In June, HWR volunteer Peggy Hallman offered us the wonderful opportunity of guiding some of the staff on a Forest Therapy Walk at Laurel Creek Conservation Area in Waterloo.
So what exactly is forest therapy? Peggy Hallman explains.
Forest therapy evolved from the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which literally translates as “bathing in the atmosphere of the forest” and means taking in, with all of your senses, the forest environment. Forest bathing began in Japan in the 1980’s from the scientifically supported inclination that spending time in nature is good for our health, both mentally and physically.
Some of the health benefits of spending time in, and connecting with nature are: stress reduction, increased energy levels, improved mood, lowered blood pressure, improved sleep, increased ability to focus, accelerated recovery from surgery, boosted immune system and increased heart-rate variability Just to name a few! Trees produce an essential oil called phytoncides. These phytoncides decrease the production of stress hormones and overall reduces stress while also bolstering the human immune function.
When we enter the forest, the pace of life begins to slow down. Instead of the rhythms of urban and industrial we become bathed in the slower rhythms of the natural world and our nervous system can respond to the slower, healthier pace of “being” rather than “doing”.
The art of guiding is about guiding a nature connection rather than teaching nature education or prescribing a predetermined journey. A trained guide helps you deepen your connection to the forest through a series of Invitations that act as gateways into experiences that catalyze the forest’s innate healing presence. The Invitations I offered in June were:
- An Invitation to Pleasures of Presence. This invitation allows our senses to guide us into being fully present in this moment
- Invitation to Slowing Down to the Moment. This invitation allows us to slow down, to calibrate our overall energy with the ambient rhythms of the forest returning to a more natural state of being.
- An Invitation of Looking into the Dark Places. This invitation is to connect with that which is more hidden and touch those tender places within us that may not see “the light of day” frequently.
- An Invitation of Gratitude Altars. This invitation connects with beauty as an expression of the heart and creates a feeling of gratitude.
- An Invitation to Sitspot. This core invitation is to simply be in/with what is giving you pleasure, to bathe in all the senses we have been amplifying.
- Invitation to Crafting a Tea Ceremony. This is the last invitation of every walk and consists of usually brewing tea from the forest (eg white pine needles) and drinking it together while offering gratitude to the Earth. Due to Covid19, however, this tea was not available.
If you are interested in being a part of future forest therapy walks, we invite you to visit our our social media channels regularly for information about upcoming sessions. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
HWR also offers bereavement walking groups in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge. This is an outdoor walking group led by trained volunteers who offer support and encouragement. If you would like to learn more, please call 519-743-4114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.