Legend says that somewhere deep in the forest of the Himalayas is a strange bird that lays psychedelic eggs. Eating them will give you highly vivid hallucinations. The indigenous shamans believe that these visions are from your past life.
I am accompanying my friend Mei Pin and her team on a quest to find out whether this story is true or not, and to document the journey. Mei Pin is a Singaporean food connoisseur and experimenter. By genetically cloning the compounds in the psychedelic egg she wants to set up a chain of high food joints. Dishes that help you discover who you are.
The shamans have warned us of great challenges in our path. The bird or egg has not been seen in living memory. But for Mei Pin the quest is not just about adventure or entrepreneurship, it also about finding life’s true purpose.
Deep in the forest, one steps forth into a world of mysteries. In this vastness of unmapped, unexplored territory, how do you find something that no one has ever seen?
To find a bird, one must become the bird. Every impossible task can be broken down into small possible steps. Our first step was to locate a rare species of bioluminescent mushrooms. These mushrooms were thought to give the egg its psychedelic powers. It was a favourite food source of the illusive bird.
Today after a hunting for 3 weeks in dense riverine rainforest, battling the weather elements as well as giant mosquitoes that can pierce elephant skin, we have finally located what we think are the coveted food source of our magic bird. And now it is a game of patience. Will we get lucky? After all, when you go on a wild journey, instead of looking for purpose sometimes it is wiser to wait and let purpose find you.
There you have it. A mythical bird that closely resembles the Himalayan Monal, but with minute differences. In the local language it is known as ‘Mumang Petu’ which can be translated as the dream giver. The credit for spotting the bird goes to my friend Vohbica – an exceptionally talented tracker who works in Dampa National Tiger reserve in Mizoram.
In the depths of the ancient forest, nestled among the softest moss, we find our treasured dream egg. Its mesmerising hue glows with an otherworldly radiance. As one gazes into its ethereal depths, intricate patterns dance and morph, unveiling a tapestry of mysteries waiting to be uncovered.
Using advanced tech we scrape off nano dust particles from the egg shell without disturbing it. The dna from cells is fused with a strain of yeast which is cultured in an incubator until we have enough to add to our traditional omelette. The omelette holds the power to transport the curious and the brave into an extraordinary world where reality merges with the fantastical. What visions will we see? … We are about to find out.
Mind, space, and time have a strange relationship. But inside my dream the concept of time and space became a kaleidoscopic pattern. I turned into an ancient forest where neon blue eggs, like glowing orbs, dotted the undergrowth, pulsating with energy. Was it a dream or was it a prophecy?
The next morning everything had changed. Things that we thought were important in life, no longer held meaning. The greatest transformation was in Mei Pin. She felt that in the past life, she had been an incarnation of the dream giver bird. And her idyllic happy life had been cut short by the desires and dreams of humans.
“To imagine the impossible, is to sow the seeds of making it possible some day.”
Mei Pin’s new dream is to open eco-schools in remote forest villages. Schools where the beauty, wonders, and mysteries of nature are cherished and protected. A school that aims to open hearts, not just minds, so that all creatures big and small can have a better future for their kin. Where students learn that finding true purpose is mix of what you need from life, and more importantly what the world needs of you.
This forest story is a figment of my imagination, and draws on memories from my travels in the remote forests of eastern Himalaya. The images have been generated using an AI program. It is an experiment to make use of new tools to fill our minds with wonder and inspiration. When we imagine the impossible, we sow the seeds of making it possible someday.
Please leave a comment to let us know what you thought about this experiment. The goal of Healing Forest is to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. Our monthly newsletter sends uplifting new ideas to help you and your loved ones grow with nature.
As we sail the ocean of life, sometimes we can run into an island of trash. Chaos is an inevitable part of this journey – so how do you clear the mind in a natural, healthy way? In this post you’ll find a creative alternative for facing your confusions, and keeping your mind clear.
A Ploem walk is a unique way of clearing up inner as well as outer spaces. Just like plogging is a combination of picking up litter while jogging – a Ploem walk combines word games with picking up litter. The simple act of healing the outer can become the path for transforming the inner – one small act at a time. Adding stories and poems to the process taps into our deepest emotions, so that the chaos inside can turn into words which create a calm and clear mind.
Simplest Way To A Clear Mind?
Do you know what are the biggest reasons for not addressing chaotic situations in one’s own life? Most people are not aware of how to handle the challenge, but also fail to gauge the negative impact of ignoring their mental health. There are many other reasons, some of which are listed below. If you look closely, these are the same reasons for people not participating in clean-up drives or other community initiatives. Is it a co-incidence?
Just like adding music to a celebration brings it alive, mixing a creative angle to any difficult task makes it more engaging. The Ploem walks allow us to let go of negative thoughts and replace them with a clean and clear mind. These simple but fun activities will aid you in clearing the clutter inside your head, and creating a calm space for something useful to grow in it.
This article is part of our 12 magical walks that gift you highly useful skills for life’s adventures: Nature Play>>
Clear Mind & Ploem Walks
To start off, determine the area that needs to be cleaned and get the necessary approvals if required. Fix a date and time for the cleanup. Weekends and 2 hour slots work best. Recruit volunteers through various means, and ask them to bring a trash bag, gloves, drinking water. Keep some first aid handy. (You can even try it in your own garden to start off.)
Before the actual cleanup, the group assembles in a circle and creates the repair story.
Repair Game: In a repair story alternate members add positive and negative twists to a story. The group leader starts the story with a sentence. Moving clockwise, the next person in the circle gives the story a negative turn. However, their neighbour has to lift the story up again by making something positive happen. So the story moves in twists and turns – between good and bad, until the circle is completed.
Example: Jim got lost in the forest. > But he stumbled upon a magical waterfall. > Unfortunately, he had never learned to swim. > So he sat down and composed a beautiful song instead. > A gang of ruffians heard him singing and came to rob him. > One of the gang members turned out to be his long lost love from high school…. and so on.
This ‘Repair’ game is a metaphor for the clean-up drive. Things may appear challenging when we start, but a few well intentioned people can turn things around and start the process of healing, no matter how daunting the task.
Divide the group into pairs and start the cleaning activity for 30 – 45 minutes. Also assign roles such as team leaders responsible for smaller groups and safety officers. At a pre-determined time and place the group assembles again to take a break and play the following games.
Reduce Game: Ask participants to imagine they are going on a camping trip and can only bring 5 items with them. They must choose wisely and think about how to reduce their waste and environmental impact. In the next round, they have to go hiking and can carry only 2 out of the 5 things. Then on the hike they get separated from the group and are left with only one thing. What is that one thing they will hold on to?
Recycle Game: Ask people to use the alphabets in their own name to create other words. This activity can also be done in pairs where each pair is asked to use some letters from their first names to come up with new words.
The first step in clearing our mind is to reduce the clutter inside. Setting priorities provides a sense of direction and focus. When we identify what’s most important, we can let go of non-essential things. Also learning to sort our thoughts and rearrange them teaches us to look at our problems in creative ways. These two simple games can be useful training to keep our mind clear. Prioritising and rearranging leads to reduced stress and anxiety, and increases our productivity and overall sense of accomplishment.
Before you restart the cleanup drive again do a short nature walk to appreciate the beauty around you and recharge your inner spirit. Go slow and move in silence. Open your senses to find things that bring you peace and clear your mind. On the short walk you can try out 2 more activities.
Refuse Game: Play a game of “I Spy” where players take turns spotting something beautiful and refusing to let it get spoilt. For example, “I spy a peaceful pond, and I refuse to let it get trashed.” Each participant find something new and unique to appreciate and protect. This activity also helps us observe nature through other people’s perspective.
Reuse Game: Have participants bring in any interesting item that has been thrown away. As a group brainstorm creative ways the item can be used to give it new life. For example, an old t-shirt could be turned into a reusable shopping bag, or an old book could be transformed into a lampshade.
Clearing the mind can be a very daunting task just like cleaning our surroundings. During the process the mind can be filled with negative emotions such as sadness, anger, despair. By focusing our attention on the positive things around us we are able to channelise our energies in the right direction. Adding creativity to the task helps us look at the problem with new eyes.
Resume the clean up drive in small groups or pairs. At a predetermined time and venue get everyone together for the closing activities and sharing insights with each other.
Recover Game: Each participant finds a spot in nature that calls out to them. They sit in silence for 5 minutes to recenter themselves. Try to recover a memory of the space before your clean-up drive and compare it with the current state. Then reimagine the entire cycle repeating. The park gets dirty again, but a few people come and clean it up.
Regift Poem: Each person chooses a spontaneous word that comes to mind from their experience at the clean up activity. Use the word in a 2 line poem or a haiku, to gift it back to the friend who paired up with them during the clean up activity.
Cleaning up the nature outside can have a profound impact on growing a clear mind. When we engage in activities such as picking up litter, planting trees or flowers, or tending to a garden, we become more mindful and present in the moment. We connect the laws that govern nature outside with the nature that’s inside us. This can lead to a deeper understanding of our interconnectedness with all living beings. It will also fill you with a sense of gratitude and compassion.
Remember to follow safety guidelines and regulations throughout the cleanup drive. After the cleanup, dispose of the collected trash in an appropriate manner. Recycle as much as possible and dispose of the rest in a designated landfill or waste disposal site.
At the end don’t forget to celebrate the success of the cleanup drive with the volunteers. Thank everyone for their participation and encourage them to recreate this activity in their own circles. In case you do try this walk out, please post some pictures on our facebook group or leave a comment below.
In the next few weeks we’ll add photos and poems sent by our readers to this page.
Clear Mind and Health
There is a strong link between a clear mind and our health. When our mind is clear and focused, we are better able to manage stress and anxiety, which can have positive effects on our physical health. Stress is a major contributor to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression. By reducing stress through practices such as mindfulness and meditation or forest bathing, we can improve our overall health and well-being.
A clear mind also allows us to make better decisions and take more effective actions towards our goals, which can have positive impacts on our physical health. For example, when we have a clear mind, we are more likely to make healthier food choices, engage in regular exercise, and get enough sleep – all of which are crucial for maintaining good health.
Additionally, a clear mind can improve our mental health, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and promoting feelings of happiness and contentment. This can have a positive ripple effect on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
There are several effective ways to achieve a clear mind. Regular exercise, such as yoga or jogging, can help reduce stress and improve focus. Meditation and mindfulness can also be helpful, as they can quiet the mind and bring a sense of calm and clarity. Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption also promotes mental clarity. It is also helpful to take breaks from technology and engage in activities that promote relaxation and creativity, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature. Overall, a combination of physical activity, mindfulness practices, healthy habits, and relaxation techniques will lead you to a clear and focused mind.
Clear Mind. Earth Mind.
A clear mind is a journey, not a destination. It is the same with cleaning our planet. The Ploem walks show you how to achieve balance and harmony through play. They combine benefits from many of the activities mentioned above in a way that is also beneficial for our Earth. We hope they offer you a joyful path to a clearer mind and a cleaner environment.
For more activities from around the world, see: Nature Calm
Healing Forest is a volunteer run project. Our goal is to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. The aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
Do share this post, so it reaches where it’s needed.
Grief is a way of holding on to love that we do not wish to renounce. The loss of something or someone we love can leave us feeling inconsolable. Even as we know that after the loss, the acute state of mourning will subside, something of the silent void will always remain. Akin to going on a pilgrimage, the journey of grieving is difficult and painful and what lies beyond cannot easily be fathomed
In this article we explore stories and activities from nature that can help us transform our grief and loss into meaningful actions. You will find useful ideas to express your emotions, reflect on your experiences, regain a sense of control, and honour the memory of the loved one.
Knowing how to deal with loss is an essential ability. Each one of us will need it at some point. Loss is both a universal and a deeply personal experience. In its wake, it brings about emotional suffering that can leave us feeling overwhelmed with sadness, despair, guilt and even anger. The world, the self, time – all feel out of joint. So how does one heal?
This article is part of our 12 magical walks to learn highly useful life-skills from nature. Nature Play>>
A Mushroom Story
A little girl had lost her mother to a horrible road accident. She was inconsolable. Her grandfather held her tiny hand and took her for a walk in the forest. There they discovered some beautiful mushrooms growing on the bark of a fallen tree. It was a message from her mama, the old man whispered.
When the storm clouds bring rain and thunder, they damage the forest. For a short while the forest is very sad and cries. Many of its friends have been lost forever. But the kind earth embraces their roots and sends the forest a gift – mushrooms. Mushrooms are signs that the departed travellers have sent from their journey to a new home.
The mushroom stems represent the beautiful memories that we shared with the loved ones when they were with us. The unique strengths and quirks they had, lend colours to the mushrooms. And their aspirations and dreams turn into mushroom spores which spread themselves all over the forest, bringing new life and new friends.
Just as mushrooms turn loss into nourishment, we can transform our sadness into kindness. By keeping the good memories in our heart, remembering their strengths and working towards fulfilling the dreams and aspirations they left behind – we can honour the ones who have passed on.
The little girl looked up at the forest canopy. The rays of morning light fell through the leaves on to the forest floor. A gentle mushroom lit up and smiled at her. She hugged her grandfather tightly. They wept together.
* Download the mushroom story at the end of this article.
Turning Sadness Into Kindness
The stormy dark clouds of sadness can feel menacing. Yet, in nature we find that the advent of these clouds bears fresh showers that replenish the parched earth. When our sorrows threaten to wash over us, we can work towards making them into harbingers of kindness that brings the blossoms of life to others.
Here are a few activities that help us transform grief and loss.
1. Mindful Mushroom Walk
When you enter the woods to search for mushrooms you have to be alert, silent, and calm. By being mindful of your steps as you walk in the forest gently, you can turn this simple activity into an exercise in mindfulness.
While observing the breath is a very common mindfulness exercise, people who are going through a difficult phase in life find it very challenging because of troubling thoughts. Therefore, we should start with other senses first, especially when introducing mindfulness to beginners. Our visual sense is our strongest sense. Turning to nature to discover its many treasures fills us with deep calm.
NOTE: Be sure to buy a good field guide for mushrooms from your area or go with an expert. Some basic instructions for Mushroom Walks, as per the Modern Forager are given below.
1. Tread Lightly. Don’t trample all the little mushrooms and potential mushrooms in your hunting ground. 2. Make a positive identification using more than one source wherever possible. Do not eat mushrooms with any features that contradict the description. “When in doubt, just leave the mushroom.” 3. Mature mushrooms release spores into the air that are essentially mushroom seeds. You can respect the spores by leaving some of the mushrooms untouched. 4. Use a porous and an open-air container for your mushrooms as you walk through the woods. Don’t use plastic bags — which can ruin your harvest anyways; look for mesh bags, baskets, buckets with holes drilled in them, 5. Don’t over-pick. It is courteous and considerate to leave mushrooms behind for another picker. 6. Micro-trash is a big problem! Try to leave none and collect some if you see any.
While mushrooms are typically associated with death and decay, they are in fact an integral part of renewal in the universal cycle of life. We recommend closing the mindfulness walk with a short mushroom circle meditation. Sitting in a circle of silence, the participants meditate upon the impermanence that permeates all things in nature – including our thoughts.
To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let itgo, to let it go.
~ Mary Oliver, Blackwater Woods
2. Creative Writing In Nature
Creative writing can be a helpful way to deal with grief for several reasons. Writing allows individuals to express their emotions and thoughts in a safe and private way. It can be challenging to find the right words to say when experiencing grief, but writing provides an outlet to put emotions into words and process them.
Here are some creative writing prompts to try on your nature walk. Choose the ones you feel comfortable with.
Write a letter to the person you lost, expressing everything you wish you could say to them.
Write about a specific memory you have of the person you lost, describing it in detail and how it makes you feel.
Write a story or poem about the stages of grief you have gone through and how you have coped with each one.
Write a tribute to the person you lost, highlighting their qualities and how they impacted your life.
Write about a place that brings back memories of the person you lost, describing it in detail and how it makes you feel.
Write about how your perspective on life and death has changed since experiencing loss.
Writing about grief allows us to reflect on our experiences and understand our emotions better. It can be a powerful tool for gaining insight into oneself and finding meaning in the loss. Grief can make individuals feel powerless and out of control. Writing provides a sense of control as it allows individuals to express their emotions and feelings in their own way and time. It is also a beautiful way to honour the memory of loved ones.
3. Acts Of Kindness
As night slowly paves the way for dawn, converting grief into acts of service can be a meaningful way to turn a difficult experience into something positive. These could involve checking in with friends or family members in need, performing random acts of kindness, volunteering our time, or making a donation to a charity.
Another great alternative for acts of kindness is to work with plants, trees, and gardens. Gardening and working with plants can be a calming and grounding experience that encourages mindfulness and relaxation. This can be particularly helpful for individuals dealing with the stress and anxiety that often comes with grief.
Plants and trees can become teachers and symbols for the grief process. For example, the act of pruning dead or dying branches can represent the process of letting go, while planting new seeds can represent the hope for new growth and new beginnings. A great project to undertake is creating your own meditation garden. A meditation garden is a place where you can retreat from the stress of daily life and find peace and tranquility through meditation or other contemplative practices. Here’s a useful note on how to create your own meditation garden.
Countries like Korea have taken the concept a step further with a unique ‘National Tree Burial Forest’. It is an eco-friendly way to send off the loved ones. Learn more about Korea and its Forest Bathing practice here.
Self-compassion is the heartbeat of all human understanding. Practising self-compassion entails giving ourselves permission to feel our emotions and attend to ourselves through self-care practices. When we reach outwards, it also helps restore our sense of connectedness in the web of life.
We all grieve in our own ways and in our own time. And often we have to support others in their journey. Therefore it is important to understand the way our mind deals with loss and pain.
In order to explain the process, the Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, introduced the model of the five stages of grief in her 1969 book ‘On Death and Dying.’ The stages of grief, popularly described with the acronym D.A.B.D.A., are as follows:
Denial: This stage can look like an inability to admit to the truth of what happened. The shock of the news can be so overwhelming that one might feel nothing or go numb, refusing to discuss the loss and isolating oneself from others who have accepted it. Denial aids in coping by allowing you to pace your feelings of grief and staggering its full impact on us. Once the denial and shock start to fade, feelings that you were suppressing begin to come to the surface and the healing process begins.
Anger: In this phase, you might look to someone to blame others for the cause of your grief and may redirect your anger to close friends and family. Questions like “Why me?” or “Life is not fair!” keep coming up, as you find it incomprehensible how this could happen to you. If you are a person strong in faith, you might begin to question your belief in God : ‘Where is God? Why did he not protect me?” Anger is a natural step in healing. It has more energy than depression and can propel us into action, bridging you back to reality and to others.
Bargaining: In bargaining, you try to convince yourself you can avoid the grief by negotiating with a higher power. You can find yourself wracked with guilt as a series of ‘What if’ scenarios pass through your mind.
Depression: This is the stage in which the emptiness of the void that the loss has left us with is felt most acutely. The rupture or loss of a deep bond feels like a loss of a part of oneself. You might withdraw from life, feeling hopeless and despondent as the weight of sadness feels unbearable. You might not want to be around others and might even experience suicidal thoughts.
Acceptance: In the final stage, you are able to acknowledge the loss, and begin the process of adjusting to the new reality. As your emotions begin to stabilise, the pain feels more bearable and the world begins to seem inhabitable again.
These steps are not linear, and we often cycle back and forth through the stages. Grief comes in waves, and coming to terms with loss requires self-compassion and understanding. Holding space for the difficult emotions that arise in oneself instead of escaping them is a vital part of healing. Accepting support and help from others can help us move forward towards recovery.
Loss is an inevitable part of the journey of life. In this journey, grief can usher in several invaluable lessons. It can teach us about the fragility of life.
Grief reminds us of the importance of our close relationships, urging us not to take them for granted. It takes us to a deeper appreciation for spending quality time with our loved ones and creating memories that can be cherished forever. It can teach us gratitude for what we have. Grief can bring home to us the realisation of our own resilience and inner strength to overcome challenges. It can prompt us to reflect on the meaning of our life, and strengthen our faith, thus becoming a catalyst for a transformation.
Create ripples of positive change in your life through nature. Nature Calm>>
Healing Forest is a volunteer run project. Our goal is to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. The aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
How do you find hidden treasures in life? Knowing where to look is important, but knowing how to look is even more so. Digital lifestyles are reducing our attention spans and our powers of observation have become limited to addictive screens. As a result some of our life’s most valuable gifts go by unnoticed.
In this mindfulness exercise, we will improve our skills of observation and reflection through photography. These skills are essential for understanding the world around us, making informed decisions and enhancing our creativity. More importantly they are crucial for developing empathy for others – one of the beautiful treasures we can offer to this world.
As an added bonus 3 of the images in this post hold links to some incredible gifts. Tapping on the right ones will transport you to magical lands. Wonder how many of them will you find?
Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.
~Thích Nhất Hạnh
Photography as a mindfulness exercise
There is a strong link between mindfulness and photography . Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the current moment, without judgment or distraction. The aim of mindful photography is to hold a moment in your mind that you can treasure forever.
In this forest bathing walk we will take the help of nature’s less seen gems to train your mind as well as your senses. You can do this walk alone or in a small group. The rules are very simple. Take only one photograph for each creative prompt. At the end of each exercise, groups can form a circle to share pictures and insights if any.
You can try this walk in any nature space close to you – even your garden. Just follow the basic principles of forest bathing: Be silent. Go slow. Think less. Feel more.
1. Finding The Invisible For the first task, find and photograph a cluster of insect eggs. Did you know that there are over one million known species of insects, which makes up over 80% of all known animal species on Earth. Many insects lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves or on stems of plants. These include species such as caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. Some insects lay their eggs in the soil or on the ground, where they can be protected from predators. Examples include ants, beetles, and some species of flies.
Train your eye to look carefully. Be fully present and attentive when observing your surroundings. Focus on the tiny nooks of nature and you’ll be surprised at what you can find. Observing the beauty of these hidden treasures creates awe and wonder. It helps to anchor the mind in the present moment and be free.
2. Character Exploration Find an insect with an interesting personality. You can look around a piece of bark or visit the flowers. Try taking a shot that show the subject in its environment. What is the mood of the insect you are photographing?
Insects have been around for over 350 million years, and they have adapted to survive in almost every habitat on Earth. The largest insect in the world is the Goliath Beetle, which can grow up to 11 centimeters long and weigh up to 100 grams. The smallest insect in the world is the fairyfly, which is only 0.139 millimeters long.
Mindfulness photography is not just about the external world. These exercises train you to be able to take an inner snapshot as well. To become more aware of your own moods and triggers that change them.
3. Abstract Art For this activity observe the leaves of plants and trees around you. Search for abstract pattern of holes left behind on leaves by foraging caterpillars. Some species of caterpillars can eat up to 27,000 times their own body weight in leaves during their larval stage. Some have even evolved to mimic the appearance of leaves, helping them to avoid detection by predators. See if you can spot some of these illusive artists or the nature art left behind by them.
The path to self-transformation begins with observation. Just as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, mindfulness exercises bring about a journey of inner metamorphosis.
4. Insect Eye View Take a picture from the perspective of an ant. What does the world look like when seen from a unique angle? Be curious. Be curious and ask questions to become a more mindful observer. Expanding our awareness beyond the self is a mindfulness exercise for enhancing empathy.
There are over 12,000 known species of ants, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. Some species of ants can carry objects up to 50 times their own body weight. Mindful photography teaches us to find beauty in everyday moments. Moments that we might otherwise overlook. Focusing our attention on the small details fosters joy in the simple things of life.
5. Water Droplets Create a picture with a water drop in it. Add a drop of water to a leaf or a flower, and experiment with different angles to capture the droplets in an interesting way. You can also try using a spray bottle to create your own droplets on a subject. And if you are doing this walk early in the morning, you’ll find some amazing possibilities with the dew drops.
For a beautiful photograph, we must pay close attention to the lighting, composition, and subject to create a visually appealing image. This requires us to be fully present and aware of our surroundings. Finding a big world reflected in a tiny drop of water is an interesting meditation on our own mind.
6. Flower Mindfulness Capture the beauty of a flower that calls out to you. Pay attention to the finer details that make the flower unique. Flowers have a special language with which they communicate with their pollinators. If you wait patiently, you can even take a picture of the flower with its special friend.
It is estimated that one out of every 3 bites of food we eat is made possible by pollinators. Bees are one of the most important insects in the world, as they pollinate approximately 70% of the world’s top 100 crops. Just like the bee and the flower, there are many such invisible interconnections that make our world beautiful. Look carefully, can we try to find those important connections in our own life?
7. Dance of Life If you could capture the dance of life in one frame what would it look like? Will you include yourself in the frame? In nature there are countless stories taking place simultaneously. Becoming aware of our own role in this intricate pattern can be a humbling experience. In the forest of our cosmos, each one of us is a tiny miracle dancing our way through life.
One of the most overlooked treasure of our lives is the joy of small moments that we spend with our loved ones. Mindful walks with nature offer a range of amazing benefits to improve not just the quality of life but also the quality of our relationships.
Knowing where to look for treasures is important. Knowing how to look, even more so.
Our Lost Treasures
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.
Things which are hidden from our attention are often neglected, forgotten or lost. We hope this mindfulness exercise provides you with new ways to increase your attention, observation and awareness. It is through these skills that we can make new connections, identify problems, and come up with useful solutions – not just for our own life, but also for our community and the larger world.
This walk is part of our collection of 12 Uplifting Walks. Simple ideas that show you how to make your world wonderful.
How many of the hidden treasures could you spot? And what did you learn? Please add your thoughts in the comments.
Healing Forest is a volunteer run project. Our goal is to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. The aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
Mindful Art is a unique skill for all of us, not so that we can be artists, but because drawing is another way of thinking. Just like using words is a way to think out loud on paper, mindful art is simply a way to “think” in another form.
You don’t have to be an artist to create mindful art! Drawing is something all of us have used with a pen or pencil on paper to plan, show or imagine what we are thinking. Being “good” at art doesn’t really matter as long as ideas are being shared.
In this article we show you how drawing your thoughts can be a powerful tool for improving your thinking, creativity and communication. Through the creative process of mindful art, let us explore our inner selves, access unconscious thoughts, and gain a new perspective on life.
A Zen Story On Mindful Art
Once upon a time, a Zen master was asked by a student, “Master, what is the purpose of art?” The master replied, “Art is a mirror that reflects the beauty and truth of the universe. It is a way to touch the divine and to see the world with new eyes.” The student questioned, “But master, how can I create art that is true and beautiful?” The master answered patiently, “The true artist does not seek to create something beautiful, but rather to see beauty where others do not. The true artist does not seek to express themselves, but to disappear into the work, becoming one with the universe. The true artist must first empty their mind and become like a blank canvas. Only then can the universe paint itself upon you, and only then can you create something beautiful and true.”
This story illustrates the idea that true art is not something that can be forced or created through effort, but rather it is something that comes from a state of emptiness and receptivity. The true artist is one who is able to let go of their own ego and desires and allow the universe to express itself through them.
Mindful Art Activities
You can combine these mindful art ideas with a nature walk to amplify its benefits. All you need is a pencil and a notepad to scribble your ideas. Doing these activities in a group serves to create memorable experiences and helps in bringing people closer to each other.
Mindful Art: A Page Full Of Circles Fill a page with circles. Circles that touch each other, but don’t intersect. Add as many circles as you can within the page. Fill in the gaps in between circles with more tiny circles. You can even fill the insides of a bigger circle with smaller circles.
It is impossible to draw a perfect circle. The aim is to accept your imperfect circles, but continue to improve the skill. This mindful art of drawing circles, helps us slow down our thoughts and serves as a warmup to move on to more creative tasks.
Mindful Art: Draw Your Mood The prompt for this exercise is very simple. If you could visualise your mood what would it look like? You can do a version of this activity before the nature walk and then at the end of the nature walk. Compare the two drawings and observe what has changed and why?
Mindful Art: Shape Of All Things In this mindful art activity, choose any object in nature. Observe its shape carefully for some time. Try to see the fundamental geometric shapes that make up the object. For example a mountain can be drawn into a triangle. A tree can be represented with a circle and a rectangle.
Mindful Art: Mind Mapping This mindful art activity involves writing down a word or phrase that represents a current thought or emotion, then writing down other words or phrases that come to mind in response. As you write the associated words connect them with lines. See what pattern of lines emerge at the end of the activity. This exercise can help individuals to explore their thoughts and emotions in a more verbal way.
Mindful Art: Silhouettes & Shadows For this exercise pick any interesting leaf that you find on your walk. Trace out the outline of the leaf on a black piece of paper. Use your imagination to turn this simple trace into a magical forest creature. You can even fill the page with traces of many different leaves and create a party of magical beings on the page.
As your imagination grows, translate the activity into your nature walk. Begin to identify magical beings and creatures in shapes of trees and rocks that you encounter on your walk. Give them names based on their unique characteristics.
Mindful Art: Drawing The Invisible The prompt for this activity is to draw the negative space between two objects. Negative space, in art is the empty space around and between the subject(s) of an image.
Generally when we look at things we focus on the object itself. But if we expand our observation we become aware of interesting and artistically relevant shapes that surround the objects to reveal completely new things.
Mindful Art: The Tree of Life If you were to draw your entire life in the shape of a tree, what would the tree look like? In this mindful art activity, draw an entire tree on a page with branches as well as roots. You can label the roots with values which are important to you. In the branches write down words to depict significant moments of your life. And finally represent the important people in your life as forest creatures that have a relationship with your tree of life. This activity is a beautiful way of creating a snapshot of your life’s journey so far.
Mindful art can be a powerful tool for understanding and processing thoughts and emotions, whether it’s through the process of creating art or viewing it.
Art as a mirror of the universe is a reflection of the Zen concept of unity of all things. The idea that everything is interconnected. The mindful artist is able to tap into this interconnectedness and create art that reflects the beauty and truth of the universe.
Benefits of Mindful Art
Mindful art helps us slow down and relax our mind.
It makes us better observers of our outer and inner landscapes.
Mindful art is an interesting way to exercise our imagination.
Mindful art can be a bridge between the known and the unknown – helping us tap into our subconscious mind.
It gives is new insight into thoughts and emotions – our own as well as that of others.
Above all, it is creates joy and peace.
Art therapy, a form of psychotherapy, specifically uses the process of creating art to help individuals express themselves, overcome emotional challenges and develop self-awareness. It helps individuals to understand and process their emotions, thoughts, and experiences in a non-verbal way and can be beneficial for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.
Art can also help individuals understand and process difficult experiences such as trauma, grief, and loss. It can also help in dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Additionally, viewing art can also be a way of gaining insight into one’s thoughts and emotions. For example, looking at a piece of art that evokes a strong emotional response can help the viewer understand and process their feelings.
Mindful Art Inspiration
For aeons humans have turned to nature and art for creativity and community. The inspiration for the mindful art activities in this post comes from the fascinating cave art found around the world. Here’s a glimpse of 10 amazing examples to take you back in time.
We hope these mindful art activities take you on a creative journey to bring peace and presence in your lives. What other activities can we use to create Mindful art? Please add your thoughts in the comments to grow our collective knowledge.
*Do share this post, so it reaches where it’s needed.
To get useful new ideas once a month you can join our free newsletter. Discover amazing walks, arts, games, meditations, forests from around the world. For more activities check out our post on Nature Art.
Healing Forest is a volunteer driven project. Our goal is to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. The aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
A still mind, reflects the universe. Let us introduce you to the beautiful idea of a reflections walk. A walk that reconnects you to a few important moments from the past. These reflections will help you unwind the year that was and prepare you for the year that will be.
You can do the reflections walk alone or with people who are close to you. All you need is a pen and a notebook to collect your thoughts. Find a peaceful nature space near you and go for a gentle walk. Follow the principles of the Japanese concept of mindful nature walks, also known as ‘Forest Bathing‘. The aim is to be silent, go slow. Open your senses to absorb the calm of nature, and carry it within you.
“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that have you received–only what you have given.”
~ Francis of Assisi
The reflections walk consists of 7 writing prompts. The prompts have been carefully chosen to light up parts of your mind that trigger positivity. These memories and insights foster the core emotions that make happiness grow: Compassion. Awe. Gratitude. Creativity.
Give yourself 10 minutes for each writing activity and in case you have others with you, follow it up with a sharing circle. For larger groups, it is recommended you break up into smaller groups of 3~5 for sharing. After each sharing session do a short 10 minute walk in nature. Combining reflections with a nature walk, helps us recharge our inner reservoir. It also helps in assimilating the learning and deepens your experience.
Here are the writing prompts for the reflections walk. Gather your memories from the last 12 months and pen down:
One thing you are grateful for.
One moment of awe
One act of kindness you received.
One act of kindness you gave.
One person who inspired you.
One lesson you learnt.
One thing you wish to create.
TIP: Doing the reflection walk on your own is wonderful, but sharing it with others is amazing. Creating a shared experience not only grows our collective learning, but also forms a special bond based on a deeper understanding of each other. An interesting idea is to email this post to friends who may be in different cities and schedule a WhatsApp / Zoom session to share insights from their reflection walk.
“The great secret of morals is love, and a going out of our own nature and an identification of the beautiful that exists in thought, action, or person not our own.”
~ Percy Shelly
Dacher Keltner, renowned psychologist and founder of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley says, “The emotions of compassion and gratitude and awe, I think they really tell us that human nervous system isn’t just fight or flight. Sigmund Freud gave us a great legacy: the two great instincts of sex and death. We would say there’s a little bit more than that, right? Then, they also tell us that a lot of the great delights in life come from serving others, that the human mind is wired up to do so. When you express compassion, you’re getting this big rush of vagus nerve activation and oxytocin. This feels great. When you show gratitude to somebody or sharing, similar studies show you get activation in rewards circuits in the brain. We’ll find that happens with awe as well. Human beings are wired to care and give and it’s probably our best route to happiness.“
12 Beautiful Lakes to Reflect upon
Lakes serve as a metaphor for the complexities of our mind. As the year draws to a close, here’s a short film to reflect upon some beautiful lakes from different corners of our planet.
Our monthly posts help you discover not just uplifting activities but also amazing nature spaces from around the world. To get useful new ideas once a month join our free newsletter.
A Gift For The New Year
We hope your new year is filled with calm, clarity and good health. Here’s a collection of 12 Forest Wallpapers + reflections walk poster to inspire you to go out for more nature walks. And when you do, don’t forget to share the treasures you find with others.
Healing Forest is a volunteer driven project. Our goal is to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. The aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
The decisions we make, design our life. But seldom are we taught the invaluable skill of designing our life, often stumbling from one decision to another.
Those who learn to observe nature, notice a beautiful balance that exists in all the designs. A harmony that has been crafted to perfection over an ocean of time. But Nature is never at rest. Just like our mind. Constantly changing. Constantly evolving.
Imagine, if we could learn the principles of design from nature. Would it change the way we make decisions for our life? Let’s try an interesting experiment in nature. We will create some unique nature art and introduce you to the rules that guide nature’s design. Also, through short reflective walks, you will understand how the same rules apply to our own life.
We hope this experience lends you new insights for your decision making skills, and helps you design a life in which your inner and outer world are in tune with each other.
Nature’s Design Tips For Your Life
Design is nature’s way of problem solving. In this article we offer you some thought-provoking design challenges to grasp the art of nature’s design through hands-on activity. Each activity is followed by a short walk to deepen your experience as well as your learning.
These walks are based on the Japanese concept of mindful nature walks also known as Forest Bathing. If you haven’t already, do check out this short guide before you begin: What is forest bathing?
The aim of a mindful nature walk is to use our senses to quieten the mind. In the stillness, we gain new insights about human nature by growing our awareness of the nature outside. All activities are done in silence. Each activity is followed by a slow walk, focusing on one of our senses. The senses act as a bridge between the inner and outer.
This activity is part of our 12 uplifting walks that help us learn life’s most useful skills through nature.
Nature’s Design Tip #5: Impermanence
Designing 2 Spirals: For the first activity, the group is divided into pairs. Ask each participant to create a spiral from objects found in nature. So each pair needs to create 2 interlocked spirals. Interlocked spirals enclose each other, but don’t touch each other at any point.
The spiral is a metaphor for the trajectory of our lives. As humans, we try to move in an ever expanding path of growth. However, when life ends, the spiral terminates abruptly. When we observe nature’s design, we see that things serve a purpose even in the after-life. So it starts from nothing and fades back into nothing.
Impermanence can brings a new perspective to our decisions. The ability to make a good decision is also the ability to foresee its impact in the future. Consider the 10/10/10 rule. What will be the impact of your decision 10 minutes from now, 10 months later, and after 10 years. What decisions can we take for our life’s work to have meaning, even after we are no more?
Walk: Take a 10 minute silent walk and reflect on the impermanence in nature’s design. You can walk by focusing on the sounds of nature. Start by focusing on the louder sounds, and gradually mover your attention to the more softer sounds. Every sound is a song of impermanence.
Nature’s Design Tip #4: Interconnectedness
Ant Bridge: Design a bridge for ants to cross. Find any large gap in your surroundings and build a connection so that it can serve as a bridge for ants and other tiny creatures. Only use material that can be found around you, without breaking or damaging the nearby plants. This activity is also meant to be carried out in pairs or small groups. Give bonus points for the longest bridge, and for the strongest bridge.
Bridges are metaphors for interconnectedness. Creating connection helps us get from where we are, to where we want to go. There are many times in life where we get stuck at some problem. Quite often the solution is to connect with someone who can get us out of our predicament. Bridges serve as links of exchange between us and others. Learning their importance uplifts our lives.
The design of nature is filled with invisible interconnections. For example, the roots of trees in a forest are connected to each other and communicate with each other through a network of fungi. It is this interconnectedness that allows many species to co-exist and thrive.
Walk: For this segment of the silent walk, bring your attention to your feet and the ground beneath it. With each step become aware of how deeply we are connected to the earth.
Nature’s Design Tip #3: Interdependence
Pyramid / Inverted Pyramid: Design a pyramid made up of sticks or rocks. To make it more challenging ask the participants to design an inverted pyramid, where the base is smaller than the section on top. The task might appear a bit daunting, but the secret of designing an inverted pyramid is to create proper support. Those who can figure out the trick of supporting the heavier section will be able to overcome the difficulty of imbalance.
With new insights emerging in our theory of evolution, “survival of the fittest” theory has been transformed into “survival of the kindest.” Darwin himself wrote, “Those communities which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best and rear the greatest number of offspring.” What Darwin called “sympathy,” can be termed as empathy, altruism, or compassion. According to biologists from Darwin to E. O. Wilson, compassion is the reason for both the human race’s survival and its ability to continue to thrive as a species.
Walk: Walk with your attention on the breath. Every breath we take, has come from a tree. Every breath we give, will go back to the forest. The design of nature is a delicate balance, in which how we are all interdependent.
Nature’s Design Tip #2: Individuality
Forest House: This is a solo activity. Every participant is asked to design a tiny house for a creature of the forest. The creature could either be an animal or bird that is commonly found in the area or for a magical being like an elf or a gnome. The design of the house should reflect the needs of its occupant. The designers can even give a name to their house.
Once the houses are complete, all participants can do a quick tour of the colony of tiny homes that have sprung up. The makers explain their thought process and the most important aspect for them while designing the house.
The learning from this activity is to appreciate the uniqueness of each design. To observe how for every person, certain values hold greater importance over others. The designs they create and the decisions they make stem from these values. Nature has gifted each one of us with a unique mind. Exploring our inner world to uncover that uniqueness, can lead us to make better choices for the direction of our lives.
Walk: This segment of the walk focuses on our visual sense. Pay attention to what you see around you. Observe the uniqueness within each and every entity in nature. Becoming aware of this grand scale of nature’s design fills us with respect and humility. It makes us appreciate the individuality within others as well as within ourselves.
Nature’s Design Tip #1: Inclusivity
Forest Creature / Forest Village: This is a group activity. Divide the participants into small groups of 5 or less people. Each participant collects 10 fallen leaves and brings it to their group. The aim of each team is to design a small forest creature or a forest village using leaves to represent buildings / body parts. The teams are free to include surrounding stones or trees as elements in their design. Within the team, members can only speak in 1 word conversations – to elaborate what the items represent: for e.g: a school, a hospital, a park etc.
Including others in the design and decision making process can be very challenging. Especially if they have divergent views and personalities. However, nature teaches us that greater diversity yields richer benefits. In nature, biodiversity is critical for survival as it enhances the ability to face challenges and natural calamities. Similarly, bringing different ideas together allows us to create something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Walk: We close the Natures design walk, through a group sharing activity. All the participants form a circle, facing outwards – towards nature.
Sit in silence for 5-10 minutes. Observe how we are all part of nature, and how the same rules that are found in nature’s design apply to our own minds, bodies, and lives. Let the boundaries between our inner nature and the nature outside slowly dissolve. Experience a sense of oneness.
To end the Nature’s design walk, participants can share any insights or learning from the different activities. Sharing transforms individual learning into a collective experience. On the same lines, do leave your thoughts in the comments to share any insights or observations.
The Larger Design
Some of the greatest challenges we face today are a result of designs that dictate our society’s growth. The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things by weight, but humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of all plants.
The multiple crises we face today are so overwhelming that they can create a certain degree of resignation and despondency. But as humans we have a capacity to redesign our way of thinking. Reconnecting with nature will bring us old wisdom and new ideas for solving our current problems. Above all, it will link like-minded friends, so that we can create a mindset shift on a much larger scale.
Let’s reimagine a new design for our planet… one walk at a time.
REQUEST: Please share this article, so it reaches where it’s needed. To get useful new ideas and inspiration, you can join our monthly newsletter For more activities and many other experiences, try our Nature Calm course.
Healing Forest is a volunteer driven project that aims to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
How do you create joy out of nothing? Take a Joy Walk in nature to unlock the happiness hidden within your body. Joy Walk is a unique experience filled with fun activities that show you how to tap nature and movement to make the invisible, visible.
Our modern lifestyles often fix our body posture into set routines. You follow a daily and weekly schedule with a limited range of activities. As a result, a lot of our actions and emotions become restricted and brittle. The negative effects reveal themselves over time.
The Joy walk releases trapped emotions and hidden stress within the body. Through the creative ideas, you bring fluidity and flexibility not just to your body, but also to your mind.
Joy Walk Guidelines
Here are the simple principles of Joy walk, captured in 3 lines.
When you move, create harmony
When you are still, create awareness
Being in rhythm with nature, create joy
Do not force you body to perform. Let the movements happen naturally. Create a flow and go with it. There is no need to carry any props or music for the walk. The sounds and gifts of nature are enough.
Joy Walk Activities
Typically the duration of the Joy Walk ranges from 60~120 minutes. Take a slow walk through nature and pause at regular intervals to carry out the different activities mentioned below. The design of Joy Walk moves from group engagements to pairs and ends with solo time in nature. Feel free to experiment, modify, and adapt.
Leaf Dance The group forms a circle and raise their hands up in the air. Pretend the hands are leaves on a tree. A gentle breeze blows, creating a wave that moves along the circle. Slowly the wind starts picking up speed swaying the leaves with increasing gust. And then a storm comes and blows all the leaves away. The leaves dance away in the wind and finally come to rest on the ground.
Who am I dance Each person introduces themselves as an object from nature. Instead of stating the name, the participant has to depict the nature object through movement or a dance.
After each introduction the entire group copies the move.
Weather In Your Heart A variation of the introduction exercise: Participants are asked to introduce themselves through a movement that depicts the weather in their heart. It’s an interesting way to connect with our inner state of being. Also to observe that just like the weather, it keeps changing.
Tiger and Deer (Optional) In this fun activity, we mimic a play from nature. The group forms a circle. A moderator takes a round outside the circle and secretly taps any one participant on the back. The chosen member is the tiger, while the rest of the group are deer. When the moderator gives the signal, all members start walking around inside the circle.
The deer have to try and guess who the tiger is. If anyone makes a wrong guess they will have to move out. Meanwhile the tiger can kill any deer by looking into their eyes and blinking. Any deer who gets blinked at, has to quietly fall to the ground.
In the next round, moderator can choose more than one tiger without telling the others. Sit back and enjoy the confusion that ensues.
Nature Vistas Form small groups. The moderator calls out any landscape or creature from nature. All groups have to arrange themselves in a form that depicts the landscape or creature. The moderator does a reverse countdown: 10, 9, 8,…1
On the count of 1 all groups have to freeze and hold still.
When the moderator points at any group, they add movement to the formation that has been created. For example: If they made a cow, then the cow has to move when the moderator points to them. If they created a rainforest, then the group brings the rainforest to life.
Lake Dance Form pairs. One person from each pair becomes a silent still lake, and mirrors the actions of the partner. Reflect not just the actions but also the emotions.
Switch roles between the partners after a few minutes.
Prey and Predator This activity is also done in pairs. Choose any prey and predator from nature.
Each pair has to create a one minute performance – revealing the prey first, then the predator and finally the confrontation between the prey and predator.
Life’s Journey Create small groups of 4-5 people. One person in each group becomes the sound for the team. Together the group has to pick up any species in nature and depict its entire life-journey in 2 minutes. The performers can move but not speak. The voice person can narrate the story or add sound effects.
Dance of Stillness End the walk by giving each participant 5 minutes of quiet time in nature. Ask them to observe the dance of nature. Notice not just the things which are moving but also the movement within stillness. Imagine the flow of water pulsing within trees. Imagine the blood coursing in our body. Imagine the Earth moving through space. And imagine the river of time carrying us all. Every atom in the universe is in motion.
At the end of the quiet time, there can be a closing circle for participants to share any insights or experiences from the Joy Walk.
Joy Walk: Movement, Mind, Nature
53 years ago Marian Chace began using dance to help severely disturbed psychiatric patients in a Washington hospital. Her pioneering work and teaching lay the groundwork for the field of movement therapy, which its practitioners define as the guided use of movement to bring about changes in feeling, cognition, physical functioning and behaviour.
“There is a misconception that movement therapists work just with the body. In fact, they work through the body to make the unconscious available.”
~ Jean Seibel
By combining Movement and Nature we are able to amplify the benefits of both. The latest research has shown that connecting with Nature has a wide variety of benefits for our mind, body, and relationship skills. You can learn more about it through the charming Japanese practice of Forest Bathing.
Given the limited time we get to spend outdoors, this Joy walk can help you bring about a range of positive changes. It allows people of different age groups to come together for a joyful experience – creating happiness, wisdom, and growth.
Let us know what you think of the Joy Walk. We rely on you to helps us spread the joy. Please share this page with friends who might find it useful.
Healing Forest is a volunteer driven project that aims to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
Peace walk introduces you to a novel concept that creates calm through nature and images. Learn how to add a few mindful activities to your walk, creating moments of tranquility and peace. It also offers a simple way to grow harmony and understanding between friends and family.
Peace is a strange bird. The more you look for it, the harder it is to find.
As a species we have evolved in nature. Therefore, returning to nature affects our mind, body and mood in many positive ways. For our peace walk, we will utilise the cameras in our smart phone to train our mind as well as create a highly memorable experience.
Our phones are usually the reason for our fragmented attention spans and many people are hooked to their screens. Let’s see if we can turn our device of distraction into a mode of meditation, and in the process break our screen addictions.
This walk is part of our free Nature Play programme of 12 magical walks. Every month we share new activities to learn highly useful life skills from nature.
You can only take 1 picture per exercise. It’s not about taking the perfect picture. It’s about capturing the emotion you feel in that moment. Try and carry out the exercise in silence – allowing space for each person to find their special moment.
At the end of each exercise, there is a circle of sharing in small groups of 5 or less. Participants share the pictures they have taken as well as any insights or learning that might occur.
Why does the mindful photography walk work? This walk works by engaging the creative side of our mind. Photography helps us bring our attention to the present moment. By restricting the number of photos one can take, we become more mindful of our thoughts and emotions. The different activity themes have been carefully chosen. They help us observe the wonders of nature and find wonderful insights that we can apply to our lives. Finally, the act of sharing after each activity turns individual experience into a collective experience.
Peace Walk Activities
Up Close In the first round, participants are asked to take a close-up shot of something beautiful in nature. Close-ups help us observe and appreciate the tiny wonders that are often overlooked. They fill our mind with wonder and awe and make us more open to experiencing the many gifts of nature.
Slow In the next section ask people to take a picture that captures the essence of the word ‘Slow’. The aim is not just to take a picture but also slow down your own pace. Slow down your thoughts. Open your senses so that you can be in sync with the rhythm of nature.
Contrast In the next round we capture one image that represents ‘Contrast’ in nature. Try to avoid cliche of ‘Life and Death’. Look for an unusual example of contrasts as you will find that nature abounds in contrasts – so does our mind.
Patterns Look for interesting patterns in nature. Capture a beautiful pattern that calls out to you. Reflect on the patterns in our own life, as we are part of nature too. In the sharing session at the end of this section, participants can also share something about their personal patterns.
The Invisible Photograph Participants are asked to capture something invisible. It is an open-ended prompt and all interpretations are welcome. This activity lays importance on the idea behind the image and noticing the emotion captured in the photograph. The art of making the invisible visible, is also an unusual way of observing how our mind works.
The Mind Camera End your walk by asking participants to put away their phones. Simply walk in silence and create a mental snapshot of the forest in your head. A memorable image that you would like to carry back with you. Participants end the walk with a closing circle and talk about the image in their head. This simple activity will expand your calm to a whole new level.
Peace Walk Take-aways
Some of the key take aways from this walk are that we get to learn the stories behind the images. Through the stories we are able to get a glimpse into our own minds as well as the minds of others.
The peace walk creates a wonderful connection with others when it is done in groups. The peaceful ambience of nature combined with the creative activity brings people closer to each other.
Finally, we understand that the best image one can take is not with a camera, but with the mind. The ability to carry a peaceful image in our mind is a priceless gift. It’s because we can turn to it whenever we need it the most.
Each walk is unique. There are many other interesting insights that your walks will generate. Feel free to share them with us in the comments.
Peace Walk Experiment
Let’s try a learning experiment. Please share this page with friends who might enjoy the exercise but may not be in the same city as you. Ask them to send you 5 pictures from the activities above. As a group you can then create a whatsapp / zoom call for sharing the stories behind your images and theirs.
It’s a great way to see pictures of nature from different parts of the planet, and to create a unique sharing experience where we learn and grow with each other.
You can also post pictures and insights from your Peace Walk on our Facebook group. Use the hash tag #peacewalk and #healingforest. A few lucky contributors will get a surprise gift from us.
END NOTE: If you haven’t already, do join our Nature Play Walks to get ideas for new walks each month. The next walk focuses on how to create joy through movement and nature.
Healing Forest is run by volunteers. We bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
Let us learn how to weave stories in nature and grow our creative side. Discover some beautiful ideas to create a story walk in your neighbourhood and make use of those stories to create new connections – with each other as well as with nature.
The Story Walk is part of our Nature Play initiative: a monthly program for parents, teachers, and their tormentors.
In a thought provoking talk by Sir Ken Robinson, he talks about the role of creativity in our lives. He says, “Nobody has a clue despite all the expertise, what the world will look like in the future. And yet, we’re meant to be educating for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
This article has a collection of creative prompts that introduce you to the basic principles of story-telling and show you a simple format for inventing engaging short stories. Tap into your imagination with these ideas and see what stories find their way into your mind.
“Seeds of stories, can create a forest of friends”
Story Walk – Activities
A story walk session typically takes about 60~90 minutes. It is suitable for all age groups and creates more delightful results when people of different ages participate together.
Give around 15 minutes for each activity – 10 minutes for exploring, walking, writing and 5 minutes for sharing the stories. If there are a large number of participants, create smaller groups of 5 or less for sharing. Smaller groups create more meaningful engagements.
Any safe space in nature works for a story walk. Make pairs to create responsibility and manage the group better. At the end of each activity, have pre-decided meeting points for sharing stories from that section. These ideas are mere suggestions. Feel free to make your own. Stay creative.
GROUP STORY: Each person adds a line to create a story. Alternate people add positive and negative twists. E.g: Person a> Boy falls into a ditch Person b> He finds a diamond… Person c> But a magpie steal it from his hand…..and so on. * One of the simplest principles of creating good stories is to add twists and turns. A good story is seldom predictable. Just like nature.
HEROES & VILLAINS: Take a short nature walk. Find or create ‘Hero and Villain’ pairs. E.g: Flower and thorn | Light and shadow. * Creating opposites, creates interesting characters. And all characters are defined by their relationship to each other. Observe nature deeply and you will find struggle and conflict but also co-operation and companionship.
ONE LINE STORY: Create a story in one line. The story should have a hero and a villain. (The villain can even be a challenging situation in life) E.g: The crow liked to sing, but had no audience. * Sometimes one can feel creatively challenged or stuck. One line stories are like tiny seeds that can grow into a huge tree over time. Learning to create one line stories gives you the ability to understand the heart of a story.
TREE STORY: Find an interesting tree and tell its story. (Maximum 3 lines) * There is a story hidden in every object of nature. By observing nature through all our senses, we can learn how to bring these invisible stories to life. And telling stories from nature is a wonderful way of deepening our relationship with it.
TURNING POINTS: Divide into pairs. Tell each other two turning points from your own life-story. One bad, one good. * Humans are part of nature too. And like everything else, each one of us carries our own unique story. Sharing the turning points of life helps us give a brief window to others about our journey through time.
FUTURE STORY: Use your imagination to travel into the future. Write a story from the future for your present self. * This closing exercise allows participants to spend some solo time in nature. Reflecting on Time in nature is a humbling and meditative experience. The gift of storytelling helps us connect with our present self and imagine new possibilities for the future.
Here’s a short summary of the story activities in a handy poster that you can save for use later. Feel free to add more ideas for the ‘Story Walk’ in the comments section, so that others can learn and experiment with them later. Do add stories from your walks to our Facebook group and check out some amazing forest stories from around the world.
How Story Walks Enhance Creativity
“We know two things about intelligence. One, it’s diverse. We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinaesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement. Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.” ~Sir Ken Robinson
Nature provides space for imaginative play. The focus is on learning through experience. Because all our senses are engaged, learning in nature is more long lasting.The brain gets a boost from the elements of nature, and interactions with others. It leads to increased confidence and creativity, resulting in enhanced problem solving skills. However, the biggest benefit that comes from Story walks is the unhindered flow of ideas. The stories you write are seeds that can create a forest of friends.
Story Walk: Closure + Contest
Our minds have extraordinary capacities, and creativity enables us to face the many challenges of an uncertain future. In fact it is the creative people who will be responsible for shaping the future we step into.
Earth needs more storytellers and stories from nature, so that we can raise awareness about the unprecedented change that is facing our planet. We hope you will get a chance to try out the story walk. Add your stories to our Facebook group – ‘Art of Nature’ and a few participants will get a surprise gift from us. Download the Story Walk poster here.
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How can we grow our mind with nature? Let us introduce you to Mind Play walks, with activities that boost your attention span, observation, imagination, and emotional intelligence.
Just like we nourish our body with food, we can develop our mind through the play of our senses. It’s because the things we sense affects the things we think, feel, and learn. With the help of nature outside, we get a chance to understand our own inner nature and expand our mind.
This post is part of our Nature Play Walks, where we share some unique ideas each month to grow your mind with nature.
Here’s a wonderful Native American story about an Indian chief and his grandson. The Chief says, “A fight is going on inside my mind. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil – he is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, false pride, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, kindness, humility, and compassion. This same fight is going on inside of you, and inside every other person too.”
The grandson thinks about it for a minute and asks his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old chief replies, “The one you feed.”
Mind Play Walk
UNITS: These activities have the greatest effect when done in small groups. As you head out into nature, it’s best to create pairs and give them responsibility for each other. Furthermore, create small units of 6~8 people (3 or 4 pairs in a unit). This will not only make the walk more manageable, but also create better sharing and bonding between the smaller units.
Start with a short 10 minute walk in nature. Go slow. Talk less. Feel more.
Mind Play: One Thing
Stand in a circle. The group leader shares 1 thing in nature which is bringing them calm. All participants try and sense that 1 thing in silence for 30 seconds. Repeat the process with the next participant, until the circle is complete.
Insight: This exercise helps us calm down, and be present to nature. Sharing our sense with each other grows our awareness and enriches our experience of nature.
Mind Play: Who Am I
Participants take a short 10 minute walk in nature. Each person finds something in nature which represents them as a person. Regroup after the walk to share your object and why you chose it.
Insight: This activity helps us get to know each other better and the values we hold dear. It is also a good way of seeing yourself reflected in nature.
Mind Play: Game of Imagination
Place all the objects collected in the last round in the center of a circle. Pick up any object from the pile and ask group members to use their imagination to turn this object into something else. For e.g: A long stick can become a flying broom, or a microphone stand or a paddle for a boat. Participants can’t name the new object but have to enact it out. The others try and guess what the object is being turned into. See how many different things one object can become, before moving on to the next one.
Mind Play: I Spy
This is a game to sharpen your observation, focus, and attention. As the group walks in nature, the leader finds something unique or interesting and calls out its name by saying “I spy a …(name of object – e.g mushroom / owl / blue flower). The first member in the group to spot the object, becomes the lead and gets to call out the next interesting object.
Mind Play: Connections
This is the last activity for the group and is linked to the ‘Who Am I‘ activity. Everyone stands in a circle, with members who chose object that are most similar standing next to each other in a cluster. So people who chose to be some kind of tree or plant will stand next to each other as a small group. In the second stage, those who don’t have any partner will try and find a connection with another person or group that is related to their nature object. For example – birds can join the trees. The clouds can join the rivers. Participants declare their connection before merging into a larger group. The cycle repeats until there is only one big group left. End the activity with a group hug.
Insight: To grow in life, one has to form connections with others. Those who are similar to us as well as those who are different. This activity teaches us about the interconnectedness of life and we learn how to create meaningful connections with others.
All of us are different. But we share the same home – our Earth. And all life is deeply connected to each other. That is the secret. We are all part of Nature’s Play.
These mind play ideas not only help us create meaningful walks, but when the insights gained from the walk are applied to our lives they help us create a meaningful world.
Mind Play Walks: Closure
Keep a small note book or journal where you can pen down your thoughts and insights after the walk. Journaling is a very important part of the learning process. It helps us preserve the experience and strengthens our growth. The notebook allows us to revisit the reflections, so that one can relive the experience of the nature walk. It also gives us a source of ideas and insights that we can turn to, in our time of need. Do share your insights in the comments or on our Facebook group. It will transform your individual learning into our collective learning.
If you haven’t already, do join our Nature Play Walks to get an update on the next walk which focuses on creativity and nature art. Please post pictures and stories from your mind play walk on our Facebook group. A few lucky winners will get a surprise gift.
Healing Forest is a volunteer driven project that aims to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. Please share this post so it reaches those who will find it useful.
Art is fire. Art is water. Art is earth. Here’s a list of 10 amazing nature artists that have immersed their lives in creating art for nature, from nature. Through their work we find new connections to the world outside and new ways of connecting to the nature within.
This list is not a ranking. It is a curation of works of inspiration. We have covered a wide range of nature artists who work with different elements – rocks, ice, sand, sound, forest, flowers, and even light.
10 Nature Artists
Like bees spread pollen from the flowers, we hope you will be captivated by their works and share their art with a wider world. It will go a long way in bringing more people closer to nature. Which in itself is one of the main intentions of these artists for nature. Please feel free to add to the list of nature artists in the comments section below.
Simon Beck is a British snow artist and a former cartographer. Referred to as the world’s first snow artist, he is primarily known for his landscape drawings and sculptures created from snow and sand.
Tomás Sánchez is a Cuban painter. Best known for his detailed and idealized nature scenes, his work is characterized by its contemporary interpretation of landscape painting.
Kilian Schönberger is a professional photographer & geographer from Germany. He has a form of colour blindness which he uses as a strength – given the difficulty of distinguishing certain tones, he concentrates on pattern and structure.
Jonna Jinton is a self taught artist based in north Sweden. Her art reflects this dreamlike landscape and its subtle changes during the four seasons. More importantly, it speaks of a unique way of living which is in harmony with nature.
Mary Jane Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019) was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is inspired by nature, rather than the human world, stemming from her lifelong passion for solitary walks in the wild.
Montreal-based fashion designer Raku Inoue designs gorgeous life forms with fresh flower petals, blooms, and leaves blending natural inspirations with creative art.
In a mix of artistry, geometry, and technology, San Francisco-based Earthscape artist Andres Amador creates massive sketches in the beach sand – sometimes geometric, and sometimes more abstract and serendipitous – using rakes and ropes. The designs are temporary; where the waves don’t wash away his work, walking beach visitors and the wind will naturally muddy and dissolve the precise lines.
James Brunt is an English artist who creates beautiful land art using natural objects in his home county, Yorkshire. The artist’s works will leave you with a feeling of serenity and calmness and after seeing them, you’ll want to try your hand at it yourself. Here’s his code for creating art with nature.
Ellie Davies is a London based multimedia artist. She spent 7 years in forests of the UK slightly altering them to give a more fairy tale feel. The layers of meaning that man puts on nature is her passion and her work is supposed to evoke thoughts in that direction.
Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton collects sounds from around the world. He’s recorded inside Sitka spruce logs in the Pacific Northwest, thunder in the Kalahari Desert, and dawn breaking across six continents. An attentive listener, he says silence is an endangered species on the verge of extinction. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound but an absence of noise.
Artists For Nature
We hope you enjoyed this small collection of nature artists and a glimpse of their art. Feel free to grow the list by adding nature artists that have inspired you in the comments below.
Now more than ever, we need to get people out of their screens and homes to experience the gifts of our Earth. There is an urgent need for action to create a healthy society, and a healthy planet. And artists have a unique role to play in the process. Just as we have a role in spreading their art.
Healing Forest is a volunteer driven project that aims to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. To get inspiring new ideas once a month, you can join our free newsletter.
Amazing ideas to create your own nature art: Nature Play