BY JOSIAH NEUFELD ILLUSTRATION BY PETE RYANUpdated 12:26, Mar. 17, 2020 | Published 9:43, Mar. 9, 2020
LAST JUNE, under a spreading maple tree on a hill in the southwest corner of Wisconsin, twenty-five people sat around a bonfire to mourn. To the tempo of a hand drum, they called out recently extinct species, tossing scraps of paper inscribed with animal names into the fire: Caribbean monk seal, Eiao monarch. White ash settled like snowflakes on knees and shoulders. Dusky seaside sparrow. Bulldog rat. Western black rhino.
Ordained ministers and lay leaders, they had come to this hill from across North America, from churches in Texas, Washington, West Virginia, New Hampshire, British Columbia, and Ontario, for the first in-person gathering organized by the Wild Church Network. The network is a loose affiliation of congregations, mostly from different Christian denominations, that belong to the Wild Church movement and meet for worship in the outdoors—surrounded by a New England beech grove, say, or in a forest of cedars along the BC coast, or on the grasslands of Colorado. These worshippers aren’t just seeking picturesque settings: sometimes they gather beside a stream choked with logging debris, or a bleak asphalt parking lot, or the charred skeleton of a burnt-out forest—places where they can face the destruction humans have wrought.
Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs
Can I say something to feel complete?
During our graduation call, Nadine asked our group to envision our experience of becoming a guide like many droplets of water on a silver spider web, lit up by the sun. We were asked to choose one droplet to talk about but we all had So. Many. Droplets. One droplet that came to mind for me is a moment during the training in Victoria, British Columbia (May of 2019) where, after a few days of walking in the forest, our guide Ken began the walk in an open, sunny meadow. It was early May and the sun was very welcomed. During Pleasures of Presence we were invited to put our hands on the Earth. I am pretty sure a few more invitations followed, but on that particular day, I took the word invitation to heart and did not move my hands from that soft, green clover. It was so soft and inviting and it felt so grounding to my whole body to have my hands resting and still on the ground.
— Read on www.natureandforesttherapy.org/posts/to-know-a-place
Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, M.D., ANFT Medical Advisor and Certified Forest Therapy Guide, talks about her new book, “The Outdoor Adventurer’s Guide to Forest Bathing” and other forest bathing projects on Talk of Iowa.
CONNECTING TO NATURE Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing), Therapeutic Onsens and Yummy Shojin Ryori Vegan Temple Food
Japan’s deep reverence for nature also acts as preventative healthcare. For example, forest bathing began in 1982 with a Japanese national health program. Coordinated by the Forest Therapy Society, there are now 62 ofcial healing forests and 1,200 certified guides, with over 2.5 million people walking the healing forest trails in 2018.14 Studies support the breadth of health benefits of connecting all five senses to nature, from reduced blood pressure, lower stress and improved cardiovascular and metabolic health to lower blood-sugar levels and improved concentration, memory and energy.15, 16, 17 The phytoncide in cedar and cypress has been shown to have calming effects on people, as well as providing a boost to the immune system, with one study having shown a 53 percent increase in the count of the body’s natural killer cells after two days in these forests.
PETER EADON-CLARKE Advisor, Conceptasia Inc.
Dr. Qing Li of the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and president of the Forest Therapy Society, who also spoke at the 2019 GWS, notes that we spend 93 percent of our time indoors, leading to a nature-deficit disorder. As the inbound tourism boom is discovering, Japan has an incredible wealth of natural assets to facilitate recovery: in addition to the 62 healing forests, there are 20,972 onsens (hot springs), two-thirds of the global total, providing a rustic, authentic, and hyper-specific wellness experience. In addition to the medicinal benefits of the various minerals in the water, deep-soaking bathing has thermotherapeutic effects (a higher body temperature stretches capillaries improving circulation, increasing metabolism and reducing fatigue), water pressure effects (improving the flow of your blood and lymph fluid) and buoyancy effects. The latter, by reducing the body’s weight to one-tenth of what it normally is,
PETER EADON-CLARKE Advisor, Conceptasia Inc.
The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs ANFT, has certified 800 guides in 44 countries to date.
As rates of chronic disease among children have skyrocketed over the past few decades, pediatricians have increasingly looked for solutions beyond the clinic. Sometimes that means actually prescribing time outside. Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Oakland on the medical evidence that indicates escaping modern urban life, even temporarily, can yield health dividends.