Have you ever wondered how to better connect to individuals with special conditions or disabilities? These situations can often gift us with the opportunity to reach outside of our own "boxes" and make creative efforts to build a foundation for friendship or care giving. Sometimes creating meaningful connections with others can require us to be flexible in our own perceptions of communication. Certified Forest Therapy Guide Brenda Spitzer has come to understand this in her work with the special population group she guides and shares with us her experiences of joy and learning from one another.
When going out into the woods or in the wild, we are undoubtedly likely to encounter other wildlife whose lands we are entering into. These creatures large and small surround us while we take solace in their peaceful homeland. For centuries indigenous cultures have appreciated and valued the wisdom and insight of these non-human animals, and have listened to their communications. Yet, in our hustle and bustle world, we have lost sight of the possibility of communication between species, and now see animals as ignorant, non-emotional creatures who have nothing to offer us in the way of wisdom or intelligence. This story shared by ANFT Founder and Director Amos Clifford is a beautiful tale of how through non-verbal communication and an intelligence beyond his own capacity, Coyote saved Amos from potential death. This story offers us insight into the depth of compassion and perception of the more-than-human world, and invites us to open ourselves up to the communications these creatures have for us.
It's common to hear people of older generations comment on how different their childhood was compared to the lives of children now. There was less media, less generalized fear, and more time spent outdoors. We often hear stories of how our parents or grandparents spent hours alone or with their friends wandering through the landscape, with little to no supervision. Fast forward to today's world and parents are taught live in fear of the world for their children. As consequence, children are spending less time outdoors than ever before, with the television-babysitter becoming a common practice. While this is a trend being commented on by people such as Richard Louv and organizations like the Children and Nature Network, there are those who are intentionally finding ways to immerse their children in the great outdoors- even when their culture does not support it. Katriina Kilpi, a Finnish expat living in Belgium, describes her experience of being an outdoorsy Mother living in a non-outdoorsy environment, all the while doing the best she can to instill the value of nature in her children. This is a beautiful piece about remembering a carefree, nature-full childhood, and the struggles of living in a location where a nature-based lifestyle is not the norm.
December is always a busy month, with the holidays spurring festive gatherings and celebrations. With all this social activity, sometimes it is easy to forget that this season also holds the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Increasingly less sunlight and the external landscape of bare trees, migrating birds, and chilly weather offers a mirror and an invitation to allow ourselves to go inward and slow down. In this week's blog, Andrea Fereshteh shares with us an invitation to slow down and allow the stillness of the winter forest to inspire us into a dreamlike state for deep reflection and internal exploration.
We tend to look at nature as a collection of things: plants and trees and fungi appear as objects that can only be acted upon, rather than engaged with. But what happens when we look at them as living beings with teachings to impart to us? In this week's article, Tam Willey explains how opening one's self to a reciprocal relationship with nature can help us grow - and heal.
Our gardens are like little sections of 'wild' in suburbia. They provide us with opportunity to tend the land, nurture plants, observe the seasons, and interact with the More Than Human World. They offer us solace from our busy lives and drop us into a way of interacting with Time that is more akin to the way of our ancestors did than modern day living. They are, in essence, sanctuaries. In this week's blog post, guest writer Sylvie Young shares with us her story of planting and tending a garden in New Jersey in the aftermath of 9/11, and how this plot of land helped her move the grief afterwards. May this piece inspire you to spend a little more time in your own garden, or to plant one of your own.
The term "tree hugger" has been used widely in Western culture, and often times with not the most positive connotation attached to it. Through the lens of her own deep connection to trees and nature, guest writer Liza Pullman shares how trees are intelligent and conscious beings that can bring wisdom and healing to the humans that choose to connect with them. This week's blog offers a wonderful summary of some of the most recent literature about the complex capabilities of trees. So the next time someone calls you a tree hugger, you'll be able to assuredly and confidently say thank you.
For many of us at ANFT, we feel a deep, innate sense of love and connection to trees- that is why we are in this work. But have you ever wondered where this deep love comes from? Is there clues in our ancestral past which point to this connection? Is there more to our love than just our personal experiencing with trees and the forest? Forest Therapy Guide and ANFT Staff member Denell Nawrocki answers some of these questions. Prompted for an Indigenous Medicine class for her graduate school program, Denell uncovered her ancestral connection to her love of trees and dove deep into historical connection of this reverence. We hope you find this piece intriguing and inspires you to dive into your own ancestral connection to your love of trees and nature.
Recent research shows that there is more to the life of plants than we ever imagined and knew before. Intimate communications among them, sensory perception, and energetic responses are some of the new characteristics we have discovered when it comes to the plant world. What do these new personality traits mean for inter-species relationships between humans and plants? How can we utilize these new understandings to dive deeper into connection and relationship with our photo-synthesizing neighbors? In this week's blog piece, Daniel Burge explores intimate communication and fellowship with plants in the surrounding lands of his home in Ireland. He tells of profound messages, longing, and a deep love which only a flower could evoke. May this piece inspire you to explore personal relationship and contact with the plant kingdom around your own home. Perhaps they have a message for you which you need to hear.
The practice of Shinrin-Yoku, or Forest Bathing, centers around the concept of 'slowing down'. Health benefits such as a reduction in cortisol levels, increase in parasympathetic nervous response, and increase in immune function have all been cited as benefits of spending time in nature and the forest. However, these are only benefits found on the physical level. What about the deeper levels of human experience: the mental, emotional and even spiritual aspects of being a Being on this planet Earth? These sorts of philosophical inquiries naturally arise as one sinks deeper into the practice of nature-connection, and one that Certified Guide and Trainer Ben Page explores in this piece. What happens when we remove all the 'benefits', 'indicators' and 'measurements' from Forest Therapy and make space for something more simple to emerge- the pleasure of simply witnessing the world around you? What happens when you begin to inquire, "What am I noticing"? The answers which arise just may surprise you.