Nature as Healer and Teacher
Adapted from: Reconnecting with Nature
Dr. Michael C. Cohen
In Japan it is called “Forest Bathing.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUfbMIGcxkM
Michael Cohen, in Reconnecting With Nature says it is a way of honoring the intelligence of our natural senses. The field of ecopsycholoogy teaches us there is an emotional connection between ourselves and the natural world, and it is through this connection that can we learn to create lifestyles which are sustainable and fulfilling.
Even as a small girl, I have always been inspired and comforted by being in nature, especially as a “tom boy” who loved climbing trees. Yet it wasn’t until 2003 at the 5th HSP Gathering Retreat in Litchfield, Connecticut that I was introduced to Ecopsychology and Dr. Michael Cohen’s work by a beautiful and inspiring HSP, Marlow Shami from Goshen, CT.
I had a profound experience on a beautiful, warm day sitting under an apple tree. When I asked the question: “Am I welcome here?” the answer was immediate. A bird began to sing, a red apply dropped off the tree, and a soft breeze drifted softly by. I will never forget this experience, nor many others like it.
An HSP Artist Date
So, I invite you to find time this Spring to take yourself on an “HSP Artist’s Date” by retreating into Nature, even if only an hour at a time. The instructions for receiving wisdom and solace from your own Nature as Healer & Teacher experience are simple.
- Find a safe place outdoors.
Walk around slowly, and as you begin to acclimate to your surroundings, take several deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Feel your feet solid on the ground, as you feel yourself relax with each step and breath. Begin to allow yourself to focus on an area of your life that wants your attention; an area of your life you are confused about; or a question you would like guidance on. Or if nothing specific comes to you, go into nature with my favorite Mark Nepo question: “ What Wants My Heart’s Attention?”
- Look all around you.
What do you see? Smell? Sense? Hear? Feel? What can you touch? Now think of yourself as a child happily playing as you begin the process of “following your attractions.” Begin to move toward any natural attraction. This could be a tree, a ray of sunshine, a bush, rock, animal, insect, flower, bird, or stream. It really doesn’t matter as long as it is in nature and not made by humans.
- Find a place that calls to you …
Stay for a minute or two … tune into your intuition .. as you ask: “Am I welcome here?” Pay attention to what you see, hear, feel, sense. If the answer is “yes”, you will receive messages from nature which feel comforting or welcoming. This might be a bird’s song, or perhaps a nice ray of warm sunshine beaming down between two trees. Usually these welcome signs are hard to miss. Take a look at the picture of this tree. Can you see the message I received as I asked: “Am I welcome here?”
Or… maybe suddenly, there is a cool wind which makes you feel chilled? Or a loud unpleasant noise? Maybe the sun feels too hot. If you do not feel welcome for any reason, honor this message from nature and simple follow another positive attraction and asking the same question “Am I welcome here?” You may find yourself moving around to several places before it feels “just right.” This doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong, it just means the special place you are seeking is also seeking you … you just haven’t found it yet.
- When the place you have found feels “just right”
You will know when a place feels right, then you can settle in, get yourself comfortable and begin to relax. Take several deep breaths, perhaps expressing gratitude for this moment in time. Allow your heart’s inquiry to come forward as you ask: “What is there for me to learn here?”
- Quiet your mind and just be present.
Let go of expectations. Become aware of whatever you notice ~ sights, smells, sounds, colors, animals, wind, or sun on your back. Notice whatever is going on within you: feelings, thoughts, memories, images, colors, a certain person, song, poem, place or situation.
- Allow your mind to wander pleasantly within and amongst all the images, colors, or sounds surrounding you.
After ten to twenty minutes, take out your journal and begin a 20 minute “free write” session. A “free write” is just that — free association about whatever flows out from your pen. If nothing comes, you might use a writing prompt at the top of your page such as: “What I felt … saw… heard…. sensed…. ” Notice how your experiences might address or enlighten the situation or question you brought with you into this Nature as Healer exercise.
- Take a moment to thank this special place in nature.
When you have finished your journal write, take a moment and just close your eyes. Become aware of all the beautiful things in nature that are just waiting to offer us comfort, beauty, and wisdom. Take a moment to be grateful for this time you have given to yourself. Take a moment to thank this place in nature for all it has given to you.
Let me know how it goes for you ..