Forest Therapy: Don’t Forget the Fun
Like the flow of a stream through stones, a forest therapy walk can pass through many experiences. One moment we are in awe; the next stricken by grief. The stream flows on and we find our tears have dried and now we are laughing with our companions, perhaps splashing water on each other in the stream and inventing games.
One of the game-like invitations we give to groups on forest therapy walks is to individually explore the forest and find a “sense room”—a place that imparts a feeling of its own. It may be a small clearing in a cluster of trees, a place where stones are arranged in a way that is reminiscent of a cafe setting; it could be a hollow that feels like an ancient grove, or a hill that looks out over the land. Whatever the place, you recognize that it has a unique feel. The forest is full of places like. In the “sense rooms” invitation, we each explore until we our own place, a spot with a personality that calls to our imagination.
Once we have found our sense room, we use our imagination to see how it is furnished. Where are the doors and windows? How is it decorated? Does it, like rooms in a house, have a special purpose? Perhaps that stone is a table, the moss on the ground is a lush carpet, two trees frame
a doorway, the arch of a branch is a windowsill. Perhaps we sense that it is a place where wise elders gather in council, or where the fairy folk hold wild dances. It may be a place of reflection and meditation. The possibilities are infinite.
Noticing features and naming a room helps us tune in to how we are affected by being there. What is it like to be in this place, in this moment? We call this the “felt sense of the present moment” or sometimes just the “heart sense.” It is one of the core awarenesses that we aim to cultivate through Forest Therapy, and the Sense Rooms invitation is a powerful tool for doing so.
After we individually find and explore our rooms we gather again and take each other on a “rooms tour.” It’s so fun to see how excited and proud people are of their rooms. I have watched participants explain in great detail and with obvious pride the various features of their rooms.
As they do, their “guests” enter into the imaginations of their “host,” seeing what the host sees and often discovering details that enhance the host’s own experience.
And then there is naming. Each person gives their room a name that captures how they experience it. Some examples from recent walks:
- “The hall of the wisdom stones”
- “Tanglebranch Palace”
- “The chamber of drunken fairies”
- “The press box”
- “Green mediators”
- “Gathering room of the dragonflies”
This way of exploring the forest works for all ages. It quickly becomes a playful romp with lots of laughter.
Fun is therapeutic. Laughter is medicine for the soul. That’s part of the point of the “sense rooms” invitation. Also, as we gain experience with the many sense rooms of the forest overtime we become more attuned to the subtleties and sweetness that each and every place and each moment offers us as we journey through the forest and through life. We are given the gift of learning to more fully experience the ever-changing kaleidoscope of rich sensory impressions
in which we are immersed.
The forest teaches us many things and offers us healing in many ways. The peace of simple fun is among its lessons.
What energizes his work is his love of nature and also the sense of impending environmental catastrophe caused by global overpopulation and over-emphasis on consumption. His contribution
to finding solutions to these problems is to help as many people as possible to develop meaningful relationships with nature. In the words of Jacques Cousteau; "people protect what they love." Love
of nature arises naturally when we come into heartfelt, embodied relationship with it, a kind of relationship that is not limited to "knowing the facts" but instead encompasses a much deeper knowing of one's place among the many beings. Amos has also authored many other publications including
“A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku”, available through this website.