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 by Picasso

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. A true 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.

To get useful new ideas once a month join our free newsletter. Our monthly posts help you discover uplifting activities and beautiful nature spaces from around the world.

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

Reflections Walk

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.

Download link of poster given at the end.

“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.

Life’s Most Useful Skills
>>Nature Play

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.

If you haven’t already, you can join our Nature Inspiration Newsletter to get new ideas and inspiration each month. To collect more walks and many other tools, 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.

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.

How to create walks that create change.
Nature Play >>

Peace Walk Rules

  • 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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Story Walk – Creativity Through Nature

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”

~ healingforest.org

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.

Story Walk
*Poster download link at the end of the article.

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.

Please share this post so it reaches those who will find it useful.

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 their closed cubes to experience the gifts of our Earth. This will give energy to the action we need, 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, join our treasure hunt.

What can the wisdom of birds teach us about creating a life filled with joy, spontaneity, and song?

The latest research into bird intelligence leads to a fascinating conclusion: birds are thinkers. Not only are they capable of abstract thought, but they can also communicate with humans, solve problems, and experience complex emotions like grief.

In this post we explore remarkable insights from a variety of birds, through the voices of scientists, artists, seekers and bird lovers. You will also find helpful bird games that people of all age groups can enjoy and find enriching. And don’t miss the bird meditation as well as the wonderful forest gift at the very end.

Eat, Play, Nest: Wisdom of Birds

Lower your binoculars. See any bird or person in the full context of their being, feathers or skin. We all share the same air, same water, same earth, and same fate in the end.

~J. Drew Lanham
References for this blog post:

The Bird Way (2020) and The Genius of Birds (2016) by Jennifer Ackerman | Bird Meditation by Helen Macdonald, naturalist and author of H is for Hawk, and Vesper Flights | Bird Activities from Handbook of Bird educators by early-bird.in | Film by ND / healingforest

1. Bird Wisdom: Play is therapeutic

Ravens are highly playful birds. Birdwatchers around the world have seen them flying away with sticks, which they drop and then catch again. They also surf down pebbled river banks, and on roofs with loose tiles. Scientists struggle to explain such behavior. Play, after all, requires energy that could instead be used for growing or hunting. It’s also risky. If you’re surfing on pebbles down a river bank, you’re unlikely to spot predators like wolves or eagles. 

In the late nineteenth century, the German philosopher Karl Groos wrote a book called The Play of Animals. In it, he argued that play allows animals to hone vital life skills like hunting and fighting. Though this assertion is yet to be proven, Groos’s theory is still popular among scientists. 

There may be another explanation for why ravens play. Simply put: it’s pleasurable. When ravens play, their brains release dopamine – a chemical associated with sensations of pleasure. This suggests that, for them, play may well be a reward in itself. And that makes sense, considering the fact that ravens have been observed to forgo food if it means more playtime!

Activity: Bird Charades
Each participant picks a favourite bird or picks up a bird name from a bowl. They then come up one by one and enact the name without speaking, while others try to guess the name. Once guessed the bird name is appended to the participant’s name.
The advanced level of this game is done by trying to guess the bird just by enacting the mannerisms of the bird – the way it flies, eats, or moves on the ground.

2. Bird Wisdom: Learn the songs of life

The way birds learn to sing is similar to the way people learn languages. Just like human babies, birds are highly receptive to any sound and have the capacity to learn and imitate what they hear. But as a bird is exposed to the songs of its own species, it focuses on them and the songs of other species fade away. Well, except for mockingbirds, that is. Mockingbirds rather impressively hold on to this receptivity, which means they can absorb more and more songs over the course of their lives, which they in turn imitate.

As humans, we often limit our hearing to our own species. And even within that, many people tend to focus on words and opinions that match their own beliefs. How can we learn to expand our listening to include those whose voices are different from ours? Perhaps the birds can help.

Bird Activity: An exercise in listening
Different species of birds make different kinds of sounds. The sounds also vary based on the situation and what the birds are communicating. Try this activity to get an idea of how varied vocalisation from a single bird species can be.

Pick a bird and follow it for as long as you can. Listen carefully to the kinds of sounds it makes.Try to represent the sounds in writing (e.g., ‘caw’ and ‘krrr’ are two crow sounds). Describe the situation in which the bird is making this sound (is there a predator around, is it preening itself, is it nesting season, etc ).

Write down a library of sounds made by that species (scientists called this a ‘repertoire’). Remember that males and females (if you can distinguish them) may have different repertoires. From your observations, are different sounds made in different situations? What could they mean?

Why do birds sing most at dawn? It happens universally, but even after thousands of years of witnessing this phenomenon we don’t know why. We cannot ask other species to explain themselves, since it is not language we share with the birds. It is music. Music does not exist to be decoded. We and the birds exist to make it. Make it together and the whole world feels its power, its joy.

~ David Rothenberg, Musician and philosopher

3. Bird Wisdom: Add a little art to life

A 1995 study on pigeons, conducted by Shigeru Watanabe, found that the birds could pick out a Monet and a Picasso from a group of similar paintings.

If someone told you that birds are capable of making art, you’d probably laugh. But some male birds actually do create beautiful displays to attract mates. For instance, while all birds make nests, some of them make far more elaborate structures. Just take the satin bowerbird, which, rather than merely building a nest, makes a bower. He begins by building walls with twigs of the appropriate size, placed in the correct places. Then he decorates the newly constructed walls with a variety of objects and flowers.

 A female, when she arrives, examines the male’s bower and, if she’s interested, sticks around while the male dances to win her affection. This is a high-stakes situation because most males fail and only a small number of them mate with many different females. As a result, only the most impressive bower will do.

Bird Activity: Design a Nest
The nests of birds are vital to their persistence. Yet bird nests are sometimes directly targeted by people (e.g. through hunting) or are indirectly destroyed when tree branches are cut or entire trees brought down. This activity involves trying to build a bird nest on your own. You can start by noticing different kinds of nests, and begin to appreciate the hard work involved in nest building.

Collect natural materials like grass, twigs, and leaves that you think birds use to build nests. Then, using these materials in any way you choose, construct nests that could hold eggs. The resultant nests should be strong and intact. You can test it out by putting some pebbles in it.

4. Bird Wisdom: Wisdom grows when you work in groups

Lots of birds use found objects in a variety of useful ways. For instance, burrowing owls scatter dung around their nests to attract tasty dung beetles, while African gray parrots use sticks to scratch their backs. And if it wasn’t impressive enough that some birds use tools, the New Caledonian crow actually makes them. This species of crow trims the branches off twigs to make long, straight sticks that they use to access hard-to-reach places. They even make hooked tools to catch insect larvae. This is a big deal because humans are the only other species that makes hooked tools; even chimps don’t make such sophisticated implements. But their greatest intelligence comes from social interactions.

Birds have social intelligence showing signs of empathy. For example, geese often fly in v-shaped formations which helps the younger and weaker members of the flock in flight. Rooks console each other after a fight with what strongly resembles kissing. And western scrub jays often flock to the place where their group members die.

So, birds are socially aware as well as smart, and social interaction might actually be the reason for their intelligence. After all, living in and maintaining a society requires intelligence and effort, as a brief glance at our own social problems makes clear. Some scientists think that social interactions are a primary reason for intelligence among animals – birds included.

Activity: Bird Orchestra
The group is divided into 4 or 5 teams. Each team thinks of the call of a bird that they are able to sing themselves. One of the participants acts as the conductor of the orchestra. When the conductor points at a team, that team sings the bird call that they had chosen. The conductor can designate both start and stop gestures, and by gesturing at different groups in turn, can create a ‘symphony’ of bird songs. Participants take it in turn to act as the conductor.

5. Bird Wisdom: Every bird holds a message.

The beauty of the human mind lies in our ability to learn through observation. Mediation is the practice of fixing our attention on something that can help us grow our awareness and understanding of life.

Here is a beautiful meditative insight by Helen Macdonald on the vesper flight of swifts.

Swifts mate on the wing. And while young martins and swallows return to their nests after their first flights, young swifts do not. As soon as they tip themselves free of the nest hole, they start flying, and they will not stop flying for two or three years, bathing in rain, feeding on airborne insects, winnowing fast and low to scoop fat mouthfuls of water from lakes and rivers.

Swifts have, of late, become my fable of community, teaching us about how to make right decisions in the face of oncoming bad weather. They aren’t always cresting the atmospheric boundary layer at dizzying heights; most of the time they are living below it in thick and complicated air. That’s where they feed and mate and bathe and drink and are. But to find out about the important things that will affect their lives, they must go higher to survey the wider scene, and there communicate with others about the larger forces impinging on their realm.

Not all of us need to make that climb, just as many swifts eschew their vesper flights because they are occupied with eggs and young — but surely some of us are required, by dint of flourishing life and the well-being of us all, to look clearly at the things that are so easily obscured by the everyday. To take time to see the things we need to set our courses toward or against; the things we need to think about to know what we should do next. To trust in careful observation and expertise, in its sharing for the common good.

When I read the news and grieve, my mind has more than once turned to vesper flights, to the strength and purpose that can arise from the collaboration of numberless frail and multitudinous souls. If only we could have seen the clouds that sat like dark rubble on our own horizon for what they were; if only we could have worked together to communicate the urgency of what they would become.

Activity: Bird Meditation
Which is your favourite bird? What life lesson have you learnt from them? Add your thoughts in the comments section, so that individual learning can turn into a collective one.

6. Bird Wisdom: Don’t forget to dance

To experience the power of dance try the our JOY WALK – a unique experience filled with fun activities that show you how to tap nature and movement to make the invisible, visible.

Don’t forget to join our free monthly mailer. Get uplifting new ideas that help you and your loved ones grow in life.

A Forest Gift

The wonderful folks at early-bird.in have just released a free handbook for bird enthusiasts and educators. It is a curation of multiple ideas, activities, projects, games and overall best practices that can be carried out by one or few educators, over short durations of time, and at little or no cost. It has been conceived especially for those who feel limited by their lack of knowledge, or do not know where to begin in connecting children with nature and the endlessly fascinating world of birds. You can download a pdf version of the book at this link.

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.

Request: Please share this post so it reaches those who might find it helpful. 

Forest Bathing is not only about connecting to the nature that is beyond us, it is also about recognising that we are fully enmeshed in and as nature” ~ Ben Page.

This month we have a guest post by Ben Page, author of the recently published book ‘Healing Trees – A Pocket Guide to Forest Bathing‘. In this post Ben offers mindful insights to connect with the nature within. Also included are 3 meditative invitations based on the elements of nature. These ideas serve as useful pointers to navigate the complexity of our inner world through simple walks wearing the shoes of our imagination.

Ben’s Journey into Forest Bathing

There are many stories I can tell about the beginning of this journey. Somehow, they are all interrelated. But today I’d like to tell you about the time when I was invited to train as a forest therapy guide.

I had just finished a 24 hour solo fast in the Inyo mountains as part of a program I was doing with the School of Lost Borders. It was a beautiful experience, laying beneath an ocean of stars that yielded to a brilliant sunrise and a slow wander among ancient bristlecone pines. Thinking back on it now, it almost feels like a dream.

When the group returned across the threshold, we descended the mountain to break the fast and it was there that a man tapped me on the should and said, “I want to show you something.” He invited me to close my eyes, took me by the shoulders, and lead me about 20 steps before inviting me to open my eyes again.

When I did, my nose was about a centimeter from a large tree that stood not far from where I had been sitting. I had been aware it was there, of course, but in that moment, I saw the tree in a new way. I remember the details of the bark being somehow arresting, like when you spot a rainbow and you just have to stop and watch and everything else in life seems to melt away. It was so simple and yet it was anything but simple. It was a paradox. How could I have missed something so sublime, only 20 steps away?

Next thing I know, this man who tapped me on the shoulder, Amos Clifford, asked me to take this training he’s offering. It sounds strange and I’ve never heard of what he called ‘Forest Therapy’ but there was something about the moment of opening my eyes and seeing that tree that lingered in me, called to me, spoke to me in a language that was familiar but I couldn’t remember. Perhaps the tree woke me up?

Forest of Calm – Pic by Dan A Cardoza

Our Inner Nature

Lately I’ve been quite captivated by the nature that is my body. As I deepen into witnessing it, I become aware that this body is not my own but is truly an ecosystem that houses many elements and beings. Furthermore, it is a porous ecosystem. Matter comes in, matter transforms and matter comes out; this is quite literally happening all the time. What is happening below the surface of my skin is a dynamic ecology that exists whether I am aware of it or not. It does not require me to know that it is there, nor does it care what I think of it. It’s fascinating to dig down into this strange relationship with myself, understanding that I am not simply me, this ‘Ben Page’ character, but I am also fully identified as Earth itself.

When I speak to people about this, we invariably arrive at this question of defining what we refer to as ‘inner nature.’ Most people hear these words and think that their inner nature has something to do with their character, with their psychological experience of being. They think that their inner nature has something to do with who they are. But in my experience, the inner nature has absolutely nothing to do with who I am, and everything to do with what I am. I wrote the following passage for the course I am currently teaching:

‘The inner nature that lives within us is difficult (if not impossible) to describe. It is something that can only be felt, something that can only be understood in the moment that it is animated within our hearts. It is a part of us that does not need to prove anything, nor does it need to compete for love. It is a part of us that is always at home in the world, that always belongs and cannot be separated. It is a part of us that is not properly “ours” but exists as a vast interconnecting energy that moves through all things. Perhaps we do not have individual, unique, personal “inner natures,” but instead experience the inner nature as an expression of our belongingness in and to the world. It is specifically because our inner nature cannot be possessed or contained individually that it can exist completely outside the ego.

One way of understanding our inner nature is that it is our sense of aliveness. It is something as humble and ordinary as breathing or gazing at the stars or holding a child in your arms. It is not abstractly meaningful in such a way that it could impress someone who was interested only in becoming heroic. Our aliveness is new in every moment and it defines our interconnectedness with the world. It blurs the lines between what we think of as “ourselves” and what we think of as “the world.” It is the art of simply being.

We embody this aliveness whenever we experience reality beyond the story of the ego, beyond the desire to make such a feeling “about us”. Such aliveness represents our most unapologetic, spontaneous, and ordinary selves and it is what we might call our ecological identity. Unlike our egoic identity, it is not built of ideas, but of the instantaneous, emergent experience of being alive. It is this part of ourselves that participates in the moment, the part of us that is enmeshed in relationships beyond our stories about them. It is the part of us that loves with such force that we forget who we are. Whenever we experience such aliveness immediately and directly, it is through our inner nature, not through our egos.

Among the beings of nature, the clouds, the waterfalls, the stones, animals and fungi, there is no need to become special. Everything knows that it has its place, with no compulsion to be anything more than what it is. In nature, there is no striving. Everything relaxes into simply being ordinary. In nature, all beings belong by the grace of their interconnectedness and not because they have done something heroic to earn it. In this aesthetic experience, we are called to remember that we can be like this as well.’

I wonder about this a lot. What does it mean to be nature, to be ecological? I find that my ego, the character of Ben-Page, really wants being ecological to be a story about it. But the more I sit in nature, just simply being, the more I am convinced that being nature isn’t a story about me. The inner nature is not mine; it is everything. So being ecological is not a process of self-discovery, it’s a process of letting go of the need to define myself only in human terms. Instead of seeing my nature as being about my individuality, I am learning to see my ecological identity as something intersubjective, a sense of selfhood that is informed by an infinite web of relationships. And it’s scary at first, because one worries that having this kind of experience might destroy the ego or that one could fall down the rabbit hole and never come back. There’s a sense of fear that makes us want to cling to ourselves more tightly than before. Yet, if we employ a gentle approach, we can always come back. The point is not to destroy the story of who we are, there is no destination that we strive to reach which would confer the inner nature upon us.

This destination is reached before a single step is ever taken. All we must do is remember how to relax into being a part of the places we find ourselves in. It’s happening all the time, this unfolding ecological experience; we are just too preoccupied with what it means or how it relates to our ego stories to see it spontaneously emerge. The inner nature is an aesthetic experience; what it looks like here, what it sounds like, what it tastes like, what it feels like, what it smells like and what it evokes in us. That’s the thing about living art. It’s not about grasping it; it is about experiencing it in full immediacy and then letting go just as quickly because there’s always something new in every single moment. Perhaps that is the expression of aliveness that is only possible through the inner nature?

Sunset Sky – Pic by Nick Sheerbart

Nature Embodiment Invitations

These invitations are crafted to invite you into a world without separation. Allow them to move through your body without effort; relaxation is the key.

Exploring ourselves as sky

As you stand, notice what it feels like to breathe. Notice the sensations in each moment as you inhale and exhale. Perhaps hold your hands against your rib cage or your stomach; what does this relationship between body, breath and air feel like? I wonder where this air has been before it has met you here in this moment? I wonder what beings this air has been a part of before it was a part of you? I wonder where you begin and the world ends? As you sit, notice what it feels like to breathe.

Loving ourselves as water

As you sit, notice what it feels like to have a heart. Perhaps placing your hands upon your chest, simply noticing that an ocean is always running through you. With each beat of your heart, the waves recede and advance upon every shore. Where has this water been before it was in your body? What other forms has it taken along its journey? Perhaps clouds, or glaciers or tidepools at the edge of the sea? As you sit, notice what it is like to have a beating heart.

Moving ourselves as earth

As you wander, notice what it feels like to be in your body. Notice that you are made up of interconnected bones and muscles and tendons. With every step, notice what it feels like to be in motion, how every movement ripples through the body. As you move, perhaps also notice that every moment you make is connected to the movement of the world around you; nothing moves in isolation and you are a always a participant in the dance of the world. As you wander, notice what it feels like to be in your body.

Ben Page Bio:

Ben Page is a Forest Therapy Guide, global advocate for the practice and the author of Healing Trees: A Pocket Guide to Forest Bathing. He is the founder of Shinrin Yoku LA and Integral Forest Bathing and has been guiding Forest Therapy walks since 2015. During his tenure as a trainer and mentor of guides, Ben has trained hundreds of guides around the world. From 2017-2020, he also served as the Director of Training for the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs, specializing in curriculum and pedagogical design. Since his practice began, Ben has been featured in such publications as Women’s Health, USA TODAY, Good Morning America, The Washington Post, and WebMD. Ben is also a co-founder of The Open School, Southern California’s only free democratic school. He holds a B.A. in religious studies from Carleton College and an M.A. in human development and social change from Pacific Oaks College.

A note about the book:
This book is intended as an easy approach to forest bathing, a concept that is now making its way into health and wellness practices. Part spiritual guide and part practitioner’s handbook, this accessible, practical, positivity-rich book is designed to be taken on every walk to encourage mindfulness, contentedness, and presence in the moment.

For information on Ben’s work, including books, courses and audio meditations, check out his website. Get a free gift when you sign up for the mailing list! https://www.integralforestbathing.com
Link to the book: Healing Trees – A pocket guide to forest bathing.

All relationships in life go through cycles and seasons. Whether we are creating new relationships or nurturing the ones we have. Whether we are mending them or ending them, we need a reliable way to navigate through the ups and downs.

Empathy is the glue for all relationships. By definition empathy is the ability to understand the emotion in others and to be able to imagine how they are feeling. But if we look deeper, we understand this quality of empathy is one of the critical factors that gives shape to the nature our relationships.

Empathy promotes helpful behavior in times of need and encourages us to expand our concept of self. Empathizing with others is also a way of managing our own emotions and training our mind to prepare itself for challenges.

So how do you learn and teach empathy through nature? In this article we will show you an engaging way, by taking a mindful walk through nature. All you need is a notebook to pen down your observations or a camera to capture your findings. We will also take nature’s help to answer some important questions – Why is empathy important for us? What role did it play in our evolution? How do we expand our empathy to influence our lives as individuals, as a community and finally as a species?


The 3 key values of a mindful nature walk are  going slow, being silent, and using our senses to connect with nature. Through these simple rules we can tap into the wisdom of nature outside by observing its intricate workings. This leads to deep insights which create a new understanding in our mind and helps us grow our inner nature.

The empathy walk is divided into 10-minute sections and each section starts with a simple ask. You are supposed to look for something specific in nature while you are walking. Once you find it, you can take a photograph or write about it. At the end of the 10-minute walk, participants gather in a circle and share their findings and any specific memory or insight that was triggered by their observation.

*For larger groups, the sharing circle can be divided into smaller groups of 3 or 4 participants each. Each person gets a minute or 2 to share. After the short sharing session, the next task is disclosed and the group continues its walk. At the end of the walk, after the final task there is a closing circle, where all the participants can share their insights and experiences if they wish. This is a nice way to turn individual learning into a collective learning.


When people are sharing we must learn to listen like a tree – silently and without any judgements. Often when people are sharing a difficult experience, what they are seeking is for someone to be present to their experience. The intention is to feel less alone in it, and thus lessen the intensity of it. When you listen to someone and assure them of your non-judgmental presence, you are communicating to them that they are not alone, that we are in this together, that this experience is shared and they do not have to suffer alone.

The Eight Master Lessons of Nature by Gary Ferguson | The Age of Empathy by Frans De Waal


Given below are the list of asks that we recommend. Also included are some nature insights that can add value and new learning to your walks. Feel free to  add / edit / modify these asks to suit your environment as well as group interests.

This empathy walk is suitable for all age groups. It can be especially helpful for teaching the concept to kids and to younger audience. However, it is equally effective for folks who wish to deepen their enquiry of the Self.

1. STRUGGLE: Find an example of struggle in nature.

From the moment we’re born, we need nurturing, human connection and empathy in order to survive. It’s simply a biological imperative. As mammals, it’s critical that we receive maternal care. This initial bond is so important that it continues to reverberate through our lives as we get older.

In many species, the eldest creatures in a community are responsible for showing younger members crucial skills for survival. A wonderful example of this can be seen in the African Elephants. The elephants in the savannah are led by the eldest females of the herd. They protect the young with their large tusks and tap their impressive memories to locate hidden watering holes. In larger groups of elephants, when one dies, its herd gathers together, gently touching trunks in what appears to be a grieving ritual.

Poachers hunting mature elephants leave many herds without any elder leadership. Scientists have observed that these packs with no grandparents are often less cohesive, more aggressive, and generally less able to thrive.

By observing different examples of struggle in nature, we can reflect on how in the journey of our own life, we have encountered different struggles. It is also a moment to observe that no life in nature is free from challenges and struggles. And in some ways we can say that struggle is the mother of empathy.

Pic By: Nam Anh
2. GRATITUDE: Find an example of something that creates gratitude in you.

While empathy is generally associated with feeling the other’s hurt or loss, it can be an equally powerful bond in expressions of fulfilment and gratitude. After a dry spell, when the first rain arrives the entire forest celebrates. Creating small moments of gratitude provides encouragement and support to move through difficult times.

The Work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I only have gratitude, I may become saccharine and not develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible.

~ Francis Weller

Imagine a mighty oak tree – how does it survive? It relies on soil and sunlight and also on other organisms. Deep underground, its roots are entangled with mycorrhizal fungi. The tree provides the fungi nutrients and in return, it receives essential elements like nitrogen and phosphorus. But the connections don’t end there. Through the rhizomatic network of fungi underground, a whole forest of trees can actually communicate with each other. Trees struggling to grow can send chemical signals asking for help and, through the fungi, thriving oaks can deliver needed nourishment.

Humans are not separate from this web of life. Trees emit antimicrobial compounds called phytoncides. Walk through the forest and you’ll inhale these beneficial compounds which can boost your immune system. This rich system of mutual support recalls the concept of ubuntu. This notion, from the Nguni people of southern Africa, describes how humans can only flourish through sharing and empathy. No one is truly a “rugged individual,” we only survive when we all care for each other.

3. INTERCONNECTEDNESS: Find an example of unity in diversity.

Hike through the unspoiled wilderness in the springtime and you’ll come upon an amazing sight. In the fertile valleys between the peaks are meadows brimming with wildflowers. Importantly, there’s not just one species. The colorful display can include many different species. In our wilderness, we find geraniums, buttercups, paintbrushes, bluebells, and dozens of other blossoms. Why such a wide array? Well, each has its own strength. If there’s a drought, those with deep roots will endure. If there’s a blight, those with immunity will pull through. The surviving species will in turn keep the ecosystem going until the others have a chance to recover when conditions change. Essentially, variety is nature’s safety net.

As humans we have the ability to extend our empathy to encompass a large variety of beings. By learning to expand our level of awareness and circle of observation we become aware of different people and creatures in our lives that may be in need.

Empathy also plays a role in cooperation. One needs to pay close attention to the activities and goals of others to cooperate effectively. A lioness needs to notice quickly when other lionesses go into hunting mode, so that she can join them and contribute to the pride’s success. A male chimpanzee needs to pay attention to his buddy’s rivalries and skirmishes with others so that he can help out whenever needed, thus ensuring the political success of their partnership. Effective cooperation requires being exquisitely in tune with the emotional states and goals of others.

4. KINDNESS: Find an example of support and kindness in nature.

Empathy helps to create more effective teams. As a whole, the team is only as strong as our weakest team member. When one of our team members faces a setback, it is important that the team works to reach out, support and care for them until they are ready to fly again. By supporting the weaker members, the teams set a culture of belonging and strong sense of community. The herd instinct plays a vital role in the bonding experienced by both humans and animals.

Empathy in action: If you look up at the birds flying in the sky, you might notice that many flocks fly in a V-shape formation. There is an interesting reason for this formation.

Flying takes a lot of energy. The strong flapping of wings creates an updraft in the air around the bird’s wingtips. Birds which fly slightly behind the first bird take advantage of this updraft and have to spend lesser energy to fly. When the leading bird gets tired, it drops back in formation and another bird moves to the front. For long migratory flights the youngest and weakest birds are put at the back of the V formation to make the flights easier for them. In fact, one study found that geese can increase their range by 70% on long migratory flights using this technique.

Pic by Nicole Geri
5. HEALING: Find an example of something that is healing for you.

Empaths are highly tuned in and sensitive to the emotions of others, they often have a natural ability to absorb emotional energies around them and transform them into more healthy, positive forms through their expression of love, compassion, forgiveness and understanding. Feeling other people’s pain and anguish compels us to alleviate it – not just for the other person, but also for ourselves, so that we no longer feel its torment.

This process of transformation is frequently exhausting and depleting for the empath. When we spend too much emotional, mental and physical energy while caring for someone else, it results in an empathy burn-out. During this experience, we tend to suddenly withdraw our attention and become dispirited towards the ones we care about the most. Under the weight of our own exhaustion, we feel numb or unaffected, emptied of all energy, vitality and feelings.

In order for us to preserve our capacity for empathy for others, we need to establish healthy boundaries for ourselves, so that we can continue to respond to the feelings of others without being engulfed by them.


Some simple things to keep in mind are:

  1. Set aside time to recharge yourself. During this time, you allow yourself to walk away from your caregiving task, and instead engage in activities of self-care that you find replenishing. An excellent idea is to go for a Healing Forest walk or try Forest Bathing.
  2. Understand that you do not have all the answers. If you put on yourself the burden of having a solution to every problem that arises, you will burn out quickly. Be confident that you will help where you can, but when you don’t know how, that’s okay. Someone else can step in with those answers.
  3. Tell yourself that whatever you are doing is good enough. You do not need to be great. An acceptance of your capacity and its limits is more healthy than setting up unrealistic expectations from yourself which lead to a sense of failure and guilt.
  4. You might feel that setting boundaries for showing empathy may seem selfish. However, it is important to bear in mind that in wanting people to heal, ultimately we want to foster their ability to do so on their own. Setting boundaries while being lovingly available to the other helps not just in recovery but also in building their sense of self-reliance.

Reference 1, 2

Download link for the empathy walk poster.


Empathy is one of the fundamental life skills that needs to be mastered in these complex times. In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected, empathy helps us expand and grow our relationships. Empathy is also the lifeblood that helps us nurture and sustain those relationships.

The most important take-away from the nature walk is the fact that our empathy is not restricted to just other human beings. It has to expand itself to include other species and our environment as well. As technology advances, it is bringing different cultures closer in contact with each other. And the actions of humans are influencing our global environment at a remarkable pace. Last year, an intergovernmental panel of scientists said one million animal and plant species were now threatened with extinction. And global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68%, on average, between 1970 and 2016 (Source BBC).

Therefore, it has become critical to grow our levels of empathy as a community, as well as a species. Unless we focus on learning and teaching empathy through nature, we cannot hope to create a fruitful relationship with our future.

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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.

Request: Please share this post so it reaches those who might find it helpful. 

Pic by Elena Vell / FB

Have you ever experienced the joy of swimming in wild waters? Water, which is the cradle of life on earth and carries within each molecule the memory of time itself.

It’s a mystery how the world became awash in it. But one prevailing theory says that water originated on our planet from ice specks floating in a cosmic cloud before our sun was set ablaze, more than 4.6 billion years ago. As much as half of all the water on Earth may have come from that interstellar gas. That means the same liquid we drink and that fills the oceans may be millions of years older than the solar system itself. Source: New York Times Article

As we move into Summer, this week’s article covers two beautiful short films. One from Scotland and the other from the neighbouring Faroe Islands. Through the inspiring stories of a few wild water swimmers we touch upon the rejuvenating and healing benefits of water.

Well Preserved

There is no better way to start the day than an early morning sea swim. It is physical, mental, spiritual, communal – all wrapped up in a simple dip in the sea. A group of women, who call themselves the ‘Morning Swimmers of Sandagerði’, brave the icy waters of the North Atlantic, along the coastline of the Faroe Islands, for their morning dip in the ocean. They go in every day of the year, sunshine or snow, unless a storm roughs up the water too much. And for them it is as much about connection and friendship as it is about exercise and invigoration. A film by Green Renaissance:

Health Benefits of Swimming

For The Brain:

Regular exercise, such as swimming, improves memory function and thinking skills. This is good not only for kids and adults, but it is beneficial for us as we age too. Regular exercise reduces inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, which fosters new brain cell growth. Swimming also improves mood, anxiety, and stress, which increases the brain’s ability to think more efficiently.

For The Body:

Why is swimming good for our physical health ? Here’s a list of some benefits:

  • Keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off your body
  • Builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs
  • Tones muscles and builds strength
  • Provides an all-over body workout
  • Improving coordination, balance and posture
  • Improving flexibility
  • Providing good low-impact therapy for some injuries and conditions

For the Mind:

Water and mind have a very delicate link. The element of water has always been associated with feelings of peace and serenity. Many meditation, mindfulness, and forest bathing practices incorporate the soothing effects of water to focus and calm down overactive minds.

The act of immersing oneself in water is a way of reconnecting with something timeless within us. After all, the majority of our body is made up of water.

*According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, 60% of the human adult body is water. The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.


Hydrotherapy is a story of adaptation, strength & re-wilding set in the raw and beautiful landscapes of Snowdonia National park. Laura the protagonist has not only overcome a life changing illness through wild swimming, but has also found a greater connection to the natural world. This has ignited her mission to make a stand for the natural environment, and protect wild waters and wild spaces across the UK.

Directed by Fin and Jack Davies Produced by Lewis Smith. Shot by Josh Williams and Jack Davies. Sound Design & Music by Paddy Henchman. Colour by Fin Davies. ‘A Friction Collective production featuring Laura Owen Sanderson’.

Find out more about Laura’s incredible research & environmental projects on Instagram at @weswimwild

10 Ways To Be Wild And Safe

  • Never swim in canals, urban rivers, stagnant lakes or reedy shallows
  • Never swim in flood water and be cautious of water quality during droughts
  • Keep cuts and wounds covered with waterproof plasters if you are concerned
  • Avoid contact with blue–green algae
  • Never swim alone and keep a constant watch on weak swimmers
  • Never jump into water you have not thoroughly checked for depth and obstructions
  • Always make sure you know how you will get out before you get in
  • Don’t get too cold – warm up with exercise and warm clothes before and after a swim
  • Wear footwear if you can
  • Watch out for boats on any navigable river. Wear a coloured swim hat so you can be seen

There’s more about wild swimming safety here | Cover photo by Jake Johnson


Healing Forest is a 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.

Request: Please share this post so it reaches those who might find it helpful.  And here is a meditative water poem for you before you go.

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