The Power of the Guide
“But why would I pay someone to take me for a walk in the forest? I can do that all by myself!”
This assertion is true. You could go on a walk all by yourself. If you are already deeply connected to nature, comfortable with moving slowly, and easily able to calm yourself to the point of true relaxation, then by all means, keep walking solo! I'm not trying to preach to my own choir. However, what this comment misses is that there are many people who simply don’t know how to do these things.
It’s not because they don’t want to; it is because they have forgotten how. They have spent so long being disconnected from nature that they’ve lost the ability to access the healing benefits of the forest.
Most people I meet complain of being stressed out. I hear this from people of all ages and walks of life here in Los Angeles. We have a fast paced culture. We place a high cultural premium on productivity. We are hyper-connected to the world through our phones and tablets and computers. We don’t get enough sleep. We don’t get a lot of time to sit under a tree. I know it’s not like that everywhere in the world, but stress does appear to be the looming health crisis of the 21st century. It’s not only an urban phenomenon.
If you have forgotten how to connect with the forest, how to relax, how to be alone and silent, then you may need a certified forest therapy guide.
The forest is the therapist, but the guide serves an important role. The guide helps you slow down, awaken your senses, and open pathways of connection between yourself and the forest. They do this by structuring the walk around a set of invitations, which are like short meditations or activities that can be individually adapted to suit your desired outcomes.
Each invitation is an opportunity to deepen your personal relationship with the forest. When you begin to cultivate this depth of relationship with nature, you begin to perceive its’ wisdom. You begin to recognize how the water flows around obstacles, how the tree sheds its’ leaves to make room for new growth, and how the ant marches with unmatched determination.
You begin to see the parallels between the forest and your life, how you are reflected in the forest and the forest is reflected in you.
This is something that can be difficult to tap into without a trained and certified guide.
The guide opens the door by creating space where you can explore the forest in ways you may have never thought of, or have not done since you were a child. Can you imagine what the surface of a creek feels like against the palm of your hand? Or the smell of bark? Or the sight of the wind animating the entire canyon? Because there are hundreds of invitations, there is an almost limitless diversity of experiences that one might have on any given walk. Guides work in partnership with the forest to create this experience. They knows the forest well, for they have cultivated a deep relationship with it. It’s a universe unto itself.
The guide opens the doorway to this universe and the participant dwells there, capable of having their own self-directed eco-therapeutic journey.
This is what the practice of Forest Therapy, as taught by The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, is designed for. It's much more than a walk in the woods; it's an experience of deepening connection.
It’s like having a personal trainer for my mental health. It’s a feeling of letting someone else worry about the time and what’s coming next; it’s like giving myself permission to just relax and take the invitations at my own leisure.
Forest Therapy creates a space for you to awaken to the relationships between yourself and the forest. This is simply easier when you have a guide than when you do not. I’d invite you to give it a try; whether you’ re a lifelong nature lover or are just beginning your journey to reconnect with the land, I guarantee there is some medicine in the forest waiting for you to discover it.
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of Forest Therapy Guides to see if there is one in your area to lead you or a group on a walk.