By Sibel Ozer
While environmental scientists across the world were working hard to finalize the assessment of the 2019 UN Report on the State of the Environment, I was eagerly descending the steps to my basement art therapy office on Main Street, Ann Arbor so I could put the finishing touches on my latest painting. I’ve felt this space to be particularly compatible with psychological work that requires a quieting of the mind chatter in order to be able to access inner wisdom.
The art therapy, sand tray therapy, and sensorimotor psychotherapies offered in this space provide different avenues to access wisdom that is delivered through what we call bottom up processes, letting the hands and the body lead the way to the answers. Jung said that the hands know how to solve a puzzle the mind has wrestled with in vain. The lack of windows might give the impression that we are disconnected from nature in the worst way possible, deprived of a view, and of access to its smells and sounds. The upside however, is that my clients and I are actually surrounded by Mother Earth on all sides, embraced by Her, no different then if we would have entered one of her caves.
This basement studio has been the container for my psychic explorations practicing the Art of Allowing, a painting process that is contemplative in nature in that we allow the emergence of images from our backgrounds instead of imposing images we concoct with our minds, or see with our eyes. This way of painting has allowed the creation of hundreds of inspired art pieces across the world that are revelatory in nature—the products are often referred to as visionary art pieces. Imagery is often accompanied by a poem or a story that leaves the viewer to contemplate something that has heart and soul, something of deep value such as love, sisterhood, wisdom teachings like the importance of thinking outside the box, and in this last painting—Mother Earth.
Synronicities often accompany this process in that I’ll be reading a book that further illuminates the teaching that is coming through, or a client of mine happens to be in need of the latest nugget of wisdom I received that same week. So I find it poignant that the completion of my painting coincided with the release of the 2019 UN report on the environment. Whether Mother Earth is an archetype deeply embedded within the human psyche, or a force of it’s own, alive with a consciousness, with a wholeness different that the sum of Her parts as a Gestaltist would suggest, She seems to be demanding our attention.
Before you read about the summary of some of the crucial points of the report that made the mainstream media (The New York Times and the Washington Post) take a look at my painting, allowing the figures in it to sustain your attention. The main figure on the top right is Pachamama, as Mother Earth is often referred to in the rainforests of South America. Let Her eyes be the window to Her soul and tell you something your heart might be in need of hearing.
I could write about the symbology of the various animals, but would rather you look at them with an unbiased mind and see what each might bring up in you in this moment. I believe that Mother Earth needs each one of us to start doing things differently in our everyday, and that can only happen if we regenerate our personal connection with Her so that we can begin changing established habits.
The UN report comes about as a result of hundreds of international expert’s tireless meetings trying to summarize thousands of scientific studies; it is 1500 pages long! It is considered to be the most exhaustive look at the decline in biodiversity across the globe, and it consequences for humans. Some key conclusions are:
· Close to a million species face extinction due to human action.
· People have significantly altered three-quarters of the world’s land area.
· Eighty-five percent of the world’s wetlands have vanished since the 18th century.
· Our food system is becoming less resilient against pests and diseases.
· In most major land habitats the average abundance of native and plant life has fallen by 20 percent or more over the past century.
· The damages to the earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity will adversely affect human life.
· The decline of wild bees and insects is putting a $557 billion in annual crop production at risk.
· The loss of mangrove forests and coral reefs along the coasts expose up to 300 million people to increased risk of flooding.
The report does talk of what is possible when governments across the globe act forcefully and collaboratively. The Paris accord was definitely a step in the right direction, however unfortunate United State’s withdrawal from it continues to be. If, however you want to see an artist’s view of what “Politicians discussing global warming” looks like, click on the link for Issac Cordal’s sculpture with this title in Germany.
Looking at the efforts of nonprofit organizations such as Greenpeace, the WWF and NRDC, or of women across the globe getting together to plant trees by the millions -TreeSisters, can prove to be a little more heartening.
When sitting with my own painting I feel into Mother Earth’s desire to remove my blinds that get in the way of recognizing our interconnectedness. The more we can deepen in our understanding of this simple truth, that we are NOT SEPARATE, the easier it will be to find small ways to minimize the harm we do individually, or even move toward helping make a difference at a larger scale. Hubert Reeves says that we are the most insane species, worshipping an invisible God while destroying a visible Nature, unaware that the Nature we are destroying is this God we are worshipping. Mother Nature is coming through not only my art, but also many painters across the globe painting in this fashion, desperately trying to help us understand our folly. She wants us to remember our connectedness and live life without losing the knowing of our interdependence.
Something as simple as stopping the use of plastic bags at the grocery store can be a significant and difficult shift to make. I have my reusable shopping bags in the car and still forget to grab them as I rush into the store between work and home. This will be the little goal I set myself for the coming months. To not consume another grocery bag, be it plastic or recycled paper, but slow down enough to remember to grab the ones I have in my car.
What is one little/hard transition you could see yourself tackling?
Sibel Ozer is a licensed professional counselor and board-certified art therapist currently doing private practice in downtown Ann Arbor. She started her career as a clinical psychologist working with earthquake survivors in Turkey. She continued her work in the United States in hospice, hospital, and private practice settings further specializing in grief, loss, and trauma. She is a certified EMDR practitioner and a graduate of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. She gives experiential workshops nationally and in her country of origin (Turkey) on different art therapy topics. Visit www.sibelozer.com, call (303) 905-1109, or email email@example.com.