I had the honour of being trained in psychology with a lens toward indigenous and international perspectives. My introductory course on Personality Psychology was one that brought together a variety of scientific, philosophical, feminist, and spiritual traditions of understanding the self and what we call ‘personality’. The textbook is the only one that I insisted on keeping long after my training was complete (I even updated and purchased that last edition of it). It shaped how I practice psychology and understand our place in the personal, social, and spiritual world.
Another piece of my training was exposure to perspectives from indigenous traditions from around the world. I was blessed with two mentors who shaped my entire understanding of psychology through a lens of multiculturalism long before the idea of a ‘decolonized’ or WEIRD psychology lens became popular.
I learned from anthropological psychologists like Richard Katz who spent years learning the traditions and cultural practices of healing in places like Africa, Fiji, and the North American plains. His work, like that of Stanley Krippner, sought to advance more transpersonal perspectives that both acknowledged the universal and respected the local and unique.
What I missed in much of this was the discussion of the role of place. While any study of indigenous psychologies includes some attention to where people are, what is often missed is the actual land where they come from. This is one of the big shortcomings of most non-indigenous attempts to understand the psychology of First Nations peoples around the world. Western psychology is divorced from the land in which people live. Innovation is rarely anchored to seasons, places, or nature.
I was reminded of this in working with a client team that is seeking to develop a practice of seasonal attentiveness by recognizing that the winter — in Canada, where they (and I) are located — is often a time of storytelling, rest, and conservation. That is how indigenous communities have lived on this land for millennia. In speaking with them, it strikes me how out of sync we are as humans with the natural world. We don’t tend to take breaks that fit seasons (or breaks at all sometimes).
In a time of a pandemic, it’s remarkable to think that we are sheltering in place, yet striving deeply to work more, do more, and be more when - in winter, especially — it might be a time best suited to reflection, telling our stories, and staying in.
Does our work have a season? What if we were mindful of that?