It recently occurred to me that every person I have recommended to go to guide training camp has come to me in tears of gratitude afterwards. The trainings are really that good; quality, personal meaning, relevance and applicability to the needs of millions of people in this day and age. But is a training in store for you?
For me, it's been only a year and a half since I stumbled across nature's ultimate call on my computer screen. Sounds pretty non-nature, I know. But think of this 'call' as an intricate, finely feathered tree root, infiltrating the internet, sneaking up the mess of wires in my machine, and gently tapping me in my core. Become a Forest Therapy Guide...it said. "A what?" I thought loudly.
This happened while getting lost in the world wide web one day. I perused the association's web site (ANFT), got a copy of the little handbook describing what it was, and then 'Wham!' I was hit with the proverbial arrow to the heart. I had to become a Forest Therapy Guide.
How and why do the steadily growing numbers of people each year choose to become Forest Therapy Guides? It's a good question. It's not like there are shows on T.V., like 'E.R.' or 'F.T.' profiling the excitement and poignancy of Forest Therapy Guiding (though a couple of guides I know tell more than a few good stories worthy of the silver screen). Your parents aren't likely saying, "I really think you need to go to Forest Therapy Guiding School, Hun. We'd all be so proud of you and brag about you to the rest of the family." At least my parents didn't say that. And then those great commercials...'Be! All that you can be!...you can do in the Fooooorrrr --- oooorrrr ----essst' have just not been released yet (…get to work Kelsea).
So what gives? Why the sudden surge of all these folks filling up the trainings from Ireland to New Zealand, South Africa to California, and Canada to the Caribbean? Most of all - it's about vision. Yeah, that intricate, tendril-creeping root system, brought down from the ether by some human conduit, existing in brilliant awareness and alignment. Whoooshh. The vision is sent out like a vulnerable seedling breaking the soil of the forest floor, waiting for the caress of the gentle giants, carefully moving step by step across the wooded wonderland.
This vision is held tightly, and yet loose enough for those present enough to see, touch, feel, smell and taste. Attach truth and passion to the vision, and they come. That's really what's going on. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Program's (ANFT) visionaries have blue skied and green forested it all the way.
Poetically, here's one artist's rendition:
Let's help ease people out of their minds
Let's tingle their rusty senses
Let's rejoin the disconnected parts of their bodies to the whole and attach all of this to the willing powers of nature
Let's get their bare feet on the soft soil and tickle their toes in the trickling creek
Let's give room for creative expression
Let's get the guides to hone their own medicines
Let's sit in wonder, joy and glory in what may unfold next
Let all of this be and much more
In Forest Therapy guide training camp we often ask each other in circle to pause and give gratitude for one or more of those who made this seemingly unlikely journey possible. For me,
it was my wife for whom I gave thanks.
Me: "But it's not feasible to do it now. The money isn't there. The planning is off. And what about the…,"…
R (my Wife): "Ben, are you supposed to go?"
Me: "Well, of course I wanna go to California! Who wouldn't? But…I don't know…, ahh,…I guess, no, I know…Yes. The answer is yes."
R: "I agree. The rest will fall into place."
What happens when you fall into a place? It's another way of saying, when you get present and start noticing what's around you. Take it in. Sample it in many ways. Get as much of the full sense of the place you possibly can.
One of my favourite stories of this (and there are many) comes from a current guide-in-training who felt destitute and could only dream of becoming a forest therapy guide. She noticed her place. She noticed what was possible and she dreamed of it. She held tightly this vision. One by one, her recently 'fledged,' young adult children came 'back to the nest' with gifts. They were so moved by their mom's beauty and passion, that they sent her far away to go to forest therapy training. She glowed and beamed light the whole week, was grateful every second and seemed destined to move the lives of many.
There are still under a hundred certified forest therapy guides in the world - a rare breed indeed. However, this budding practice is growing by leaps and bounds.
Participants across the world are dropping in rave reviews. The science proves the healing powers. Humankind's destructive actions demonstrate the dire need for rebuilding the bond between most of our billions and the rest of nature. Thus, in all honesty, we need thousands, if not millions of people who will step up and 'walk through the door' to become Forest Therapy Guides over the next couple of decades.
I recently had a guide-in-training approach me on the final night of training camp. Overcome with emotion, she pulled me aside. "I can't thank you enough. This was everything you said and more. Why didn't you insist on me coming when I had doubted the choice and investment at one time?" she asked. I said something like, "The process of becoming a guide is life changing indeed and I'm so glad you've experienced it. I'm not in your shoes, however. I didn't know if it was fully right for you. If you were ready to step in, I knew there was so much opportunity, so much for you to learn about yourself, the practice and how you can combine these to offer this gift to the world in your place, and in your time."
In retrospect, don't think I answered her fully. If asked again, my answer might include, "Go to
a forest. Get quiet. Quell your mind. When you know you are asking from deep inside, then see what answer you get from this silence." Easy to say. Easy to do?
As with the rest of life…eating well, tending your body, staying in right relationship, and knowing your next steps are all things that require clarity and decisive choice. The experience I have had so far with ANFT tells me that Forest Therapy is a real, effective tool, and it really, really resonates with me. If this is all new to you and you are pondering your place, look up a guide in your area. Join a walk to fully sense the experience.
If you think you have a bigger part to play, then find a woodland and a quiet place within for reflecting. Where might you fit in? If you can, avoid thinking about an answer. Let the information just 'come to you.' It's great to think and certainly one of our greatest tools is our brain. It's wonderful when the brain is in service to our core. When it's not, it clouds us. There's nothing better than a healthy, slow-paced walk in nature to put one's brain back in its place. When that happens, ask the forest. Ask an individual tree. Let the clouds in the sky reflect to you. With daily practice of this, before you know it, you'll start leading from your core essence and be well on your way to making authentic, 'true to you' decisions.
Good luck, good health and maybe see you at a Forest Therapy Guide Training one day!