When Nancy Ryley, an award winning documentary filmmaker, became ill, few had heard of “environmental illness.” Her symptoms—fatigue, depression, sensitivity to foods and chemicals—puzzled doctors and resisted treatment. Unable to work, Nancy moved from Toronto to western Canada, where a lifestyle free of urban pollutants slowly helped her to regain her health.
Nancy’s struggle echoes the spiritual struggle of the planet. To explore the connections between her personal story and the soul sickness of the earth, she conducted in-depth interviews with four of the century’s most prominent ecospiritual thinkers: Sir Laurens van der Post, Marion Woodman, Ross Woodman and Thomas Berry. From these came her book The Forsaken Garden: Four Comversations on the Deep Meaning of Environmental Illness (Quest, 1998). See Nancy Ryley.
The following is an excerpt from her interview with Marion Woodman (© Quest Books, 1-800-669-9425).
Nancy says that “Marion Woodman has been a model for me of how to live with disease, not by medicating it in order to mask the symptoms, but by trying to learn from (the disease) about the state of our psyches as expressed in our bodies. When I look back at the kind of person I was before my illness, I can see that only a deep trauma could have forced a change in the controlling, perfectionist kind of person I had become. Environmental illness has become my fate because, like so many contemporary women, I had become a driven daughter of the patriarchy in my thoughtless acceptance of its demanding pace. For us it was fight or flight all the way—our adrenals wrecked, our immune systems broken by that inner voice that whipped us on. What the society through its addictions was doing to the planet, we were projecting onto our bodies.