If you are reading these words, then you have gone through all the basic lessons from our learning program. Congratulations for completing the first part this journey. We hope you found some new insights along the way and these walks gave you some beautiful memories to treasure. Now it’s time to expand your circle of friends.
For completing this milestone, we have some special gifts to aid you on your journey: Forest gifts
FOREST FILM: In a remote corner of the Himalayas, people from a Buddhist sect have a tradition of tying colourful flags all over the countryside. These flags have prayers written on them. The belief is that the wind will carry these prayers across the world and reach places where they are needed the most.
Just like the prayers on the flags, this learning program has reached you for a reason. Please spread your learning where it is needed and do take other people out into nature whenever you can.
Humans as a species are spending less and less time in nature. It is affecting our health as individuals, as well as a society. By taking people out into nature we sow the seeds for a healthier planet and create conscious communities. It’s because what we connect with, we love. And what we love, we protect.
Forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Since humans started cutting down forests, 46 percent of all trees have been felled, according to a 2015 study in the journal Nature. About 17 percent of the Amazonian rainforest has been destroyed over the past 50 years, and losses recently have been on the rise. (Source of figures)
INDICATIVE HEALTH STATS
Anxiety: 40 million people in the US (18%) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. (source)
Stress/Burnout: About 40 – 50 percent of working people are experiencing burnout at any given time. (source)
High Blood Pressure: 100 million+ Americans have high blood pressure. Nearly half of all adults in the US. (source)
Depression: One in six people will experience depression at some point in their life. (source)
Sleep: One in three people may suffer from some form of insomnia during their lifetime. (source)
PLANTING SEEDS OF CHANGE
Healing nature walks are a great way of restoring our lost connection with nature. Instead of filling the mind up with information and facts, it allows us time to form our own special relationship with the forest. As you begin to lead walks for other people, don’t forget to be mindful of your own feelings. When you enjoy the walk yourself people in your group will also be affected by your calm.
Leading walks for others can be a bit challenging at first. Our own mind becomes over-cautious. Gauging other people’s reactions and experiences creates too many thoughts. Reminding ourselves, that the real healer is nature and not us, shifts the perspective from individual ego to the ever present calm of nature around us.
Our growth as a mindful walk leader happens by learning to trust nature.
The greatest impact of these walks happen when participants find their own connection with nature. The role of a walk leaders is not to give advice or counselling. It is to create a safe space for others, and allow nature to do its work.
A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When the work is done, the aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.~Tao Te Ching
COMMON CHALLENGES FOR WALK LEADERS
Silence: Many of the participants find maintaining silence during the walks a bit challenging at first. However, if it is made clear at the very beginning that learning to silence the mind is one of the core goals of the walk, then people can begin to appreciate the practice and be more present to nature around them.
*Note: An exception to this point is walk with kids under the age of 12. For the kids walk, the focus shifts from silence to play and interaction. It is extremely difficult to do a walk a for kids and adults together. Both tend to miss out.
Slow: Many people are used to brisk walks in nature, but during a healing forest walk the idea is to go at a slower pace. To observe, interact, and create a relationship with nature. Having specific nature spots on your walk route along with mindful activities, helps people slow down.
Time: To get the maximum benefit, the duration of the nature walks should be around 2 hours. We can fit in around 3-4 different activities along with silent walks and solo time in nature in this duration. Keeping the group size under 10 allows each of the participants enough time to share their thoughts effectively.
Create a habit: By creating a regular schedule of nature walks, we build rhythm and predictability. For example, one of our team members conducts a healing nature walk on the first Sunday of every month, at a city forest near her house. By fixing the time and place, many people become aware of her walks and find it easier to remember as well as recommend it to their friends. Doing at-least one walk a month also helps you admire the changing beauty of nature through the seasons.
Create awareness: Very few people realise how intricately our health is linked to the health of the environment we live in. Most of the content shared on social media is superfluous, without any real value. By creating awareness and sharing interesting content we can draw people to a more holistic way of living. Our website is filled with interesting resources to aid you. Feel free to share any of the material or blog posts. Here are some of our favourite recommendations: Film | Poster | Poem | Resources
Create a community: On our own, we are like solitary trees, but when we come together we become a forest of friends. Through these walks you can connect with like-minded individuals and create something meaningful. New ideas will emerge and you will be able to grow your outreach. One such example is adopting a nature space near you, and creating campaigns to protect it and heal it. Here’s a nice example that inspired us: https://www.friendsofmttam.org/
The reflections walk consists of 7 writing prompts. The prompts have been carefully chosen to light up parts of your mind that trigger positivity. These memories and insights foster the core emotions that make happiness grow: Compassion. Awe. Gratitude. Creativity.
Doing the reflection walk on your own is wonderful, but sharing it with others is amazing. Creating a shared experience not only grows our collective learning, but also forms a special bond based on a deeper understanding of each other.
The forest holds answers to questions we have yet to ask. Our connection with nature is a continuously unfolding story. Just like any other relationship, the more we invest in it, the more it grows.
The lessons in the next section will deepen your journey and lead to new experiences. We wish you the very best for your adventures. May the forest calm always be with you.
Slow yourself | Know yourself | Grow yourself
We would love to hear your experience from the learning program so far. Your words add strength to our work and keeps us motivated. Also if you have any new ideas / suggestions, it will help us grow and make our course more effective.
Please do send us an email at: healingforest(dot)org(at)gmail(dot)com
As a project, Healing Forest has a small volunteer network that conducts nature walks in their respective cities once a year. The walks are open to all and can be free of charge or based on a gift culture (accept whatever is given with grace). To join our network simply fill in this form.