No doubt you’ve heard of Forest Therapy (Forest Bathing or Shinrin Yoku), the evidence-based therapeutic practice of connecting with the woods. But have you experienced it for yourself?
On Friday I finally had the chance to enjoy a guided forest therapy walk, and it was even greater than I thought it would be, so I’m excited to tell you a bit about it. I hope to inspire you to get out there among the trees for your psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual health.
I also view forest therapy is a complimentary ‘sister’ practice to my ‘walk and talk’ coaching sessions (which are more outdoor movement oriented), so am excited for you to learn more!
Sue Hamel, the owner, lead seeker and soleful guide of Seek Adventure and Tours, was our warm and gifted host. As a bonus, Ben Porchuk of the Global Institute for Forest Therapy was in town and was a co-host for the morning.
Sue’s Re-Wilding for Wellness Forest Therapy Walk, is a 3-hr opportunity to “immerse yourself in the sentience of the living forest, during a guided walk with sensory-based invitations to deepen connections.” I knew this would be a relaxing and connective experience with the landscape on an easy walk, but beyond that I didn’t know what to expect.
Our hosts met us on the bridge crossing over the Current River, and we entered into the autumn-painted, sunny yet chilly Centennial Park that boasts 147 acres of rich boreal forest. We were a group of 9 and I was surprised to be acquainted with most of the participants. It felt great to be with these kindred spirits in a new context.
I won’t share too many specific details about the experience, all of which would be hard to put to words anyway. Instead I encourage you to try it for yourself, either with Seek or from a provider in your own local area.
To generally overview, we were guided through a series of “invitations” to practice several new ways to interact with and receive from the natural world around us, sometimes in a circle, with a partner or on our own. Many of us have spent much of our lives enjoying this park, and we agreed that we had never fully enjoyed and engaged with the land in this way. After a heartfelt closing ceremony, we ambled back through the park and over the bridge to return to our everyday lives, more refreshed, grounded and alive than when we arrived.
One of my favourite takeaways was a deeper appreciation for the value of connection.
Beyond the experience of re-connecting with myself, I also enjoyed greater:
- Connection with Nature – The most obvious one, I experienced a deeper connection with nature and learned new and profound ways to be present with and learn from the landscape. We all know that we’re born to connect with nature – we live in, rely on and are nature – yet we often forget about or avoid it. Surprising research (learned from Ben) indicates that North Americans spend more than 95% of our time indoors, which prohibits us from accessing nature’s many benefits and also leaves us vulnerable to the many stressors of our manufactured society. Contrast that with the fact that just a few hours of forest therapy boosts your immune system for a week(!) and it will have you asking yourself: How will I spend some time being present with nature today?
- Connection with the Guides – To effectively guide another is truly an artform, so it was a special treat to witness our leaders in their element. Although I’ve practiced aspects of forest bathing on my own for years, doing so with skilled guides added a layer of magic to the process. As a coaching guide myself, I especially admired how they seamlessly offered their wisdom and experiences while, most importantly, creating the space and allowing for the process to unfold between each of us as individuals and the forest. They truly modeled how “the forest is the therapist, and the guide opens the gate.” Who can you join on an outdoor adventure to take your experience to the next level?
- Connection with Others – Obviously I love this stuff, so the best part for me was connecting with other nature-inspired people to practice something I normally do on my own. Simply showing up was a great way to reconnect with some old friends and acquaintances and meet some new folks too. More profoundly, hearing others’ personal thoughts and reflections throughout the morning added to my own insights and even resolved difficult thoughts that I couldn’t work out on my own. And of course being with others made it way more fun too! Who will you invite outside today?
I wholeheartedly recommend that you all try forest therapy, especially Seek’s Re-Wilding for Wellness if you’re in the area. I will continue to use the practices I learned on my own outdoor adventures, and will look forward to my next guided walk in the woods – maybe when the snow flies.
And if you’re intrigued about how my ‘walk and talk’ coaching similarly supports your well-being while being outside, simply reply email me so we can arrange a chat. I would love to connect with you to tell you more.
Now I’m off for a walk on this unseasonably warm day in October. How about you?
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