Everything is welcomed
I made a commitment for 2019’s International Forest Bathing Day #IFBD19, to begin writing and sharing my experiences about nature and forest therapy, and what it means for me in our city country. I dedicate this first post - 2 years’ after my official encounter with nature and forest therapy, during which, I completed my training and obtained certification, facilitated numerous sessions, presented and guided at both local and international conferences - to the theme of ‘E v e r y t h i n g I s W e l c o m e d’ as invited by nature and forest therapy.
There is plenty of hard science behind nature and forest therapy (for ease, I will simply use the term nature therapy). A plethora of popular media and research publications all hark the health benefits including lowering stress levels, boosting body immune responses, elevating anti-cancer proteins levels etc. (you can read them here, here and here). I will like to dedicate this post to a soft side of nature therapy as I have witnessed and encountered from my participants and myself.
Everything is welcomed.
And we truly mean this. Every thing. Like the forest, we welcome diversity. The deep sense of peace, the harsh realisation of life, the exuberant joy, the flow of grief. In nature therapy, nature is the therapist and the guide opens the door. We do not prescribe and instruct. We notice and accept. We do not judge and solve. We trust and flow.
To welcome everything is refreshing, and difficult. For once, everything you are encountering, thinking, experiencing, doing, playing, saying are all okay. There are no right encounters, no wrong experiences. There is no manual. There are no correct answers, no incorrect methods. Every thing is allowed. And in a modern society where we are so used to being judged and evaluated, so used to the right thing to do versus the wrong thing to do, so used to good- better-and-best, welcoming every thing is suddenly refreshing. And difficult.
Over a couple of hours of guided nature therapy in the company of people who are also slowly letting go of perfections and correct things to do, being in the safe space of nature that fully accepts you as you are, there is suddenly a liberation and a freedom that e v e r y t h i n g is okay. Your experiences, stories, messages, answers, prayers - whatever terms you subscribe to, are all valid and are all okay.
In this free-spirit nature (no pun intended!) of nature therapy, you are your-self, living and accepted. And I believe this aspect of nature therapy is one crucial way that helps participants to feel deeply peaceful and calm. Of course, Nature has the most direct impact and burgeoning research are trying to understand the exact mechanisms. Then, we temporarily unshackle ourselves from - the masks we put up to blend better with the society, the YES-s we echo when our hearts are screaming NO-s, the carefully selected words that we say so that we appear proper - Will you feel free, wild and living?
Everything is welcomed. Like the tree that stands tall, welcoming and receiving every element that comes.
How about you? As you go about your daily life, what things are you resisting and what things are you welcoming?
Nature and forest therapy and/or forest bathing are not intended as medications or treatments, and are not intended to be substitute(s) of the same. As with most things and activities, it is always best to consult with your doctor or health practitioner.
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