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Chapters

Learn the Rules, Then Break Them

Learning the practice of Forest Therapy is a lot like learning to become a jazz musician.  

Good jazz musicians first need to be good instrumentalists.Like all musicians, they must understand how to create a good sound on an instrument and be able to execute it. They have to understand the musical framework of rhythm, melody, and chords, and be able to play in partnership with other musicians. They have to know how to begin and how to end.  

Essentially, they must know the rules. And then, eventually,after the rules have become a solid foundation the musician can rely on, it becomes possible for the musician to know how and when to break the rules to play and flow and create something spontaneously in the moment. It’s not so much of a “knowing” as much as it is a graceful confidence in the process and a commitment to work with whatever emerges. Guiding Forest Therapy is a lot like this.  

When guides begin this learning adventure,it is important to focus on the techniques described in this manual. The techniques are in the manual because we have found they are extremely effective and make the work replicable and consistent; they are the best practices.Guides might consider these the “rules” of Forest Therapy. Just like in jazz,the rules are there to support and give the guide the graceful confidence to step into improvisation. Ultimately, we hope guides will find a way that feels genuine and authentic to them, and to take what they learn here and begin to improvise and experiment so that they are always in a process of creative learning.  

It’s also important to understand that the big leap in every guide’s journey is when they begin to realize that it’s not just about their own improvisation, but about their ability to improvise in partnership with theForest. Guides should think of the trees, sky, animals, flowers and rocks as band mates. They should notice how the songs change with the season and learn how to participate in the music. Guides shouldn’t think of themselves as conductors. They should think of themselves as band members. It’s not just about being good at playing an instrument. Guides need to know how to listen.This will come with practice, time, and relationship.

As guides deepen into this work, they may experience the relationship between rules and improvisation as a cyclical one. After a period of experimentation, it can feel good to come back to the basics, to the foundations of what we do to see it with renewed perspective and experience.This cycle makes the learning journey endless and joyful as we come to understand that every walk is its own song, and that each song has its own beauty. To make the best music, learn the rules, and then learn to break them.