Nurturing Whole Health
I moved to Boise last winter and after an incredible journey, returned to my former home in Oregon, eight months later. Many have asked me what happened. This is the story of my journey.
Last January, before I relocated to Boise, my friend, Judy, pulled out a beautiful wooden box; opened it and began looking through several teeny, tiny cardboard boxes for a parting gift. "This one is for you.", she said, as she handed me a tiny box. Inside were two tightly rolled woven cloth strips rolled together and calligraphed with the following: "Every Journey Brings Blessings.", and, "Blessings Abound; Blessings All Around."
When I left my home in Oregon last winter, I thought of it as a move, not a journey. It seems that Judy knew otherwise. Sometimes I wonder how limited my life experience would be without the awareness to follow my inner compass and listen to the guidance coming through. I so appreciate the love and support I have received from my family and friends over the years. It has taken much courage and strength for me to listen and follow what my heart is telling me, especially over the past 13 years since my divorce. At times it has felt terrifying. When I left the security of what I thought would be a life-long marriage, in order to help save all of us from what had become deeply broken, it was terrifying. It's not a simple matter and it can take years or decades to learn to follow one's inner voice when life feels out of balance, stagnant or when you feel your spirit is being sucked out of you. The work it takes to catalyze change can be excruciating. I was the person who put safety and security above all else. Right up until the point where the awesome job I loved and planned to retire from 20 years down the road- with generous benefits and people I considered family, abruptly ended following a health crisis, 5 years ago.
Sometimes the only way we gain the awareness and freedom to find our true path is through sudden unexpected loss or crisis. In my case it was losing my ability to work, let alone, stand, walk or eat most foods without a violent vertigo attack. Fluorescent and LED lights, triggered sharp pain in my eyeballs and the feeling that someone was blowing up a giant balloon in my right ear. Being in crowds was almost impossible as the sound filtered into my ear as loud, unrecognizable static. The worst of these symptoms lasted for close to two years. I'd spent my life up until that point, being strong, and independent, with the ability to do almost anything I put my mind to. My mind was sharp and my body strong, fit and agile. I'd had no reason to doubt that I would have many years at my job and I had just signed away my spousal support, 6 months earlier. Suddenly, I could barely leave my home, let alone work and support myself. I was flung into the world of unemployment, Medicaid and Food Stamps, terrified of what would happen when my savings ran out. One of the biggest journeys of my life had begun; in the process, catalyzing massive inner and outer transformation, offering me a challenging doorway to self discovery.
Without this crisis, I can't imagine my former self making such a jump into the unknown. I was comfortable and felt in control of my life before I abruptly was thrown into a full-on metamorphosis; a shattering process where everything I thought I was and knew suddenly disappeared with lightning speed. In retrospect, I see it was the only way for me to cross a threshold to now.
Time and the process of finding wholeness have helped me see a bigger perspective. Looking back, I can see a map of my life's journey up to now. I traveled some during my youth, on my own; and then with my husband and children during our marriage, and in the past decade, with my adult children. The last big trip I took while still married, was with my husband and 14 year-old son, to Turkey. Turkey was beautiful; exotic and evoked a deep sense of having passed through this land previously. We visited tombs of Sufi Saints, including Jelaluddin Rumi. We took part in Sufi Zhikr (Whirling Dervish experiences) as caravansari's. We experienced Turkish /Sufi music with our musician guide, Latif Bolat. It felt like much more of an inner journey as compared to our past travels. Upon returning home, our marriage rapidly began to fall apart. It seemed the stressors and deeply buried dysfunction that had been building for years were catalyzed in Turkey and brought to the surface by the depth of that journey. Less than a year later, after a 25 year marriage, we were divorced.
Though I loved traveling, after Turkey, except for traveling to be with my adult kids, who live abroad, I was pulled toward experiences that took me within. At The 9-Day School for The Work, with Byron Katie, I discovered that facilitated inquiry into my stressful stories and thinking, with a group of others drawn to this form of inquiry, was the deepest experience I had up until then. Working through the knotted thoughts about what triggered the end of my marriage was liberating and healing. I began craving quiet places and nature. Instead of planning travel abroad, I was pulled to the forests and hot springs of Oregon, longing for quiet retreats and training's in nature. I studied Qigong and began a daily practice. The following year I attended a Level I Reiki training (energy healing). Soon thereafter, I trained in Reiki Level II & III, becoming a Reiki Master and Teacher. It's almost 6 years since my initial training and I cherish this healing work with clients, as well as my daily "Self-Reiki " sessions for my own self-care. Before my studies, I was not quite sure why I was pulled to Reiki, but quickly discovered my gift. Since early childhood, I always felt electrical tingling throughout my body. I assumed that everyone felt it. After my first Reiki attunement, that "electricity" became quite pronounced and I discovered and owned one of the gifts I came here with, that lay dormant for more than half my life.
Those training's I was called to in the forest at Breitenbush Hot Springs, created a foundation for what came next. Qigong in my back meadow transformed me. Nature came alive as I moved energy through Qigong. Wild animals began showing up where ever I went, peering in my windows and visiting me at the creek; my former, somewhat limited ability to communicate with animals became pronounced. The empty nest box under my bedroom window was suddenly inhabited by a family of Western Screech Owls. My deepening connection to nature was already growing before the health crisis struck and once it hit, one of the only places I could be, other than the sanctuary of my home, was beside the creek in my meadow, practicing qigong with my bare feet on the ground. I feel the time I spent in nature was an essential piece in recovering my balance and discovering a new way to be in the natural world and embodied in my life.
With time, as I healed, I slowly developed my Reiki practice and became credentialed as a Whole Health Educator™. I took groups of clients into the forest for a practice called, "Shinrin Yoku/Forest Bathing." With the first experience, I knew I had returned home. I felt relief, and understood that this too is another gift I have to offer. Two months later I was on a journey to Costa Rica for a week-long training and 6 months later, I had become certified as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.
When I went to Boise last winter, following two previous visits, I was searching for a home where I might escape the summers of thick, wildfire smoke that Southern Oregon has lived with for several years. I felt called to the land in Boise-the high desert and The Boise River flowing through the middle of the city. Though I was afraid to leave my home of 40 years in Oregon, I followed a calling that felt very alive in me. I experienced severe stress and upheaval that comes with such a huge move, alone. I developed collaborations and launched my practice as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide in a new city. I made new acquaintances as my guided forest therapy walks began at The Idaho Botanical Garden and at The Foot Hills Learning Center. I spent much time hiking and forest bathing in The Boise Foothills and along the river; biking The Boise River Greenbelt; sitting under the tall Pines at The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. I was often at The Idaho Botanical Garden, either guiding forest therapy walks, assessing trails or practicing qigong under a magnificent Catalpa Tree.
I started a qigong practice group and met a friend there who invited me to a Wim Hof practice group, immersing in the icy waters of The Boise River, 3 mornings a week. I fell in love with the river and its life- its web of inter-being. I experienced much synchronicity in Boise, often revolving around the river. My delightful new "river dipper" friend, Tyler and his wife, Jade, had close connections to people in Oregon, at The Hai Shan Center, who are like family to my son, who currently lives in Asia. Being with our Wim Hof group, immersing in the life-giving waters, was being with family. So even when a morning was a chilly 55 degrees outside, I made it to the river. Mostly, I spent my time in Boise alone, immersed in nature. This move was the first time in my adult life, since before my marriage, that I journeyed out alone, leaving my loving people and the land I knew. I longed for the deep human connections I had left in Oregon and felt painfully isolated. At the same time, immersing in the solitude and quiet of nature was affecting me at a deep soul level.
"I wanted a move, but my soul needed a journey. I answered the call to look inside and be present with myself, in a way that could only happen in a foreign place. It seems I had a karmic contract to go through the isolation- to understand there is so much more to life than the human world. In Boise, I met myself through meeting The More than Human World."
I wanted a move, but my soul needed a journey. I answered the call to look inside and be present with myself, in a way that could only happen in a foreign place. It seems I had a karmic contract to go through the isolation- to understand there is so much more to life than the human world. In Boise, I met myself through meeting The More than Human World-through giant puffy white clouds against the clear blue Idaho sky; an apple tree named, "Whomping Willow"; sudden, violent whirlwinds; a Muskrat who popped out of the river one morning in great curiosity; Mallards who included me as one of their flock as I sat in the cold Boise River; the flock of Canadian Geese, flying over and gracing me with their big, soft bodies, within arm's reach, as I lay along the river's edge. I still hear their honking and see their soft white bellies. I met my first Bobcat while practicing qigong, one evening in The Boise Foothills- Bobcat-sleek, knowing, spotted beauty, passing by as I stood in "Universe" pose under an Oak Tree. In one knowing glance, we agreed that all was well before she continued on her way. The Red Squirrel's of Boise, warmly welcomed and assured me they had my back; knew I was there on a "mission" and offered me a place on their land. They talked to me and danced on branches above my head. A male and female, doing a love dance on a low branch, stopped a foot away from me, to mate as they peeked their heads my way.
Riding my bike down The Boise River Greenbelt one late afternoon, a branch unexpectedly dropped, with a squirrel dangling from its tip. I was moving fast on my bike, but the squirrel managed to jump onto my shoulder, as if it had been waiting at the bus stop. It bounced off me to the ground, with a splat-like sound; and ran off. When I told my son, Noah, in Taiwan, the story, he was in disbelief and shared his own squirrel experience. Noah said at what would have been the approximate same time in Taiwan as the squirrel event in Boise, that he was on a train and a wild squirrel came running through the train car and leaped onto his shoulder on its way through. I had tapped into the, SWW, "The Squirrel Wide Web." Five days before my return to Oregon, following a walk with a friend, a squirrel approached us near the river. She walked up to the toes of our boots; sat up on her haunches with her little paws together and her 6 little nipples in view. My friend, Lindsay, said, "Oh my God, I've never had this happen before!" I said, "Really, don't all the squirrels in Boise do this? I've had several experiences like this with the squirrels here." Lindsay, who was born and raised in Boise said, "No, this is not normal. It's because I'm with you."
The Bobcat taught me about solitude; the geese and the ducks shared their stories of migration, flight and navigating the river; the squirrels introduced me to their vast social network and adopted me for a time. And, the land, sky, trees and river introduced me to the vast web of life they support. I am so very grateful for all the beautiful people who I found and who reached out to me during my journey in Boise. I'm grateful for new friendships that were written in the stars and to all who joined forest therapy walks with Wild Wellness Guide. Boise taught me how to stretch farther than I ever have; to be with myself and understand that every journey has potential to lead one home.
Though I always had a close relationship with the natural world, during a sudden, debilitating healing crisis, several years ago, something shifted on a massive level and nature fully opened to me, allowing for a deep new connection. Through this experience, I became clear that my work was as a healer, teacher and guide to facilitate others in exploring the depths of what it means to be fully alive.
During this period, I spent close to two years in solitude and meditation, practicing gratitude and medical qigong in my meadow, under an oak tree by my creek. One day I realized that the trees, the running water, the rocks, the sky, the breeze and the animals had become an essential part of my life. I began having experiences with wild animals which resembled something out of a fairy tale. While napping in my hammock by the creek one warm afternoon, I was awakened by a large buck nuzzling my knee. His twin was on the other side of me and a female was in the creek. We all gazed at one another before the two bucks moved beside the creek, rose up on their hind legs and loudly clacked their antlers in play before running off. Soon after, a large black bear appeared one evening, gazing into my kitchen window. That was followed by a pair of screech owls taking up residence in the nest box under my bedroom window. Each spring the owls breed a clutch of babies. They have taught me their hoot and continue to teach me their wisdom. One morning as I finished qigong, I looked at the beauty of the natural world around me and asked aloud, "When will I get my life back?" "This is your life now.", came the answer. I understood then that the natural world had become deeply integrated into my everyday life and played an essential role in my ability to heal.
Soon after, I discovered The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) and Shinrin Yoku. I first began integrating some of my health education coaching work into nature, taking my clients into the forest for deep stress reduction. I began offering "Elemental Forest Medicine" groups, where I discovered the power of the forest as "therapist" and its potent ability to reduce stress levels and support physical and emotional healing. I awakened to the healing power of "the more than human world."
I am grateful to be a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. I invite you to join me in the trees and discover for yourself, the healing power of slowing down; connecting with the natural world in a new way and letting go of stress and supporting your wellness through the evidenced-based healing practice of Forest Therapy.
.Hello Dear Community,
I am incredibly grateful for the gift of clear, clean air for these past two days. I have spent hours in nature since yesterday, connecting to the natural world with all of my senses. My olfactory function is quickly returning. It is such a gift to notice and differentiate scents of nature after weeks of smelling smoke and the inside of a sweaty mask. I hope those of you experiencing the summer fire season are finding ways for self-care; getting away at times if possible and getting outfitted with good masks and air purifiers of some kind. We all understand how challenging the fires have been. Unfortunately, I have had to cancel all of my Forest Bathing Walks since early July and have been unable to schedule any in August due to the unpredictability of the smoke. I am praying for early rains this year to fully snuff the last of the fires and allow us all back to the outdoors. The good news is that I have a great air purifier. The clean air has made my Reiki sessions a doubly blissful and relaxing escape from the stress of the smoke.
I am very happy and grateful to announce that in July, I completed my 6-month practicum through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and am now Certified as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. This certification feels like an essential coming together of the circle of my healing and teaching work that I have been building and refining over the past many years. I am so excited to bring Nature and Forest Therapy into my practice as a Whole Health Educator™ and add it to my facilitation of Mind-Body Stress Regulation as well as my Reiki Energy Healing and teaching.
I have changed my practice name to "Wild Wellness Guide" from Forest Bathing Ashland. My practice has been a work in progress and since early June, "Wild Wellness Guide" has been has been strongly speaking to me. I feel it aptly describes me and my practice as I guide others on their path to wellness through facilitation, education and healing. The "Wild" world of nature is where I am deeply connected and a central core of my wellness work.
My work as a Whole Health Educator focuses on whole person wellness and disease prevention. It integrates evidence-based practices for physical, emotional, nutritional, environmental and spiritual wellness. In my practice, through my own experience and those of my clients, I have discovered as science now demonstrates, that the stress of modern life leads to much of the disease in our society. Research is showing that stress is increased from sedentary time spent indoors; screen time and being cut-off from our roots in the natural world.
At the core of my work is calming the sympathetic nervous system to regulate stress. I am so excited to be able to offer Forest Therapy, Mind-Body Stress Regulation and Reiki Healing to help my clients develop a personal practice to manage stress levels for optimum wellness.
Nature and Forest Therapy, (also called Shinrin Yoku/Forest Bathing), is a facilitated, mindful sensory immersion in nature, for slowing down, deeply letting go of stress, unplugging and connecting to the natural world, oneself and to others in a new way. Once practiced with facilitation, it can be easily integrated into one's life as a regular practice. Forest Therapy is offered for public groups, private groups and for individuals and couples.
Mind-Body Stress Regulation includes Guided Sensory-Nature Imagery, Breathwork, Gratitude Practice, Mind-Body Techniques and Nature Immersion. It includes "Body Hacks" (practices) to help support the Vagus Nerve, one of the cranial nerves which connects the brainstem to the body, linking the neck, heart, lungs, and the abdomen to the brain. A balanced Vagus Nerve supports a healthy parasympathetic nervous system. I offer this work in individual sessions as well as sessions combined with Reiki.
Reiki Energy Healing is a very calming form of energy work which deeply relaxes the sympathetic nervous system. It helps support stress levels, mood, pain, sleep and anxiety. When the sympathetic nervous system calms down, the physical, emotional and energy body is able to relax and come back into balance. Besides individual healing sessions, I offer classes for Usui Reiki, Levels 1,2 & 3 and a half-day class called, "Reiki for Self-Care."
(Updated info here for 2019) I look forward to seeing you in the foresta and Parks in beautiful Boise, Idaho where I relocated to in February. I sold my home and said goodbye to my longtime home in Oregon, heading for new adventures. Call or contact me through my website to schedule Forest Therapy Walks, Stress Regulation Facilitation and Reiki sessions or Classes.
Be Well, Sari
Nature and Forest Therapy also known as Shinrin Yoku, which translates from the Japanese to, Forest Bathing, has awakened and deepened my connection to the natural world like nothing I have ever experienced. It has helped me connect the dots of my life. For over 25 years, I have explored whole person wellness, health and healing, and in the process, discovered my personal path to healing which has allowed me to hold space for others. My healing work includes all aspects of health- physical, mental, emotional, environmental and spiritual, which I integrate into my practice as a Whole Health Educator™, Coach and Reiki healer and now as a Certified Forest Therapy Guide.
In completing my training. month by month, I've become acutely aware of the web of connection that links and integrates my decades of life experience, study and practice. I've understood my endeavors to be related, but until now, not so deeply connected. In the past six months, I have spent more time than ever in my life, immersed in and observing the natural world. This intimate connection has brought me a clear and profound understanding of my life's trajectory and my place in it. For years, I have been on a journey of discovery; sowing seeds, exploring and gathering the experience and tools necessary to share my healing offerings. This path has included gifted mentors, guides and healers, higher education, in-depth training, mothering, relationship, self-study, self-discovery, spiritual practice and life-altering transformation. Now, Nature and Forest Therapy, brings to my work a deep sense of wholeness, added to my teaching, stress reduction coaching and hands-on energy healing. The healing power of the natural world is like the missing key that is now found, completing the circle. Last year, the first time I brought a group into the woods for an "Elemental Forest Bathing Walk", I felt complete, like I never have in my entire life. I said to myself with great relief and joy, "Ahhhh, this is why I am here." As The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy teaches, "The forest is the therapist, the guide opens the door."
Connecting deeply with nature has clearly revealed to me the Medicine Wheel of my life.-my vision; my experience and above all, my cracked-open heart. What might you see if you visualize the elder years of your life and from there look back to your early years or to where you are right now? Where has your inner compass been leading you all this time? I see the integration of all: my youth; play; imagination; isolation; sadness; my parents, young and aged; my life as a sister; friend; community member; marriage; wife and mother; my babies-now adults; immersion in meditation and spiritual path; travels; divorce; studies; degrees; certifications; passion for communication; connection; healing, teaching, wellness and wholeness; inquiry into one's thinking; organic farmer; herbs and nutrition; personal healing crisis- trauma; alone; exiled; excruciating; mind-blowing transformation; greatest gift; the world of subtle healing-breath, energy, Reiki, gratitude, mind-body, mindfulness, Qigong, animals, birds, bugs, flowers, frogs, owls, plants, trees, rocks, snakes, earth, water, fire and air; the more than human world.
Since my immersion training in January, I have found my tribe and just like wild herbal tea, I have been deeply steeped in "the more than human world." I have learned to slow way down; listen; feel; see and connect with the forest in a new way. I have spent hours scouting trails and guided many participants in Forest Bathing Experiences. I have studied wild edible tea plants; sat for hours in my three different "sit-spots"; awakened my senses; connected with birds, animals, clouds, insects, flowers, plants and trees. I have developed my eye and hand, discovering that I am an artist; honing my skills each month as I created sit-spot and tea plant drawings. Through it all, I have created a "Web of Interbeing", linking together 18 different beings who I observed and connected with during sit-spot practice. I am now more than ever, acutely awake to the diverse, thriving community in my meadow. I have created a "Deck of Invitations", activities in the forest which I invite my participants to partake of, to connect in a new way with the natural world. I have read and dipped into the works of inspired authors, naturalists and poets; a few of my favorites being, David Abram, Amos Clifford, Richard Louv, Florence Williams, Robin Wall Kimmerer, John Muir, Mary Oliver, Emerson, Rumi, Thoreau and Wordsworth.
I finished my practicum this month with a solo Medicine Journey, followed by a "Threshold Ceremony" in my Clay Creek meadow, acknowledging completion of my concentration and work of the past 6-months, as I set intention for my next steps. I am grateful to The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, my A.N.F.T trainer's, Ben Page, Alex Gesse, Amos Clifford, Geeta Stilwill and Andrea Prazmowski; my mentor, Geeta and my loving tribe, Cohort 19. I am grateful for the opportunity through my work as a Forest Therapy Guide, to facilitate others into a deeper relationship with the more than human world, for healing, connection to self and others. There is great power in the shift that takes place when we deeply connect to the natural world. This connection can guide humanity to a place of true reciprocity, caring and love for all beings that live in The Earth, offering an invitation to do the work of healing and repair, for the survival of all who exist in this delicate web-of-interbeing.
In gratitude, love, trust and remembering to let go when called to do so.
Immerse in an Instagram Forest Bath
Please take some time to slow down, immerse in and enjoy my Instagram photos below. These were taken during my immersion training in Costa Rica and throughout my 6-month practicum.
I took my first photography class in 10th grade from my biology teacher, Woody Clarke. Mr. Clarke guided our class into the woods next to my high school, in Council Bluffs, Iowa and named every tree, plant, bird, insect and animal we came upon as we meandered in the beauty of the Iowa woods. I developed my black and white nature photos in Mr. Clarke's school darkroom. Now, 45 years later, I continue to wander and play in the woods near my home in Southern Oregon, noticing as the life of the forest calls to me and poses before my digital Android phone.