Discovering the Magic of Forest Therapy
It is still a few weeks before we host the 7 day Forest Therapy Guide Training at the EcoWellness Centre (Aug 6-14/17) and I thought it might be a good idea to get a sampling of what it is about.
To be honest, I was feeling a little smug about it. I was raised on a farm and spent much of my free time in the woods and fields as a child, observing animals and collecting edible plants. Later adventures included travel to bigger forests and learning to undertake vision quests: three days in the wilderness without food or water (which is actually easier than it sounds). My everyday life is surrounded by nature and includes regular overnights in a yurt with grandson Felix where we are enchanted by the song of coyotes and the calling of owls. How different could forest therapy be???
It was totally different.
A guide asked our small group to meet with her in a circle to begin with a meditation and intentions. Then we began walking…very slowly…using one sense after the other to tune into the environment around us. Right away the process took me into a deeper space than I had experienced before. The smugness quickly transformed into surprise, delight and gratitude!
After several more exhilarating group exercises, we were invited to go out on our own, find a tree and have a conversation: ask a question and listen for answers. I found myself on the ground looking up at the majestic trunks of a cluster of tall red oaks. As my mind relaxed further, I was able to sense the strong energy coming from these beautiful beings; a state of deep awe flooded me and it was difficult to come back to the group when the guide sounded her coyote call. No questions seemed to come, nor answers, just the sense of spaciousness…
Together again, I noticed that everyone seemed to be in a similar state of quiet grace. We were served tea made of wild plants growing around us and were asked to share—as desired.
I didn’t know what I was going to say until the words came out of my mouth: “It was as if the trees were calling me home.” Remembering this profound experience, and now writing it, brings me to tears.
More thoughts formed and manifested: “I’m often frantically worried about Nature and the harm we are doing her, but now am realizing that she is fine and doesn’t need my worry. Better to enjoy her energies and use them in everyday life, letting myself be more humble, grateful and supported.” And then I cried.
Days later I found myself standing in my garden and listening to the birds in a new way. I see that engaging in this process in a regular way would be life-changing and balancing for us modern people…
I recommend that you try a guided Forest Walk sometime. Part of the training course involves the students practicing with volunteers, so if you would like to experience this unique facilitation, contact us to sign up. There is an open community meeting on Monday, August 6 at the Memorial Hall in Carp where the science of how the forest benefits us will be explained along with an overview of how to become a Forest Therapist. Hope to see you there!
Katherine Willow N.D.