness of pressure, particularly underground, underwater, and to wind and air.
12. Sensitivity to gravity.
13. The sense of excretion for waste elimination and protection from enemies.
14. Feel, particularly touch on the skin.
15. Sense of weight, gravity and balance.
16. Space or proximity sense.
17. Coriolus sense or awareness of effects of the rotation of the Earth.
18. Sense of motion. Body movement sensations and sense of mobility.
The Chemical Senses
19. Smell with and beyond the nose.
20. Taste with and beyond the tongue.
21. Appetite or hunger for food, water and air.
22. Food obtaining urges.
23. Humidity sense including thirst, evaporation control and the acumen to find water or evade a flood.
24. Hormonal sense, as to pheromones and other chemical stimuli.
The Mental & Spiritual Senses
25. Pain, external and internal.
26. Mental or spiritual distress.
27. Sense of fear, dread of injury, death or attack.
(25-27 are attractions to seek additional natural attractions in order to support and strengthen well-being)
28. Procreative urges including sex awareness, courting, love, mating, parenting and raising young.
29. Sense of play, sport, humor, pleasure and laughter.
30. Sense of physical place, navigation senses including detailed awareness of land and seascapes, of the positions of the sun, moon and stars.
31. Sense of time.
32. Sense of electromagnetic fields.
33. Sense of weather changes.
34. Sense of emotional place, of community, belonging, support, trust and thankfulness.
35. Sense of self including friendship, companionship, and power.
36. Domineering and territorial sense.
37. Colonizing sense including compassion and receptive awareness of one’s fellow creatures, sometimes to the degree of being absorbed into a superorganism.
38. Horticultural sense and the ability to cultivate crops, as is done by ants that grow fungus, by fungus who farm algae, or birds that leave food to attract their prey.
39. Language and articulation sense, used to express feelings and convey information in every medium from the bees’ dance to human literature.
40. Sense of humility, appreciation, ethics.
41. Senses of form and design.
42. Sense of reason, including memory and the capacity for logic and science.
43. Sense of mind and consciousness.
44. Intuition or subconscious deduction.
45. Aesthetic sense, including creativity and appreciation of beauty, music, literature, form, design and drama.
46. Psychic capacity such as foreknowledge, clairvoyance, clairaudience, psychokinesis, astral projection and possibly certain animal instincts and plant sensitivities.
47. Sense of biological and astral time, awareness of past, present and future events.
48. The capacity to hypnotize other creatures.
49. Relaxation and sleep including dreaming, meditation, brain wave awareness.
50. Sense of pupation including cocoon building and metamorphosis.
51. Sense of excessive stress and capitulation.
52. Sense of survival by joining a more established organism.
53. Spiritual sense, including conscience, capacity for sublime love, ecstasy, a sense of sin, profound sorrow and sacrifice
54. Sense of unity, of natural attraction as the singular mother essence and source of all our other senses.
Mike has students are all over the world, working their way through Nature Connect online degree programs that require them to re-discover their connection to nature, to one another, and to the world at-large—through their 54 senses. Recently I was at his place—I help him with his books—and as I was about to leave I muttered something about some outdoor experience that yet again named nature’s role in my own healing. Mike, who spends much of his day communicating online, muttered something back about yeah, yeah without looking up from his computer. His words were as casually careless as usual, “Yeah, yeah, nature never abandons you.”
The words spilled from his mouth before even being thought, or thought about. “Nature never abandons you.” That’s it. That life-smothering fear of abandonment is vanquished by nature. Always has been. Because nature never abandons us. And when we are able to know this, to name it, and to be named by it, nature takes us into the fold and never lets us go.
The great and sacred mystery at the heart of life flourishes everywhere upon this earth, which is suspended like a jewel in the sky and held in the embrace of the universe. This earth is us. We are its beauty. Knowing this is knowing the way home.
So, to end where I began. When I took the challenge of being here at this conference into the mountains last weekend, I got some profound reassurance. I was in communion with nature’s great beauty and both of us were greater—are greater—than any damage ever done to us. Nature always wins. And so do we.
Reference: Mike Cohen
Project Nature Connect