Strengthening our connections with nature is a bit like that feeling of going home and the welcoming serenity of your own private space. Visiting our ancestral home in the wilds of nature can act as a balm to our bodies, hearts and mind working to lift our spirits. Ariel Yabek, LMFT tells us of her experience feeling nurtured on her forest therapy walk and becoming aware of the healing from the forest that science can now explain.
A Personal Testament of Nature Therapy Healing from a Mental Health Practitioner
As a mental health practitioner, I am most interested and invested in understanding what makes people well. I am under no illusions that psychotherapy alone can provide the kind of healing that people need. Healing comes in so many forms and is as varied as human beings themselves.
For about a year now I have been invited to Shinrin Yoku walks hosted by my friend Ben Page. While they looked so interesting and lovely, I had not participated...until now.
Recently I had been in need of some serious healing myself. So with an open and longing heart, I accepted the invitation to the full moon hike in Monrovia Canyon Park, 80 acres of beautiful forest nestled in the San Gabriel Valley.
As we were pulling into the park area, I witnessed a mama bear and her two cubs toddling across the street. This was a good omen as I am also a new mama trying to balance the various demands of life, work, family and self care. We also had the honor of witnessing deer, fox, groundhogs, tiger swallow tail butterflies and to cap off the night, a rattlesnake who had no qualms letting us know her boundaries (an important lesson for anyone who struggles in maintaining personal boundaries with others). The animal medicine was rich and potent under the full glowing moonlight.
Our group gathered and Ben began orienting us to the forest and invited us all to just notice. Notice what we hear, what we feel, smell, touch and understand to be true in that moment.
It was profound to just stop and notice- healing in and of itself.
About thirty minutes in, I began to notice in myself how regulated I felt. It was a marked difference from how I felt prior to entering and experiencing the forest. I felt calm, I was aware of my thoughts and I was acutely aware of how emotional I felt. I was so in-tuned with the rhythms of my heart and what my heart was telling me.
When invited to describe what I was noticing about my experience, I shared with the group
my sense that I was receiving what felt like the best and most satisfying "mothering" one
could hope for.
I felt natures' loving embrace. She was kind, wise and offered her unending support yet humbly requested that in order to truly benefit from her offerings I needed to yield and step into her realm with trust and respect. I was so moved and in this moment I felt I was receiving the healing I needed.
That evening I was reminded that I am a natural creature whose neuropathways and bio rhythms respond with an almost instant resonance to the natural world and all she has to offer. It was like a reset to my mind, body and spirit. More and more therapists are taking their clients out on nature walks to process the emotional content of their lives for this very reason. I truly believe that engaging with nature in an intentional way is profoundly meaningful and therapeutic.
There's something magical that happens when we step into nature and truly listen- to the sounds of the forest, the ocean, the waterfall, the creatures, the leaves rustling in the gentle breeze and the beating of our own hearts.
We are wired to resonate with these experiences and in these moments, ancient neuropathways are activated to support our development. In my opinion, healing occurs far more exponentially- dare I say instantly in nature.
I am so grateful to have been invited into this community and expand what is possible in my own healing journey.
Moon photos were provided courtesy of Steve Yabek, Ariel's talented father.
of Forest Therapy Guides to see if there is one in your area to lead you or a group on a walk.