So when I was recently asked to write an article about "Forest Therapy" I wondered what this meant. "It's a new thing", my editor said. "Now science can prove that forests have a beneficial effect on humans." I have to admit that his statement made me smirk a bit. Here we go again, my arrogant side snorted: our mind-dominated Western culture needs scientific prove... for something that is an integral fundamental fact of life, and thus of us as a human species... interconnectedness...
Animal communicators like Anna Breytenbach, shamans and indigenous traditions all around the globe and individuals like Rupert Sheldrake, Jim Nollman, Joan Ocean and many many more have been exploring and sharing their experiences in this field for a long time - often without getting much attention. Is now the time that Western cultures re-connect with this fundamental truth of life? Is now the time that we move towards balance, from a mind-dominated life experience towards (re-) integrating emotional, intuitive, spiritual aspects?
Through my research for the article I found out that there are certified Forest Therapy Guides offering therapeutic Forest Walks and Forest Therapy Programs. In Japan, professor Qing Li from the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo started a scientific research program in the early nineteen eighties studying the effects of forest environments e.g. on the immune function. His research initiated a worldwide interest in "Forest Medicine". The Japanese tradition of Shinrin-yoku, "forest bathing", is a method to prevent illnesses, officially recognised and promoted by the Japanese health system.
Quite frankly, when I see all these great "new" initiatives and findings, I am surprised why we create such a hype around them. And it makes me cringe sometimes to see how many people make a business out of it: wilderness pedagogy, forest schools, electronic devices to communicate with plants and forest therapy programs... Seems to be part of human nature, too, this business-thing ;)
However, if it supports the process of re-membering, of re-connecting and feeling the interconnectedness of all life again and of learning how to communicate with other life forms, then why not?!
Long story short: if you are not doing it already, spend time in the woods, daily, regularly, to boost your immune system and your mental health. And while you are at it, enhance your creativity and your overall wellbeing. It is now scientifically justified and recommended. So you can tell that your boss or teacher or parent.
You can do this on your own, or, if you find it easier, you can book yourself in for some "nature assisted remembering programs" - there are more and more sprouting everywhere.
My hope is, that people don't just go for forest walks because they learn that the forest, as a healthy balanced and sustainable natural system, has a recalibrating, strengthening effect on humans. I hope that these regular forest-visits will help you/me/us all to re-establish and re-activate a respectful and loving relationship based on open communication and mutual understanding. That they will help you to feel again that we are a part of a bigger system - that we are not a separate entity, but that our health and balance is intimately linked to the forest and all its beings, and vice versa.
This goes way beyond what the scientific mind or our head brain can grasp. We need our intuition, our extrasensory perception skills in order to gain a whole new awareness of life. We need to engage not only our head brain, but also our heart and gut brain - and much more that we haven't labelled yet.
The Ocean-community, the Forest-community, the Mountain-community, the River-community, the Stone-community and all the other communities on this amazing planet have taught me more than I can ever share. And the connection to them makes me who I am. This is why I sometimes find it hard to understand how we can treat each other/nature the way we do... not feeling each other... not listening to each other... completely ignoring the bond that simply is, no matter if we are aware of it or not.
I am hugely grateful to see that more and more humans long to become "real", connected to life, and to be alive again. Strengthening the life force, chi, wairua, no matter what we call it, the energy that binds us all together, the very essence that brings life - becoming alive, once again, reconnecting...
What a great journey.