Each article will include images and reflections from my fortnight's time outdoors that fit recurring themes in my own life and others' lives as well. Below are quotes that represent three threads of questions braided together to be explored.
1) What is my true nature?
"Our true nature is like a precious jewel: although it may be temporarily buried in mud, it remains completely brilliant and unaffected. We simply have to uncover it." 
2) How do I heal from stress? What are phases of an individual's recovery from trauma? Was there ever a time we as a human society functioned in a balanced equilibrium without waste or destruction as nature's example provides?
"Some people who have endured traumatic events, in describing the experience. . . tell of escaping into a post-trauma state of mental activity devoid of feeling or body awareness, a state not unlike that considered 'normal' in today's dominant culture and taught in our schools and universities."
"Could it be that we as individuals are dissociated because we inhabit a culture that is founded on and perpetrates traumatic stress?" 
3) What ways can I reduce stress and increase emotional balance right now that do not create side effects or waste?
"Stories that omit the Now of contact with nature, our non-literate other body help produce the negative effects of dualism." 
"When excessive disconnection of our body, mind, spirit from the unadulterated Dance of Nature is a cause of a problem or disorder, the process of genuine reconnecting ourselves with the Dance is essential as part of the solution." 
(07/26 through 08/10/2014)
What I have experienced through contact with nature's balancing ways feels like a homecoming, the unconditional acceptance of my true nature, and has left me with palpable stress reduction and emotional regulation that I have not found equaled by medication or counseling, though both have been helpful to me at various places in my own mental health journey. Meditation is helpful for stability of mind, and I can sit indoors and feel the interconnectedness of everything including my own true nature, yet the effects I feel from meditation are magnified many times over when I am in nature connection.
When I enter the summer woods, the first thing I notice is the joy I feel walking in dappled light, the brilliant alive greens filtering through the canopy, a sense I can breathe more deeply, take in more oxygen. My body moves the way it wants to move along a trail, feeling grounded and grateful on scaffolds of giant tree roots. I am greeted by squirrels warning the neighborhood about my presence, woodpeckers, wrens, sparrows, orioles, crows. I am intensely grateful for cool shade and protection from the hot day. From the moment I step onto the trailhead I feel accepted, taken in, welcomed. Diverse textures surround me. Mosses, lichens, fungi, pine needles and cones, huckleberry and salal. Gentle winds rumble from tree to tree overhead.
In 1987, I went on my first real outdoors trek, and that event changed my perspective and my inner drive forever, despite spending most of my adult life earning a desk job paycheck. Ten days in desert wilderness with a multigenerational, multiethnic group of about 16 people in Utah. In hindsight, it was the most functional human group I have ever had the pleasure to participate in, and I am forever grateful for all I learned about practicing "leave no trace" philosophy of human impact, how powerful campfire time can be in establishing equilibrium and support within a group, in addition to discovering my own strengths. I was 19, and up to that point I had been an asthmatic, piano-playing, straight-A student, and a bit of a biological science nerd with my first high school job an internship in an immunology research lab. When I scaled a 6-mile side canyon with a pack on without needing my asthma inhaler I was ecstatic!
I felt no connection whatsoever to my physical body because I had tried very hard to transcend it during four years of being confined to a plastic back brace 23 hours a day throughout all of high school for a curve in the spine. I had no clue what my body was capable of, had no appreciation for it, even loathed and felt caged by it. Many years later, I came to learn I shared many symptoms and feelings about body and intimacy that victims of sexual or physical trauma tend to have, though I did not endure those specific things. I learned this years ago when placed randomly in a general "women's support group" supervised by a therapist who wanted to see me isolate myself less. I soon discovered all of the 20 women EXCEPT me had endured incest in their youth. I was stunned by what that said about my society and what I learned about my internalized "body story."
The one body connection I had going for me was that I walked each day roughly 5 miles roundtrip to and from middle school and high school. I had no car until my mid-20s, and again a gap of car-free years in my 30s. Walking became my favorite mode of transport. After that first 10-day wilderness trek, I was able to participate in many other treks before graduating college thanks to a program called College Outdoors at Lewis & Clark College. Perhaps the spirit of Lewis & Clark's expedition bled over into my life from that point on, but as far as I can recall, even during times I lived and worked in big cities, downtown hills were my mountains to scale. I learned only after the fact that for two years in Seattle I had been walking 12 miles a day roundtrip to and from work along the tree-lined Burke-Gilman Trail that connects miles of the city to its University of Washington campus. At my 25th college reunion last year in Portland, my car's odometer showed me I had walked 11 miles a day between campus and a student rental house. I had no idea I actually walked these distances at the time, only that it felt good to be moving and connected to the natural world.
Body disconnect has been a recurring struggle for me, but the place I feel completely unconditionally accepted and most "embodied" is while in the forest, in the meadows, on remote beaches, near waterfalls - inside Nature connection. I am thrilled to have opportunities to guide others to experience this profound return to self for themselves as part of my Applied Ecopsychology program. As soon as I can get a registration form and guidelines up and running on my webpage, I will invite 10 people per month to sign up for a guided sensory walk on Whidbey Island trails I have spent thousands of hours getting to know.
Attractions are Nature's dance from atomic particles all the way to us and through us. The expression of these natural attractions runs through us as part of nature's equilibrium. Humans are observers and story makers lost inside our self-created story. I hope to show through repeating nature connecting exercises we can increase our awareness of Earth ecosystem as our Other Body, trust and value our own sensory experiences in the moment, increase our self-esteem and sense of belonging in a world that wants us to exist. The quickest route to this understanding is to try holding your breath as long as you can. Do you see Earth's life system wants you here in this moment? How would you feel if this ability to breathe were taken away? If you try breathholding while touching a green plant or tree, your sensory experience might be deepened as you heighten awareness of the direct exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen gases required for all life on our planet.
Starting with breath, we can become aware of many more connections and experience more joy and unconditional love in this moment. You might think you need to live near some grand scenic wilderness to be able to experience this, but I have participated in online groups through Project NatureConnect with people in as diverse places as crowded, bustling Asian cities who find they make similar profound sensory connections to a piece of fruit from a market, a patch of night sky from a window, a breeze through an apartment. Nature calls us to remember who we are, and we can listen.
If you are interested in a free way to experience your own "homecoming", consider signing up for the Orientation course of Project NatureConnect where you can connect with people from around the country and/or world online all simultaneously engaged in nature connecting activities where they live. Here is the link: http://www.ecopsych.com/orient.html.
 Pema Chodron, No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva (p. 248)
 Chellis Glendinning, My Name is Chellis & I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization (p. 62)
 Mike Cohen, http://www.ecopsych.com/earthstories101.html
 Mike Cohen, The Hidden Organic Remedy, Nature as Higher Power (p. 153)