In the first of this two-part series on ecological belonging we will be exploring the concept itself and how it can inform our daily habits and attitudes. In part two, we will be considering the methodology of Felt Thinking (as created by Dr Anna Dako) and how this can be used to enhance and facilitate our sense of ecological belonging.
What Is Ecological Belonging?
From the perspective of somatic practice, and more specifically through the lens of ecosomatic practice as practiced by Dr Anna Dako, ecological belonging refers to the development of a deeper awareness of our own presence in and with the natural world. It refers to the experience of trying to cultivate a symbiotic co-existence with the natural world and finding ways to learn to engage with, and develop our relationship to, the living environment. Ecological belonging invites us to consider our personal belonging within the natural world, how we inhabit and interact with it, and to consider ways in which we can be more mindful in our approach.
Yet, it is also important to acknowledge that this is but one interpretation of the term. There are many different ways in which we can understand and engage with the phrase ‘ecological belonging’. How we interact and ‘belong’ not simply to, but also with the natural world, can have individually-shaped meanings. The phrase can (and does) have different connotations for different practitioners within the field of somatic practice, as well as the wider field and discourse of ecological creative practices. However, at its core, the vast majority of interpretations and perspectives emphasise the notion that ecological belonging is a term which refers to the way in which we, human beings, identify with nature.
How Ecological Belonging Can Inform Our Daily Habits
At its most basic, ecological belonging firstly requires that we learn to become responsive to external stimuli, particularly when inhabiting a natural outdoor environment. What this means in practice is that we make a conscious effort to actively listen to the natural world and rather than simply occupy space in it, allow ourselves to react to it and engage in dialogue with it. As we engage with a natural space, we have the opportunity to create an experience which arises from the natural environment, as opposed to imposing our own experience onto it. In so doing, we begin to sow the seeds necessary to view ourselves as part of nature and the natural world, as opposed to being in conflict with it.
Whilst we may philosophically and intellectually understand the term ecological belonging, the more pressing question becomes how we can apply our understanding of the phrase to our daily habits, in order to improve our quality of life and that of the natural world we inhabit. In order to develop a more embodied understanding of the term, we must first learn to cultivate a deeper psycho-physical understanding. If we consider the work and perspective of Dr Anna Dako on ecological belonging, then there are a number of simple strategies and exercises which we can apply to daily life to help us begin to foster a better psycho-physical, or felt thinking, understanding:
As you walk through an outdoor space, allow yourself to be guided by it. Allow your breathing to find its rhythm in response to the environment around you and for your feet to be led by the weight and contours of the ground beneath your feet.
Let yourself be guided in movement by the wind, or for your pace to be altered in response to the sounds of the birds or the fall of raindrops.
Listen to the small chirps, rustles and hums of the world around you and give yourself permission to respond with you own sounds and singing.
As you breathe in, visualize breathing the natural world into yourself. On the exhalation, visualize expanding and breathing yourself out into the environment, becoming one with it.
These simple exercises offer us the opportunity to slowly begin to explore our relationship to nature in a more embodied way and pave the way for a more positive and symbiotic existence with our natural world to emerge.
As we move into Autumn and retreat indoors, the natural environment can at times seem ever more removed. Our retreat can create a barrier that divides us from the natural outdoors. Yet, we are a part of that natural environment and learning how to belong within it is a crucial step we must all take for the wellbeing of our selves, as well as the planet itself.
This week, we invite you to create a shared experience with the natural world around you. We invite you to seek ways in which you can engage with the natural environment in a more responsive and reciprocal manner by undertaking one of the exercises outlined above. As you do so, allow yourself to remain open and responsive to the world around you.
As always, we warmly invite you to share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.