This week on the Mindrolling podcast, Raghu Markus invites Susan B. Eirich, Ph.D. to share her wisdom on the connections between the wild and the human.
Susan B. Eirich, Ph.D. is the founder and executive director of Earthfire Institute, a wildlife sanctuary with a mission to change how humans see and therefore treat wildlife, for all our sakes. She uses her background as a biologist and psychologist to bridge our scientific and spiritual understanding of animals. Through retreats, newsletters, speaking, videos, and social media she carries their voices out to an international audience.
The Human and The Wild with Susan B. Eirich
Raghu Markus introduces us to Susan and we learn about her journey as an advocate for nature and wildlife. After gaining her degree in biology, Susan pursued another degree in psychology. She was fascinated by her own experience in therapy and wanted to explore more of the human experience. Susan was able to combine these two passions of nature and psychology in her life and career. One key moment on her journey was a moment feeding a wolf-canine hybrid that made her see the connection between humans and animals.
“Holding these vibrant, vibrant beings up against my chest as I was bottle feeding them, I swear I could feel the oxytocin and all the other hormones flowing even though it wasn’t my species.” – Susan B. Eirich, Ph.D.
Holding Community Together (10:15)
Susan discusses her time in Nepal and shares the wisdom she gained. In the Sherpa village she was staying in there was a monthly feast. In this tradition, each person had a chance to cook so that everyone at some point would be fed by each other. The only rule was that the food could not be overly fancy so that those with less did not have to live up to a high expectation. This sort of communal concept is inspirational and helps us realize our interconnectedness.
“As my awareness expanded, I realized I had to do right by all life. Falling in love deeply opens channels through which all kinds of information can flow and I saw each living being, plant, tree, animal as a source of wonder if only I was able to connect with each on its own terms” – Raghu Markus quoting Susan B. Eirich, Ph.D.
A Light in the Darkness (23:50)
When Susan returned from Nepal, she felt the U.S. was too rigid and lacked the creativity that can be found in a third-world country. To maneuver through this she found herself working in a prison as a psychologist. She said that doing so made her feel like a light in the darkness. Even though the work was very challenging for her, seeing the transformation of her patients was incredible. Being able to be the person that listened and held space for inmates rather than just pathologizing them, offered both her and the inmates something beautiful.
Are you interested in learning more about spirituality/psychology in prisions? Listen to Ep.10 of Healing at the Edge for more: Mindfulness on Death Row w/ Susan Shannon.
The Miracle of All Beings (38:40)
In her work at Earthfire institute, Susan witnesses the deep impact connecting with animals has on humans. She coined a term called Reconnection Ecology, described here:
“If you have a really profound connection, it transforms you. I think it literally, physically does, I think it changes the whole nervous system and it can do so in an instant and then last a lifetime.” – Susan B. Eirich, Ph.D.
In meditation, you have an inner experience to make connections and from there do sacred acts. Being at the wildlife sanctuary is a similar experience, except it is an outward, sacred connection to nature. This reminds us of our roots and the miracle of all beings.