"...In this time of fear and grief, we need the support of the earth and the biggest community we are a part of, to nourish us and provide us with awe and wonder. This is good medicine and we need it now."
Brief Bio: Melissa Fritchle is a licensed psychotherapist in California, a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and Mindfulness Coach, and a dedicated Embodiment teacher. She has served on faculty for graduate programs in Holistic Psychology, Expressive Arts & Transpersonal Psychology in the Bay Area and currently teaches for Stanford University’s Healthy Living program. A vibrant speaker & workshop leader, she has presented at conferences worldwide & co-founded a women’s group for sacred ritual & nature connection which met for 17 years. She is an award-winning educator for her ground-breaking work in international sex education for Catholic clergy & the author of The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook. Her connection with her teacher Ram Dass continues to inspire her. She is a student of the Radiance Sutras & Bhairava Tantra, 5 Rhythms Dance practice, and all mystic poets. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA with her husband and bossy cat. Embody-Connect and MFTherapy
Tell us a bit about who you are and how you came to this work.
For about 15 years now, I have worked in private practice as a Holistic Psychotherapist, with specialties in Sexuality, Trauma, and Body-Oriented Mindfulness. I have also served as faculty for holistic and transpersonal graduate programs in psychology, provided clinical supervision, and currently teach for Stanford’s Healthy Living program for their staff. I am a certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher.
Over the years, I have seen the psychology community become more and more beholden to insurance companies and a medical model, and this is increasingly alienating me from that field. And what has been true to me in my personal journey of healing and growth is that the transpersonal, more-than-human, spiritual explorations have been the most fruitful and enlivening. So in 2020 I entered the Seminary of the Wild’s EcoMinistry program and launched a Soul Guide practice to work with people who are drawn to kinship with the Earth — and now an a guide for Center for Wild Spirituality’s yearlong program!
Interestingly and somewhat surprisingly, I have been drawn as a visitor to religious communities throughout my life. Most potently perhaps in 2010 I was invited to Uganda to work with clergy communities there in developing ground-breaking sex positive programs for their home communities. Then in 2012 I was invited to Kenya to lead vulnerable discussions about sexual issues within the Catholic clergy and the support they need. It was an honor to witness and facilitate such raw and dynamic change processes, in communities where I was the “other “or outsider and thus will always inform my approach to sharing and prioritizing understanding each other’s experiences in a gloriously diverse world. My work in the sexual health field also allowed me to present at the World Sexual Health Congress and to publish my book, The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook, which is a guide to exploring your personal sexual ecosystem.
This Soul Guidance work draws on my explorations and studies in Buddhist psychology and Non-Dualism, 5Rythms dance and Somatic practices, and 16 years as a member of a women’s Sacred Circle honoring season keeping and earth-based living, and my 24-year relationship with my husband. I am an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction, a traveler, photographer, and poet. And I live in Santa Cruz CA which fills me with wonder every day!
Why do you believe a practice of spiritual connection with the earth is important for our time?
The sad answer is that we are witnessing the end of so many beings, ecosystems, ways of life, and they deserve our attention and awe. When someone you love is dying, you show up to spend time with them, to absorb all you can of them, to hold them reverently. I remember one morning sitting out by the ocean early and watching whales spout as they migrated through, and I thought I might be the last generation to see these beings – how could I have considered staying in bed!
The more hopeful answer is that by deepening into our interconnectedness we may feel more motivated to make the changes we need to make to keep the diverse life on our planet alive, and we might find new solutions from the ecosystems we spend time in. And in this time of fear and grief, we need the support of the earth and the biggest community we are a part of, to nourish us and provide us with awe and wonder. This is good medicine and we need it now.
In your experience, what are some of the barriers or challenges individuals or communities face in developing a deeper connection with nature?
Many of us have been taught to fear nature and to see it as something only the strong can conquer. Thus the idea of nature time became scaling mountains or difficult hikes or other ways to prove yourself (and needing to buy all the best equipment to do so), something unavailable or unsafe for many of us. This ableist attitude has kept many away from time in nature, which doesn’t actually require us to perform in these intense ways. When we recognize that nature is right here and sitting under the sky or running your hand over the grass is connecting, this changes and opens up our ideas of deepening connection.
What practices (big or small) can help heal our disconnection from the natural world?
Recognizing and celebrating that we ARE a part of the natural world! Our bodies are incredible ecosystems, hosting multiple beings that work synergistically with us, made of stardust and containing water, breathing in air and giving out the breath trees and plants need to survive. We have instincts and stunning capacity to respond and be in relation to our environment. Somatic and mindfulness practices that help us to honor our bodies and be in tune with them are key to healing our feeling of disconnection.