Relationship lessons from Nature

Our world is made up of relationships.

In life, we are constantly moving through a sea of changing relationships – not only with other lives, but also with our surrounding environment and most importantly, with our own changing selves. Sometimes, when life takes a wrong turn and one ends up in an unhappy place, it can be a good practice to re-examine and re-look at our relationships.

Nature is a great place to untangle our thoughts and find fresh perspectives. It’s because in nature, all the mysteries of life unfold before us. All we heave to do is learn to observe and become aware. In this month’s guest post, Katriina Kilpi from Belgium shares some beautiful insights from her own trysts with nature.

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ABOUT
Katriina Kilpi leads a NatureMinded consultancy that works to research and promote nature´s wellbeing effects on humans; a Forest Mind guide, and a student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in program about Outdoor Environments for Health and Wellbeing. This summer she is co-organizing the first ‘International Forest Therapy Days’ event to help connect and promote the important work of forest therapy practitioners and scientists around the world. She is an expat Finn who has found her magical forest in the scarcely forested Belgium.
https://natureminded.be
 | http://www.forestmind.be | http://www.foresttherapydays.com

LeafWhat can nature teach us about relationships?

There’s this place in my favourite forest, where big old beeches grow. It´s a special spot, because at the bottom of those beeches, there grows a thick layer of moss.

This is the place where I go to when I feel like I can’t handle it alone. When I need to be held like a baby. I go and lean against one of those beeches, with my feet pressed into the soft moss, and I swear, the tree closes in on me, like arms reaching around to hold me.  I feel listened to, without any words being exchanged, and I feel consoled. There’s no judging. Only acceptance and compassion. As a thank you for listening, I value this forest, and do my best to protect it now and in the future. It’s probably exactly what the tree would want from me. A perfect exchange for our friendship.

Successful relationships are formed for mutual benefit.

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My son has also established a relationship with his nearby nature. One day he pointed out to me that of the two bushes next to his tree house, one was a nice one while the other was a naughty one. Maybe the thorns in the naughty bush has something to do with his judgement. So, according to this little man, the bushes not only have their own personalities, but he has also established a relationship with the bushes (one that is less close, obviously).

We quickly judge the personality of someone based on their behaviour towards us. A greater understanding would develop if we realise that personalities and qualities are shaped by the outer environment as well as the inner genetic make-up. In the design of nature, each and every life form has a unique role to play.

So for a deeper relationship to develop, one must start with a better sense of observation.

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For the creatures or people, we do know, we often overlook their value and start taking them for granted. It doesn’t dawn to us that we are taking these people (or creatures) for granted before someone else recognises their uniqueness or, what’s worse, before we lose them. I once moved to Hawaii and found the myna birds, with their oversized heads and their yellow masks, rather comical looking. To me they looked funny and mischievous, always up to no good. I liked those birds. After some years, I had got so used to them that when my mother came to visit and wanted to photograph those little birds, I found it a waste of film. Sustaining a relationship requires a continuous effort, otherwise it loses its vitality.

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And finally in nature and human nature, there are surprisingly many similarities. Though romantics often idealize nature, there is pain and suffering, continuous competition, sickness and loss in nature too. A relationship is incomplete without the acceptance of the imperfections.

Nature has a lot to teach us. Though we all fight for our survival: for sustenance, for shelter, for the possibility to maintain our species – the cycle of life would not be possible without interconnections, interdependence and impermanence.

Nature helps us to mirror our relationships within the human community and allows us to practice our relationship skills early on. Nature is a compassionate and patient teacher, as it doesn’t push us, but allows us to find it out ourselves. The relationship we have with nature, the backbone to our wellbeing, can teach us most about ourselves.

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END NOTE:
Our world is made up of relationships. A set of intricate links and bonds, tie us to everything in this Universe. These posts on our blog are created, not just to share interesting perspectives and new findings but also to link up with you and build a community of like minded forest friends. Know more>>.

Do share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. You can also subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

 

Handling Stress Storms in Life

Your heart is thumping, palms are sweaty and your brain is a burning car driving downhill with no brakes for your thoughts. This is an experience of a category 5 stress response.

While such severe stress situations may be rare, in our day to day life we experience minor storms of stress at regular intervals. Stress is the omnipresent evil of our modern age. Whether it is working individuals or students, a large number of people have to face stress on a regular basis. We increasingly hear stories of the dreaded phenomenon – ‘Burnout’.

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WHO has declared stress an epidemic on a global scale. It is also linked to many of the leading causes of death. It leads to anxiety and affects our blood pressure and heart health. Stress often results in poor sleep, which plays havoc with our mental and physical health.

But forests can play an important role in overcoming stress.

Richard Mitchell, a scientist from UK, did a study and found fewer cases of disease amongst people who lived near parks or open green spaces. His studies also showed that people with no windows or unattractive views took longer to recover when compared to those who could see trees and grass from their hospital windows. Similarly classrooms with windows revealed better performance by students and lesser incidents of violent behaviour.

What he and other researchers theorise is that nature works primarily by lowering stress.

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FOREST CALM

One of the fundamental reasons mental fatigue and stress happens is when we are not able to put the brakes on distracting thoughts. So how can nature help us? The answer lies in our senses.

Our hearing sense affects us at a subconscious level. Even though we may not be aware of it, our brain is processing the sounds in our environment – whether it is the noise pollution of the city or the song of the forest.

Our visual sense is the strongest sense. We are influenced by the quality of light, the colour of light and also the source it comes from. It affects our mood as well as energy levels. The colours of nature soothe our mind and the play of light in the forest helps to break our pattern of thoughts.

Researchers using MRI to look at the brain activity found that people exposed to nature had reduced blood flow to their Amygdala – a part of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety processing.

Evidently, watching photographs and videos of such nature scenes can also have a soothing effect to some extent (at-least for 85% of the people). Let’s test it out.

Japan is a country known for its development and high-pressure work culture. What is less known is that for decades they have been researching on the impact of nature on our body and mind.

Japanese researchers have found that forests can be a relaxation haven. A walk in the woods brings about measurable changes in our body function. Blood pressure levels begin to lower down to normal levels and the heart rate begins to slow down. The stress related hormone in our blood – Cortisol, is significantly reduced.

There are over 50 healing forests in Japan today. Quiet places in nature where people can go to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate without feeling unsafe.Clouds-w

 

TreeWe have collected some wonderful forest games and meditations to help you find your calm at this page. Here’s an example:

Problem Pebbles – Pick a handful of pebbles on your walk. Imagine each pebble is a problem you are facing or a troublesome situation you are dealing with. Keep dropping the pebbles as you walk.

*END NOTE: You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

We would love to hear your insights, meditations and tips for dealing with stress. Please add to our collective knowledge by sharing your experience or learning in the comments section below.

Wishing you strength and fortitude in the face of all storms.

 

 

Song of the Trees

We have many lessons to learn from the trees. As our understanding and awareness of nature develops, we uncover new findings and wisdom that gives us a fresh perspective on life. Watch this 2 min. film on a less known truth about trees…and people.

INTRODUCTION

David Haskell’s work integrates scientific, literary, and contemplative studies of the natural world. His latest book, “The Songs of Trees” examines the many ways that trees and humans are connected. His first book, The Forest Unseen, was winner of the National Academies’ Best Book Award for 2013, finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, winner of the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award.

The Oxford American featured him in 2011 as one of the southern U.S.’s most creative teachers. His teaching has been profiled in USA Today, The Tennesseean, and other newspapers.

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SCIENCE

“Inside the tree leaf are different species of bacteria, millions of individual bacterial cells, fungi, nematodes and if these inhabitants of the leaf are taken away the leaf can no longer function.

This is also true for roots below ground. The root is made from conversation – between bacteria, fungi and the plant cell themselves. There is communication at the most intimate level, at the level of DNA from one cell to another. They are exchanging information, they are exchanging material. So the tree is a nexus, a hub for a set of relationships.

In fact, just to call something a tree, a noun – a singular being is wrong. This individuality is an illusion. All trees exist only in relationship. So do people.”

— David George Haskell (www.dghaskell.com)

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MEDITATION

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh (https://plumvillage.org/)

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CONNECTION

If you enjoyed the film and this post, please connect with us. You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Please add to our collective knowledge by sharing your answer to this simple question in the comments section.
What have the trees taught you?

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Secrets of flowers

What is Flower Therapy?

Flower Therapy is based on the belief that psychological and emotional well-being is the cornerstone for reaching or maintaining physical health.

According to Flower Therapy, a patient’s psychological state is not only decisive for their health, but is responsible for it. Therefore, getting rid of the illness is the consequence of having gotten rid of one’s own negative feelings, no matter if these are fear, inferiority complex, sense of guilt, etc. As long as the individual is not able to face these mood concerns to treat them, restoring emotional harmony, the illness will keep sending signals, affecting the body.

On the contrary, the existence of harmony among body, spirit, and mind makes possible relief and recovery, particularly if the individual is able to prevent the symptoms of the disease.

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Dr. Bach the founder of flower therapy, identified precise negative emotions able to distress the individual and open the doors to disease. For each single emotion, he found the appropriate Flower Remedies; each of them works in specific patterns and covers various emotional nuances:

  • For fear: Rock Rose, Mimulus, Cherry Plum, Aspen, Red Chestnut
  • For uncertainty: Cerato, Sclperanthus, Gentian, Gorse, Hornbeam, Wild Oat
  • For insufficient interest in present circumstances: Clematis, Honeysuckle, Wild Rose, Olive, White Chestnut, Mustard, Chestnut Bud
  • For loneliness: Water Violet, Impatiens, Heather
  • For those over-sensitive to influences and ideas: Agrimony, Centaury, Walnut, Holly
  • For despondency or despair: Larch, Pine, Elm, Sweet Chestnut, Star of Bethlehem, Willow, Oak, Crab Apple
  • For stress about welfare of others: Chicory, Vervain, Vine, Beech, Clear spring water

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Origins

Between 1930 and 1936, a new method of therapy was developed in the United Kingdom by Edward Bach, a doctor who discovered in some flowers and plants the power to soothe the ailments of the troubled mind. It was an alternate method, completely different from phytotherapy, closer to homeopathy, but with peculiar features. Dr. Bach decided to name it Flower Therapy.

Though developed for soothing human pains, Flower Therapy has also given very good results when used to treat animals. The therapy is not a supplement for clinical medicine but is used in preventive and supportive roles.

Read more about Dr. Bach and his flower therapy at this link.

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Therapy for flowers

There are lots of books, websites, resources that tells us about taking care of plants, but here is an interesting note by Scilla Di Massa, specifically for taking care of flowers.

A few studies demonstrated that plants love music. But this is not all; they also have preferences: they adore classical music and dislike rock. Put in a place where music was diffused, they reacted by growing in various ways, quite different from similar plants living in the same conditions but without music. Those listening to classical music grew larger than normal size and in the direction of the radio: one of these almost coiled around the radio in order to embrace it. Those that, instead, listened to rock music grew quickly in the beginning but after a short while they withered and died.

The experiment was proposed again using flowers: petunias, zinnias and calendulas. Once more it was verified that rock music stimulates the flowers’ growth, but in a certain sense weakens them, because after fifteen days the calendulas that had listened to acid rock withered, while those that had listened to classical music were still blooming. Moreover, it was noticed that the flowering plants submitted to rock music “drank” a lot more water than those that listened to classical music.

But do plants love classical music unconditionally or do they have preferences? It’s interesting: the composers most loved by the vegetable kingdom turned out to be Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Bach. Moreover, the plants demonstrated a special preference for some particular musical compositions like Rapsody in blue by George Gershwin. But the most amazing result was shown in a later experiment in which Bach and other Indian devotional music – in particular that composed by the musician–guru Ravi Shankar – was played daily for the plants: in the first case the plants stretched out towards the music of Bach, creating a 35 degree angle, while in the case of Ravi Shankar, the plants, in an effort to catch the source of the sacred Indian music, bent toward it at a 60 degrees.

If you have any personal experiences with plants and music, do share them in the comments box. This is a simple experiment that can be tried out at home. We’d love to hear about your results and the music that your plants love!

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Scilla Di Massa

Scilla is an accomplished author of Heal yourself with Bach Flowers Remedies (1991) and The Inner Garden (1994) a book from her research about the healing properties of all 450 flower essences that she uses daily as a naturopath. Scilla currently lives in Milan, Italy, where she successfully practices her profession of naturopathy and flower therapy.

Her latest book Green therapy is the synthesis of Scilla’s life quest. Green therapy is the art of using the hidden power of Nature for healing, happiness and guidance. How can we clean the air of our home just by using specific plants? How can we be nurtured by flowers, and be rebalanced by their colours, form and scents? How can we find the answer to our questions and the road to ourselves just by being in a wood or in a garden?

This unique book combines scientific enquiries with spirituality and is full of practical examples about how we can benefit from Nature without destroying her.

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We hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

Loneliness and its forest cure

This month we touch upon the growing issue of loneliness. Even though the world is more connected than ever, we find a great number of people experiencing a sense of isolation and disconnect from others. Can the forests teach us how to avoid loneliness and in difficult times, overcome it?

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hern42/

To find the answer, we take a journey into Canada’s Forests. Canada is the second largest country in the world. It’s forests and other wooded lands make up 40% of its 979 million hectares. Canada’s forest cover represents 10% of the entire world’s forest cover.

In Canada lives a wise professor who has been studying trees and forests for years. Her research has given us some interesting findings. Watch this short Ted Talk by Suzanne Simard to know more.

Suzanne Simard is a professor of forest ecology and teaches at the University of British Columbia. She is best known for her work on how trees communicate with other trees.

Forests are built on relationships
~Suzanne Simard

The forest cure for loneliness

The best antidote for loneliness is meaningful relationships. Which includes and begins with examining the relationship we have with ourselves.

Most people think about creating relationships with people who are like them or with people who they like, but the forests teach us that relationships are built on giving. The action of giving opens the door for receiving.

The trees in the forest feed the fungi networks with food, while the fungi supply the trees with vital nutrients which are difficult to access. As the bond deepens, the fungi are able to spread and connect to other trees forming a large network of interconnected trees. This beautiful example from nature can teach us an important lesson. The act of giving starts the process of connecting with others and bridges the way for reaching out to people who can give back to you.

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/deniscollette/10134425183/

Sometimes, building relationships with other people is not easy and requires a lot of effort and practice. Here’s a helpful tip. Creating a connection with plants, trees and forests is simple and can be a healing exercise. They can teach us a lot about relationships and also take away our loneliness. Once we begin to explore and learn this dance of giving and receiving we come to realise that we share a relationship with everything. Not just with other people, but also with animals, trees and nature.

With enough practise, we can become like the mother trees which give far more than they receive, especially to those in need. Sharing our personal gifts to reach out and help take away the loneliness in others.

To start off on this journey, here’s a quick recap of 4 take-aways from Suzzane Simard’s talk.

  • Go connect with the forests. Build a relationship with them.
  • Learn how they work. Learn what they have to teach.
  • Protect the forests. They can’t defend themselves from humans.
  • The forests are worth saving, because you are worth saving. Use your own links to spread the word.

Forests aren’t just a bunch of trees competing with each other, they’re super cooperators. ~ Suzanne Simard

Questions for reflection

What are we receiving and what are we giving back to the relationships in our lives?
How do we create a better relationship with ourselves and others?

And while you ponder on these questions do enjoy this beautiful video from the forests of Banff National Park in Canada. In the filmmaker’s words – “It is another one of the magical Wildlands of our planet. A place where you can truly experience the strong connection between humans and nature. It’s difficult not to be fully aware of your existence when you are walking through the Rocky Mountains of Canada. Exploring the Wildland of Banff is a life changing experience.”

Film credits:
Time-lapse Photography: Enrique Pacheco (enriquepacheco.com)
Original Score: Peter Nanasi (peternanasi.com)

END NOTE: Do add your thoughts, stories and reflections in the comment box. It will help us learn from each other.
If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/neilbanas/831577475/

Lessons from Old trees

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This week’s healing story is a story of regeneration. It is about facing years of discrimination. It is about finding yourself alone and misunderstood. It is about fighting battles, inner and outer. It is a story of growing up. Not just in age but also as a person.

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than one seeks.”

~John Muir

A healing story by Price Sheppy 
I grew up a homosexual in a small American town. My gay friends and I often got harassed. Some people would threaten to beat me up and at best people would simply say that they would pray for my salvation. I grew up going to church and struggled with my “sin” and wondered if I was going to go to hell.

When I was 16 and a junior in high school I got a summer job on a trail crew and it was the first time that I had to backpack 5 miles into nature and away from civilisation. It was the hardest work that I ever did. I remember the first time that I hiked up to a ridge line and looked in all directions and I didn’t see a city or a road. I was scared, but also I started to feel a release. It was the first time that I was ever away from my community/city, because I was so far away physically I was also able to create some mental space from my home town and emotions and feelings started to shift.

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One day one of the crew leaders gave us 30 minutes to go into the woods and sit and be alone in the woods. At first it was scary, then boring, but then as I looked out at a beautiful view, the shift that I began to feel earlier finally came into perspective.  Here is my best description of what happened.

All I knew was what my community had told me, being homosexual was evil and wrong. Suddenly I was away from that for the first time. Suddenly I realized there was more and bigger things then I had ever known. The wind through the trees was soft and warm and the branches swayed slowly. I suddenly was overwhelmed with what was the inherent Peace of nature. I felt safe. I thought of the animals and the squirrels and birds that I was seeing and hearing and felt that I belonged to a larger community. These animals and plants didn’t judge me for who I was. I felt accepted as just another animal in this world. It allowed me to accept myself for the first time in my whole life. Surrounded in the beautiful and safe space.  I felt loved and I loved myself.

w-leaf-1From that point on I have continued to go to the forest and open spaces to receive healing. It is an interesting kind of healing. Whenever all of the bad things in life happen I go to take a walk in the woods, or find a beautiful place and rediscover the peace nature provides. It is a strange kind of acceptance and peace nature offers because it doesn’t exclude the pain and suffering in the world. I am smart to know that when I am backpacking in the woods that I can just as easily die or be killed. I see the pain and suffering of other animals and their struggle to survive. Yet surrounding all of this is a beauty and a peace that is accepting of all of that and an acceptance of who I am. It seems to tell me to stand up and fight, and also helps me relax and heal.

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Years have passed, but the healing moment has remained with Price and continues to influence his life and inspire his work. Price is currently working as Marin Community Program Manager for the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy in San Francisco. He leads walks into nature for people of different age groups and backgrounds. He hopes that through these walks he can help to introduce the healing of nature into other lives.
http://www.parksconservancy.org

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To visit the Muir Woods, is to walk into one of nature’s greatest shrines. You will be awed into silence as you go in and be a wiser person when you come out. Muir woods has been designated as a national monument in America. It lies in the Golden Gate National Recreational area near San Francisco, California and is one of the last few homes of the ancient coastal redwood forests.

Redwoods include the tallest living trees on Earth and can reach up to 115 meters (379 feet). Imagine standing under a tree that is as high as a 35 story building. Many old trees have huge cavities in their trunks – also known as goose pens (from the use by the earlier people) – which can hold more than 20 people. Exactly why the redwoods grow so tall is a mystery. Theories continue to develop but proof remains elusive.

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Redwoods are also one of the oldest living things on Earth. The oldest known redwood specimen is about 2,200 years old, many others in the wild exceed 600 years. The reason redwoods are able to reach such high ages is their unusual ability to survive. Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires.

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Fairy Circles: One of the most amazing things about the Redwoods is that they do not necessarily need a seed to form a new tree. Redwoods have the ability to produce sprouts whenever the cambium—the living tissue just beneath the bark—is exposed to light. New sprouts may come directly from a fallen branch, a cut stump or a burnt tree’s root. If the top breaks off or a limb gets sheared or the tree gets cut by a logger, a new branch will sprout from the wound and begin to grow into a new tree. The new trees are identical clones of the parent tree and may carry DNA which is thousands of years old. The forest is covered in such giant stumps surrounded by a circle of newer trees which are also known as fairy circles.

Some redwoods can sit patiently in the shade of the older trees for decades. Yet as soon as the elder tree falls or is cut down, breaking the thick canopy and allowing new light to enter the forest, the suppressed redwood springs up with new growth—a phenomenon known as release.

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Lessons from the Redwoods.
A walk among these giants is a lesson in humility. With their size and age they give the small journey of our human lives a larger perspective. Their majesty and grace tells us stories of patience and endurance. Their resilience fills us with hope and reminds us that despite all the calamities and hardships in life, we carry within ourselves the ability to regenerate and renew our spirit.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

~ John Muir

Learn more about the redwoods>>
Know more about the Muir woods>>

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Healing Forest is a project to explore fascinating forests and collect inspiring stories of healing from nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping Forests heal.

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If you have a healing story from nature, do write to us. In a world full of divisions, we need more stories of healing. Please share / subscribe / comment

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How forests heal people – in 6 pictures

Here’s a wonderful forest tip for Gorillas living in the urban jungle. There are times when we all have to face challenges in life, big or small. This short comic explores the connections of nature with our mind and body. It throws light on how to create moments of calm and healing when you need it the most.

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Gorilla-BScientists around the world are finding out the health benefits of spending time in forests. But there are millions of people around the world who suffer silently from anxiety, depression and stress related problems. Nature can help in healing. This is an important idea that needs to be spread far and wide. If you would like a high res copy of the images in this comic strip to post on your blog / fb click here (Dropbox zip file). Please do provide a link back to our healing forest website in your post.

Credits: Art by Arif Hussain ; Information source: Infom.org, Shinrin-yoku.org

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Healing Forest is a journey to discover the magical healing powers of nature. To find ways to bring back the connection that people and nature shared not so long ago.  Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Join us in this exploration of fascinating forests and inspiring stories of healing from nature. Subscribe to our monthly healing notes : CLICK HERE

To know more visit: www.healingforest.org/about