Healing Ways

Nature Calm – Finding Peace In Difficult Times

Nature Calm

Nature Calm offers simple ways to still your mind and recenter your spirit so that you may deal better with challenges, because finding peace in difficult times is never easy. In this article we will learn from wise masters, established teachers and some poetic seekers. We have collected some exceptional meditations that take inspiration from Nature. The cloud, tree, forest, river, ocean, desert, and mountain can all show you the path of finding your calm.

The very nature of life is to move through cycles of ups and downs. No matter how much we try to predict or control our paths, we are bound to encounter the unexpected. 

With the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus, people across the world are going through testing times. There is uncertainty, anxiety, suffering and loss. Amidst all this, there is also a big need for hope and resilience. Each one of us has to navigate our own journey through this storm. What we can do, is take nature’s help in finding our inner strength and peace. We can grow an awareness that this phase will not last forever. The rainbow at the end of the storm is waiting for us. 

7 Ways To Still Your Mind

Mountain Calm

Nature Calm Poem
pic by: Daniel Leone

The following excerpt has been taken from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mountain Meditation.

Allow the body to be still and sit with a sense of dignity, a sense of resolve, a sense of being complete, whole, in this very moment, with your posture reflecting this sense of wholeness. 

As you sit here, let an image form in your mind’s eye, of the most magnificent or beautiful mountain you know or have seen or can imagine…, let it gradually come into greater focus… and even if it doesn’t come as a visual image, allowing the sense of this mountain and feeling its overall shape, its lofty peak or peaks high in the sky, the large base rooted in the bedrock of the earth’s crust, it’s steep or gently sloping sides… 

Notice how massive it is, how solid, how unmoving, how beautiful, whether from a far or up close…

By becoming the mountain in our meditation practice, we can link up with its strength and stability and adopt them for our own. We can use its energies to support our energy to encounter each moment with mindfulness and equanimity and clarity.

It may help us to see that our thoughts and feelings, our preoccupations, our emotional storms and crises, even the things that happen to us are very much like the weather on the mountain. We tend to take it all personally, but its strongest characteristic is impersonal. 

The weather of our own lives is not be ignored or denied, it is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in awareness… And in holding it in this way, we come to know a deeper silence and stillness and wisdom. 

Mountains have this to teach us and much more if we can let it in.

Cloud Meditation

The freedom of an ever moving, ever changing cloud represents the freedom of spirit. One that is not fixed or attached to things that hold us down. Watch this meditative short film from the ‘Valley of Clouds’ and reflect on the cloud within you.

Forest Calm

One way of interpreting the word ‘Forest’ is to see it as a place ‘for rest‘. In this beautiful poem ‘Sleeping in the Forest’ by Mary Oliver, we find respite from a weary world and return to a place of deep calm.

I thought the earth remembered me,
She took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, as they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
~ Mary Oliver

pic by: Katriina Kilpi

Tree Song

Listening to the song of trees is one of the most calming sounds in nature. The wind in the leaves and birds in the branches can slow down the movement of time and fill your heart with joy.

You can create your own tree song at this link.
https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/primevalEuropeanForestSoundscapeGenerator.php

This soundscape has been recorded in the Bieszczady National Park — one of the few remaining primeval forests in Europe. Bieszczady is located at the extreme south-east corner of Poland, bordering Slovakia and Ukraine. The park and its surroundings are part of the wider UNESCO East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, an area of land where the woods are mostly natural.

The bird sounds as well as the other animal sounds were recorded by hiding recorders in the forest and leaving them running for 24-hours continuously, without any human presence.

pic by: Gert Boers

River Story

Fable: Two giants were about to get into an epic battle. Everyone was nervous and yet there was a thrill in the air. One of the giants was immovable and had stood his ground for centuries. He was made of solid rock and no one had been able to make him move from his place. The other giant was crafty and nimble. She could twist and turn and had never been still. No one had been able to stop her yet. 

In a frozen moment of great tension the two giants collided. There was a loud roar that echoed into space. The river pounded with all its force, but the mountain stood his ground. The river’s current was strong, but it had to find ways to flow around and carry on. After watching with great interest the spectators decided that the rock giant was stronger and went to congratulate it. But the mountain was surprised and retorted angrily ‘Can’t you see I am losing?’ 

In a battle that rages till this day, the River Colorado manages to cut through the Grand Canyon forming one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world.

Insight: Perseverance can move mountains. The way of water is stronger than the way of the rock.

Amazing fact: The Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration

I would love to live
like a river flows,
carried by the surprise
of its own unfolding.

~John O’Donohue
pic by: Ivan Bandura

Ocean Poem

The vastness of the ocean is often daunting, for one is always cautious of the unknown. In this wonderful poem by Khalil Gibran we find a metaphor of the river and ocean for overcoming our fears.

It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.
~ by Khalil Gibran

pic by: John Fowler

Desert Meditation

Many people perceive the desert as a harsh and difficult place to live in. But ecologists know that deserts have their own unique ecosystem and many species live and thrive in the desert.

Philosophically speaking, the desert represents emptiness. To meditate on the desert is to meditate on emptiness. It is to go beyond the clutter of thoughts and emotions and to find the vast open space within us.

In following passage from Jack Kornfield’s book ‘A Path With Heart’, he introduces us to the Buddhist concept of healing through emptiness.

“The last aspect of mindful healing is awareness of the universal laws that govern life. Central to it is an understanding of emptiness. We experience it when we see that our existence is transitory, that our body, heart, and mind arise out of the changing web of life, where nothing is disconnected or separate.

The deepest experiences in meditation lead us to an intimate awareness of life’s essential openness and emptiness, of its ever-changing nature, of its nature as an unstoppable process. And it can open us to the great mystery of life, to the discovery of the emptiness and wholeness that we are and our fundamental unity with all things.”

GIFT OF NATURE CALM

There are many scientific reasons for the calming effect of nature on our minds. Check out this link by Mental Floss to get a list of major benefits. But the most important phenomenon of connecting with nature is a growth in our understanding of the laws of nature that weave through all creation.

The coronavirus has shown us that the fate of our species is linked with each other, irrespective of borders and religion. It is time to grow our humanity, come together as a species and lend our support to those in need because we are all connected. There are no others.  

As the world enters a lockdown and our forays into nature become limited, we can still find solace and connection with nature through creative works, meditations and most importantly through each other.

Please add any creative work from nature that has brought you immense calm in the comments section below. We will share it with our large audience base on Facebook.

May the calm of nature always be with you.

End Note

To get a monthly newsletter with new ideas please sign up at this link.  If you enjoyed this post, do check out our Nature Connect course with over 100+ mindful nature activities and meditations from around the world.

Please share this article with friends who might find it helpful.

Regulating Emotions – Tips from Nature

If you could change one thing to transform your life what would it be? What if it was your own mind? Learning to train your mind starts with learning to regulate your emotions. It’s because they affect your thoughts, your choices and also the people you attract into your lives.

Our emotions design our experience of life.

Managing our emotions and moods is one of the most difficult but essential skills in life. Those who can achieve it know the secret of leading richer lives with greater success, harmony and more fulfilling relationships.

*During the pandemic, a lot of people are going through a sea of emotions. In these testing times, maintaining our mental balance is as important as protecting our physical health. Through this article we share some helpful tips. If you find them useful, please share them forward. And feel free to add your thoughts and ideas in the comments to grow our collective knowledge.

Remember, just like the virus, our moods are also contagious. Let’s learn how to spread some calm and hope.

WHAT IS EMOTIONAL REGULATION?

Emotional regulation is the ability to handle both the highs and lows of emotions. Generally speaking, the extremes of any emotion can have an adverse effect on us. Therefore, we need to become aware of our emotional environment. And because our emotions are constantly changing, we can learn to transform them, change their intensity and also choose how we react to them.

Going through the circus of life we often encounter situations and people that completely throw our mood off. Anger, sadness, anxiety and other bad moods are like uninvited guests. By taking up our head space, they take away our freedom and pull us down. Understanding how emotions work can show us how to train the mind and transform those bad moods even if you can’t avoid them.

The emotional center of our brain – the limbic system, is an open loop system. An open-loop system depends on external sources to manage itself. In simpler terms, we rely a lot on our environment and connections with other people to determine our moods. We have evolved in this way because it increases our chances of survival. It helps humans form relationships, protect and care for their loved ones and also find environments that were safe to live in and thrive in.

Even though the open loop is so much a part of our lives, we usually don’t notice the process. So how can we use this to our advantage? The link between our inner nature and outer nature gives us a wonderful tool to shape our emotions.

The format that we cover in this post is based on the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing. It is a well researched and highly effective practice and has a host of other benefits besides helping you regulate your emotions.
* Forest Bathing Introduction | Forest Therapy in Japan

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS?

There are many ways to train the mind to control your emotions, but with nature it’s really easy. It’s because, our mind has evolved in nature. In this post we will cover 5 stages of learning to control your emotions. The stages help you progress steadily and create a longer lasting effect.

Emotional skills are part of our genetic code, and each one of us has a certain mood that we are more prone to. However, experience also plays a big role in how our personality develops. The more we act a certain way—be it happy, depressed, or cranky—the more the behaviour becomes ingrained in our brain circuitry, and the more we will continue to feel and act that way.

1. The Forest – Knowing what’s possible

Go for a nature walk. Focus on your strongest sense and find something in nature that brings you deep calm. Stay with that emotion as long as you can. Later when you are at home, sit in a quiet space and try to recreate the same emotion by visualising your moment in nature. Practicing this exercise helps us recreate emotions we can fall back on when the need arises.

The basic practice of learning to control our emotions begins with observing, accepting and transforming. Many behaviour change programs include Mindfulness as part of the process. By adding nature to mindfulness we can make it far more engaging and effective.

Emotions are absorbed in the body in about six seconds. Each burst of emotion chemicals, from the time it’s produced in the hypothalamus to the time it’s completely broken down and absorbed, lasts about six seconds. If we’re feeling something for longer than six seconds, we are – at some level – choosing to recreate and refuel those feelings. Recognizing what emotion we are feeling, evaluating its purpose, and deciding whether to recreate it, is what emotional intelligence is all about. (source)

2. The Storms – Knowing yourself

Knowing what triggers you will help you in being better prepared. Make a list of people, situations and environments that affect you negatively. Also knowing how you affect others will show you areas that need improvement. Talk to family, friends and colleagues. Take feedback.

Our moods are like the weather – they can create a climate of trust, creativity and growth, or they can spread dark clouds of stress, fear and anxiety. Practice becoming aware of the links between what’s happening around you and what’s happening inside you.

A good mood leads to a good day.

According to scientists, there are 8 primary emotions: joy, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, disgust, acceptance, anticipation. Other important emotions, like ‘love’ are a complex combination of some of these primary emotions. These permutation and combinations give our mind its emotional richness. In nature we work with the emotions of awe and wonder to create joy, serenity, love and even compassion.

3. The Path – Creating an action plan

The effects of nature work in a dose curve. The more time you spend in nature, the better it is for you. Depending on your need and situation, you can design an action plan for lifting your mood when you are down.

Identify special places in nature you have access to. Find landscapes, elements, and activities in nature that you enjoy. It could be sitting next to a stream, lying on the grass, reading under a tree or walking barefoot. Know what works for you and build a plan for training your mind. The deeper your nature experience is, the stronger its effect.

When you are in nature, focus on all your senses. Soak in the sights, sounds and smells. Taste the freshness and feel the textures. Our senses work at a subconscious level. They also help in bringing your awareness to the present moment. Negative thoughts are easier to quell when we bring our attention to a pleasing sensation.

When you are in nature shift from thinking to sensing, and from sensing to simply being.

*For some beautiful ideas, try our Nature Connect course, with a collection of over 100 creative and mindful activities to find your calm.

4. The Cycles – Keeping momentum

Nature works in rhythm… birdsong in the morning, phases of the moon, and cycle of seasons. Interestingly, so does our mind. Create a habit of adding nature into your life. Whether it is the daily ritual spent with your plants and pets, a weekly nature walk, an annual vacation in the forest. Build a rhythm into your life. It keeps you in a good mood and maintains your momentum.

Even if you can’t access nature, simple acts of watching clouds fly by, listening to bird song, feeling the breeze on your skin and many other small ideas can keep you connected to nature.

Creating a momentum helps you break deep rooted emotional patterns which may be difficult to get rid of.

5. The Friends – Creating a community

Our moods affect our relationships deeply. Therefore, community is the most important aspect of your mind training. Remember, our moods are linked to the moods of people in our lives.

Go for a silent nature walk with those you wish to build a deeper connect with. Let nature do all the talking. Close bonds can form between people who allow each other their own space and yet share a beautiful experience together.

Everyone knows the importance of emotional intelligence in life. Most successful people, teams and families have a high level of emotional intelligence. What people don’t realise is that the foundation of this intelligence comes from the ability to regulate emotions. Emotions in ourselves as well as others.

THE EMOTIONS

Our emotions are deeply linked to hormone levels, cardiovascular functions, sleep rhythms, and even immune functions in the body. And strong emotions can even alter these in the body of another. It’s a phenomenon called mood contagion.

Research in intensive care units has shown, for example, that the comforting presence of another person not only lowers the patient’s blood pressure but also slows the secretion of fatty acids that block arteries. Another study found that three or more incidents of intense stress within a year (for example, serious financial trouble, being fired, or a divorce) triples the death rate in socially isolated middle-aged men, but it has no impact on the death rate of men with many close relationships. (Source)

So you see, our emotional health is linked to our mental health, physical health as well as social health.

Changing your mood changes your experience of life.

Creating a deep connection with nature is like growing roots that will keep us stable and anchored in stormy situations. And during calmer times, they will nourish the very essence of our being, helping us enrich other people’s lives with our presence.

May the forest calm always be with you.

We live in a complex world, facing challenges big and small each day. The twists and turns of life affect us in many ways. Therefore, learning to take control of our own wellbeing is an important skill. Discover how to find peace, purpose and good health with the help of nature. We share the best ideas and practices from around the world. Subscribe to our blog for a monthly newsletter with new ideas.

Please share this post with people who might find it helpful.

10 Earth Wonders from Space

Our Earth is full of wonders that fill us with awe, inspiration and humility. From far above in space where all illusions of boundary blur, one can truly admire the beauty of this planet that we call home. In this post we cover 10 fascinating features of our planet seen from high up in space. These images are made possible by Google Earth’s new studio programme which allows you to experience any corner of the world from the comfort of your home.

We may be in lockdown, but that should not stop us from exploring. Happy Earth Day 2020!

WORLD’S OLDEST DESERT

NAMIB DESERT
The Namib, at 55 million years old, is the world’s most ancient desert, as well as being one of the driest. Rainfall varies from 85mm in the west to just 2mm in the east – but the area is often covered by a thick fog, which allows plants and animals to survive thanks to the dew it creates. Another source of water are the rivers. Although the beds seem to be almost always parched, there is permanent water flow underground which creates linear “oases” on the surface.

“Namib” is the Nama word for “vast” – and this desert, stretching for 1,600km along Namibia’s coast, is certainly the embodiment of vastness.

WORLD’S LARGEST RAINFOREST

AMAZON FOREST
The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world and provides 20% of Earth’s oxygen. It is also known as the ‘Lungs of the planet’.

The Amazon is estimated to have 16,000 tree species and 390 billion individual trees. The rainforest is thought to have over 2.5 million species of insects. More than half the species in the Amazon rainforest are thought to live in the canopy. It shelters 10% of the world’s known biodiversity. One in five of all species of bird and fish live in the Amazon.

Around 400-500 indigenous American-indian tribes live in the Amazon rainforest. Around 50 of them have their own language and culture and have never had contact with the outer world. They are nomadic hunters and gatherers and constantly need to move around.

WORLD’S HIGHEST MOUNTAIN

MT. EVEREST
Nepalese call The Mount Everest as Sagarmatha which means ‘forehead in the sky’ and Tibetan call it Chomolungma which means ‘mother of the World’.

The height of Mount Everest is 29,029 feet or 8,848 Metres. According to one survey conducted, the height of Mt Everest increases every year by 4mm. This happens due to the collision of the Indian-Australian and the Eurasian plates.

The top of Mt. Everest is engulfed by the jet stream for a major part of the year, making climbing near impossible due to high winds and extreme sub zero temperatures. It is only when the winds die down in May and again for a short period in September, that we have a so called ‘Summit Window’, when conditions are safe enough for climbers to try and reach the summit.

WORLD’S LONGEST RIVER

RIVER NILE
Found in northeast Africa, the Nile is the longest river in the world – stretching a massive 6,695km!

The Nile has been an important source of life for people throughout history. Around 5,000 years ago, the Ancient Egyptians relied on the Nile for fresh water, food and transportation. This fascinating river remains an invaluable source of life for Egyptians to this day. More than 95% of the country’s population depend on its water and live within a few miles of the river banks.

And it’s not just important for humans – the river and its banks are home to lots of wonderful wildlife, too – including different kinds of fish and birds, as well as turtles, snakes, hippos and one of our planet’s largest reptiles… the Nile crocodile!

WORLD’S LARGEST ISLAND

GREENLAND
Greenland is one of the biggest places in the world, and yet very little of it is known to the outside world. Greenland is actually the world’s biggest island – by area – that is not a continent. The total area of Greenland is 2.16 million square kilometres (836,330 square miles), including other offshore islands.

Almost 80 percent of the land mass is covered by an ice cap. The ice-free area may be a minority, but it’s still around the size of Sweden. With a population of 56,480 (2017 estimate), it is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.

According to scientists, Greenland was actually quite green more than 2.5 million years ago. A new study reveals that ancient dirt was cryogenically frozen for millions of years underneath about 2 miles of ice.

WORLD’S LARGEST INLAND WATERBODY

CASPIAN SEA
The Caspian Sea or Mazandaran Sea is a landlocked sea between Asia and Europe (European Russia). It is the world’s largest inland body of water, with a surface area of 371,000 km² (143,000 sq. mi.), and therefore has characteristics common to both seas and lakes. It is often listed as the world’s largest lake, though it is not a freshwater one.

The Volga River (about 80% of the inflow) and the Ural River discharge into the Caspian Sea, but it is endorheic, i.e. there is no natural outflow (other than by evaporation). Thus the Caspian ecosystem is a closed basin, with its own sea level history that is independent of the eustatic level of the world’s oceans. The Caspian became landlocked about 5.5 million years ago. The level of the Caspian has fallen and risen, often rapidly, many times over the centuries.

WORLD’S LARGEST DELTA

SUNDERBAN DELTA
Sundarbans delta has got the world’s largest coastal mangrove forest (an area of about 10,000 km2, with enormous beauty shared between India (4,000 km2) and Bangladesh (6,000 km2 ). Sundarban Jungle has been named after the large mangrove trees Sundari (Heritiera littoralis) found here.

The interconnected network of waterways in Sundarbans makes almost every corner of the forest accessible by ferries and boats. Sundarban has unique tidal phenomenon twice a day – there are high tides when water level seems to rise around 6-10 feet and low tides when one can see the huge mud land area lying flat. Sundarbans is also home to the royal bengal tiger and has been designated as a national park to protect this majestic but endangered species.

WORLD’S HIGHEST ACTIVE VOLCANO

MAUNA LOA
Mauna Loa is the world’s largest and one of its most active volcanoes – a giant shield volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Mauna Loa has probably been erupting for at least 700,000 years, and may have emerged above sea level about 400,000 years ago. The oldest-known dated rocks are not older than 200,000 years. The volcano’s magma comes from the Hawaii hotspot, which has been responsible for the creation of the Hawaiian island chain over tens of millions of years.

WORLD’S LARGEST CANYON

GRAND CANYON
Grand Canyon is a chasm 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, with an average depth of about one mile. It took 3-6 million years to form and the erosion continues to alter its contour even today. It was formed by the Colorado River, which flows west through the canyon and averages about 300 feet width, 100 feet in depth and flows at an average speed of four miles per hour.

The surround environment hosts approximately 70 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 25 types of reptiles and five species of amphibians

PALE BLUE DOT

END NOTE
We hope you enjoyed this short exploration of our Earth and it has inspired you to check out Google Earth and the many amazing voyages it features. Exploring the world helps us know it better. And knowing the world can help us know our own role in nurturing it and protecting it.

To get a monthly newsletter with new ideas and articles please sign up at this linkDo pass on the inspiration and share this article with friends who might enjoy it.

Forest Theatre, Mindful Play in Nature

Forest theatre is a set of creative exercises and mindfulness based games to reconnect with nature and with yourself. In this article you will learn a range of interesting activities for nature play. The ideas have been carefully selected to suit all age-groups. In fact, it is a wonderful way to bring people from different backgrounds and ages together and make new friends.

With the increasing influence of technology in our lives, fewer time is being spent outdoors. The screens keep us hooked by creating easy rewards for the brain, and are slowly influencing our behaviour and lifestyle. These brain rewards create unhealthy habits which are extremely hard to break. It’s no wonder that obesity, anxiety, loneliness and many other lifestyle issues are on the rise. We desperately need a substitute for all the junk entertainment that is being fed into our brains.

Cartoon by Angel Boligan

Is there a simple way to unblock our minds and imagination so that we can move away from our old habits and create new ways of being? Perhaps with forest theatre you can choose a few moments to break free and learn to fly.

Benefits of Nature Play

The main benefits of nature play, besides having great fun and creating memorable moments is the positive effect on our observation and imagination. It builds our attention, and curiosity and will lead to higher self confidence, self awareness and self control. These may seem like simple things but as we shall see later in the article, they can make a big difference in overcoming addictions and breaking bad habits in life.

Forest theatre is a pathway to explore our inner selves by taking inspiration from nature. It is about learning with nature, in nature. And we all know, the best learning happens when it is fun.

Forest Theatre Rules

When you do theatre in any nature based setting, the one simple rule to follow for forest theatre which sets it apart from other theatre games is that in forest theatre only non-human nature sounds are allowed. You can choose to do all the activities in silence or pick up any sound in nature that you find interesting. e.g: wind, bird, cricket, bee. Except for the director or activity leaders all participants are only allowed to converse in their chosen nature sounds or through actions, for the entire duration of each activity.

Silent claps: At the end of each activity, even the applause is silent. We do this by raising both our hand in the air and shaking our fingers and palms like tree leaves on a windy day. This is an interesting way of bringing mindfulness to the theatre practise. It respects the soundscape of the performance space and integrates nature into your play.

Listen. Observe. Accept. Create. Enjoy.

A short film made after a nature play session

Forest Theatre Games

During the forest theatre games it is essential to create an atmosphere of trust and support. This is a space free of judgements and filled with acceptance. You are allowed to make mistakes, in fact in Forest Theatre there are no mistakes. Be spontaneous. In each activity, you can do the first thing that comes to your mind. You don’t have to edit yourself, as long as you are coming from a place of fun, love and respect.

And most importantly, remember we are playing together as a team and supporting each other. You don’t have to be clever or funny or make up jokes, just be true to yourself and do what comes naturally.

Nature Introduction
Ask the group this simple question “If you could be one thing in nature, what would you be? You can be anything you wish for – a cloud, a river, a butterfly, or whatever your mind can think of. Choose something that inspires you or something you relate to.”

The group stands in a circle and each person introduces themselves by enacting the one thing from nature that they would like to be. The others try and guess the nature object.

Creatures of the Deep
Everyone stands in a circle. The director does an impression of a creature from the deep to the person standing on his right side. They copy what they see to the next person on their right. Each person copies what they just saw, not the original, so they gradually change like Chinese whispers. The director keeps sending out loads of creatures (squid, octopus, shark, star fish and more) into the circle and they keep going around until they change and merge and underwater fun is had. Credit: HooplaImpro, London

Creative Object
Go for a silent walk in nature. Each person picks up any unusual or interesting object they find during the walk. At end of the walk all objects are placed in a small pile and everyone forms a circle around it. One by one the participants pick up any object from the pile and use creative visualisation 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. The others try and guess what the object is being turned into

Advanced: Repeat this exercise from the beginning, but add a new twist. When someone picks up an object and is enacting a novel use, another person from the group joins in and picking up another object from the pile builds upon the scene that is being created. This cycle is repeated in pairs. Any object which have been used once is not kept back in the central pile.

Super Advanced: In this round, one person starts with any object and begins the scene. Other people keeping joining in and adding to the scene by choosing other objects from the central pile. Go around the circle until all objects have been used up and all the people are part of the scene.

Volcano
Everyone is walking fast in a tight circle without crashing into each other. The director shouts out some object from nature and counts to 5 and everyone has to physically form that thing with each other before the director gets to 5. For instance “Volcano, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! Dinosaur, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!”. It is used to get everyone moving around and having fun and also accepting and building on each other’s ideas. Credit: Marc Rowland at Montreal Improv.

A variation of this game is to divide your group into 2 teams. Each of the teams form the same object to the count of 5. This is a good way to observe how the same object can be interpreted and created in different fun ways.

You could also try whispering a different object to teams of 3-5 people. The team members have to move themselves to depict the object. Each team gets a count of 10, but they cannot talk to each other. Once a team creates their object the others can try and guess what it is.

Fairy Tale in 3 Frames
Divide people into small groups. Each group has to think of a fairy tale they would like to portray. They can only depict three still frames from any portion of the fairy tale. You can include one sound and one action in each of the frames. All the groups get only 5 minutes to prepare. The 3 still frames from the fairytale are played out in quick succession, one after the other. Rest of the participants have to guess the fairytale after watching the 3 frames. This exercise is a good practice in learning how to build story structures and scenes. Once participants are comfortable with creating scenes, they can move on to creating a short skit. Credit: Rebekah Lin, Teng Zi Ying, Arts for Good Fellows, Singapore

Music Video / Nature Play
One of the joys of forest theatre is being able to create something for nature. In the last activity for our Nature Play walk, we divide the group in small teams of 3 or 5. All the teams are given 10 minutes time to prepare a 2 min. short skit on a nature based issue. They can take up any theme that interests them – water, wildlife, pollution or more. Members of the group can choose any character they wish and can use human language for this activity. Or if you wish to stick to the rules of forest theatre then ask each group to choose one narrator, while the other members can only act out the scenes.

Here’s an idea that works out beautifully. Create a 2 minute play with these 5 characters – Human, Planet Earth, Aliens, Non-human nature element and a Narrator

Forest Theatre

A Curious Way To Break Bad Habits

In this TED Talk, Psychiatrist Judson Brewer explains a simple way of using curiosity to break bad habits.

He says, “Mindfulness is about being really interested in getting close and personal with what’s actually happening in our bodies and minds from moment to moment. And this willingness to turn toward our experience rather than trying to make unpleasant cravings go away, is supported by curiosity, which is naturally rewarding.

What does curiosity feel like? It feels good. And what happens when we get curious? We start to notice that cravings are simply made up of body sensations — oh, there’s tightness, there’s tension, there’s restlessness — and that these body sensations come and go. In other words, when we get curious, we step out of our old, fear-based, reactive habit patterns, and we step into being.

One current hypothesis is that a region of the brain, called the posterior cingulate cortex, is activated not necessarily by craving itself but when we get caught up in it, when we get sucked in, and it takes us for a ride. In contrast, when we let go – step out of the process just by being curiously aware of what’s happening – this same brain region quiets down. This makes it easier for us to take a step back and not indulge in our habit leading to another nice brain reward.

Now, this might sound too simplistic to affect behaviour. But in one study, we found that mindfulness training was twice as good as gold standard therapy at helping people quit smoking. So it actually works. The next time you get a notification, instead of choosing to see the message and compulsively send a reply , — notice the urge, get curious, feel the joy of letting go and repeat.”

BONUS: More Forest Theatre Games

Meet and Greet
Another very nice introduction game: The group leader picks any class of species (e.g: mammals, birds, insects, reptiles etc.) and everyone walks around meeting and greeting each other by becoming a character from the chosen type of living beings. This exercise breaks the ice and gets people used to trying out different characters without thinking about it too much.

You can even choose a specific animal and everyone in the group has to turn into that animal and move around in the circle for a minute without touching each other. Some choices that work well are: Frogs, Mosquitoes, Humming birds. And the best one to quieten things is the slow moving Sloth.

Prey and Predator
The group forms a circular ring. Two people enter the ring. One person chooses to be any creature and begins to act like it. The other person has to guess what the creature is and turn into it’s predator. Then the drama between the prey and it’s predator plays out inside the ring. This game can be made even more interesting if one or two members standing in the ring are designated to give background music score to the entire drama. This game provides a very good opportunity to observe and discuss the balance in nature.

To Be A Tree
A very good closing exercise in Nature Play is a 3 minute silent act. Ask each person in the group to imagine to be their favourite tree. You can sway gently in the wind or sit still. Feel the sun on your face, the wind on your skin, the earth beneath your feet. Open your eyes and become aware of all the life around you. As an individual you may be a tree, but together we all become a forest.

The essence of theatre is freedom. Freedom to express oneself. Freedom to imagine. Freedom to choose whatever one wants to be. Our day-to-day life is bound by routines, habits and the daily grind. But through nature and through creativity we find a stage to release the chains of thought that bind us. We give ourselves a chance to be truly free.

END NOTE: We are creating a small community of forest friends who share a close connection with nature. The aim is to learn from each other and share our experiences from around the world. Please feel free to add your own mindful nature play ideas in the comments section below. To get a monthly newsletter with new learning please sign up at this link.

*This post is part of our learning program on nature arts, games, meditations from around the world. The course is free for all school teachers and is available on a pay-as-you-like basis. It is a great resource filled with multiple ideas that also cover the art and science behind healing through nature. Please share this article in your circles with friends who might find it helpful.

Forest Bathing – What, How, Where? A beginner’s guide

The state of our mind, designs the state of our life. In this post we look at the Japanese practice of Forest Bathing – a simple way to relax your mind, revitalise your body, and rediscover your Self. The article answers important questions about Forest Bathing, it’s principles and it’s practice. Fascinating insights from Japan as a society show us why forest bathing has become specially relevant in today’s turbulent times and how we can benefit from it.

WHAT IS FOREST BATHING?

Forest bathing is the practice of immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way, using your senses to derive a whole range of benefits for your physical, mental, emotional and social health. It is also known as Shinrin-yoku. ‘Shinrin’ means forest and ‘Yoku’ stands for bathing. The idea took birth in Japan in the 1980’s and proved to be a very effective tool to overcome the ill effects of a hectic life and stressful work environment.

Connecting with nature allows the stressed portions of your brain to relax. Positive hormones are released in the body. You feel less sad, angry and anxious. It helps to avoid stress and burnout, and aids in fighting depression and anxiety. Being in nature is known to boost immunity and leads to lesser days of illness as well as faster recovery from injury or surgery. Nature has a positive effect on our mind as well as body. It improves heart and lung health, and is known to increases focus, concentration and memory.

Certain trees like conifers also emit oils and compounds to safeguard themselves from microbes and pathogens. These molecules known as Phytoncides are good for our immunity too. Breathing in the forest air boosts the level of natural killer (NK) cells in our blood. NK cells are used in our body to fight infections, cancers and tumors.

An intangible outcome of nature connection is enhancement of emotional intelligence and self confidence which leads to improved relationships and better social health. Something that we know intuitively is now getting scientific proof and validation through research.

FOREST BATHING IN JAPAN

Japan, the island nation in the far east has a unique culture that has withstood the test of time. It is also a country that has been at the forefront of technological adoption and advancement and is counted among the most developed nations of the world. And yet this progress and development is not bereft of challenges.

Japan is known for one of the most demanding work environments in the world. In fact they have even coined a specific term for death by overwork (Karoshi). The performance pressure from jobs is so high, that there’s very little time left for a personal life. An interesting consequence of this culture is the fact that the marriage rates in Japan have fallen drastically in the last 30 years.

The urban cities of Japan have a hyper digital culture and a peculiar obsession with technology. In the age of internet many Japanese people are spending more time online and having fewer social interactions. It is leading to higher incidents of anxiety and stress. Depression and loneliness are also on the rise.

The country also lies on a seismic fault line, being prone to devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, such that the Japanese have had to face a disproportionate amount of trauma. In Japan, neuropsychiatric disorders are estimated to contribute to 24.6% of the overall burden of disease (WHO, 2008)

Fortunately, over 70% of Japan is still covered in forests. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries came up with the idea of shinrin yoku in the early eighties. Shinrin yoku stands for a forest bath, or enjoying the forest atmosphere in order to relax. Due to the relentless Japanese working culture, the stress levels of Japanese employees was running rampant already then and the forestry department saw a wonderful possibility that would benefit the stress levels of people and increase demand for forest cover needed by the forestry department. And so shinrin yoku was born.The Japanese, who were under the stress of competitive metropolitan life, were lured into the healing atmosphere of the forests to engage in different relaxing activities (Huusko, 2019).

JAPANESE FOREST BATHING – FOREST ZEN

There is something to be said about the central role that Zen Buddhism plays in Japan. Zen Buddhism encourages the practitioner to learn to gather one’s scattered mind and stabilise one´s attention so that it can be easier to see things more clearly and with a new perspective. When some space is created between our experiences and how we react to these experiences, we are able to respond with greater wisdom and care.

While traditionally, Buddhist monks in India, China and later in Japan, traversed long distances to meditate in nature, in the recent decades the phenomenon of headspace creation has become known as restoration in environmental psychology. The Restoration Theory (Kaplan, 1985) and its closely connected Stress Recovery Theory (Ulrich, 1991) state that our psychophysical recovery from stress starts within minutes of entering a green space. When the physical body has started to calm down – blood pressure stabilises, stress hormones in our blood decrease, muscle tension decreases – the mental health benefits also kick in. We start thinking more clearly, our feelings of vitality increase and our mood starts to lift. The urbanite can now exhale a sigh of relief, as the time needed in nature has been narrowed down to just 20 minutes a day in order to manage one´s mental health.

*For an in-depth article on the healing forests of Japan visit Katriina Kilpi’s article on Natureminded.

Meditation is difficult when you try, easy when you don’t.

The simple act of sitting and focusing on your breath can be quite difficult if you are not in the proper frame of mind. Keeping your thoughts in control or maintaining your awareness on one particular object is a very challenging task for beginners. A large number of people give up meditation due to a frustrating experience in their initial attempts. That’s why the role of a good teacher becomes so important in this journey of learning mindfulness and meditation.

However, when you are in nature it becomes easier to reach a peaceful state of mind. By paying attention to our senses and moving in the forest mindfully we can not only get all the benefits of meditation for our mind, but also boost our immunity and create good health for our body. It’s because we are guided by the greatest teacher of all – Nature.

BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION

Learn to switch off unwanted thoughts.
Feel less angry, anxious and sad.
Increase self worth and confidence.
Overcome fear, self doubt and a wavering mind.
Avoid stress and burnout.
Get better sleep and rest.
Strengthen the ability to control cravings, give up addictions.
Find peace and happiness in the present moment.
Build empathy. Improve relationships.
Find answers for important questions and decisions.

FOREST BATHING NEAR ME?

You can practise forest bathing in any safe nature space. The main principles are to go in silence and go slow. Use your senses to find things in nature that bring you peace and happiness. Through nature connection activities and sense exercises, you can alter your mood and energy levels resulting in a host of benefits. Recommended time for forest bathing is at-least 2 hours a week.

STAGES OF A FOREST MIND

Attention: Beginners and young children start with simple activities which focus on objects in nature to hold our attention and slow us down. By directing and controlling our attention we are training to control the direction of our thoughts and feelings.

Awareness: Once we are able to reach a calmer state of mind, we can grow our awareness. In the depths of the forest, one can sense the cycle of transformations that all life goes through. Things that we were. Things that we are yet to become. Just like a seed in the ground. Like a child in the womb. Growing our awareness is growing our connection to all life.

Answers: Our mind gets a much deserved rest so that it can apply itself with renewed energy and come up with surprisingly creative solutions. It begins to ask the right questions rather than simply seeking answers. The forest provides the light to spark new insights and learning which can give us a deeper understanding of life. It is the beginning of a journey into self discovery.

Not everyone has an access to a forest in their backyard. In fact most people who live and work in cities will have to travel a fair amount to get close to the woods. But nature is all around us. You can consider trying out the sense based exercises in any urban park near you.

For people who are unable to go our into the urban parks, or are restricted due to disability, the sense based nature therapy activities can be carried out even in the confines of the their house. Just bring elements of nature indoors. You can use your creativity to build the nature connection even in a closed enclosure.

Forest Bathing works best as a form of prevention and a way to retain a healthy mind and body. It is not a replacement for medical advice or counselling for those who are seriously ill. However under a trained therapist, Forest therapy can be an important part of their treatment as well as recovery. Many people keep coming back after one time “treatment” (Iwasaki, 2019).

Forest bathing has shown positive results across age-groups – from children to the elderly. It’s extremely helpful for parents as well as working professionals. As a company welfare program, forest bathing can be used for employee recreation, new employee training, and mental health management. However, as Prof. Dr. Iwao Uehara points out, it may not work for people who feel uncomfortable in the outdoor environment.

FOREST BATHING BENEFITS

Forest Bathing Benefits

Our mental health is a very precious gift. For most people, the real value of our mind only becomes clear when things fall apart. Once a person becomes affected by any mental health issue, the road to recovery can take a lot of time, effort and money. Finding the right help and guidance is not easy and on top of that there is still a lot of social stigma attached to mental disorders.

A large portion of the human evolution has taken place in nature. Nature connection is intrinsic to our behaviour, and is inscribed into our genetic code. It’s only during the last 200 years or so, that we have reduced our interaction with the outdoors. Going back to nature can bring us to a heightened state of sensory awareness and a feeling of alert calm. It is akin to a feeling of returning home and gives spontaneous rise to peace and happiness.

The story of Japan teaches us that material wealth and economic progress are not enough to create a healthy, happy life. To create health and happiness one needs to prioritise them over materialistic pursuits and actively work towards achieving a balanced life. And this whole process of giving form to a beautiful life, starts by listening to the state of your mind. After all, the state of your mind, designs the state of your life.

END NOTE: Please share this post with friends who might benefit from it.

We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link

*This post is part of our Nature Connect course with forest arts, games, meditations from Japan and other parts of the world. The course is free for all school teachers and is available on a pay-as-you-like basis. It is a great resource filled with multiple ideas that also cover the art and science behind healing through nature.

Nature Poem – Wild Soul

Here’s a nature poem from one of the wild places of our amazing planet. A short poem that urges you to come closer to nature and add some wildness to your soul.

In this short film we see the hidden beauty of the forests from the arctic circle of Sápmi also known as Lapland. A region from the northern parts of Finland, where very few people live. What secrets do these forests hold? And what can we learn from the people who call this land their home?

Covered in snow and cloaked by darkness, the forests of the north are sleeping for a large portion of the year. But when the short summer arrives for a few months, the golden sun cast it’s rays on this wild land and reveals what is concealed. Endless green carpet of conifers, dotted with dark lakes that glint silver when seen from the fells. Occasional reindeer, a medley of birds and a carnival of wild flowers and berries always manage to surprise you.

The people of this ancient land believe in making the most of all seasons. While winter is their playground, summer is the time for embracing the celebration of life. They know the bitter-sweet truth about nature. Some things are hidden so that their wildness can be treasured. Perhaps it is the same with the wildness of our soul.

*Turn on sound and watch in full screen. Visuals and words by Nitin Das | Music: Patrick Hawes | Special thanks: Maria Nurmela, Tuija Syrjaniemi | Location: Lapland, North Finland.

Feel free to use this video and poem as you please. A download link to this poem is given at the end of this post. It would be really nice to get a link to our website https://www.healingforest.org/learn in case you do post it on your website or social media.

WILD SOUL

life is short
don’t spend it in a box

add a little wildness
to your soul

to catch your dreams
a floating cloud

to lose your worries
a silent lake

to find your calm
a friendly forest

staring at a box
don’t stay stuck

add a little wildness
to your soul

to still your mind
a singing stream

to fill your heart
tiny flowers

to tune your soul
a wandering trail

to nature we return
bound in a box

before you go

add a little wildness
to your soul

LIVING INSIDE THE BOX

The modern world is designed around boxes. We live in a box, travel in a box, work out of a box and are reading this post from a box. However, as a species we have evolved and existed outdoors for more than 99% of our human history. This disconnect from the outside world is beginning to show in our society.

As per this article in New York Times:
City dwellers have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban center. These developments seem to be linked to some extent, according to a growing body of research. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

Creating a connection with the wildness outside is way of keeping the wildness within alive.

~People of Lapland

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

The good news is that we can always turn to nature to boost our mental health as well as mental wealth. Effects of being in nature begin to show in as short as 20 minutes, but the longer time you can spend the better it is for you. Here are some interesting exercises based on the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku or forest mindfulness.

Wild Fractals: Fractals are self-repeating patterns that occur very frequently in nature. Like the shape of a river delta or the branches of a tree. Unlike the complexity of human designs which have many sharp lines and angles, the fractals are very easy on the eyes. Seek out fractals in nature and when you find one, take time to trace it with your eyes. Start from one edge point and slowly follow it till the other end point. Interestingly, our nerve connections in the eye are also fractals.

Wild songs: Natural silence is one of the most endangered resources on our planet. We are surrounded by noise. But sounds have a direct link with our subconscious mind. Go out into nature and collect the sounds that you hear. Stay still and make a list of all the different natural sounds you can hear. By focusing on the softer, gentler sounds we are able to cut off the chatter in our own head.

Wild food: Finding edible food from the forest that has not be touched by any harmful chemicals or human interventions is an energising adventure. Whether it is berry picking, mushroom hunting or gathering wild herbs for tea, you will be rewarded not just by the joy of the activity but also the nutritious delight that boosts your immunity and health.

There are many such activities scattered around our website. Explore the pages to find new ideas and other wild places.

END NOTE: . We hope this poem added a little wildness to your soul. Please share this post with friends who are spending far too much time in front of a box. Here’s a download link to our nature poem – wild soul.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. 

FOREST STORIES – 7 Tales from far-away lands

Stories of forests, rivers, mountains, deserts and magical beings who call these places home. Journey to amazing places through these short stories and learn the wisdom of the forest. These stories have been collected or created especially for you, to fill you with wonder and awe for nature.

FOREST STORY FROM AFRICA | The Bushmen

Amazing fact: The Bushmen are one of the oldest inhabitants of Africa and have lived in the Kalahari Desert for over 20,000 years.

Fable: A long, long time ago the Creator was distributing the lands on the earth amongst various races. Some people got beautiful regions with plenty of sunshine and rain. Some were lucky to get big rivers flowing through the lands which were fertile for growing food. A few of them got thick forests rich with animals and birds. One by one the races came to the creator and went back happily to live in the land given to them. Only a tiny group of people were left. When the Creator looked on to Earth he only found a vast stretch of sandy desert left. It was a terrain that was very harsh to live in, with many difficulties. The Creator told the people that while all he could offer them was a life in the desert and the bush, he was going to give them a special gift. He would give them purity of heart and the joy of friendship. The people, now known as the Bushmen, were happy with the offer and learnt to live and love the land they call home. Many other races have not been able to survive in much better climates and regions, but the Bushmen have continued to live in the Kalahari for thousands of years.

Moral: If you have good friends, the harshest of places can become bearable.

Keep reading for more forest stories and if you find them interesting, do check out our Nature Connect course with 100+ ideas and activities from around the world.

Li River – Picture by Sam Beasley / Unsplash

FOREST STORY FROM CHINA | Artist and the river

Fable: In ancient China lived an artist whose paintings were almost life- like. The artist’s fame had made him proud and conceited. One day the emperor wanted to get his portrait done so he called all great artists to come and present their finest work, so that he could choose the best. The artist was sure he would be chosen, but when he presented his masterpiece to the emperor’s chief minister, the old man laughed. The wise old man told him to travel to the Li River, perhaps he could learn a little from the greatest artist in the world.

Reduced to tears with anger and curiosity, the artist packed his bags and left to find out this mysterious master. When he asked the villagers on the banks of the river for the whereabouts of the legendary artist, they smiled and pointed down the river. The next morning he hired a boat and set out to find the illustrious painter. As the small boat moved gently along the river he was left speechless by myriad mountains being silently reflected in the water. He passed milky white waterfalls and mountains in many shades of blue. And when he saw the mists rising from the river and merging with the soft clouds surrounding the peaks, he was reduced to tears. The artist was finally humbled by the greatest artist on earth, Mother Nature.

Moral: We have a lot to learn from Nature, the most important thing being humility.

FOREST STORY FROM VENEZUELA | Tree of life

Amazing Fact: Orinoco Delta is a vast fan shaped delta located in eastern Venezuela, where the Orinoco River meets the sea.  

Fable: The kids were lost. A group of children from a small village at the edge of the Orinoco River had stolen a canoe to have some fun, but the currents carried them far out into the delta. They shouted for help, but deep in the jungle there was no one to come to their rescue. As night fell the children were afraid they would never be found and end up being eaten by a jaguar. 

Tired and hungry, they were on the verge of tears when they heard a gentle whisper. They looked up to see a Moriche palm tree, waving in the wind. The palm offered the children its fruit. With food in their stomach, the children gained strength to look around. The Moriche palm introduced them to other members of the forest and soon the children had many friends. They learnt to use wood to build houses and leaves for roofs. They found places to find food and water, herbs for medicine and even ways to dress up and decorate themselves.

Many years later, a group of adventures canoeing down the river were surprised to see a small settlement on a forested island deep in the jungles. The children had learnt the ways of the forest and were now living comfortably amidst the labyrinth of waterways. The Moriche palm came to be known as the ‘tree of life’ and the children grew up to be the Warao Indians also known as ‘canoe people’.

Moral: When in trouble, look to nature for answers.

3 Sisters, Australia – Pic by Dougie Frew / Pixabay

FOREST STORY FROM AUSTRALIA | 3 Sisters

The Three Sisters is a rock formation in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. They are close to the town of Katoomba and are one of the Blue Mountains’ best known sites, towering above the Jamison Valley. Their names are Meehni (922 m), Wimlah (918 m), and Gunnedoo (906 m).

Fable: Long ago in the Blue Mountains, three Aboriginal sisters; Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo lived with their father, a Witch doctor named Tyawan.

In the same forest lived a gigantic creature that was feared by all – he was the Bunyip. Tyawan who knew where he lived would leave his daughters on the cliff behind a rocky wall where they would be safe while he would collect food.

One day, waving goodbye to his daughters he descended the cliff steps. On the top of the cliff, a big lizard suddenly appeared and frightened Meenhi. She picked up a stone and threw it at the lizard. The stone rolled away over the cliff and crashed into the valley below. Suddenly, the rocks behind the three sisters split open, leaving the sisters on a thin ledge.

There was a deep rumble from below and the angry Bunyip emerged from his sleep. He looked up to see who had rudely awakened him and there perched on the thin ledge he saw the sisters cowering in fear. Furiously he lurched towards them.

In the valley, Tyawan heard the cry and looked up to see that the Bunyip had almost reached his daughters. Frantically the Witch Doctor pointed his magic bone at the girls and turned them into stone. They would be safe there until the Bunyip was gone and then Tyawan would return them to their former selves.

The Bunyip was even more angry when he saw what had happened and he turned on Tyawan and began to chase him. Running away, Tyawan found himself trapped against a rock which he could neither climb nor go around. He quickly changed into a Lyrebird and disappeared into a small cave. Everyone was safe but Tyawan had dropped his magic bone. The Bunyip returned angrily to his hole. Tyawan crept out of the cave and searched for the bone, and is still seeking it while the Three Sisters stand silently waiting, hoping he will find the bone and turn them back to their former selves.

You can see the Three Sisters today from Echo Point and in the valley you can hear Tyawan, the Lyrebird, calling them as he searches for his lost magic bone.

Moral: The forests are beautiful, but you must always be careful to know what creatures live there.

Leaf ants – Pic by Healing Forest

FOREST STORY FROM MEXICO | Ant and the Bear

Fable: An ant was on its way to collect food when it came across a black bear cub who was crying. Curious, the ant climbed up the bear cub and asked him why he was crying. The cub told her that he had fallen into the ditch and was unable to get out. The little ant told the bear not to worry for she would get the bear out of the ditch. The bear cub was surprised, for how could a tiny any lift him out.

Now it so happened that the ant was no ordinary ant. It was a leaf cutter ant. The ant rushed back to her nest colony which had millions of ants and told them about the problem. Together they cut the leaves off from the orange trees and kept dropping them into the ditch, until the ditch began to fill up and the bear could easily climb out.

Moral: Common people can create big revolutions when they get together.

Amazing fact: Leaf cutter ants live in large and complex societies which are second only to humans. In a few years their nests can span more than 30 meters and contain millions of ants.

Northern Lights – Pic by Vincent Guth / Unsplash

FOREST STORY FROM NORWAY | The Aurora

Fable: To the king of the skies was born a daughter so pretty that she gave the Moon a complex. The King raised her in strict discipline as a prim and proper princess, for he had laid many careful plans for her future. But despite his best efforts the pretty princess fell in love with wild dancing. She would put on her emerald dress with flowing ribbons of light and dance her way into the night. Watching her beauty, many a Star fell for her.
As the princess and her admirers grew so did the King’s anguish, for he could not bear to watch a royal princess dance for the common people. Finally, he put forth a hard choice for the princess – either marry the Rainbow prince, settle down and give up dancing, or be banished for life to the edge of the Earth. The princess made her choice. To this day, you can often catch her dancing in the skies of the northern hemisphere and see the Stars falling. Not many people have experienced her beauty, but those who have are changed for ever.

Moral: Every choice has it’s tradeoff, but it’s easy to choose if your priorities in life are clear.

Amazing Fact: Northern Lights or the aurora is a natural light display in the sky of the arctic regions. The dancing lights are a form of intense space weather, a result of the atmosphere shielding the Earth against fierce solar particles that would otherwise make our planet unsafe for life. The lights occur frequently between September and October and then occur again between March and April. They are also visible sometimes in the winter.

FOREST STORY FROM U.S.A. | The Wolves

Fable: Not so long ago, the minister for environment was troubled, for the wolves were slowly vanishing from the forests. He was desperate to save the noble animal, so, he called all his scientists and ordered them to find a way to conserve the beautiful wolves. The scientists came up with big plans and ideas, from creating protected areas to captive breeding. Some even suggested cloning. To some extent they were successful in raising the population of the wolves, but soon it was found that even more wolves were disappearing.

The minister was very sad, but a wise counsellor suggested he take the help of the storytellers. And so a new approach was found. The musicians made beautiful songs on the wolf, the writers wrote enchanting stories, and photographers and filmmakers captured the beauty of illusive wolf and it’s importance to our forests. Soon the word spread and the people joined in the movement for protecting the wolf, and slowly their numbers began to rise.

Moral: Scientists create a better life, but we need storytellers to create a better world.

FORESTS, STORIES & YOU

If you have a short forest story that you would like to share with us, please add it in the comments below for all the other readers of this post. We will also select a few stories and share them with our followers on social media with a link to the authors. You can find more nature stories in our e-book 101 Nature Fables from Amazing places which is only available on Amazon Kindle for now.

If you enjoyed these stories do check out our Nature Connect course with 100+ nature activities from around the world.

END NOTE: Now more than ever, we need stories that connect us to forests and it’s creatures. It’s because these connections create a sense of closeness with nature. And what we are close to, we care for.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. Our connection with nature is a continuously unfolding story and we are all a part of this magical story.

10 Nature Meditations. Understanding Self, Knowing Life.

The quest for understanding the self and search for the meaning of life is as old as memory. No one can give us the correct answer because for each one of us, the path to the answer is different. But clues are all around in nature because understanding Self is linked to understanding life. In this post, we meditate on the trail of numbers in nature to see where they lead us.

Many people are afraid of Math because no one helped them make friends with numbers. Nobody introduced them to the wonder and wisdom that is hidden in the language of the Universe.

After all the positive feedback for our Healing forest learning program and requests for more nature games, meditations and mindfulness activities we have come up with this interesting walk format. We hope these mindfulness exercises help you create new learning and a new respect for yourself. Because nature and numbers are a part of you, just as you are a part of them.

NATURE MEDITATIONS & NUMBERS

Let us take a slow and gentle walk in nature. Our aim is to observe and reflect. Walk with a few like minded friends or go alone. Carry a pen and paper to note down your insights and experiences. And be open to try something new. (A free download of all meditations in this article is given at the end.)

Math is like love; a simple idea, but it can get complicated.

9 Numbers in Nature:  We begin the walk with an exercise to start seeing numbers in nature. Participants have to find the numbers 1 to 9 in their surroundings. Everyone can quickly strike off 1 and 2 as we all have one nose and two ears. The other numbers have to be found outside of the human body. For example a flower with 5 petals, an ant with 6 legs.  All participants are given a time limit of 10 minutes to find as many of the remaining numbers as possible. The exercise is to be done individually or in pairs. The group reassembles at the end of the time to work together as a team and find any missing number that no one could find.

8 Patterns in nature:  Nature is full of patterns that have astounded mathematicians and poets alike for centuries. One such pattern is called the Fibonacci. The Fibonacci sequence starts like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 and so on forever. Each number is the sum of the two numbers that come before it. It’s a simple pattern, but it appears to be a kind of built-in numbering system to the cosmos. The numbers in the pattern can be found in our own DNA as well the spirals of the Galaxy.

The numbers of the Fibonacci sequence are very commonly seen in petals of flowers . Examples include the lily, which has three petals, buttercups, which have five, the chicory’s 21, the daisy’s 34. These are all numbers from the Fibonacci sequence.

Nature Meditation: The aim of our exercise is to find interesting patterns in nature and take pictures. Try and see if you can collect a similar pattern in two different objects of nature.

Colours: Every Colour that you see is a number. Light travels as a wave and each colour in the spectrum has a specific wavelength and frequency. Our visual sense is not only able to gauge and see different colours but also associates certain emotions with them subconsciously.

Nature Meditation: The aim of our next exercise is to spot all the 7 rainbow colours during your nature walk. Each individual makes a list of at-least 7 different colours they can observe during the walk. The aim is also to spend a little time with each separate colour and become aware of how the colour makes us feel. At the end of the exercise people who are drawn to the same colour can group together to see whether they share other common personality traits.

6 Geometry: Have you ever marvelled at the beauty and shape of a spiral sea-shell?  Geometry is all about shapes and their properties. Lines, curves and shapes that can be drawn on paper make up plane geometry, while 3 dimensional objects are part of solid geometry. 

The spiral curve is one of the many examples in nature that give us a hint of the underlying simplicity which gives rise to the complexities in nature. The study of geometry allows us to become aware of the larger design of Nature. Here’s a short film on the curve called ‘life’.

Nature Meditation: Creating a spiral. This can be done individually or in a group. The intention is to create a beautiful spiral with objects found in nature. Make it as big as you can. Each person starts from the same center point and creates one arm of a spiral radiating outwards. After working on it for 10 minutes, the creator stands on the outer edge of their spiral arm and starts to walk back to the center slowly and mindfully following the path of their spiral. The last person to reach the center wins. (You cannot pause and have to continue walking inward as slow as you can).*Don’t forget to erase your spiral and disperse everything back in nature, before you leave.

Send us a picture of a nature spiral from your walk on our Facebook group: Art of Nature. Next month, we will create a short film with all the spirals collected from different corners of the world and leave a download link here.

5 Senses are our window to the world. Every person perceives the world differently based on  how each of their different senses have developed. Staying in the city does take a toll on our overall sense perceptions where some senses can be overloaded like our sight and some underdeveloped like our smell. Being in nature allows us to relax our senses and sharpen them so that our experience of the world can become richer.

Nature Meditation: Walk or sit silently in the forest. Focus on any one sense at a time for a short period of 2-3 minutes. Make a note of all the unique things you can observe and sense. Repeat the exercise with another of your senses. Notice how each sense reveals something new about the nature around us. The aim of this exercise is to bring us into the present moment and stop our thoughts from leaping into the past or future.

4 Breath of 4: In this exercise we focus on our breath to bring our mind to the present moment and take the help of numbers to build mindfulness. We use counting to stay focused on the breath. Inhale. Exhale. After the out-breath you count one, then you breathe in and out and count two, and so on up to ten. This is a very good exercise for calming your mind.

Once you have brought your attention to the breath you can deepen your awareness to see the breath is made of 4 stages not 2. Inhale. Exhale. And 2 small gaps after each inhale and exhale. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Sit in a quiet spot in nature and repeat the breath count to 10 being aware of the 4 stages of each breath.

This meditation makes us realise that numbers live with us as part of our lives and we can always turn to them for focus, attention and peace of mind.

π Circles: Take a circle. Any circle in the world. Measure it’s length, all the way around the circle. Then measure it across, from one edge to the other edge. Now divide the two lengths. You will always get the same number. 3.14…

This number is called Pi and is often written using the greek symbol π. What’s strange about Pi is that the division is never complete. You can go on dividing without reaching an end. Here’s an example 22 divided by 7.  π has been calculated to over two quadrillion decimal places and still there is no pattern to the digits.  

Nature Meditation: Spot the circles. Count the maximum number of circular objects one can notice in your surrounding nature within a time frame of 5 minutes. If you can, try and measure the circumference and diameter of any circle and divide them to find your own Pi. 

Nature Meditation (Alt): The other interesting exercise with number 3 is to observe the 3 different stages of life. Birth. Maturity. Death. Find and take pictures of objects in different stages. Reflect on how everything is changing from one stage to another.

2 Opposites: Nature is made up of opposites. Day and night. Left and right. Sound and silence. Hot and cold. To observe the two opposing sides of nature is to understand our own true nature. 

Nature Meditation: For this exercise participants divide into 2 equal groups ‘Positives’ and ’Negatives’. Members of the 2 groups walk in separate directions  and each individual (depending on their group) makes a list of 5 positives or 5 negatives they observe in nature. The groups reassemble after 5 minutes and make pairs between the positives and negatives group. Each pair then tries to see how many matching opposites do they have between their 2 lists. For e.g.: If one person wrote ‘light’ and the other person wrote ‘shadow’ then it is considered a successful match.

With this exercise we observe that perception of life – positive or negative is based on our mind. And the mind can be trained to choose. *Some wise people in your group might raise a doubt and say that in nature there are no positives and negatives. Everything just is. They are right. Agree with them and tell them it’s just a game.

1 Oneness:  Have you ever wondered why we only count in multiples of 10 ? A counting base of 10 is natural probably because we have 10 fingers. In ancient societies, a base 10 system wasn’t always used. The Sumerians used a base 60 system. This is why we count time in bases of 60 (60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute). Machines are built using switches, so it is natural for them to count only off (0) and on (1).This system is called binary. 

There can be many other number systems, but one thing connects them all. Numbers are concepts which only have meaning when they relate to each other. In a sense, it is this relationship that gives each number a specific meaning in the larger number system. For e.g 5 is related to 10,15,20,25 in a certain way. Here’s another chain of relationships: 1,2,6,24, 120….Can you figure out the next 2 numbers in this chain?

Nature Meditation: Participants take some time out to observe the many relationships that exist in nature. Each person comes up with a chain of nature relations. For e.g. Sun – Plant – Flower – Bee. The aim is to see who can come up with the longest chain of relationships… and perhaps to realize that we are all part of multiple chain of relationships, which give our life true meaning.

0The number Zero is widely seen as one of the greatest innovations in human history. Zero is both a number and a concept meaning the absence of any quantity. With the help of Zero we can do complicated equations and perform calculus. It is also at the heart of the language of computers which speak in 0’s and 1’s.

In philosophical terms it represents nothingness or emptiness out of which all existence arises. We end our nature walk by taking a few minutes to walk in silence and reflect on the concept of zero. 

Meditating on zero is a meditation in humility. It is to become aware that in the vastness of the Universe – both in space and time, our small individuality amounts to nothingness. And yet, just like the importance of zero, one can realize how significant even the most insignificant thing in the world can be.

MEDITATIONS ON NATURE | FREE DOWNLOAD

Download link of 2 posters for mindfulness meditations on nature with numbers. We would appreciate a link back to our site in case you re-post them.

Please share these 10 beautiful meditations on nature by numbers with friends who might find it interesting. If you enjoyed this post, check out our learning program for more nature based walks and activities.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Forests That Grow People

Emotional Intelligence is the power to understand emotions in ourselves as well as others. It dictates how well we manage our own emotions and react to the emotions of others.  This emotional quotient (EQ) plays a greater role than one’s intelligence quotient (IQ) for achieving success and satisfaction in life.

However, spending more time in front of screens is reducing our ability to understand other people’s emotions. With lesser face-to-face interactions, our exposure to gauge the non-verbal and facial cues of people has lessened drastically. As a result, especially in the younger generation one is seeing a growing lack of empathy.

Our world is becoming more connected, but less caring.

wS-1a

FOREST and COMPASSION

In the south of India, runs an unusual volunteer driven project called Sadhna forest. The vision of its founders, Yorit and Aviram Rozin, was to transform 70 acres of severely eroded, arid land on the outskirts of Auroville into a a vibrant, indigenous tropical dry evergreen forest. In a spirit of human unity, their aim was also to introduce a growing number of people to sustainable living, food security through ecological transformation, wasteland reclamation, and veganism. They have achieved this and much over the course of 15+ years with the help of over 5000 young volunteers from 50 + countries around the world.

Tree
Sadhana Forest is based on the principles of gift economy. It is not a business and does not generate income. All of the work is supported through gifts (donations). Gift economy differs from an exchange or barter economy because there are no expectations of reciprocity or quid pro quo. Goods and services are given freely out of the willingness of the donor without the promise of a reward or return.

“We have noticed that selflessness and gift-giving is contagious. The gift economy can and does work. One gift to another can start a chain reaction of “paying it forward.” Gift economy is not a single transaction (like in many market based economies) but a catalyst of many transactions of gifting and re-gifting. When implemented, all needs can be met within a gift economy. Sadhana Forest believes the world can be a richer and more beautiful place the more that we all give of ourselves freely.”

Sadhana Forest plants trees to grow forests for future generations. We expect nothing in return for our work and hope that all living beings, from the grasshopper to our grandchildren, can enjoy the rewards of our endeavours now and in perpetuity.

You can learn more about Sadhna and support their initiatives at this link: https://sadhanaforest.org/

wS-3B

EXERCISES IN EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Psychologists have created models which define emotional intelligence through five key areas. In this section we will explore some nature based exercises to work on each of these areas and help us grow our emotional quotient.

Self-awareness: Taking a slow, silent walk in nature on your own is a great way to get in touch with your feelings. Avoiding other human and electronic distractions gives us the time to pay attention to what’s going on inside ourselves.

Self-management: In the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing) there are multiple ways of using the senses to find your inner calm. The simplest of all, is to lie in a safe space on the forest floor and gaze at the forest canopy and sky above. You could also choose to sit by a flowing stream or under an old tree.

Motivation: Motivation comes from joy, curiosity, or the satisfaction of being productive. Each of the seasons in nature give us many reasons to fill ourselves with awe, wonder and fascination. The more we grow our observation, the deeper our connection becomes.

mind

Empathy: Empathy is the skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately. When someone volunteers for initiatives such as nature trail management, tree plantation drives, care for birds or animals etc. they being to expand their boundaries of self. In simpler more direct way, when one learns to care for others, it lays the foundation for better relationships and supports the development of empathy.

Social skills: Leading forest walks, connecting other people with nature and helping others to find their own calm is a great way to forge strong friendships and create conscious communities. Working on common causes which improve our living environment gives us a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

wS-3

END NOTE:
The decline in empathy and compassion is a disturbing trend. Not just for the ageing population who will need care and attention but also for our environment and conservation efforts. Unless we grow our collective emotional intelligence we cannot hope to create a better future for all beings. As the wise saying from Greece goes – A society grows great when people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

We hope this article planted some new ideas in your head. In the comments section please let us know of other nature based volunteering initiatives to grow our collective knowledge. You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

wS-5

Healing Our Earth

From a distance, everything looks beautiful. When we gaze upon
our tiny blue planet from the black void of space, we cannot make out the many conflicts that are raging all over the planet.

While the politics of greed, hatred and power plays out in different parts of the globe, the greatest threat is largely being ignored. A rapidly growing human population coupled with a lifestyle which is based on taking more from earth than giving back is threatening the safety of all our future generations.

The hope lies in creating a new vision for our world. A vision which becomes surprisingly clear when we travel into space and look back at Earth from a distance. Watch this 3 min film and see whether you agree.

CREDITS
Film and Words: Nitin Das | Music: Dario Forzato | Visuals: Made with Google Earth Studio

fern-web

WORDS

War is often a fight for peace
Anger, but a cry for love

Every mother knows

Countries are just concepts
Borders are but egos

Every river knows

Brazil-amazon

Politics is but religion
Religion is but control

Every martyr knows

Victory is but fleeting
Loss, permanent

Every orphan knows

Jerusalem-1_242

Conflict is but business
Business but for greed

The planet knows

The world is but divided
Our future uncertain

Till everyone knows

Earth is but home
Healing it is but healing ourselves

yemen_244

END NOTE
Climate change will affect more people than all the wars combined in human history. There is only one planet which supports our life and it belongs to all of us. The world may be in conflict, but together we can heal our Earth. (Here’s a link to 10 things we can all do, to act on climate change)

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link.  We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Arctic_004