Explore some fascinating forests across India and find out the remarkable ways in which forests can heal our body, mind and spirit. Film Duration: 50 minutes | Language: English
“India’s Healing Forests is a remarkable and enlightening exploration of the many ways that the well-being of people is deeply interwoven with forests. The film demonstrates that at all times on our life’s journey — from childhood to death — our relationships with trees and other forest creatures are vital parts of our lives. This is a reciprocal relationship: in our modern world we need forests and forests need our care.” ~ David George Haskell, author of The Songs of Trees and Pulitzer finalist, The Forest Unseen. Professor, University of the South.”
All our knowledge comes from nature and yet nature is a source of many mysteries.
Travel with us on a journey through lush rainforests, sacred groves, cloud forests, city forests, food forests and deep valleys of the Himalayas to unravel some of these mysteries.
India is a country of breathtaking natural beauty. What is less known is India’s wealth of ancient knowledge about connecting with nature to create a more meaningful life. New science as well as ancient wisdom is telling us something of great importance. The environment we live in is linked to our health. It affects us. It alters us. It is not separate from us.
The film unfolds through inspiring stories of people whose lives are intricately woven with forests. Through their insights as well as scientific findings we explore the remarkable healing powers of nature.
We hope to leave you with a feeling of calm and clarity, and some important clues to help you solve one of the greatest mysteries of your life – How to create a healthier, happier life for yourself and your loved ones.
The forests are waiting.
Here’s a link to some of the groups and initiatives featured in the film:
In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, we are spending lesser time in nature. Signs of this rapid change are showing up not just in our own health but also the health of our society and our planet.
This film is a great tool to reconnect people with nature because it shows the multiple benefits of nature across different age groups. Perhaps you may see a little bit of your own life reflected in parts of this film. What you may also find are some simple ideas to overcome challenges that appear at different stages of our life.
We hope you will join us to hear what the forests have to tell you.
Beyond the film, the idea is also to introduce the concept of healing forest walks to you. Along with the film details, we’ll send you an excellent collection of forest games and activities. For more information on healing forests, you can visit our resources page.
In this month’s guest post Monique from USA shares an excellent collection of nature activities that help in building and shaping the inner nature of children.
Monique is a mother of three children and was an Early Childhood Educator and an Early Intervention Specialist. She has an educational background in Psychology and currently runs a blog called Green Acorns.
Let’s take a look at some ways we can spark children’s curiosity, ignite their enthusiasm, and guide their interests into meaningful experiences…
It can be hard to know where to begin when introducing nature activities. Try starting small right in your own yard (or schoolyard, closest park, etc.) In fact, all it takes is one square foot of space.
Create a 12-inch square frame out of string or cardboard or any other available material and lay it on the ground. Have your child get right down on his belly and observe. At first it may seem like there’s not much to notice but be patient… things will come into view. Perhaps he’ll notice insect activity or different types of plants or different colors of dirt. Try it again in a different spot. Did he notice any similarities? Anything different? Do it with him, side by side. Share what you notice and then switch places. Did either of you notice anything that the other hadn’t? Notice even more details using a magnifying glass.
You will need a sheet of paper, a clipboard or other firm surface, and a pencil. Have your child mark an ‘X’ in the center of the paper to indicate her location. Your child then sits quietly and whenever she hears a sound, marks the approximate location with a simple representative symbol or word. She can listen with her eyes closed to help focus better on just the sounds.
When she is done review the map with her. Ask some questions. Were there more sounds from nature than man-made noise? Were there any sounds she hadn’t noticed before? Did she find some pleasant? Some not pleasant? Could she identify all the sounds?
You may be surprised at how long a child can sit quietly for this activity and may find that she wants to do it again. My children enjoy this activity and like to compare their sound maps with each other. They often find that one noticed a sound that the other didn’t or noticed more nuances about a certain sound. It’s quite an engaging activity that really heightens one’s awareness.
Taking it further: This can be expanded into the practice of “sit spots” and I highly recommend it. It’s a wonderful way for anyone to develop an intimate relationship with nearby nature. Check out Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature to learn more.
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” – Rachel carson
When you are out in nature with your child, role model curiosity. Point out what you are noticing, from the smallest flower to the tallest tree. Wonder aloud. Ask your child what they hear, see, smell, feel and notice. Be intentional about it doing it regularly. Soon it
will become habit for you and your child whenever you are outside, wherever that may be.
Create a personal record of the nature around you by keeping a nature journal. What is a nature journal? Simply put, it is “the regular recording of observation, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world”. (Clare Walker Leslie, Keeping a Nature Journal)
The act of nature journaling encourages us to become keen observers of details and seasonal rhythms and deepens our understanding of the natural world. It reinforces our nature connections and it stimulates reflection on experiences, thoughts and emotions. It helps us remember what has been observed and learned, cultivates on-going curiosity and contributes to establishing a sense of place.
Developing the habit of nature journal can be tricky. Make it inviting. Keep it simple. Encourage it but let it be optional. Let your child record in whatever way he would like (sketches, poems, photos, brief descriptions, pressed plant samples, etc.). Do it together. Review and reflect on past entries occasionally.
Check out these resources for inspiration and how-to’s:
“Children become interested in natural history because they are natural collectors.” -Sir David Attenborough
This suggestion may be controversial as many people firmly believe that the “leave what you find” principle is always best practice. I agree with Sir David Attenborough and here’s why…
While collecting, your child is gathering information about the natural world through his senses. He is looking, touching, smelling, listening, maybe even tasting. He may also be utilizing his vestibular (movement and balance) and proprioception (body awareness) systems as he navigates the landscape. Combining the use of one’s various senses leads to more connections made within the brain and the result is a more thorough, meaningful learning experience. Just as importantly, allowing your child to collect the nature that excites him is an affirmation of his interest. It nurtures his natural sense of curiosity and sparks further exploration and inquiry.
If you don’t already have a designated area in your home for displaying nature finds, this is the perfect time to create one. A low table or shelf will do. Display appropriate items within your child’s reach so that he may explore them at any time. Add magnifying glasses, reference books or materials for play to the area. Change the items seasonally.
Note: never collect from private land, parks or preserves. Only collect what is found on the ground or in abundance. Know the relevant laws in your state/ country on what is considered protected. Minimize your impact and always respect nature.
BENEFITS OF NATURE ACTIVITIES
I had a childhood like many of my generation and before – long stretches of time spent outside engaged in unstructured play, free to roam and interact with nature, no gadgets or tools except my imagination and ingenuity. My husband and I were intentional in providing similar opportunities for our children. Making personal nature connections and having the freedom to explore and discover one’s own place in it is not just nostalgia of a bygone time. Nor is it a privilege of a select group. It should be considered a basic right of childhood and is a necessity for a healthy life.
Increasing science-based evidence tells us that time spent in nature is good for us. A quick online search will lead you to some of the studies in a promising, growing collection. Benefits being reported include:
reduced stress and anxiety and lower risk of depression
improved blood pressure and cholesterol
better able to direct attention / focus
feeling more positive emotions and outlook on life
an increase in compassion, generosity and other prosocial behaviors.
For children who play in nature, some additional benefits have been noted including:
reduced risk of obesity and diabetes
decreased risk of developing near-sightedness and requiring glasses
reduced symptoms of attention deficit disorder
increased likeliness of engaging in imaginative / creative play & improvedcollaborative skills
enhancement of motor skills (balance & stability, coordination, agility)
improved awareness, reasoning and observational skills
increased autonomy and decision-making skills.
Why all the research? Because unstructured time in nature has become rarer and the natural places which children can claim for their own to become intimate with, to create new worlds in, to observe the ways of nature and just be are harder to find. Because we have become disconnected humans and our children are following suit. With a few basic tools, however, we can set children on the path to life-long nature connections. In the words of Richard Louv, it is up to us “to restore the broken bond between children and nature” and in the process we may just restore our own.
I hope these activities will set you well on your way to nurturing your child’s nature connections.
You can find additional activity ideas, monthly nature prompts and more on my blog, Green Acorns. I also host Noticing Nature on Facebook – a free, private, family-friendly group where you will find inspiration for deeper personal connections with nature throughout the year.
Let us know your experience when you get a chance to try out these wonderful games and activities. If you have more recommendations for some fun nature based activities, please add them in the comments below to grow our collective knowledge.
You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
Writing is therapeutic. Writing in nature – meditative.
Writing helps to give direction to our thoughts. From clouds of voluminous chatter in the mind, words drop on to paper like gentle rain, turning into streams of sentences. These streams follow their own path to uncover what is hidden and discover what is waiting to be discovered. It is a way to ignite creativity, curiosity and a deeper enquiry into the self.
It’s about observing the nature outside and observing the nature within.
Writing about nature leads to an increased awareness of our surroundings. This simple activity is an exercise to enhance our attention and also become aware of our own state of being. Nature is a place where one can observe our outer and inner landscape. Every person has a unique way of perceiving life and things around them. You begin to discover this uniqueness when you channelise your memories and imagination in a creative way.
Writing in nature is also a way to reconnect to a calmer self. Putting words on paper brings us back into the present moment and by paying attention to our senses and breath we can reach a state of relaxed ease. When one is relaxed and calm, it is easier to get creative insights about the questions in our mind.
WRITING GAMES IN NATURE
Our mind is a forest of memories, ideas, and observations. Let us explore the power of words to rediscover the nature around us and the nature within us.
Given below is a list of simple writing games that can be incorporated into an engaging walk for all age groups. The aim of these games is to build your awareness and curiosity. We hope this practice leads you to calm, creativity and clarity.
Senses: Pick any one of your senses. Describe your surroundings keeping only the chosen sense in focus.
Objects: Choose any object in nature, create a riddle around it. Let others in the group guess what object you picked. Here’s a riddle for you. The answer is given at the very end of the article.
You can see me, but you can’t hear me. You can feel me, but you can’t smell me. What am I?
Emotions: Take an emotion that you are feeling. Include it in a 3 line poem. Here’s an example.
Characters: Pick the oldest tree around or a tree that is special to you. Spend time with it and write the story of its life.
Do share your poems, puzzles, stories or reflections from the nature walk on our Facebook group. In case you post your writing on social media, add these tags: #healingforest / #forestlearning. It will make it easier for us to find them.
Please share this article with friends who may find it of interest. Here’s a link to download some posters, in case you’d like to create an event for people in your city.
Fewer people are spending time in nature these days. This distance is affecting our health – as individuals, as a society and also as a planet. The intention of this idea is to bring nature back into conversations and inspire more people to connect with forests in creative ways. Let’s do this as a collective.
*This page is part of our learning program. Once you have tried out these activities on a nature walk, you can proceed to learn the next set of activities at this link.
Please subscribe to our free monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions for more writing games. Please add them in the comments section below to grow our collective learning.
p.s: Our answer to the riddle is ‘Sunlight‘. But in nature, there can be more than one right answer!
In life, we are constantly moving through a sea of changing relationships – not only with other lives, but also with our surrounding environment and most importantly, with our own changing selves. Sometimes, when life takes a wrong turn and one ends up in an unhappy place, it can be a good practice to re-examine and re-look at our relationships.
Nature is a great place to untangle our thoughts and find fresh perspectives. It’s because in nature, all the mysteries of life unfold before us. All we heave to do is learn to observe and become aware. In this month’s guest post, Katriina Kilpi from Belgium shares some beautiful insights from her own trysts with nature.
Katriina Kilpi leads a NatureMinded consultancy that works to research and promote nature´s wellbeing effects on humans; a Forest Mind guide, and a student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in program about Outdoor Environments for Health and Wellbeing. This summer she is co-organizing the first ‘International Forest Therapy Days’ event to help connect and promote the important work of forest therapy practitioners and scientists around the world. She is an expat Finn who has found her magical forest in the scarcely forested Belgium. https://natureminded.be | http://www.forestmind.be | http://www.foresttherapydays.com
What can nature teach us about relationships?
There’s this place in my favourite forest, where big old beeches grow. It´s a special spot, because at the bottom of those beeches, there grows a thick layer of moss.
This is the place where I go to when I feel like I can’t handle it alone. When I need to be held like a baby. I go and lean against one of those beeches, with my feet pressed into the soft moss, and I swear, the tree closes in on me, like arms reaching around to hold me. I feel listened to, without any words being exchanged, and I feel consoled. There’s no judging. Only acceptance and compassion. As a thank you for listening, I value this forest, and do my best to protect it now and in the future. It’s probably exactly what the tree would want from me. A perfect exchange for our friendship.
Successful relationships are formed for mutual benefit.
My son has also established a relationship with his nearby nature. One day he pointed out to me that of the two bushes next to his tree house, one was a nice one while the other was a naughty one. Maybe the thorns in the naughty bush has something to do with his judgement. So, according to this little man, the bushes not only have their own personalities, but he has also established a relationship with the bushes (one that is less close, obviously).
We quickly judge the personality of someone based on their behaviour towards us. A greater understanding would develop if we realise that personalities and qualities are shaped by the outer environment as well as the inner genetic make-up. In the design of nature, each and every life form has a unique role to play.
So for a deeper relationship to develop, one must start with a better sense of observation.
For the creatures or people, we do know, we often overlook their value and start taking them for granted. It doesn’t dawn to us that we are taking these people (or creatures) for granted before someone else recognises their uniqueness or, what’s worse, before we lose them. I once moved to Hawaii and found the myna birds, with their oversized heads and their yellow masks, rather comical looking. To me they looked funny and mischievous, always up to no good. I liked those birds. After some years, I had got so used to them that when my mother came to visit and wanted to photograph those little birds, I found it a waste of film. Sustaining a relationship requires a continuous effort, otherwise it loses its vitality.
And finally in nature and human nature, there are surprisingly many similarities. Though romantics often idealize nature, there is pain and suffering, continuous competition, sickness and loss in nature too. A relationship is incomplete without the acceptance of the imperfections.
Nature has a lot to teach us. Though we all fight for our survival: for sustenance, for shelter, for the possibility to maintain our species – the cycle of life would not be possible without interconnections, interdependence and impermanence.
Nature helps us to mirror our relationships within the human community and allows us to practice our relationship skills early on. Nature is a compassionate and patient teacher, as it doesn’t push us, but allows us to find it out ourselves. The relationship we have with nature, the backbone to our wellbeing, can teach us most about ourselves.
Our world is made up of relationships. A set of intricate links and bonds, tie us to everything in this Universe. These posts on our blog are created, not just to share interesting perspectives and new findings but also to link up with you and build a community of like-minded forest friends. Know more>>.
Do share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. You can also subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
Art can be healing, just like nature. When we create art in nature, we are connecting to something deep within ourselves. That which is the source of all ideas, inspiration and insight. It gives us new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with and a new understanding.
“An understanding that we can create art out of anything, including our life.”
FOREST ART WALK
A silent walk in nature to appreciate and create forest art. Over the course of many months and trials, we have come up with a captivating format for an art walk in nature. It is a creative way to engage with the forest and is enjoyable for all age groups. Here’s a simple introduction to the concept.
Walk in the forest. Find interesting things. Create art.
First as a group. Then in pairs. And finally on your own.
1: Don’t damage the forest. Use what’s fallen or about to fall.
2: Take only pictures. Let everything you create, return back to nature.
3: Leave no trace. Spread your artwork in nature before you leave.
DIRECTIONS Group art: To begin with, explore a small circle of forest area around you. Everyone tries to look for something that represents them as a person or something unique. When ready, the group forms a circle to do a round of introductions. People introduce themselves by placing their object in the centre of the circle and explaining why they chose it. One by one, the objects are placed together in a way that they form an art piece.
After the first round, the group walks silently for 15 minutes or so and moves to a different place.
Work in pairs. The pair collects 10 objects from the forest ( 5 per person) and together they create nature art in 5 minutes. Once everyone is ready, the whole group goes for a gallery walk to visit each pair’s artwork. You can try to guess what the pair has made or hear their interpretation.
Walk silently for 15 minutes. Observe the beautiful art of Nature.
Working on your own, you have to create a forest friend. A piece of nature art, that has a face on it – eyes, nose, mouth. Once your forest friend is complete, give him/her a name. When this exercise is complete, you will find that the forest has suddenly come alive with many forest friends.
Learning: One big learning from these exercises is the realisation that it is our mind which gives meaning to art. People look at the same arrangement of objects, but everyone interprets it differently. In the canvas of nature, our life is also like art. Nature brings different situations and people into our lives, but it is our mind which gives meaning to these events. It is this meaning which makes us happy or sad.
On your way back, walk in silence and observe the meanings that your mind has given to your life. For a short while, can you drop all the meanings that your mind has created and simple observe and appreciate the art of nature?
End with a circle of sharing. People share insights and experiences from the art walk, so that individual learning can become collective learning.
Carry an empty bag on the walk. On the way back, the group can clean up the forest by clearing some of the trash they find. Healing the forest is a healing experience too.
Download forest art walk film and poster files at this link.
FORESTS AND YOU
Our life is but art in the canvas of nature.
Please try this art walk with your friends and family. Even more importantly, teach others and share this format in your circles. Forests all over the world are fading away. We need to recreate our relationship with nature urgently.
While science can help us create a better life, we need art to create a better world.
The idea is simple and engaging for all age groups. People across the world have held forest art walks in their cities. The aim is to share beautiful images of forest art so that we can inspire more people to connect with nature.
Join our facebook group – ART of NATURE to share your art and link up with like-minded folks from different forests and cities of the world.
Note: All walks are organised in a personal capacity by individuals who share a close connection with nature. HEALING FOREST is not directly involved with any event. We are an awareness project to spread ideas. Read more about us here.
SCIENCE OF NATURE WALKS
When we move in any environment, we are activating different networks in our brain. There is the logical, information processing, decision-making executive network. Then there is the network, which keeps us balanced and oriented and finally the default network.
The default network is our free mind, which wanders here and there. It kicks in when your task-based executive network begins to rest. The default network is also credited with producing empathy, creativity and important insights.
A great nature experience allows the executive network of the brain to rest and recharge itself. It also engages the default network of the mind in a positive way.
Scientists using brain imaging techniques to study the effect of nature on our brain found a specific part of the brain being activated when we are relaxed in nature. This region is directly linked to the dopamine reward system of the brain, which leads to a higher likelihood of people forming emotional bonds – not just with other people, but also with nature. This has proved to be an incredible finding.
For links to more articles, books, films, and research please visit our resources page.
*This page is part of our learning program. Once you have tried out the art walk in nature, please proceed to learn the next set of activities at this link.
You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple: Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
Your heart is thumping, palms are sweaty and your brain is a burning car driving downhill with no brakes for your thoughts. This is an experience of a category 5 stress response.
While such severe stress situations may be rare, in our day to day life we experience minor storms of stress at regular intervals. Stress is the omnipresent evil of our modern age. Whether it is working individuals or students, a large number of people have to face stress on a regular basis. We increasingly hear stories of the dreaded phenomenon – ‘Burnout’.
WHO has declared stress an epidemic on a global scale. It is also linked to many of the leading causes of death. It leads to anxiety and affects our blood pressure and heart health. Stress often results in poor sleep, which plays havoc with our mental and physical health.
But forests can play an important role in overcoming stress.
Richard Mitchell, a scientist from UK, did a study and found fewer cases of disease amongst people who lived near parks or open green spaces. His studies also showed that people with no windows or unattractive views took longer to recover when compared to those who could see trees and grass from their hospital windows. Similarly classrooms with windows revealed better performance by students and lesser incidents of violent behaviour.
What he and other researchers theorise is that nature works primarily by lowering stress.
One of the fundamental reasons mental fatigue and stress happens is when we are not able to put the brakes on distracting thoughts. So how can nature help us? The answer lies in our senses.
Our hearing sense affects us at a subconscious level. Even though we may not be aware of it, our brain is processing the sounds in our environment – whether it is the noise pollution of the city or the song of the forest.
Our visual sense is the strongest sense. We are influenced by the quality of light, the colour of light and also the source it comes from. It affects our mood as well as energy levels. The colours of nature soothe our mind and the play of light in the forest helps to break our pattern of thoughts.
Researchers using MRI to look at the brain activity found that people exposed to nature had reduced blood flow to their Amygdala – a part of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety processing.
Evidently, watching photographs and videos of such nature scenes can also have a soothing effect to some extent (at-least for 85% of the people). Let’s test it out.
Japan is a country known for its development and high-pressure work culture. What is less known is that for decades they have been researching on the impact of nature on our body and mind.
Japanese researchers have found that forests can be a relaxation haven. A walk in the woods brings about measurable changes in our body function. Blood pressure levels begin to lower down to normal levels and the heart rate begins to slow down. The stress related hormone in our blood – Cortisol, is significantly reduced.
There are over 50 healing forests in Japan today. Quiet places in nature where people can go to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate without feeling unsafe.
We have collected some wonderful forest games and meditations to help you find your calm at this page. Here’s an example:
Problem Pebbles – Pick a handful of pebbles on your walk. Imagine each pebble is a problem you are facing or a troublesome situation you are dealing with. Keep dropping the pebbles as you walk.
*END NOTE: You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
We would love to hear your insights, meditations and tips for dealing with stress. Please add to our collective knowledge by sharing your experience or learning in the comments section below.
Wishing you strength and fortitude in the face of all storms.
When life sends you rain, find waterfalls. This month we explore a collection of short waterfall meditations to help you find your calm.
Waterfalls have this unique ability to pause our train of thoughts, bring our awareness to the present moment and fill us with awe. Seeing the movement of water on it’s journey to the ocean reminds us in many ways of our own journey in time. For a brief moment one is conscious of the larger but unseen laws that govern the flow of nature and life.
Given below are 7 short waterfall meditations. Simple ideas and thoughts that one can contemplate on, while enjoying the beauty and wonder of the waterfalls. Find an image or words that call out to you and spend a little time absorbing it’s essence.
*Note: Some of the gifs on this page may take time to load on slow internet connections. We hope you patience is amply rewarded.
Fall. Rise. Repeat
Slow down. Find yourself.
From Nothing. Into Nothing.
We hope these words and waterfalls encourage you to explore the hidden peace, power and potential that lies within each one of us.
It would be really nice to hear your reflections or meditations with waterfalls. Please add to our collective knowledge by sharing your insights and experiences in the comments section.
END NOTE: You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
We have many lessons to learn from the trees. As our understanding and awareness of nature develops, we uncover new findings and wisdom that gives us a fresh perspective on life. In this session, we will learn about creating better relationships with the help of nature. But first, please watch this 2 min. film on a less known truth about trees…and people.
David Haskell’s work integrates scientific, literary, and contemplative studies of the natural world. His latest book, “The Songs of Trees” examines the many ways that trees and humans are connected. His first book, The Forest Unseen, was winner of the National Academies’ Best Book Award for 2013, finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, winner of the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award.
The Oxford American featured him in 2011 as one of the southern U.S.’s most creative teachers. His teaching has been profiled in USA Today, The Tennesseean, and other newspapers.
“Inside the tree leaf are different species of bacteria, millions of individual bacterial cells, fungi, nematodes and if these inhabitants of the leaf are taken away the leaf can no longer function.
This is also true for roots below ground. The root is made from conversation – between bacteria, fungi and the plant cell themselves. There is communication at the most intimate level, at the level of DNA from one cell to another. They are exchanging information, they are exchanging material. So the tree is a nexus, a hub for a set of relationships.
In fact, just to call something a tree, a noun – a singular being is wrong. This individuality is an illusion. All trees exist only in relationship. So do people.“
“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.
“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.
If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.”
Nature is a great place to untangle our thoughts and find fresh perspectives. It’s because in nature, all the mysteries of life unfold before us. All we heave to do is learn to observe and become aware.
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: The aim is to observe the relationships between nature within as well as nature outside. Choosing a special place in nature that one can go to sit regularly creates a special bond with that place. The beings in nature from that place begin to know and accept you. This space becomes the sacred space that you can always hold within you.
Motivation: Motivation comes from joy, curiosity, or the satisfaction of being productive. Each of the seasons in nature gives us many reasons to fill ourselves with awe, wonder, and fascination. The more we grow our observation, the deeper our connection becomes.
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 were able 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 that improve our living environment gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
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.
The healing of our society is intricately linked to the healing of our land. It’s because the environment we live in is not separate from us. What we learn from the wisdom of the land, helps us create a deeper understanding of our own interlinked lives.
As individuals, we are like solitary trees, but when we come together we become a forest of friends. In case you would like to connect with like-minded individuals and create something meaningful together you can join our community of forest friends. One of the main goals of this network is to support each other in our learning.
Through the network, we will also conduct 2 healing forest walks in each of our cities every year. One in spring, the other in autumn. The walks are open to all and can be free of charge or based on a gift culture (accept whatever is given with grace).
Always remember, this is a personal journey between you and the forest. Every outcome will flow out of that. Start visiting a forest near you and more ideas will come to you. Ultimately, you can create a nature-walk program that is unique and personal to you.
Our memory is very fickle and unless we repeat or practice what we have learned, we tend to forget it. So please practice your walks before they fade away from your mind (Even if it is with just one more person).
My suggestion to you would be to practice each of the walk formats on their own. Sense Walk, Art Walk, Writing Walk, Mindfulness walk, Photo Walk, Relationship walks. Typically a 90 min /2-hour session involves a short introduction to the concept. Followed by 15-minute silent walks interspersed with games/meditations. It’s nice to end the walk with feedback and sharing of insights from the participants.
This is important for you as well as the people you will take with you on your walks.
This page is the concluding part of our learning program. We hope you have enjoyed the adventure. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. Our journey of learning continues and we keep posting interesting articles every month. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
We would love to hear your feedback/experience/suggestions for the learning program. Please feel free to send us an email at: healingforest(dot)org(at)gmail(dot)com
Also, it would add to our collective knowledge if you could leave a comment below on this simple question – What have the trees taught you?
Parks, forests, coasts, urban gardens, backyards, or any space where nature is predominant are prime places for nature-connection experiences. The activities shared here may be done alone, in pairs or with groups.
As with any outing in nature, please be aware of any potential hazards, such as poisonous plants, slippery rocks, and bugs that bite.
1︱Grounding with Yoga
Find a quiet place in nature, take off your shoes and stand on the earth. Feel the energetic charge from your legs, ankles and feet compared to the feeling of the ground. Stand for a few minutes until you feel stable. Then, do the following three yoga poses: Mountain Pose,Warrior I Pose, and Tree Pose (detailedhere). Synched with the breath, these poses bring fresh oxygen and phytoncides (natural compounds that increase blood cells which fight cancer and tumors) into our lungs, tissues and organs. They also ground our bodies and can give relief from inflammation, pain and stress. (Source)
Find a quiet place and get comfortable either standing or sitting on the ground. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and wait to feel grounded. Become aware of your environment by focusing on one sense at a time. Tune into sound and notice the sounds near and far, the silence in-between sounds, and the whole soundscape. Tune into touch and notice the texture and qualities of the air on your exposed skin. Spread your fingers (and toes) and feel the air between them. Notice the the warmth and coolness from the sun and shade. Tune into smell and notice the different aromas present. Taste the air. Tune into gravity and feel it pulling you to the earth. Gently sway your body. Put your hands over your heart and feel your heartbeat. Return to any sensation you like. Are birds singing? Are trees rustling? Can you feel the warmth of the sunshine? When you’re ready to open your eyes, open them slowly and notice all around you.
On a walking trail, park or open space, walk at a pace that feels comfortable to you for about 20 minutes. No matter how you walk, focus your attention on nature and your breathing. You may like to alternate between slow, brisk, and fast walking. Slow walking fosters a heightened state of awareness, calm and connection with the natural world. In large open spaces, such as a park, try slow walking in circles, expanding and contracting the size of your circles. Faster walking relieves stress and energizes the body. Try holding your arms out to your sides as you walk, like an airplane, or stretching them over your head. No matter how you walk, do pause along the way to notice the small wonders of nature.
4︱Make Friends With Trees
Find a tree that attracts to you and make friends with it as you like. Spend at least 10 minutes with your tree. Some possible ways to engage with trees are:
Explore the tree: Gaze at the tree for five minutes. What does it tell you about itself? Trees belong to species and have histories, families, health issues, and unique qualities. Lean against the tree, touch the tree, hug the tree. What knowledge does it share with you?
Climb the tree: Carefully climb (shoes off) and find a place to sit or lie safely and enjoy the view.
Tell the tree a story: Share a secret, your dreams, a prayer, or send a message to a loved one.
Meditate with the tree: Either sitting or lying down, breathe and exchange oxygen and energies with the tree.
Stretch your body with the tree: Use the tree as a support to stretch your back, arms, legs and torso.
Nature is a wonderful therapist. Using your senses, let yourself be drawn to an element of nature, such as a tree, a rock, or light. Sit comfortably with it and ask a question, silently or aloud, that you are seeking support or guidance on. With your senses open and mind neutral, listen. An answer may come to you in the form of an intuition, a physical sensation, an animal guide or something else. It is possible that no answer will come while you wait, but it may come to you later in another way.
Create an impermanent artwork made from found elements of nature. The work of Andy Goldsworthy is an inspiration, but we need not go so far! Some ideas for your nature art: gratitude mandala, spirit altar, ikebana, labyrinth, toy house and bridge. If you’re with others, try a ‘gallery walk’ afterwards to share your creations.
Indigenous cultures considered animals to be our brothers and sisters and knew how to speak with them, as did saints, sages, yogis and mystics. Animals experience the world in ways that overlap our own, and each species has special powers and characteristics. We can learn to appreciate animals by bring their aspects into ourselves through observation and play. If you’re alone, sit someplace quietly and open yourself commune with the animals by maintaining a neutral, open, gentle state of awareness. Imagine the qualities you love most aboutyour favorite animal and bring these visualizations into your own body. After some time, animals and birds will become used to your presence and may come out of hiding.
For groups, stand in a circle and ask people to call forth their spirit animal (or a favorite animal). Then, give yourselves a task, such as building animal homes, or a game to play. After 15-20 minutes of play, reconvene in a circle to create a poem. Begin with a word or sound that suits the day, and then going around the circle each person contributes a word/sound until a freestyle poem emerges and runs its course.
Dance in nature. Dance alone with headphones. Dance with friends. Make a drum circle. Stomp and clap. However you like. Be respectful of nature and dance with it.
If water is present, find a comfortable place to sit beside the water to meditate or simply enjoy the sensory experience. Water sounds and vibrations calm our brains and nervous systems. Moving waters encourage going with the flow, letting go, movement, change, and creative energy. Still waters encourage self-reflection. If possible, feel the water with your hands and feet. Get a natural foot massage and refresh yourself.
Find a comfortable spot on the ground, lie down, take off your shoes, and take in the life around you. Sky-gaze, daydream, meditate, watch insects, breathe, nap, or feel free to simply enjoy being with nature. Try positioning your body like a starfish, with arms and legs outstretched. This grounding activity will calm and refresh your body and mind.
*This page is part of our learning program. Once you have tried out these activities on a nature walk, you can proceed to learn the next set of activities at this link.
Article contributed by Julie Hall. Julie is a forest therapy guide and founder of Shinrin-Yoku Walks.
The mind blows like the wind. It is difficult to control and hard to predict. Especially when it is troubled. Our patterns of thought may vary from scattered confusion or wavering indecision to a spiralling into negative thoughts.
At such times, the forests can offer us surprisingly simple ways to control the commotion in our head and turn a storm of thoughts into a gentle breeze. In this article, we introduce you to the concept of forest mediation and offer some interesting examples to help you find your calm.
What is Forest Meditation ?
It is a way of finding calm and balance with the help of nature. It helps us in becoming free of thoughts that trouble us or hinder us. By connecting with nature we are able to find answers to difficult questions and bring clarity to life.
In traditional meditation, we withdraw our senses and focus inward to reach a state of inner peace. While in forest meditation we open our senses to experience the peace that exists in nature and deepen our realization, that we are also a part of nature.
Forest meditation is the act of creating a healing experience for yourself. It is about finding the strength of mountains, the compassion of trees and the wisdom of water. The goal of forest meditation is to grow as a person. Above all, it is a journey that creates lasting peace and serenity.
How is it different from traditional meditation?
Many people find it difficult to sit in one place with awareness. The mind is filled with multiple thoughts and the harder one tries to resist, the more they persist.
People who are generally restless or overactive find traditional meditation very hard. Also if one’s mind is already in a state of unrest, or one is going through a troublesome situation in life, it is necessary to calm the thoughts and feelings before one can learn to slow down the thoughts and deepen their focus.
Psychologist Edward Thorndike pointed out that it is not the work expended in the administrative details of an office setting or the algebra in a schoolhouse per se that causes mental fatigue; it is the high energy cost of “inhibiting the tendencies to think of other things.” In other words, mental fatigue was being amplified by firing up the areas of the brain that are required to put the brakes on distracting thoughts.
Forest meditation walks
Start your nature walk by setting an intention for the walk. It helps in channelizing one’s awareness and energies in the right direction.
Be silent. Go slow. Think less. Feel more.
In the first half of the walk use your sense of sight, sound, or smell to bring your thoughts to the present moment. Notice the nature around you and try to find things that fill your heart with awe and wonder.
In forest meditation, we do not try to inhibit or stop any negative thoughts. Instead, we take the help of nature to replace them with positive thoughts, insights, and inspiration.
Creating a relationship with the forest.
Once you are feeling calmer, find a place that calls out to you and sit in silence, observing the world around you. Notice the relationships that exist in nature and the interconnectedness of everything around you. Keep your thoughts in the present moment and learn what nature has to teach us.
Here are a few examples of some forest meditations you could try, the next time you plan to visit a forest or any green space in nature. There is no time limit or rigid rules. Find your own rhythm and choose what feels natural to you. Every person has a unique connection with nature. We hope you find yours.
Time Travel: Find a big rock or an old tree and rest against it. Imagine traveling far back in time and reliving all the experiences from the perspective of the rock or tree.
Gratitude Walk: Find something in nature that fills you with gratitude. Stay with the feeling for as long as you can.
Song of Nature: As you walk in the forest, imagine every pore in your skin is receiving the sounds of nature just like your ears. Absorb all the sounds like a sponge.
World within worlds: Look closely at the tiny world of insects, grass, and small plants that often pass unnoticed under our feet. Find something unique and unexpected.
Circle of Awareness: Sit in a beautiful spot. Create a tiny circle of awareness around you. Become aware of all the beauty in the circle. Slowly expand the circle of awareness to include a larger area. Repeat, until you reach the edge of your imagination.
Dissolving: While sitting at a vantage point which offers a scenic vista, eat a fruit or a piece of mint candy slowly. As the mint dissolves in your mouth, imagine you are dissolving into the forest. In the end, only the forest remains.
Connect with nature. Find your calm.
Leaving you with a short forest meditation film. We hope you enjoyed this post. Please share it with those may find it of help.
Everyone understands the benefits of meditation, but very few people actually try it or give up too easily. In a world that is getting increasingly crowded, competitive and complex it has become even more important to take care of our state of mind.
If you have any questions or suggestions for forest meditations, do add them in the comment box below to create a space for shared learning. The idea is to learn from each other and share our experiences from different forests around the world. To get a monthly newsletter with new learning please sign up at this link.
*This page is part of our learning program. Once you have tried out these activities on a nature walk, you can click on the acorn or proceed to this link.