Ecopsychology Resources, by Corinna 

I Go To The River To Pray

June 13, 2018

Last year, I was taught oosimch, a sacred bathing ritual, by Kauxaht (Daniel Blackstone) of the Saxoa and Mowachat/Muchalt People. Daniel generously gave me permission to teach it to others. The basic form is to go to the river, remove clothes, and submerge 4 times, once in each direction, during which prayers are made for men, for women, for our other than human relations, and for ourselves. After each dip, cedar is used as a brush off. One of things Daniel said was that there can be no wrong way to oosimch, only wrong intention, from which a spiritual event can not take place. He also taught me that the ritual is meant to evolve and change given the need and context. In this way the ceremony does not become rote and remains alive.

On a more humorous note, when I asked Daniel what to do when the water is freezing, he said, “Pray harder.” There are days late fall through early summer when I pray real hard and real fast. During these cold weather times my prayers consist mostly of cries, gasps, yelps, and a little opera sounding song but always end in laughter and a big smile. This kind of prayer is no less sacred than a longer one filled with eloquent words.

Earlier this month, I went to the river to pray and posted a reflection on Facebook. Here's what I wrote:

I go to the river to pray. Vulnerable and naked my body senses the wild, cold, water. “Too cold,” I say. “Pray harder,” I remind myself. “Surrender.” With one breath I cross the threshold, submerge, and pause just long enough in the quiet to notice how radiantly the water sparkles in the brilliant sunshine. I emerge, and exclaim, “I am alive!” Wild, happy, and radiantly sparkling, I return home.

As a result of this post, my mom asked me a question that got me thinking. She asked who I prayed to and whether God was included? When I host people at Ravenwood, I stand side by side with friends who are praying to God, to the Universe, to the Great Spirit, to the Ancestors and Future Generations, to Our Other Than Human Relations, to Nature Spirits, and more. I realize I have come to a place in my life where to whom people pray is of no difference. The act of praying is sacred and needed; that is all that matters.

My relationship with prayer hasn’t always been comfortable. Up until a few years ago I hesitated to use the word. I know now that this was because I was most familiar with prayer within the context of my childhood experience with Catholicism. As an adult, I needed to learn what prayer genuinely meant to me and how to authentically pray.

I have come to know prayer as a sacred communion between me and the great and vast mystery to which we all belong. It is a non-ordinary way of entering into conversation with the holy. Because it is non-ordinary, to truly pray we need to leave behind the ego of our mind and enter our heart space. This takes practice. I like to sit in silence, rattle, drum and sing to prepare myself. It doesn’t always have to be this elaborate though. Sometimes, I simply shift my awareness, take a deep breath, and begin.

I remember my mom telling me the story of how it is not bold and brazen Eagle that carries the prayers of the Métis people to the Great Spirit, but that our prayers are carried in the wings of quiet and humble Butterfly. To stand by the river naked and speak the truth that is in my heart from a place of quiet faith has shown me what humility and vulnerability mean. I am grateful to Butterfly for this reminder.

Sometimes prayer comes through as a voice of joy, peace, or gratitude. Other times, it comes through as heart-wrenching pain or grief. Regardless of whether it sounds like laughter or tears, the things we rejoice for and the things we grieve are both born of love. So ultimately, prayer is an expression of love – Our love for others, for the world, and for how we feel about being alive in this world.

Praying with the crystal clear, cold waters of the Salmon River has also taught me about surrender. When the freezing water touches my skin, my senses come alive. As I wade in deep enough to the point where I can submerge my head, I often notice my fists are clenched and my body is tight. I remember to pray, I relax, surrender, and submerge. When I emerge from the water, gasping for air, it is in a small but profound way like being born again.

On the days when the water is warm enough to stay in, I like to experience the river on my skin. I float on my back, take in the stunning landscape that surrounds me, and feel beautiful and connected. My body has been through so much and it most certainly doesn’t look like it did when I was 21. Despite everything it’s been through though, it is still providing me with an amazing sensory way of experiencing the world and everything and everyone I love. How could I not be grateful for this resilient body?

We are taught that being naked outside the privacy of our bedrooms and bathrooms is immodest. But learning to be at ease with nudity in a sacred, heart-full, and humble way teaches modesty. I am grateful for the ritual of Oosmich, for the honour of being able to share it with others, and for everything it is teaching me about myself and how I want to be in this world. 



Sit Spot Blues

September 30, 2013

In contemplating what to post this week, my thoughts kept returning to a conversation I recently had with a good friend of mine. It went something like this:

Me: I went to my sit spot tree this morning. It's been a couple of days. Since then, the raccoons have turned it into their latrine and there's a dead Yellow Rumped Warbler. 6 piles of shit and a bird carcass at my sit spot... What does it mean!!!!! (LOL). I will proceed cautiously with the rest of my day (anxiously giggling), but first...

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September 16, 2013

The Maples are starting to show their colours, the geese are gathering, the air is cooler, and the daylight shorter. I smell the odour of dying leaves and damp earth, and am keenly aware of the transition in seasons; fall is here.  Life is readying itself for the long winter, turning inward, toward hibernation and self preservation.

Nature is a powerful and ancient teacher. The more we look at nature the more we see our own lives reflected back to us. In nature there are no straight lines, o...

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Bonding to Place

September 9, 2013

Bonding To Place

My recent move from Vancouver Island to Quebec has given me some interesting food for thought. As someone who is bonded to the giant trees, grey ocean mists, and wildness of the West Coast, coming home to the gentle slopes, hardwood forests, and fields of the Eastern Townships of Quebec was disorienting.  I felt lonely and missed my soul community of humans and other-than human relations. I found myself wondering deeply about my role in this new community and how to stay tru...

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Spring Equinox: Singing the Seeds Awake

March 20, 2013

It has been a long, cold, grey winter. Sometimes, it feels as if I am wading through a thick fog, unable to see the horizon. In these moments, tending the fire takes on deeper meaning. Beyond keeping me and my family physically comfortable, entering into relationship with fire reminds me that with death there is rebirth. Fire is a transformer and the spark of life. These teachings contain the wisdom that darkness is not a permanent state and the fire of my heart is rekindled.

The seasons ar...

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January 10, 2013

Last week I had the delightful experience of helping my son prepare for a science test on ecology. One of his tasks was to explain what composting is. As he shared his theory with me, he reminded me of an important lesson: There is no waste.

As I shared this thought with my son he agreed and then explained that some things though, like plastic bags, take an awful long time to compost. So, even though there is no waste, some things are harder to break down – mostly the stuff that we humans...

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September 24, 2012

As part of the autumnal Equinox Vision Quest, I facilitated a discussion on the Anishinabe teachings of the 4 Gifts of the Woman. As we sat beneath Grandmother Cedar, we discussed the light and the shadow side of each gift and how the medicine that we carry is related to life and to our responsibilities toward self, families, communities, and the land. At the same time, in a different location, the men were discussing their gifts. In the end we came together and talked about the importance of...

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Science and Spirit

August 1, 2012

Yesterday I was forwarded a blog post by Hank Campbell in which he expressed concern regarding the watering down of rigorous scientific inquiry by fields like ecopsychology. The author slams ecopsychology labeling its practitioners as quacks. I hear his concerns and do not think that the world is well served by anyone claiming to deliver a cure.  As far as our psychological healing goes, I do not believe there is a cure; only a healing journey. From my perspective the difficulty with Campbell...

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The Great Turning

July 18, 2012


As I sit at my desk writing this entry I see and hear the wind in the trees. I am aware of the breeze on my skin and feel gratitude for her cleansing power. Her breathe lifts my spirits and reminds me of my strength. To the Four Winds I send my finest words of gratitude.

We are living in a time of great uncertainty. Every day we hear about environmental, social, political, and economic crises. Western civilization has created a reality where comfort, safety, and happiness are...

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July 10, 2012

This morning I awoke to the sound of birds, one of which I hadn’t heard before. I send my finest words of gratitude to these winged ones. Their songs open my awareness and allow for a softening of my spirit to occur.

I am grateful to live in an area that is teeming with life. When I think of the ecological diversity that surrounds me, I see a system that is comprised of many different parts. There is a forest with various types of trees, plants, flowers, bushes, grasses, fungi, animals, bugs...

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Dragonfly Blog

Corinna Stevenson I have always loved nature. It's where I'm most at peace. For 10 amazing and intense years, I had the privilege of sharing my love for wild places with youth and families struggling to find their way in mainstream culture. We kayaked, hiked, spoke our truth at Council Fire, and formed uncommon bonds that to this day remain a source of inspiration. The place we did this work is called Ravenwood. It is a healing forest. In 2010, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare and incurable plasma cell cancer. I needed a stem cell transplant and a radical change of lifestyle. Along with a good medical team and a strong and loving circle of people supporting me, Ravenwood saved my life. 8 years later, I'm still here. Ravenwood is now home to my family. Although I can no longer do the physical work of a wilderness guide, it remains my calling to share the healing powers of nature. I still call myself a guide but the places I now navigate and explore are the wild terrains that live within the human soul. Nature is my co-guide. I work with the natural world to help make sense of inner emotions and life experiences. I believe that spending time in nature fosters awareness and interconnection to the world around us, providing the space for inward reflection and the potential for transformation. How we encounter and interpret the natural world creates a personal narrative that gives meaning to experiences and emotions allowing us to develop new ways of understanding ourselves and feeling fully integrated in our lives. Through connection with the natural world, we ultimately become connected to our ‘inner’ nature. Personal distress can be alleviated by developing the mutual connection between inside and outside. The process of change I foster involves restoring balance to the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions, reconnecting to the Earth, and adopting life-long practices that help incorporate new behaviour and thought patterns into a congruent way of life. My work as guide is to help reveal and cultivate the health and sanity which is already there rather than manipulate or modify sick people to be better adjusted. This requires a focus on healing through a process of whole-ing (recognizing the wholeness that already exists within), rather than healing or fixing a problem by eliminating it; wholeness-centered (holistic) instead of pathology-centered I work with a range of practices including mindfulness and awareness, experiential activities, direct contact with nature, narrative therapy, environmental action, journaling, ritual, ceremony, and play. As an aboriginal woman of Métis descent, I weave cultural teachings into my work, inspiring personal growth and a love and respect for the natural world. Academically, I hold a Bachelor's in education, from McGill University and a Master’s of Arts in transpersonal psychology with a concentration in ecopsychology, from Naropa University. I have also completed masters level clinical counselling courses in counselling theory, family systems therapy, group therapy, and research methods, and have trained with the Vancouver School of Narrative Therapy. I am a recognized facilitator of Joanna Macy's Work That Reconnects and a Level 3 Reiki Usui Practitioner.


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