How to Connect With Nature: A Conversation With Asia Suler

Asia Suler is an herbalist, earth intuitive, and founder of One Willow Apothecary, where she shares educational content about healing and developing a connection with the living earth. She recently published a book called Mirrors of the Earth which posits that self-compassion is a form of ecological and global healing. 

In this week’s blog post, you’ll learn about:

  • Asia’s new book, Mirrors of the Earth, and how to apply its lessons to your life
  • Different roots of trauma and methods for connecting with nature to heal them
  • The missing piece from modern psychology and therapeutic practices
  • How the Earth wants you to heal and supports you in this process 
  • Ways to connect with nature and nurture your inner world for further healing

Table of Contents

When Asia Suler began writing her book, Mirrors of the Earth, ten years ago, she knew that she felt called to write something, but she didn’t know what it would be just yet. She kept starting and discarding her drafts, and through this process, she realized what she needed to express to the world: Self-compassion is a force of ecological healing.

This concept became the heart of her book, and as she wrote it, she recognized more and more instances where nature reflected aspects of her healing journey, affirming it and laying the foundation for self-acceptance and compassion. 

For example, when she struggled to let things go from the past and being self-critical, she discovered the existence of “marcescence,” which is when trees hold onto their leaves throughout the wintertime. Through seeing the parallels to healing that nature shares, she realized that it is through accepting and appreciating yourself, just as you do nature, that you develop true self-compassion and inner healing. 

Self-compassion is not a side pursuit or an interest you take up as a hobby. It is a full-time job that requires your presence every day and is an essential key to the healing process of the soul. It means learning to hold and view yourself with the same softness and acceptance that the Earth views you. When you commit to the process, the road of self-compassion leads you to unlocking the gifts that only you have to offer to the world. 

The Root of Trauma 

The tendency of being overly critical and judgmental of yourself lies in trauma. We are in a time when people are processing a backlog of historical, childhood, and ancestral trauma. Sometimes trauma can arise in your early life, such as being told who you need to be and the roles you need to fill as a young child. No matter who you are and the life you have lived, trauma is a common denominator shared around the world as an inherent part of the human experience. That said, everyone has healing work to do. 

Facing early-life trauma provides its own challenges and can drastically impact the inner landscape you develop growing up by influencing how you see yourself. When you are young, you’re dependent on your caretakers to meet your needs and help you feel safe. When this does not happen, you change yourself to increase the odds of being accepted and loved. 

Although this is an adaptive strategy that increases your survival rate as a child, it does not serve you as an adult and can hold you back from living a healthy and actualized life. As an adult, it is your job to disentangle yourself from the harmful narratives you grew up with and learn how to view yourself with tender compassion and love. When you do this, it not only impacts yourself but affects your family, community, environment, and nature as a whole. 

“There is a mirror that exists between people and the living world, and the Earth is a parent mirror that never forsakes us.”  – Asia Suler

The Missing Piece

A critical component missing from psychology and therapeutic fields is the practice of working with the living world, that there is an inherent connection between our psychological being and the Earth. That a healthy mind is a natural mind. There is a concept in psychology that states that parents should mirror the inherent goodness of their children, thereby helping them understand their emotions, experiences, and worthiness. Although many children see their parents in a golden light, it’s the role of parents to do this for their kids. 

This concept applies well to the relationship between the Earth and humanity. The Earth is a parent mirror that never forsakes you. If you look closely, you can see all the ways nature reflects your intrinsic goodness and belonging. If you grew up without this validation from your caretakers, you can connect with nature as an adult to foster self-love and compassion, and heal trauma patterns. 

Modern-day culture typically urges you to look outside of yourself to find healing- especially when taking steps to preserve the environment. Although creating policies that protect the planet is important, the transformation of a people to one that cares for the Earth starts within. As you do the inner work to develop self-love, this extends into your community and the world to generate significant ecological, social, and global change. 

Self-acceptance is the basis for all change in the world, and one of the ways you can generate this is by connecting with the earth and forming an intimate relationship with nature. As you do, you will see how it reflects your worthiness at you. Through this, you become the conduit needed to bring your gifts into the world. 

If you feel worried that devoting time to cultivating self-compassion is narcissistic, rest assured that psychological theory states it is the very antidote to narcissistic trauma patterns. Since narcissism develops from a wound in the personality that causes one to think they are never good enough, they compensate for this empty hole by harming others to inflate their sense of self-worth. Developing self-acceptance heals this wound and decreases narcissism in the world. If you make the argument that narcissism is at the root of ecological grief the planet faces today, beginning the journey of self-compassion is more important than ever for a healthy humanity and earth. 

Herbalism as Ecological Medicine

When Asia was in her late teens, she developed a chronic pain condition that pushed her to search for alternative answers for healing because she could not find relief in conventional approaches. That opened the door to her developing a relationship with the living world because she found healing through spending time outside in nature. Over time, she wanted to know more about the plants she was sitting with and attended the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine to learn about their medicinal properties. After graduation, she began a private practice and continued learning through teaching and her work with clients. 

During that time, Asia was still dealing with chronic pain and Lyme disease. Although the herbs were palliating physical symptoms, they were achieving healing on even deeper emotional and spiritual levels. Asia reminds us that this is how plants work- they bring you in resonance and harmony with nature, which in turn achieves healing on hidden emotional patterns. Through this lens, herbalism impacts your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self. 

Many people either discover herbalism when they hit a crisis in life or herbalism finds them. The plants reunify the splintered parts of the self and create unity of the body-mind-spirit. People often report feeling as if their life has changed, they are a better person, and they feel more connected with themselves after becoming an herbalist. This transformational process is what Asia focuses on in her practice and is ultimately at the root of the Evolutionary Herbalism model. 

Throughout her experiences of working with people, she has witnessed this occur in two different ways. Either someone is ready for the ride and to begin their healing journey. This person is typically excited and enthusiastic about opening up and using plants holistically. The second person is often a bit closed off. They are open to using plants for their physical benefits but have a degree of hesitancy for anything beyond this. As they experience the effectiveness of the plant, even if it supports them without something as simple as heartburn, they begin to open up, share their personal story, and become receptive to using plant medicine for their psycho-spiritual aspects as well. As long as the door is open a creak, herbalism finds its way and touches the heart. 

“My personal mantra is the idea that the world loves us so much, that the message we need most will never stop trying to be delivered”  – Asia Suler

The Earth Wants You to Heal

On a fundamental level, the Earth wants you to heal because you are the Earth! This means that every time you heal your trauma, the planet does too. While many people consider humanity a tragic mistake, Asia believes humanity exists to co-create with the Earth, nourish the ecosystems, and generate more diversity and beauty. The Earth is sentient, wise, and far older than we are. There is a plan that we cannot conceive or pretend to know. Humans have the unique ability as a species to communicate with the earth and partake in its development, and it is our job to use this power positively. 

The Earth is not neutral to humanity. It cares about you and wants you to be well! If you face recurring painful patterns, like chronic health issues, the universe is trying to communicate a lesson to you. When you can hear the message, you can achieve great healing in your life. The deeper your trauma is, the greater your capacity to grow and become your best version of yourself. The world is in such a state of wounding, and this reflects the space ready for healing. 

Connecting with nature is crucial in developing self-compassion, healing your trauma, and ultimately- protecting the Earth. By fostering a deep connection with the environment you live in, you come to a place of awe and gratitude that primes you to generate more diversity, nourishing your habitat and encouraging the healing and beautification of the land. Many people find an herb they feel connected with during this process that assists them on their inner healing journey and reminds them of their worth. 

Asia says that the Earth is still invested in this experiment called human beings, and it encourages you to heal yourself so that you can unlock your potential and support the health of our planet. The medicinal plants are a clear sign that the earth wants you to heal and supports your process. 

Photo by Emily Doyle

Forming a Connection with Nature 

When forming a connection with nature, it’s helpful to remember that you are not separate from the Earth and that the world wants to connect with you. There are many ways you can form this connection, but two ways that Asia recommends are the following:

The first way is to observe and notice how the world interacts with you when you interact with it. For example, when you walk outside and look at the birds, they see you too and either jump around or fly off. The world notices you and responds in subtle or obvious ways. 

The second way to nurture your connection with the planet is to find what Asia calls the “gatekeeper” in your environment. This can be any plant, stone, or source of water that is a part of the ecology you live in. It might be integral to the environment or have a presence that feels important to the particular area. It might be a big tree in your backyard or something else that pops into your mind. Once you have identified the gatekeeper, introduce yourself to it by saying your name, where your people are from, and your intentions for connecting. Lastly, you can leave a small biodegradable gift, like a flower, in an action of thanks. 

Although it might feel silly to introduce yourself to a rock or tree, this stems from believing that nature is not conscious or interacting with you. Feeling silly is good, as it reminds you of a skill your inner child has always known- to turn things on their head and see them in a new light. When you introduce yourself to nature, you take the belief that plants are not sentient and turn it on its head. By doing so, you reprogram how you view and interact with nature. Connecting with nature is a two-way street, and every time you touch it, it reaches back. This essential truth reminds you of what you have always known as a child and only learned to forget as an adult. With this practice, you remember that the earth is very much alive, sentient, and waiting to connect with you. 

Living in Your Own World 

Basking in the beauty of nature opens your heart perception and is one of the easiest ways to experience the joy of being in a relationship with the earth and create an inner landscape and world of your own. 

If you think that “living in your own world”  makes you a selfish person, Asia assures you it is precisely through valuing your inner world that you learn to honor others’. The niche ecologies on Earth that lead to its diversity mirrors the ways nurturing your inner landscape beautifies the world. 

Children often live in their own world, and because they are comfortable doing so, they know that everyone else has a world of their own too. The earth delights when you feel comfortable living in your inner world since it means you value the space you take up and as a result, can recognize and honor other peoples’ inner worlds. 

As the world continues to change rapidly it is more important than ever to connect with nature and yourself. Healing doesn’t just mean not being sick. It means having a wholeness that unites your mind, body, and soul. Forming a relationship with nature and learning to see its parallels with your life can help you achieve this unity. 

Where to Find Asia

Asia Suler is a writer, teacher, earth intuitive, and ecological philosopher who lives in the folds of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the founder of One Willow Apothecaries, an Appalachian-grown company that offers handcrafted herbal medicines and educational experiences in herbalism, animism, ancestral healing, and earth-centered personal growth. 

Asia has guided over 20,000 students in 70+ countries through her immersive online programs. With her writings and teachings, Asia helps people embrace their own unique medicine through a joyful engagement with the natural world. Asia’s first book, Mirrors in the Earth: Reflections on Self-Healing from the Living World, is available now.

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