Saturday, 2 February 2019

Adventures in Eco-therapy

Circle Network Book Review: Acorns Among the Grass - Adventures in Eco-therapy By Caroline Brazier Published by: O Books Paperback price: £11.69 Kindle price: £5.14 248 pages Author’s website:

Caroline Brazier is a psychotherapist and Buddhist, and author of a number of books on Buddhist psychology and Other-Centred therapeutic approaches. In her latest book she explores the possibilities that Deep Ecology and Buddhist psychology offer for healing the human psyche in nature as she writes about her experiences leading a week-long summer eco-therapy retreat in the heart of rural France, weaving into the narrative other relevant experiences both before and after this key period. She offers her book as “a scattering of acorns, thrown out by the wind into the long grass,” expressing the hope that some of them may sprout and grow.

Brazier’s writing is anecdotal and engaging as she invites the reader to accompany her on her personal exploration of connection to the natural world.  The book offers an unusual combination of resources: 
the facilitator will find ideas for exercises among the pages; 
the potential workshop participant will get a good sense of what it might be like to take part in a retreat in nature; 
those interested in Buddhism will learn about the relevance of work in nature to mindfulness and other practices; 
therapists will find some of the theory underpinning Other-Centred and Eco-psychology.

Although this is not primarily a manual aimed at any one of the above groups, Brazier makes it easy for everyone to navigate and seek out the particular “acorns” that interest them with her very clear chapter headings. “Other-Centred Approach and Environmental Therapy” and “Attraction and Aversion” offer a grounding in psychological theory; others, such as “Writing and Art in Other-Centred Work” and “Myth and Imagination” offer ideas for group exercises; and the chapters named after the five elements (Brazier includes “The Space Element”) and others like “Gazing at Stars”, “Ritual and Shamanic Journey” and “Gratitude and Appreciation” explore the direct experience of being in nature in this mindful way. Throughout the book there are helpful references to Buddhism and Buddhist scripture for those curious to know more of the philosophical background to the work.

I enjoyed the feeling of accompanying Brazier in her slow, meditative journey of paying attention to her natural surroundings. By the end of the book, I also felt a strong connection to the beauty of the Amida Centre in rural France without ever having visited it. Her love shines through in her writing. Fans of Brazier’s previous work will enjoy the sense of getting closer to her as they read about her journey through a particularly difficult year of her life in which nature provides healing. Therapists who work with spiritual approaches to healing the psyche will appreciate the exploration of the power inherent in staying fully present to the world. The growing consensus is that nature can help us heal the problems of the modern world if we can learn to widen our field of perception and enter into a genuine two-way conversation with the living world; Brazier’s book is a valuable exploration of how to encourage that process. Reviewer: Joanna Crowson

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