As I mentioned previously, after living in the Amazon jungle of Perú for a month with a group of people, exploring plant medicine with native Shipibo healers, I’ve come away with a lot to ponder and integrate. It will probably be some time for the experiences I had in ceremony, and the work the healers did, to fully manifest as changes in my life. But I can already feel the difference and am aware of the medicine still working inside me.
My main intention in going there was to confront fear and work through it to a place of deeper trust in myself and the process of life. I feel this is an essential piece for all of us, especially in the turbulence and uncertainy of the world today. I see so many people suffering from anxiety or allowing fear to limit themselves in my psychotherapy practice. And while most people don’t frame it this way, I believe it is a collective issue as much as a personal one.
Underneath anxiety is a core belief that I am not safe, I’m all alone, and I can’t trust the people who are around me to have my best interests at heart. If we look around at the world today, where 1% of the population is reported to hoard all the wealth, and corporations and profits are more important than the needs of people and the environment, it is easy to justify that view. And I’m sure the people who make up the 1% believe it as well; otherwise they’d be much more generous and willing to share what they have, recognizing that their well-being is intimately and intricately tied in to the well-being of the whole.
It is so much clearer to me after my experience in the jungle that we are all in this together. There is no “us” vs. “them;” there’s just us/we. We are the collective. And the collective depends on each and every one of us to do our part, to live fully expressing who we are from a place of love, courage and trust, not fear. We are all part of a web of interdependent relationships that includes not just humanity but all beings and forms of life, including the earth, the universe and beyond. This is not some spiritual ideology, it is just how it is. But we tend to forget this, or not see it, when we are consumed by fear and anxiety. Thus we perpetuate a vicious spiral feeding on itself, which leads us to feel like separate, isolated individuals floating alone in a non-nourishing vacuum or hostile environment.
There’s so much I could say about all this, but I want to stay with what’s relevant to my practice right now: how to take this new understanding into my work with people. In many ways, I already do. So much of my work is about relationship and helping rewire the brain for love and connection rather than fear and mistrust, helping people move into their hearts and bodies to access deeper wisdom. It is from this place that one is able to feel the interconnectedness. And this is important. But I wonder if it isn’t time to move away from the model of individual therapy to an approach that is more coherent and in alignment with collectivity.
The closest I come now in my work to what I envision is my meditation group, in which people come together to meditate and talk about their experiences. There’s no assumption of pathology in any of the work I do. It’s simply not how I think. But in the meditation group there isn’t even necessarily a problem to fix or solve. People simply want to learn to meditate and/or get support for their meditation practice. And yet so much happens in the group that could be considered “therapeutic.” People are empowered by developing a skillful meditation practice that they can do on their own and also experience how similar we are in our life journeys. They learn from each other as much as from me. And I learn from them, too.
As I said, I’m still integrating my experience. Just like you, I’m a living process. I’m curious to see how my life and work is going to evolve as I get clearer about our collectivity. It’s exciting!