The forest holds nuggets of wisdom that show us ways to live in balance and harmony in our lives. The most observed of these teachers- besides those of the plant kingdom- are the birds. Living high in the tree tops, soaring from tree to tree, and spending little time on the ground, bird are our winged allies while in nature. In forest bathing experiences, bird language brings us into the intelligence of our bodies in order to translate, and very often provide spectacles and display which sometimes mirror what we are experiencing in our own lives. Guest writer Amanda Foxcroft helps us translate some of their wisdom. She guides us into noticing how our feathered friends' lives support our own and invites us to incorporate the way of the bird into our daily experience.
a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration,
caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.
In Forest Therapy, we wonder a lot. We wonder what will happen if we plop a stone into a stream. We wonder what the dirt may taste like on our fingers. We wonder where in the forest is that creaking tree we hear. That is what Forest Therapy is; wondering and acting (or not acting) and then noticing. As children, we are filled with wonder- curiosity supporting our every decision- yet somewhere along the way on the journey to adulthood, we lose it. We lose that lustful sense of wonderment. However, this doesn't have to be so. In this week's blog, guest writer Rebecca Lexa provides us with five ways to incorporate more wonder into our lives with the intention of expanding our awareness to incorporate the beauty and nature surrounding us at all times. We hope this piece sparks wonder within you and guides you on a curious journey.
Credibility of nature therapies is increasing around the world. More and more health care and medical systems are coming to recognize and validate the healing potentials found in nature exposure, and are moving towards implementing these 'alternative' therapies into practice. This is especially exciting for us here at the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, whose mission is to mobilize health care networks to connect people with nature. The following article was sent to the ANFT headquarters by the Nursing @ Georgetown University Online FNP Program Team, and is an incredible resource of cited scientific articles, educational materials, and an infographic which is free to use by the public. The article describes the ways in which nurse practitioners are incorporating nature prescriptions into their practice, and offers tools for other nurse practitioners to bring more nature to their patients. This high-caliber article is testament to the growing trend of nature therapies in Western medical system, and we are honored to share it with you here.
Most of our content and programming focuses on the healing potentials of forests and green spaces. This focus is necessary given the rapid pace at which deforestation and urbanization of grasslands, marshes, and habitable land (read 'green space') is occurring. Yet for this rendition of the blog, I invite the readers to zoom outward and to take notice of the planet which is home to the forests and natural beauty. When looking at our beautiful home, one cannot help but feel kindred to the Blue Planet- Earth. It is on this floating blue orb that all of Life as we know it exists, and it is this blue orb which provides and sustains all this life. In this week's blog post, I take you on a exploratory journey of all the ways in which Earth and nature provides for human-kind, and leave us with an inquiry as to how to be leaders in maintaining balance so that we, as humans, will remain a part of the ever-evolving biosphere.
Plants are all around us. They live in our homes, grow from the cracks in the sidewalk, and populate the free spaces not occupied by asphalt and pavement. They are like the silent allies for us on this planet, and most of the time they go unnoticed. Plants are also the ones who line the trails through countrysides walked by generations of people; the paths pilgrims took to reach their sacred destinations. In this week's blog, guest writer Lora Krall tells of her journey on a hiking tour along the pathways taken by sacred pilgrims in Wales, and the unique connection experienced with the plants along the trail. This piece invites readers to notice the similarities among plants and people, and how this synonymity is what lends to our innate connection. May this piece broaden your perspective of the ever-mysterious plant kingdom.
The practice of Shinrin-Yoku, or Forest Bathing, centers around the concept of 'slowing down'. Health benefits such as a reduction in cortisol levels, increase in parasympathetic nervous response, and increase in immune function have all been cited as benefits of spending time in nature and the forest. However, these are only benefits found on the physical level. What about the deeper levels of human experience: the mental, emotional and even spiritual aspects of being a Being on this planet Earth? These sorts of philosophical inquiries naturally arise as one sinks deeper into the practice of nature-connection, and one that Certified Guide and Trainer Ben Page explores in this piece. What happens when we remove all the 'benefits', 'indicators' and 'measurements' from Forest Therapy and make space for something more simple to emerge- the pleasure of simply witnessing the world around you? What happens when you begin to inquire, "What am I noticing"? The answers which arise just may surprise you.
Sit Spot is one of our favorite invitations in Nature and Forest Therapy. It is not often that we are given time and space to simply sit on the Earth and just BE with whatever feels good to us. In our rush-rush-rush world, the practice of Sit Spot is like a nugget of gold for our tired hearts and souls. For those who want to dive deeper into the practice of Sit Spot, guest writer Jessica Collins provides a beautiful meditative practice to engage in while sitting. This meditation brings one's awareness to the elements- the primordial building blocks of all that we see around us. Deepening our experience and placing out attention on the elements during Sit Spot is a way to expand one's capacity to connect to Earth in a manner not normally presented in modern life. We invite you to practice this meditation and to begin to notice how the elements shows up in your everyday life.
Sometimes words don't do nature justice. Photography is a wonderful way o capture the beauty of nature, yet even then, sometimes the nuanced details of the magic of nature can get lost behind the lens. In this week's blog, Certified Guide Suzi Minor offers us a compilation of her artistic photography of the beautiful desert of Arizona. This piece is less written content and more visual eye-candy. We hope you enjoy the beautiful photos.
Go to any well-known fine art museum and you can expect to stand in line with throngs of people just to get a glimpse of a beautiful piece of work of art. Go to any forest or natural surrounding, and- unless it is huge national park like Yosemite or Yellowstone- you may be the only person there. Why spend hours with other people to look at an artistic rendition of nature when you can step outside and see the real deal? The forest is a natural art gallery, with colors, textures, and creative compositions that only Earth can create. In this week's blog, Susan Corl walks us through the Natural Palace of Earth Art, and guides us to notice the unique beauty to be found in the bark of a tree or on the forest floor. May this piece inspire the artistic-eye to emerge in all those who are in the forest.
The practice of using found items in nature to create art is catching fire in the field of nature-connection. This method of creative expression was popularized by the highly imaginative artist Andy Goldsworthy, and is a wonderful way to interact with the natural surroundings, as well as leaving a mark impermanent beauty that one time was not there. Yet diving deeper into the act of creation through natural materials, is the intentional creation of mandalas out of these same material and what this can mean for the person who creates. In this week's blog, Liza Pullman explores the significance of the mandala: its implication in the human psyche, the use in religious & spiritual traditions, and how the creation of nature mandalas is a way for a person to strengthen the connective bond between themselves and the natural world. One part history, one part psychology, and one part invitation to explore, we hope this piece opens the doorway to your own inspiration to create a mandala next time you find yourself out in nature. Who knows what insights may arise in the process.
Blog pieces are written by ANFT Writers, guest contributors, and introduced by Blog Editor Denell Nawrocki. Submissions may be emailed to Denell at ANFTsubmissions@gmail.com for consideration.