Self-Acceptance Retreat, April 6-7, Johnson Woods Lodge in McDonald, TN near Cleveland. An overnight, nature-based retreat for women who have survived trauma, led by Holli Richey and Bonnie Cretton. Bonnie is the founder of Woodsong Forest School. Experiences include, Forest Bathing (mindful walk in nature opening senses to nature’s elements to calm and soothe our mind and body), gentle yoga, herbal identification walks, herbal tea blends, meditation. Meals are included. Lodge setting, but must bring linens, yoga mat, comfortable outdoor clothing. Space is limited. Register with Holli by March 25th, 423-240-4578.
Archive for the ‘Nature Therapy’ Category
In partnership with Crabtree Farms of Chattanooga, TN, I will be leading a Forest Bathing experience. Contact (in advance) Crabtree to register.
Forest Bathing, also called Shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese concept of immersing oneself in the rich sensory experience of the forest with open awareness and no expectations. The body and mind “bathes” in the smells, sounds, light, movement, taste and feel of the forest.
Through mindful experiences such as Forest Bathing, we can be present with the body and senses, simply resting in natural awareness, grounded. We will practice skills in how to work with difficult thoughts and feelings to reduce stress and anxiety.
Research in Japan is providing evidence of what nature-lovers have intuitively known for years: that reconnecting to the forest will heal us. Studies show, specifically, that intentional forest walking elevates the mood, reduces stress hormones such as cortisol, boosts the immune system, and reduces the heart rate.
Experience it for yourself.
Location: Guild-Hardy Trail at Lookout Mountain Conservancy. (The trail is located at the northern end of Lookout Mountain within the Chattanooga city limits. Park in the far west end (gravel) lot at Ruby Falls where we will meet to start our walk.)
The old African-American spiritual hymn was playing in my head, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” and I stopped to listen. My friend, Honor Woodard, once told me of her practice to notice the songs that pop into her head. Since then, I, too, have paid attention, and instead of the song being background noise, it takes on great meaning like exploring a dream as a gift from the subconscious.
It was a lovely day in December with a clear, Robin-egg blue sky, and a breeze with a tint of warm. I had a to-do list, and mid-way through, I decided to surprise my trusted 4-legged companion, Fay, with a visit to The Pocket. The winter-scape provides a beautiful time to be in nature and to listen.
The Pocket Trail is a sacred and protected place for life to live. It’s one of those places whose air emanates a refuge like a great sigh of relief. Throughout the seasons, I’ve been to this place with Fay, with companions, and while leading large groups. Each time, I’m enchanted by the sound of the water and birds; I’m held in the womb of the rock; I’m seen by the trees and herbs; and I’m healed by breathing in the enriched air.
Sitting on a rock by the waterfall, Fay leaning against my side, I noticed that old spiritual hymn in my mind. By paying attention to the lyrics, I heard this deeply felt connection of healing I had with this place through words sung in suffering. I sat until the song played out, my mind went still and the silent mind could receive the place. The sun had lowered, and December’s chilled air motivated me to say good-bye for now; I’ll carry the healing with me.
Fay and I started our slow walk back along the creek, but before we left, I stopped to hear the song of the beech trees rustling in the breeze.
This winter, my hope for all folks is to find a moment of quiet stillness, to be silent enough to deeply listen. Peace be with you.
Ethnomusicology sources helped me to see layers of meaning in this beautiful song. *Thank you Honor Woodard
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. – John Burroughs
Friday, 6pm-8:30pm; Saturday, 7:30am-11:30am *
(6am-7:15am optional start for sitting in meditation at the pavilion.)
Chattanooga Arboretum & Nature Center (Reflection Riding)
Forest Bathing is a Japanese concept of immersing oneself in the sensory experience of the forest with open awareness and no expectations. Studies in Japan have proven that opening one’s senses to the forest will reduce stress hormones such as cortisol, boost the immune system, and reduce the heart rate.
Join Yong Oh, mindfulness teacher, Dr. Jean Lomino, director of CANC and outdoor educator, and Holli Richey, therapist and herbalist, for this Solstice retreat into the woods where we will experience the life-changing practice of mindfulness in nature. Experience how to be present with the body and senses, and learn how to work with difficult thoughts and feelings which generate greater stress and anxiety. Experience what it is to rest in natural awareness. This is the first of more Mindfulness in Nature retreats to come. Toe first, then full immersion.
Register with Chattanooga Arboretum by Monday, June 17th. Donation, $25 suggested.
*This is not an overnight retreat.
It’s so interesting how context changes our value of something. Today on a bird walk with David Haskell, he mentioned how the beautiful blue jay would be a focus of ecotourism in Costa Rica, but here in the eastern US, it’s a common bird, and thus we often don’t marvel quite so much. Though, Haskell says, its habits are still quite a mystery because its call is usually only far from its nest. When it’s near its nest, the blue jay is silent. Knowing that extra insight–or acknowledged lack of insight–into blue jay behavior, starts to change our perspective of the bird, and how we value it. Now, the blue jay is mysterious.
A similar phenomenon happens with plants. Our value of it can change based on the context. In 2007 when I was with my grandma and aunt in Wheeling, WV, we visited the river park at the Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River. I saw this darling blue and white flower, that at the time I considered some type of violet. It doesn’t grow in GA, where I have mostly lived, and so the beauty drew my attention, and the newness beckoned me to take time to photograph it.
My grandma and aunt patiently waited for me to take pictures, and chuckled at my rear-end sticking up in the air as I knelt down on the ground in this public place.
Later, after I moved to Tennessee, I learned that this is blue-eyed mary, Collinsia verna, not the Viola genus. It’s in the figwort family, or snapdragon family. To Tennesseans and the USDA Plants Database, it’s an endangered plant, which increases it’s sense of value. http://plants.usda.gov/java/nameSearch
The habitat of the blue-eyed mary is moist woods, though the blue-eyed marys I saw in Wheeling, West Virginia were coming up like flowering weeds in a frequently mowed, downtown park lawn in bright sunlight with few trees. Had I been from Tennessee, I might have jumped around a bit, excited and baffled to see this endangered flower in this uncommonly common spot. So, in hindsight I’m jumping around.
I think about how else my perspective influences my value or appraisal of something. Why does scarcity have to often occur for value to be perceived? We value aspects of nature or life when we finally understand that it could and will be otherwise.
Between the sensory awareness of something and the response, is a filter of meaning based on habits of expectation which colors our perspective. The blue jays and blue-eyed marys are only two examples of illustrating the process, but it’s happening every moment. In terms of plants and animals our perception can boil our choices of responses into three options: should I revere and protect this; should I dislike and destroy this, ie mow, herbicide, shoot, trap, etc; or do I ignore and overlook it. These are sometimes necessary assessments for survival, and sometimes our assessment isn’t based on all the information, ending in unintended consequences. Many times, though, it’s not about survival; it’s simply about habit. And our habits place limitations on our experience. We may neglect to see, hear, smell, taste, touch much of our life fully because of how we categorized our experience.
Being an observer of nature is a gentle way to open our awareness and recognize the automatic associations we attach to our experiences. This is a mindfulness practice that might be more accessible to people rather than jumping into interpersonal and intrapersonal inquisitive awareness. Give it a try in your own backyard. Sit with a dandelion, or an ant, or a blue jay and see what comes up.