India’s Healing Forests

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

TRAILER

REVIEWS

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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.”

To see the full film visit this link.

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DIRECTOR’S NOTE

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.
Come home.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Here’s a link to some of the groups and initiatives featured in the film:

Chirag School, Kumaon | Prakriya Green Wisdom School, Bangalore | Pravah, New Delhi | New Delhi Nature Society | Sadhana Forest, Auroville | Green Hub | Hindustan Kalarisangam, Kerala | Journeys with Meaning | Mawphlang Sacred Forest, Meghalaya | Foundation for Contemplation of Nature | Aranyaani Natural Food Forest | Sehat Van | Lung Care Foundation | I am Gurgaon | Anita Rajah, Clinical Psychologist | Alaap, Kumaon | Navdarshanam, Tamil Nadu | Institute of Palliative Medicine, Kerala | Aranyaka Upanishad, Uttarakhand || Healing Forest Walks

Film Credits:
Film: Nitin Das | Producer & Commissioning Editor: Rajiv Mehrotra | Executive Producers: Tulika Srivastava and Ridhima Mehra | Music: Borrtex | Voice: Mina Lepps | Assistant: Arghadeep Barua | Advice on Sound: Asheesh Pandya | Constructive feedback: Sudhir Tandon, Sunil Chauhan, Neelam Ahluwalia

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FORESTS AND YOU

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.

 

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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.

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Song of the Trees

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.

INTRODUCTION

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.

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SCIENCE

“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)

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MEDITATION

“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/)

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RELATIONSHIP WALKS

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.

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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.

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CONNECTIONS

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).

To join the forest friends simply fill in this form.

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YOUR PATH

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.

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END NOTE

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 athealingforest(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?

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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-3We 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?

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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*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.

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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.

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Music of the Sacred Forest

MUSIC has a deep connection with our mind. Like the scent of a flower that fills an entire B-Leaf-3room, a simple tune or song can change our entire mood, lift our spirit and transform our thoughts. This month we travel to an ancient sacred forest in Meghalaya, India and experience the magic of nature’s music.

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If trees had a voice how would they sound? If a forest could sing what would it sing of? Imagine yourself on a mountain, sitting in the middle of a dense forest. You are surrounded by moss covered stones that lay scattered in odd circles and patterns. A floating cloud descends upon you and you begin to hear this music:

ladybug_50Bah Kerios Wahlang is a folk music legend from a small village in Meghalaya. He lives in a log house surrounded by naughty grandchildren and a brood of temperamental hen. He creates his own songs and mostly sings about the sacred forest that lies close to his village. To know more about his village and the sacred forest, follow this link. If your footsteps ever take you to this corner of the planet, do pay him a visit. Ask anyone in the village and they will point you in the right direction.

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Science of Music

It’s strange but true. Music only happens in your brain. Outside your brain, sound is simply air molecules moving. When these molecules vibrate your eardrums, this energy is converted into signals for your brain. Processing these elements involves almost every region of the brain.

Music activates the emotional parts of the brain as well as the rational parts and also induces mood enhancing chemicals. Just how different sequence of sounds produce different emotional reactions is still a mystery.

But studies by neuroscientists have shown that music can affect not just your mood and thoughts, but also alter your mental makeup and influence your behaviour and actions. For a more detailed write-up click here.

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The Sacred Forest, Mawphlang

The sacred forest is a protected forest land that was used by the surrounding community for ancient customs and religious ceremonies. The peculiar stones that are found across the sacred forest are known as monoliths. They are often found laid out in fairy rings or odd angled benches or standing as solitary guardians – holding secrets and stories of times long forgotten.

Sacred groves of India are forest fragments of varying sizes, which are communally protected, and which usually have a significant religious connotation for the protecting community. Hunting and logging are usually strictly prohibited within these patches. Sacred groves are considered ecologically important hotspots of bio-diversity.

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Have you ever heard the music of a sunrise?

Birdsong at first light. Wind rustling through tree leaves. The gentle gurgle of a flowing brook. Undoubtedly, some of the most beautiful music comes from nature. And as always, it’s absolutely free. But for those of you, caught up in work or unable to make it to the great outdoors, here are two places you can go to find your own song of nature:

asoftmurmur.com A website that let’s you pick and choose from various sounds of nature to create your own symphony.

Calm.com A free app for android as well as iphones. Calm features a wide range of soothing sounds from forests to oceans.

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We hope you enjoyed this post. Do send us your thoughts and feedback in the comment box below. Next month we cover the science of sleep and how nature can influence it. To stay updated subscribe to our monthly blog update at this link.

May the music of the forest always be with you when you need it.

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Please share this with people in your life who may need a moment of calm in their life.

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Let go

A 90 sec. film from amazing Arunachal (India). Arunachal is one of the most incredible but less explored regions of India. A place of breathtaking beauty that fills the mind with calm and tranquility. Film credits: Words and Images by Nitin Das (filmkaar.com); Music – Rainy Embrace (Apple Music Library). Peace poem words for translation:-

LET GO

Let go the darkness,
Let go the night.
Clear a little space,
Let in the light.

Let go your loss
Let go your pain.
Dark clouds pass,
So will the rain.

Let go your anger
Let go your hate.
Escape the prison,
Unlock the gate.

Let go the hurt
Let go the regret,
Peace flows when you
forgive and forget

Let go your fears
Let go your tears
Add a little life,
to these fleeting years.

When you are feeling low,
Just remember
Nothing lasts forever

Let go

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Please share this with people in your life who may need a moment of calm in their life.