For the past two and a half years, even during Covid shutdown, guiding people in the forest has been a very rewarding experience.
We have meet up in several locations over the years with very different experiences based on the weather. These locations have included: Rensselaer Plateau Alliance forests, Dyken Pond Educational Center, Mount Greylock State Preserve, Pine Hollow Arboretum, and Grafton Lake State Park.
I personally love being outside in all weather but Fall and Winter are my favorites as I enjoy breathing in the clean crisp air. Participants who come out in the rain and snow always surprise me and make me feel grateful for the opportunity to share the experience with them.
The participants are encouraged to have an individual experience within the group setting. This allows time for each to explore on their own in silence. Yet to maintain a feeling of being safe while in the woods. There are times when walking in the woods alone may frighten some people and keep them from enjoying the many benefits. Walking in a group allows them to experience time in nature without being overcome by their fear and anxiety. With everything happening in the world lately, taking the two or more hours outside exploring allows them to unplug, relax, take a breath, and enjoy the moment.
A quiet walk in the woods
The slow pace of the walk allows time to stop and take a closer look at all the ‘beings’ residing in the woods. To find patterns, textures, designs. To listen to the sounds of the singing birds, owls, gurgling of water, wind rustling the leaves. To enjoy the sunshine, colorful shades of greens, blues, browns, reds, oranges and array of other colors within this special world.
Forest Bathing allows one to forget about time, issues, and when out long enough to slow down the constant chatter of the mind. Being out in nature – whether the forest, desert, or near the ocean, stream – allows the body and mind to slow down, lowers blood pressure, decreases the stress hormones, and opens one to more creative thoughts. Possibly they will make new discoveries or remember of times when life was simpler.
The participants discover mushrooms of varying sizes, colors and textures as well as moss and lichen.
When guiding a group, in my backpack I like to carry small mats for everyone to have for their sit spots, magnifying glasses which allow them to get a better look, a first aide kit, my own water, bear spray, bear horn, cell to keep track of time so others don’t have to, and a thermos of hot tea with small cups. The goal is to have participants focus on the moment without any thought of what they might need, or worry about what they may have forgotten. The necessities are my concern and they can stay in the moment. It is highly encouraged to leave the cell phone off or on airplane mode. This way, the hectic world is left behind.
After a while, when the perfect place presents itself for a sit spot, I stop and hand out the little folding mats. Everyone is invited to find a place that feels comfortable to sit or stand for around 20 minutes. In the bitter cold this time is shortened to 10 minutes or until someone shares they are too cold. Once in their position, we sit quietly in open eyed meditation. Once we are quiet birds, chipmunks, squirrels or other critters will visit. Once in a while we may see a deer or other animal. If we are lucky an owl might begin to hoot.
At Pine Hollow Arboretum we actually had china tea cups to share with participants for the tea ceremony. No matter the weather, a tea ceremony is always welcomed but especially in the winter.
Once the sit spot and tea ceremony are complete, we get together for a Counsel Session. Participants are invited to share anything they noticed, felt, heard . . . It always surprises me to hear what they have to share about the experience. One thing that they generally have in common is a new sense of peace and connection to nature.
The more you can get out in nature, the more you will remember that you too are nature. We are all connected. Nature is healing, nature raises our vibration, enhances our senses, brings a sense of peace and simplicity.
If you are interested in joining me on a Forest Bathing / Mindfulness Outdoor Experience please let me know and I will share upcoming events.