Song of Trees | How to make true friends

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 making friends and 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.

Song of Trees | Relationships in nature

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.

Berry-w

Trees and Friends

“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.

— David George Haskell (www.dghaskell.com)

Butterfly-w

Meditation on Interbeing

“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.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh (https://plumvillage.org/)

Forest-face-w

RELATIONSHIP WALK | Making New Friends

In this section we cover a set of nature based creative exercises which serve as excellent tools to build strong relationships. These set of nature activities are most effective when done in pairs or very small groups. The aim of this relationship walk is to work on the  fundamental values of creating friendships: trust, acceptance, appreciation, gratitude, creativity, and truly knowing the other person.

As with all healing forest walks, allow space for 10-15 minute of silent walks in between each of these exercises. Being silent yet comfortable in each other’s presence is a hallmark of deep friendships and meaningful relationships.

mind

Who Am I?: 
“If you could be one thing in nature, what would you be? And why?”  We start the walk by asking our partner this simple question. Most casual introductions are about people’s professions or achievements and one tries to project their best side. Whereas, creating a nature introduction allows friends to know the things we relate to and also qualities that are important to us in our persona.  

*Alternate version: Nature and I
As you take a walk in nature, each person finds an interesting thing that calls out to them like an unusual rock, or a tree and shares why they relate to that object in nature or what is common between them and the nature object.

Turning Points: 
Take 10 minutes to share important memories from your life with your partner. These are memories of important turning points in your life. Events or incidents that have given a new direction to your life. Each partner takes 5 minutes to share 1 or 2 turning points from their life. End the exercise by  sharing an important nature memory from your life. A memorable moment in nature that has stayed with you.

Tree Time: 
In this exercise, each person finds an interesting tree that catches their attention or one they can relate to and spends 10 minutes sitting under that tree or in it’s branches. Reflect on what your tree can teach you about relationships. After your tryst with the tree, share your insights with your partner and listen to theirs.

Forest Baby: 
Find things fallen on the forest floor and create a forest baby. The forest baby can take any form and shape – human, animal or magical. The only rule is that you have to create it in silence. Being silent allows you to observe each other’s working style and share a deeper sense of communication which goes beyond the use of words.

Appreciation and Gratitude: 
End the walk with a few words of appreciation and gratitude for nature as well as your partner. Appreciation and gratitude are a form of social glue that binds us as a community. It is also a way of observing and seeing things. A much needed quality that we all need to develop within ourselves to build relationships.

Many people assume that words are the most important part of a relationship. However, creating and sharing meaningful experiences together are far more powerful. As you may have observed in people who are extremely good friends, communication can happen without the need to say things. A large part of our closest relationships are about creating beautiful moments with each other

TREE FRIENDS EXERCISE

Here is a marvellous set of questions to get to know a person and make friends in a short period of time. The playful light hearted structure is loosely based on how you would get to know a tree. In these questions, we explore important parts of a personality just as we would observe the different parts thats make up a tree. Each of the different tree parts are used as a metaphor to get to know each other better.

Being in nature allows people to feel relaxed and they find it easier to share their thoughts and feelings. Find any old or interesting tree to sit under with your partner and share these questions and their answers with each other.

Birds & Friends:
What are the places you’d like to travel to?

Leaves:
What gives you energy / What takes away energy?

Branches / Canopy:
Who are the people you are closest to / most connected to?

Tree Trunk:
What are your strengths / weaknesses?

Roots:
What do you value in life / What keeps you grounded?

Fruits:
Dreams / things you love doing / You wish to accomplish? or an interesting twist to this question – What struggles would you like have?

Seeds
What are the things you wish to leave behind ? / What you would like to be remembered for?

This is an informal guideline. Choosing this structure of questions makes it easy to remember and engaging to play out. Conversations may flow in any direction just like the wind. We hope you have fun with the exercise and get to learn new insights and facets about other people as well as yourself.

There is only one rule to follow. Lend your full attention to hearing the other person and learn to listen like a tree. With acceptance and without judgement or advice.

A FRIEND REQUEST

Unless we grow our collective emotional intelligence we cannot hope to create a better future for all beings.

A society grows great when people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

~ Greek Proverb

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.

To join the forest friends program please visit this link.

Trees

MAKING FRIENDS WITH THE FOREST

This page is the concluding part of our nature connect course. We hope you have enjoyed the adventure. 

Nature is a great place to untangle our thoughts, find fresh perspectives and make new friends. It’s because in nature, all the mysteries of life unfold before us. All we have to do is learn to observe and become aware.

We would love to hear your feedback/experience/suggestions for the learning program. Please feel free to send us an email athealingforest(dot)org(at)gmail(dot)com 

Also, it would add to our collective knowledge if you could leave your answer to this simple question in the comments below – What has the forest taught you?

moon

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︱Opening Senses

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.

Sun

2︱Gratitude Walk

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 energises the body. No matter how you walk, do pause along the way to notice the small wonders of nature.

An interesting addition to your walk is to create a feeling of gratitude. By focusing your attention on things that fill you with gratitude, you can shift your mind from any negativity or pessimistic thoughts. Here’s a simple list to help you fill your heart with gratitude.

3︱Make Friends With Trees

Find a tree that attracts to you and get to know it well. 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 different species and have histories, families, stories, and unique qualities. Lean against the tree, touch the tree, feel its leaves, bark, flowers, fruit. 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. Trees provide a non-judging space to express yourself.

Meditate with the tree:  Either sitting or lying down, breathe and become aware of the interconnected link of breath between you and the tree.

Stretch your body with the tree: Use the tree as a support to stretch your back, arms, legs and torso.

Tree

❤ Read the story behind this film and get a copy of the poem at this link.

4︱Grounding with Body and Breath

Find a quiet place in nature, take off your shoes and stand on the earth. Relax your breath. Straighten your spine. Become aware of the sensations from your legs, ankles and feet moving up from the ground. Stand for a few minutes until you feel stable. Then, move your awareness slowly up from the feet to the top of your head. Notice if there’s tension, stress, or stiffness in any part of your body. Stay with the areas of your body that call your attention. Take a deep breath, expanding your belly. Pause. Exhale slowly to the count of five. Repeat. Imagine the forest air soothing your body with every in-breath and your tiredness dissolving into the ground with every out-breath. This deep breathing brings 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. Benefits of deep breathing are amplified manifold in the forest.

Nature Connection activities

5︱Nature Therapist

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 insight or a new idea. It is possible that no answer will come while you wait, but it may come to you later in another way. The intention is to rest your mind and let it be open to receive.

mind

6︱Nature Art

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, animal home, ikebana, labyrinth, a magical fairy house and bridge. If you’re with others, try a ‘gallery walk’ afterwards to share your creations. (A full post on the process can be found at our post on Nature Art )

Arranged leaves by Andy Goldsworthy

7︱Nature Journaling

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:

Bird

8︱Animal Kingdom

Indigenous cultures considered animals to be our brothers and sisters and knew how to understand them, as did saints, sages, yogis and mystics. Animals experience the world in ways that overlap our own, and each species has special 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 to observe the animals by maintaining a neutral, open, gentle state of awareness. Find the qualities you love most about your 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 favorite animal. Then, give yourselves a fun task, such as building animal homes, or a enacting the role of your animal. After 10-15 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.

9︱Dance

Dance in nature. Dance with the wind. 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.

10︱Water Healer

If water is present, find a comfortable place to sit beside the water to meditate or simply enjoy the sensory experience. Water sounds and visuals 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.

moon

11︱Dream Time

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 Nature Calm course with 100+ ideas for mindful nature based activities and meditations from around the world.

Also do check out our post on 9 Nature Ideas for mindfulness activities for groups >>


Article inputs by Julie Hall and Monique from USA

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

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

Image Source

SHINRIN YOKU

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

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

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

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

Yakushima | Image Source

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


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

Ukiha |Image Source

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

Linan |Image Source

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

Ashizu |Image Source

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

Shiso Hyogo |Image Source

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

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

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

May the forests be with you.

KUMANO – 熊野 from Mathieu Le Lay on Vimeo.

What is Flower Therapy?

Flower Therapy is based on the belief that psychological and emotional well-being is the cornerstone for reaching or maintaining physical health.

According to Flower Therapy, a patient’s psychological state is not only decisive for their health, but is responsible for it. Therefore, getting rid of the illness is the consequence of having gotten rid of one’s own negative feelings, no matter if these are fear, inferiority complex, sense of guilt, etc. As long as the individual is not able to face these mood concerns to treat them, restoring emotional harmony, the illness will keep sending signals, affecting the body.

On the contrary, the existence of harmony among body, spirit, and mind makes possible relief and recovery, particularly if the individual is able to prevent the symptoms of the disease.

flower-1

Dr. Bach the founder of flower therapy, identified precise negative emotions able to distress the individual and open the doors to disease. For each single emotion, he found the appropriate Flower Remedies; each of them works in specific patterns and covers various emotional nuances:

  • For fear: Rock Rose, Mimulus, Cherry Plum, Aspen, Red Chestnut
  • For uncertainty: Cerato, Sclperanthus, Gentian, Gorse, Hornbeam, Wild Oat
  • For insufficient interest in present circumstances: Clematis, Honeysuckle, Wild Rose, Olive, White Chestnut, Mustard, Chestnut Bud
  • For loneliness: Water Violet, Impatiens, Heather
  • For those over-sensitive to influences and ideas: Agrimony, Centaury, Walnut, Holly
  • For despondency or despair: Larch, Pine, Elm, Sweet Chestnut, Star of Bethlehem, Willow, Oak, Crab Apple
  • For stress about welfare of others: Chicory, Vervain, Vine, Beech, Clear spring water

flower-3

Origins

Between 1930 and 1936, a new method of therapy was developed in the United Kingdom by Edward Bach, a doctor who discovered in some flowers and plants the power to soothe the ailments of the troubled mind. It was an alternate method, completely different from phytotherapy, closer to homeopathy, but with peculiar features. Dr. Bach decided to name it Flower Therapy.

Though developed for soothing human pains, Flower Therapy has also given very good results when used to treat animals. The therapy is not a supplement for clinical medicine but is used in preventive and supportive roles.

Read more about Dr. Bach and his flower therapy at this link.

flower-7

Therapy for flowers

There are lots of books, websites, resources that tells us about taking care of plants, but here is an interesting note by Scilla Di Massa, specifically for taking care of flowers.

A few studies demonstrated that plants love music. But this is not all; they also have preferences: they adore classical music and dislike rock. Put in a place where music was diffused, they reacted by growing in various ways, quite different from similar plants living in the same conditions but without music. Those listening to classical music grew larger than normal size and in the direction of the radio: one of these almost coiled around the radio in order to embrace it. Those that, instead, listened to rock music grew quickly in the beginning but after a short while they withered and died.

The experiment was proposed again using flowers: petunias, zinnias and calendulas. Once more it was verified that rock music stimulates the flowers’ growth, but in a certain sense weakens them, because after fifteen days the calendulas that had listened to acid rock withered, while those that had listened to classical music were still blooming. Moreover, it was noticed that the flowering plants submitted to rock music “drank” a lot more water than those that listened to classical music.

But do plants love classical music unconditionally or do they have preferences? It’s interesting: the composers most loved by the vegetable kingdom turned out to be Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Bach. Moreover, the plants demonstrated a special preference for some particular musical compositions like Rapsody in blue by George Gershwin. But the most amazing result was shown in a later experiment in which Bach and other Indian devotional music – in particular that composed by the musician–guru Ravi Shankar – was played daily for the plants: in the first case the plants stretched out towards the music of Bach, creating a 35 degree angle, while in the case of Ravi Shankar, the plants, in an effort to catch the source of the sacred Indian music, bent toward it at a 60 degrees.

If you have any personal experiences with plants and music, do share them in the comments box. This is a simple experiment that can be tried out at home. We’d love to hear about your results and the music that your plants love!

flower-2

Scilla Di Massa

Scilla is an accomplished author of Heal yourself with Bach Flowers Remedies (1991) and The Inner Garden (1994) a book from her research about the healing properties of all 450 flower essences that she uses daily as a naturopath. Scilla currently lives in Milan, Italy, where she successfully practices her profession of naturopathy and flower therapy.

Her latest book Green therapy is the synthesis of Scilla’s life quest. Green therapy is the art of using the hidden power of Nature for healing, happiness and guidance. How can we clean the air of our home just by using specific plants? How can we be nurtured by flowers, and be rebalanced by their colours, form and scents? How can we find the answer to our questions and the road to ourselves just by being in a wood or in a garden?

This unique book combines scientific enquiries with spirituality and is full of practical examples about how we can benefit from Nature without destroying her.

flower-9

We hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

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

new-zeland-quote

Photo by Bernard Spragg.

NEW ZEALAND

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

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

new-zealand-lake2

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

GATHERING OF SUSTENANCE FOR LIFE

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

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

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

By frances schmechel

Black Robin pic by Frances Schmechel

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

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

3 WAYS NATURE HELPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W90-Spiral-gradient-clean-

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

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

Finding Answers In Life

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

B-Leaf-3

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

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

amazon-1-web

Lessons from the Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

amazon-2-web

A vision from the Achuar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaleido-circle

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

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

Gifts of the Forest for Kids

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


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

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

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

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

LIST OF BENEFITS

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

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

web-mouse
*forest art by Shohei Emura

ACTIVITIES WITH KIDS

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

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

NATURE AND KIDS

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

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

W90-Spiral-gradient-clean-
Healing Forest is a project to explore fascinating forests and collect inspiring stories of healing from nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping Forests heal.

Please share / subscribe / comment

Recovering from Accidents and Injury

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

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

Forest Healing from Accidents, Injury and Surgery

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

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

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

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

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

Quote-2

ABOUT DR. NALINI

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

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

W90-Spiral-gradient-clean-
We hope you found this article helpful. If you have any suggestions or stories of healing from nature do write to us at healingforest(dot)org(at)gmail(dot)com

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

Quote-1

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

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

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

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

How Forests Help

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

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

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

Flower-fall-w

Benefits of a good sleep

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

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

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

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

Sprites healing forest

Tips for better sleep

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

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

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

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

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

Daisy-w

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

W90-Spiral-gradient-clean-

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

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

%d bloggers like this: