Healing Ways

Forest Meditation and the Wavering Mind

The mind blows like the wind. It is difficult to control and hard to predict. Especially when it is troubled. Our patterns of thought may vary from scattered confusion or wavering indecision to a spiralling into negative thoughts.

At such times, the forests can offer us surprisingly simple ways to control the commotion in our head and turn a storm of thoughts into a gentle breeze. In this article we introduce you to the concept of forest mediation and offer some interesting examples to help you find your calm.
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What is Forest Meditation ?

It is a way of finding calm and balance with the help of nature. It helps us in becoming free of thoughts that trouble us or hinder us. By connecting with nature we are able to find answers to difficult questions and bring clarity to life.

In traditional meditation we withdraw our senses and focus inward to reach a state of inner peace. While in forest meditation we open our senses to experience the peace that exists in nature and deepen our realisation, that we are also a part of nature.

Forest meditation is the act of creating a healing experience for yourself. It is about finding the strength of mountains, the compassion of trees and the wisdom of water. The goal of forest meditation is to grow as a person. Above all it is a journey that creates lasting peace and serenity.

How is it different from traditional meditation?

Many people find it difficult to sit in one place with awareness. The mind is filled with multiple thoughts and the harder one tries to resist, the more they persist.

People who are generally restless or overactive find traditional meditation very hard. Also if one’s mind is already in a state of unrest, or one is going through a troublesome situation in life, it is necessary to calm the thoughts and feelings before one can learn to slow down the thoughts and deepen their focus.

Psychologist Edward Thorndike pointed out that it is not the work expended in the administrative details of an office setting or the algebra in a schoolhouse per se that causes mental fatigue; it is the high energy cost of “inhibiting the tendencies to think of other things.” In other words, mental fatigue was being amplified by firing up the areas of the brain that are required to put the brakes on distracting thoughts.

Forest meditation walks

Start your nature walk by setting an intention for the walk. It helps in channelizing one’s awareness and energies in the right direction.

Be silent. Go slow. Think less. Feel more.

In the first half of the walk use your sense of sight, sound, or smell to bring your thoughts to the present moment. Notice the nature around you and try to find things that fill your heart with awe and wonder.

In forest meditation we do not try to inhibit or stop any negative thoughts. Instead, we take the help of nature to replace them with positive thoughts, insights and inspiration.

Creating a relationship with the forest.

Once you are feeling calmer, find a place that calls out to you and sit in silence, observing the world around you. Notice the relationships that exist in nature and the interconnectedness of everything around you. Keep your thoughts in the present moment and learn what nature has to teach us.

Here are a few examples of some forest meditations you could try, the next time you plan to visit a forest or any green space in nature. There is no time limit or rigid rules. Find your own rhythm and choose what feels natural to you. Every person has a unique connection with nature. We hope you find yours.

Time Travel: Find an big rock or an old tree and rest against it. Imagine traveling far back in time and reliving all the experiences from the perspective of the rock or tree.

Gratitude Walk: Find something in nature that fills you with gratitude. Stay with the feeling for as long as you can.

Song of Nature: As you walk in the forest, imagine every pore in your skin is receiving the sounds of nature just like your ears. Absorb all the sounds like a sponge.

World within worlds: Look closely at the tiny world of insects, grass, and small plants that often pass unnoticed under our feet. Find something unique and unexpected.

Dissolving: While sitting at a vantage point which offers a scenic vista, eat a fruit or a piece of mint candy slowly. As the mint dissolves in your mouth, see how nature is also dissolving in time.

END NOTE:
Everyone understands the benefits of meditation, but very few people actually try it or give up too easily. In a world that is getting increasingly crowded, competitive and complex it has become even more important to take care of our state of mind.

Connect with nature. Find your calm.

We are compiling a short collection of forest activities. These will be categorised under forest games, forest relaxers and forest meditations. People of different age groups, interests and experiences can choose the activity that works best for them.

A free copy of the forest activities will be shared with our blog subscribers when it is ready. Join us if you haven’t already. To find a healing forest trail near you or know more about the concept, please check out our WALKS page.

Leaving you with a short forest meditation film. We hope you enjoyed this post. Please share it with those may find it of help.

If you have any questions or suggestions for forest meditations, do add them in the comment box below to create a space for shared learning.

7 Healing Forests from Japan

Travel with us into the delightful healing forests of Japan. Discover the magical moss covered forests of Yakushima island and know about the volcano museum. Breathe in the deep greens of dense forests and soak in the crystal streams, waterfalls and hot springs scattered around.

During the 1980’s Japanese researchers and scientists started discovering multiple benefits of being in forests and reconnecting with nature. With the development of medical equipment related to natural and life sciences, this field has advanced even more. They have given us scientific proof on our intuitive understanding that nature heals. Japan as a country has established many healing forests in their country over the years. Designated nature reserves where people can go to experience the healing powers of forests.

Image Source

SHINRIN YOKU

Japan is a technologically advanced world. Cities have become mazes of steel, concrete and silicon, swimming in a sea of electromagnetic waves. In this electronic age, some part of us still yearns for the freedom and comfort of nature. For many people, the answer lies in reaching out to the forests.

Shinrin-yoku is a term the Japanese use to describe this practise of immersing oneself in the forest. Literally translated it means ‘forest bathing’. Allowing nature to cleanse the mind and spirit of negative thoughts and emotions. Reawakening your senses, rejuvenating your energy and adding strength to your healing ability.

Given below is a hand picked list of some of the best healing forests of Japan.

Shiratani Unsuikyo, Yakushima Japan
One of Japan’s natural wonders, Shiratani Unsuikyo Gorge on Yakushima Island is home to a mystical, primeval forest with yakusugi cedar trees between 1,000 – 7,200 years old. Covered in 600 types of moss, the forest glows green and radiates an otherworldly beauty that is legendary in Japanese culture. Shiratani Unsuikyo is best explored on the longer trail, Taiko-Iwa, that passes through the most luscious landscapes on the island and leads to the top of the mountain with stunning panoramic views. Yakushima Island is a registered UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site for its rare and diverse ecosystem, unlike any other on earth. Indigenous deer and monkeys roam freely. There are many places along the trail to stop and enjoy the scenery. Bring your rain gear and lunch, walk carefully and enjoy! Information contributed by: Julie Hall, www.shinrin-yoku-walks.com

Yakushima | Image Source

Kitago, Miyazaki
“A town of great natural beauty, clean streams and hot springs”, Kitago Town in Nichinan City is located in the southern part of Miyazaki Prefecture. The natural hot springs of 51 degreesC welling up from 800 meters below the ground are popular with visitors from both within and outside Miyazaki who refer to it as the “The Beauty Hot Spring”. Hanatate Park is famous for its 10,000 cherry trees and in spring, visitors flock from all over to gaze at the clouds of soft pink blossoms.


Ukiha City, Fukuoka
Located in the southeastern part of Fukuoka Prefecture with the Minou Mountains ranging to the south and the Chikugo River flowing in the north, Ukiha City has a rich natural environment.

Ukiha |Image Source

Iinan, Shimane
The Town of Iinan nestles in the highlands at an elevation of 450 meters. The sources of both the Hii and Kando Rivers are to be found in this region made famous by its long history of rice and vegetable production. With easy access to such a rich natural environment, the town of Iinan’s Forest Therapy programs offer a combination of nature, history and culture.

Linan |Image Source

Ashizu, Chizu Town, Yazu-Gun
Along the forest therapy road in Chizu, in the Ashizu valley, flows one of the best streams in western Japan. It is situated in a forest of cedar and hardwoods. The valley is magnificent in all the four seasons and has something new to offer every time you visit. The valley stretches to the Chugoku Nature Trail, encircles the Mitaki Dam and continues on to the upstream river valley.

Ashizu |Image Source

Shiso, Hyogo
Surrounded by towering mountains with an elevation of over 1000 meters, such as Hyonsen, the highest peak in Hyogo Prefecture, the City is full of lush greenery as it is part of the Hyonosen-Ushiroyama-Nagisan Semi-National Park and the Onzui-Chikusa Prefectural Natural Park.

Shiso Hyogo |Image Source

Yamanouchi, Nagano
With towering mountains, primeval forests and clean sparkling lakes, it has an undulating terrain surrounded by high 2,000 meter mountain ranges rich in volcanic rocks such as green tuff, andesite, diorite and basalt, indicating the intensity of past volcanic activity. It is known as a “volcano museum”. The therapy roads often take you to vantage points where you may find a sea of clouds under your feet. The primeval forest of Shiga Kogen also has circular loops around emerald lakes reflecting the forest green.

We hope this article inspired you to go out and spend some time in nature. As part of our project we are identifying and marking healing forests around the world. Quiet spaces in nature that one can visit without feeling unsafe. You can check out the map so far and even recommend a nature trail to be added to this map.

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.

May the forests be with you.

KUMANO – 熊野 from Mathieu Le Lay on Vimeo.

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.

Breaking Bad Habits

We are all victims of our own addictions. Our bad habits control our lives in varying amounts. Detrimental habits can range from simple things like laziness or obsession with the cell phone, to more serious addictions of alcohol, tobacco or hard drugs. Here is an interesting story from the forests of New Zealand that offers tips from nature on overcoming addictions and bad habits.

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Photo by Bernard Spragg.

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand has an estimated 80,000 species of native plants and animals, of which less than half have been named and many are found nowhere else in the world.

It is also home to indigenous people named the Māori who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages at some time between 1250 and 1300 CE (AD). Early Māori formed tribal groups, based on eastern Polynesian social customs and organisation. Horticulture flourished using plants they introduced, and later a prominent warrior culture emerged.

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Photo by: Bernard Spragg. https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b

GATHERING OF SUSTENANCE FOR LIFE

Brendon Pirihi from Whakatohea Social and Health Services shares some insights from his work.

“I work with mental health and addictions in young people for my Iwi (Maori tribe in New Zealand). One thing that I always do with every participant is get them out into nature as I believe that our world has an abundance of natural healing resources i.e our forests, lakes, rivers and oceans. A lot of the time I don’t even need to say anything to the people I take as you can see in their faces that the world around them has an immediate affect on what we call their Wairua(spirit).”

The program is called ‘Te hahao o te oranga’, which is a Maori name. When loosely translated it means the gathering of sustenance for life. We take the youth to gather seafood on the first day and then they stay in a traditional marae for the first night. (marae = Maori village). Then on day two we take them to the native bush/forest and they will build a shelter for the second night and we hunt for rabbits, wild pigs and deer and return home on day three and the youth will share what meat was caught with their elders.

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Black Robin pic by Frances Schmechel

*Note: Pigs, rabbits and deer are not native to our country. They are a threat to the local species of plants, birds and animals which are found nowhere else in the world.

During our time in the bush we also teach them rongoa (traditional medicine from plants) which is knowledge that needs to be passed on before it is lost. That is just part of what we try to do here in New Zealand. The more we use our wilderness the less likely we are to lose it. Here in whakatohea we are lucky to have the native bush on our back doorstep protected by the government as they declared it a national park many years ago.

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Photo by Christopher Chan https://www.flickr.com/photos/chanc/5342770352/

3 WAYS NATURE HELPS

Replacing negative with positive: Nature is addictive too, but in a good way. Half of one’s in energy is spent in fighting the urge to give in, to the negative habit. Will-power can vary with time. It may be strong to begin with but the more you resist, the stronger your urge becomes. Instead of trying to fight your way through, nature provides a much better way. Replace your negative habit with the habit of spending time outdoors. It’s a healthier option for your body and your mind.

Make life challenging: One of the challenges of being in nature can be the lack of access to distractions, diversions and addictions. No wifi, no signal, no pizza joints, no bars. Well it’s not a fail-safe option, but worth a shot if you are serious about overcoming your addictions. Simply putting our habit out of reach gives us time to explore living without it. One can experience the difference that makes. It gives us mental strength and a stronger resolve.

Understand yourself: Spending time in nature helps you to have a clear conversation with yourself. Most of our addictions stem from a void in our life that we try to fill with our addiction. Every time the feeling of emptiness returns, one tries to take the support of an external substance – it could be a cigarette or a drink or even Whatsapp or Facebook. Nature helps us in knowing ourselves better. It can help us find the source of our addictions and give creative insights to break out of patterns and detrimental habits.

When you know how to connect with nature, there is no going back. It is a unique experience. A feeling of coming home. Of finding a true friend. Of knowing yourself.

We recognize that an essential element for a person’s holistic well being is the concept of Oranga, the state of well being that exists simultaneously in the spiritual, physical and psychological dimensions.

To know more about their work visit their website at this link.

Watch this short film by Nathan Kaso to get a glimpse of New Zealand’s addictive landscapes.

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END NOTE: We know breaking bad habits is easier said than done. However a lot of people have successfully overcome their fixations. Do add your thoughts, reflections and stories in the comment box. It will help us learn from each other. Please share this article with those who may find it of use.

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.

newzealand-falls
Photo by Cat Burton https://www.flickr.com/photos/catburton

Finding Answers In Life

As the year turns, here’s a story from the deep Amazon forest that brings us some old wisdom to create a new vision. This post is for the seeker in all of us.

B-Leaf-3We live in an age of information, mis-information and information overload. There are times when this can lead to confusion and lack of clarity. One may often find the mind caught in a whirlpool of troubled thoughts and unable to create a vision for our lives.

Can the forests show us a way out and help us in finding answers to important questions in life?

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Lessons from the Amazon

The Achuar are a group of indigenous people of the Amazon Basin, currently numbering around 6,000. Their ancestral lands – nearly 2 million acres in all – straddle the modern borders of Ecuador and Peru, a remote area that has allowed them to preserve their way of life with little outside influence or colonization.

The wise elders and shamans of the Achuar have always relied on their ability to engage with nature to create a vision for their lives. This interaction with their environment plays a mysterious role in guiding their actions and influencing their decisions.

Here’s a short film on the uncommon wisdom of this enchanted world.

The shamans know that being in nature can give us a larger perspective of life. To solve our problems we must begin by asking the right questions rather than simply seeking answers.

Connecting with nature helps us get our priorities right. It makes us focus on things which are important and those who really matter. This results in a better way to evaluate our choices and leads to better decision making.

On a more practical note spending time in nature can help in calming us. The act of interacting with the outdoors, brings our awareness to the present moment. Our mind gets a much deserved rest so that it can apply itself with renewed energy and come up with surprisingly creative solutions.

The vision always comes from soul, and soul is an aspect of nature. If the vision is true and we embody it well, we embody our place in the more-than-human world. Doing so always serves the greater web of life. ~Bill Plotkin

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A vision from the Achuar

Here’s an interesting example of how the Achuar have developed a new vision for their forests.

Since the early 20th century, individuals and corporations from the so-called “modern” world have sought to exploit Achuar land for its oil, disregarding its irreplaceable ecological and cultural wealth.

By the early 1990s, Achuar shamans and elders were having dreams of an imminent threat to their land and traditional way of life. From contact with neighbouring tribes, the Achuar knew that oil companies were poisoning the rainforest and steadily moving closer and closer to their areas.

The Achuar have found a bold solution to this threat. They have sought alliances with the world outside their forest. Partnering with environmentally conscious organisations, they have fought a long battle to protect the forests they call home. These initiatives have been successful in creating delay and in many cases holding back the damaging actions of the oil companies.

The Achuars and their alliances are finding new answers to these difficult challenges. By choosing to guard their precious forests instead of giving in, they are inspiring us with their wisdom and courage. The future is always uncertain but if our vision is strong, our path becomes clear.

To know more about their story and become a part of it visit.
https://www.pachamama.org/about/origin

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END NOTE:
Healing forest is a journey to explore fascinating forests and discover the healing powers of nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

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.

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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Gifts of the Forest for Kids

B-Leaf-mapleBirds and the bees have always come to the aid of parents when explaining difficult concepts in life. Nature has it’s own way of communicating with children and teaching them difficult concepts in simple ways. Beyond the obvious  health benefits of being in nature, here are some precious gifts that forests give kids.


*This video is free to reuse and re-share. Download it at this vimeo link.

In the modern world many parents have to rely on television, tablets or mobiles to distract their kids or keep them busy and occupied. This might appear to be an easy and quick solution to get children to quieten down and give some breathing space to the parents, but one has to consider the actual impact of this habit and the long term consequences.

Technology works by stimulating the brain and invigorating the senses. And as with all stimulants it can be addictive in nature. In the long run, this habit may lead to abnormal times being spent in front of a screen. This has a very bad affect in the development of a child’s physical, mental and social skills.

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On the other hand, when children spend time in nature their bodies and minds experience multiple benefits. Nature has a calming effect on the senses and provides positive energy for the body through physical exercise. The less evident benefits of being outdoors is the growth in the child’s understanding of life and development of the child’s value systems. The children begin to realise that they are part of a larger more complex world. They learn to give respect and take responsibility. The concept of inter dependence and frailty of humans teaches them invaluable lessons of gratitude and humility.

LIST OF BENEFITS

  • Sense of discovery and wonder
  • Joy, Excitement, Curiosity
  • Improved attention spans
  • Greater calm, lesser tantrums
  • Sharper observation skills
  • New friendships
  • Better health & immunity
  • Higher self-confidence
  • Greater respect and responsibility
  • Gratefulness and humility

With new knowledge and new research proving the benefits of being in nature, it is time to cut back on the screen time and go outdoors to have some fun. Spending time in nature is not just a great opportunity for growing your child as a person, but also growing close together as a family.

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*forest art by Shohei Emura

ACTIVITIES WITH KIDS

Here are some fun activities to do with kids in the forests
Animal Poses: Ask the kids to make poses to imitate the different animals or birds they might spot.
Silent Walking: Set up a short interval of time to walk in silence and observe all that you can. At the end of the silent walk you can discuss the different things one observed.
Nature and Art: Create some wonderful art using materials found in the forest.
Show and Tell: Create a sense of discovery and curiosity in your child by asking them to collect something unique from the woods and create a story about it. Go home and read about the new things that you find in the forest.
*Inputs by Nancy D’Antonio

If you any more suggestions or interesting exercises, please send us an email and we’ll add to this post.

NATURE AND KIDS

B-Leaf-3Children are the inheritors of our future. If we can instil a love for nature in them, we have chance a building a cleaner, greener planet and overcoming the challenges that the changing climate may bring about.

Here’s a short film that talks about how simple actions can help our children create a better future and a better world.

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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.

Please share / subscribe / comment

Recovering from Accidents and Injury

B-Leaf-3This month’s story is about an unusual lady called “the queen of canopy research”. World renowned biologist Nalini Nadkarni pioneered the use of mountain climbing equipment to assist her climbs of Costa Rican rain forest canopies in the early 1980’s. Years of research, countless ascends (on four different continents) came to an abrupt halt during a normal afternoon 50 feet above ground in the Olympic National Park, Washington (America). Nalini eloquently describes her near death fall and offers some insight into a life altering, meaningful disturbance.

FILM CREDITS
Production vitabrevisfilms.com + videowest.kuer.org
Directed by: Skylar Nielsen | Interview: Doug Fabrizio

Forest Healing from Accidents, Injury and Surgery

There have been multiple studies on the link between the mind and the body and how a calm and healthy mind boosts one’s immunity and helps the body recover faster from illness and injury.

People who are recovering from an accident, injury or operation have to go through a testing time. Simple tasks which were easy to do earlier can take up a lot of effort and also require assistance. Beyond the physical difficulties, most people also face a host of mental challenges. Sadness, anger and anxiety about their present condition can change their outlook to life as well as affect their behaviour.

Therefore it becomes very important to supplement their physical therapy with a more holistic approach to their problems. Something that can help them find answers to unsolved questions in their mind. And forests serve as friends to give comfort and hold space for connecting with something deeper so that the process of healing can begin.

Richard Mitchell, an epidemiologist at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, did a large study that found less disease in people who lived near parks or other green spaces. Compared with people who have lousy window views, those who can see trees and grass have been shown to recover faster in hospitals, perform better in school, and even display less violent behaviour. *Source

TIP: So if you know someone recovering from an accident, injury or surgery ask them to spend a little time in nature. It will help them find the connection that triggers faster healing and reduces the recovery time.

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ABOUT DR. NALINI

Dr. Nalini is an exceptional scientist whose work has challenged our perspective on trees and prisons. Nalini Nadkarni explores the rich, vital world found in the tops of trees. She communicates what she finds to non-scientists — with the help of poets, preachers and prisoners. See a short TED talk on her work here:

“The web of social relationships is essential for our health”

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We hope you found this article helpful. If you have any suggestions or stories of healing from nature do write to us at healingforest(dot)org(at)gmail(dot)com

Healing Forest is a project to help people reconnect with nature and build a community of friends who have a deep connection with forests. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

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Forest Ways To Sleep Better

Sleep is nature’s way of recharging our batteries and raising our energy levels. When a person is not able to sleep properly it has a bearing on his or her mental and physical health in multiple ways.

One in three people may suffer from some form of insomnia during their lifetime. Inability to sleep is more common than you think and can affect anyone, anytime, anywhere for a wide variety of reasons.

But there is a need for greater awareness on dealing with insomnia and many people continue to suffer in silence. Fo more information on insomnia, follow the link to this helpful article.

B-Leaf-1Watch this short 2 minute film to see how a young girl found healing from her insomnia and the gift of sleep from a magical forest.

How Forests Help

Forests have the ability to calm people down and soothe troubled minds. It has been proven that silent walks in the woods calm areas of your brain that are related to stress and anxiety.

Nature helps you slow down your thoughts. It makes you see yourself as a small part of a larger whole. This can shift focus from your individual anxieties and problems and produce insights and philosophies that bring peace.

The next time you are in a forest, pay close attention to not just what you see but also to the sounds and the smells in the forest. When you actively engage with the woods with all your senses, then you are redirecting your brain to move away from sleep preventing thoughts and giving it the much desired time to unwind.

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Benefits of a good sleep

When you sleep well you wake up feeling positive and have the energy to go through your day with vigour and zest.

A good sleep affects your emotional balance which in turn creates an impact on the quality of your relationships as well as interactions with other people.

The quality of sleep is linked with the ability of making better judgements and decisions. When your mind is well rested it is sharp and alert. On the other hand sleeplessness can hinder your decision making skills. In fact lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of road accidents.

The healing ability of your body and the immune system also rely on your sleeping conditions and habits.

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Tips for better sleep

Kaleido-circleThe secret of a good sleep lies in it’s preparation. Maintain a proper sleep schedule with fixed times for sleeping and waking up. Avoid things which can hamper with your sleep like caffeinated drinks, heavy dinners, too much time in the company of a TV or your mobile phone.

One of the biggest challenges for people who are unable to sleep is turning off their thoughts. The trick lies in switching focus from disturbing thoughts to soothing feelings. Here are a few tips. Give them a try.

Relaxation by parts: As you lie in bed start by paying attention to your feet and gently relax them. Move your attention up the legs and repeat the process, mentally relaxing each body part. Scan and relax your whole body, part by part until you reach your brain. Finally send a feeling of relaxation to your brain and also your thoughts.

Reverse counting: Try counting in reverse in your head. Start with 100 and count down to 0. Remember the purpose of this exercise being to shift your thoughts from things that are disturbing you and keeping you awake. It is similar to counting sheep but less traumatic for the sheep.

Creative visualisation: For people with an active imagination, this technique can channelise their abilities into relaxing thoughts. Simply visualise yourself in a place where you feel absolutely calm. You could be at the top of a high snow covered mountain surrounded by a sea of ranges, lying by a gentle brook in a beautiful wood or floating on a cloud watching a million stars overhead. Let your imagination take you to a place where sleep falls on you like gentle mist.

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Pl note: People suffering from chronic insomnia – which lasts more than a month should contact their Healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

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HEALING FOREST is a journey to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is to help people and forests heal. As part of the idea we are collecting stories of healing from nature. If you have a personal story that you would like to share and inspire other people, please email it to us: notes(at)healingforest(dot)org

For monthly updates to new stories, films and helpful articles please subscribe to our blog at this link.