I decided to study Holistic Counselling and Psychotherapy at the Metavision Institute at the end of 2020, after navigating the harrowing toughness of living within metres of the raging Black Summer bushfires. From my studio desk in Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands (New South Wales), I could see endless kilometres of blackened matchstick trees where the lush Morton National Park used to be. It’s still there now, of course, and it’s regenerated with seemingly impossible fecund glory.
While hope indeed springs eternal, the ferocious ways in which the elements can strike brought a hefty reminder of the precious finitude of life. The bushfires brought many stark lessons about the interconnectedness of humans and nature. I feel that, as countless flora and fauna perished, so did parts of our souls. For me, it was a timely reminder to finally become a therapist. It was time to step towards a vocation that had been beckoning for years so I could help souls regenerate and heal, including my own.
Just as bushfire smoke filtered through the villages of the Southern Highlands, so did a palpable mix of trauma and relief from its residents. Once the threat had relented, of course. The community was affected, yes. I was affected, absolutely, although I didn’t really sense this at the time. Because we are always affected, no matter the circumstances, by what life brings to us. And this universal truth is one compelling reason why, among so many, sharing our stories with others can be a powerful salve. Sometimes, we don’t feel comfortable sharing with friends or family. Sometimes, they’re just not there. This is one reason why, among so many, sharing your experiences with a therapist can help.
The dynamic Dr Christina Nielsen founded the Metavision Institute in 2004. Christina is trained in social work, anthroposophy, traditional Chinese medicine and process orientated psychology, which have come together to shape her worldly and holistic approach to understanding the human condition. She says, “As a child I breathed in the beauty and living reality of an interconnected world of nature. It became my inspiration and my solace. Now as I look back over my life’s path, I see it has also been my guide towards synthesis, interconnection and wholeness.”
Part of Christina’s outlook responds to the mind/body split that has influenced what she describes as the “scientific paradigm in the medical and psychological mainstream professions.” She further explains: “Essential to healing this split, soul (originally synonymous with psyche) as an activity, not an entity, must be restored to its place of importance. Soul enlivenment breathes life into body awareness and interiority to spiritual knowing. The healing impulse needed in our times is towards soul consciousness.”
With its emphasis on holistic therapy, Metavision is teaching me how to support others with depth, nuance, curiosity and compassion. With multidimensionality. I’m learning to consider each person as uniquely divined in body, mind, soul and spirit. Like me, each person is located in a highly particular place in time and history. They are impacted by the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, and they are containers of lived experiences that are, in turn, influenced by humanity’s current place in the evolution of consciousness.
For years, I had entertained the prospect of training to become a counsellor or psychotherapist, but I felt I was still too young, naïve, or just plain inept at navigating life’s inevitable emotional challenges. Honestly, what good could I be given my track record for comprehensively despairing my way through countless long dark nights of the soul? Well, perhaps more than I’ve been willing to admit. I’m far from being an ultra-wise and enlightened soul, which is how it’s meant to be, but there’s been enough life experience and grey hairs for me to feel that I can sincerely say to another person: “I’m listening” and “I’m here with you”. Sometimes, I can even say: “I understand”. Not necessarily because I have experienced similar circumstances, but because I have also sunk into the depths of anguish and alienation, only to find myself hoisted by the alchemical process of transformational growth. I am human, all too human. And, oftentimes, these periods were ministered by the steady hand of another person who is also human, all too human. A single therapist, sometimes several therapists, skilled in tending to the soul.
The therapist’s deep inner work forms a significant part of the Metavision training. At its heart, Metavision focuses on the ongoing developing of each student as a counsellor and psychotherapist through experiential learning methods and a regular practice of self-awareness and reflection to encourage further transformation and, as Christina describes it, “soul enlivenment”.
Back at my studio desk, I’ve been watching the bushfire blackness steadily become ensconced in the bright, verdant greens of new bushland. The horizon line is so much more beautiful than I can ever remember, perhaps marked by a profound awareness of its regenerative spirit. When I step into our backyard, the resident mob of kangaroos is becoming bigger, as more joeys are born. Juvenile blue-tongue lizards are growing into strong and healthy adults. Each day, more birds come to feed on the bountiful banksias. I know similar processes are happening in my soul, as it can happen in all souls. I feel so grateful to be training to become someone’s steady hand.