Nurturing Whole Health
How often do you find time to play in the woods? I have childhood memories of spending my days in the forest next to my home in S.W. Iowa. I built forts with my friends along the wooded trails. We lined them with thick green moss, pine cones, rocks and sticks, making them our second homes. I also had a nature room to myself under the shade of an old weeping willow, in a partially shaded spot, tucked away next to a secret staircase near my house. The sunlight filtered through the willow branches creating what I thought was "fairy light." I filled my little room with rocks, pieces of bark, sticks, flower petals, moss, buckeyes, milkweed, dandelion fluff and willow branches I wove into works of art. When there was no school, I spent hours there in quiet solitude. I wandered home for lunch where soup and grilled cheese sandwiches awaited. Once sated, I was back in my little room for the remainder of the day, touching, listening, feeling, smelling, imagining and observing all the life around me. That was decades ago and yet, those memories remain fully alive in me.
"Today, my focus was on intricate pieces of "forest treasure", splashing in the waterfall and exploring a grove of trees spread out like a mansion, with one distinctive room after another. I was swiftly pulled out of my small sense of self and life's stresses into an experience of something much greater, as I dropped into the life of the forest."
I still go on playdates in the woods, sometimes solo and sometimes with friends and play in ways quite similar to when I was a child. Today I spent a couple hours in the forest, off the trails in the woods of Southern Oregon. When I hit adulthood, I thought play meant activities like skiing, hiking, dancing, going to the beach, going out for a meal with friends or planning my next vacation. And now, one of my favorite ways to play is through immersing in the woods. Through this practice, I have reclaimed the world of imaginative creative play that I lost myself in as a child. I readily drop in to the intricate beauty of the forest, initially starting with a hike and then, I am called by the forest to slow way down and connect with the more than human world, the sentient community of nature. Today, my focus was on intricate pieces of "forest treasure", splashing in the waterfall and exploring a grove of trees which spread out like a mansion, with one distinctive room after another. I was swiftly pulled out of my small sense of self and life's stresses into an experience of something much greater than myself, as I dropped into the life of the forest and a deep sense of awe.
Two years ago, I began moving my practice as a Whole Health Educator, with its solid basis in evidence-based health research, in the direction of the healing medicine of the forest. When I discovered the practice of Forest Therapy, also known as Shinrin Yoku, which translates to Forest Bathing, I was not surprised by all the evidenced-based research there is on the healing power of nature. Shinrin Yoku refers to the practice of spending time in the forest with the goal of enhancing health, wellbeing, happiness and connecting to nature. The practice is based on the idea that it is beneficial to spend time "bathing in the atmosphere of the forest." The Japanese began studying the positive effects of Shinrin-Yoku on health over 30 years ago when they found their nation in a health crisis and turned to the forests for healing. Today, thanks to Shinrin Yoku in Japan, we have decades of medical research, which correlates the time spent in nature with increased wellbeing.
Many have found forest bathing to significantly alleviate the source of numerous stress-related ailments. It can decrease stress hormone production, at the same time increasing mood. High stress levels can contribute to development of arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, headaches, high blood pressure and skin conditions, and numerous other health conditions. Forest bathing regulates parasympathetic nervous system activity which calms and regulates the system, conserves energy, and slows the heart rate.
Spending time in nature can also boost the antiviral natural killer cells of the immune system which can become compromised by high blood levels of stress hormones. These factors in turn offer support of increased immune function. In a 2007 study, the body's disease-fighting agents, natural killer cells, rose by 50% in men taking two hour walks in the woods over a two day period. Another factor in boosting immune function is a chemical released by trees called "phytoncides." These essential oils are part of the tree's immune system and in turn, as we breathe in the forest air, our immune system gets a boost.
"The guide opens the door and the forest offers its healing medicine, unique to each person."
In January of 2018, I completed my immersion training to become a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. Although the work I do as a forest therapy guide is inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku, as an A.N.F.T. trained guide, the use of the terms Forest Therapy and Shinrin Yoku do not fully reflect the specific practice as offered by A,N.F.T. Participants are guided on a very slow, mindful walk in nature in a way that facilitates and invites healing interactions. The guide opens the door and the forest offers its healing medicine, unique to each person. In cultures throughout the world, there has been a long tradition of healing through the natural world. This work is about helping people find their wholeness and helping them connect to the natural world, themselves and others in a new way. At the same time, something very subtle happens- people discover a powerful connection with nature, which fosters a new awareness, catalyzing a strong desire to advocate for the care, healing and repair of the natural world.
Wild Wellness Guide offers several Forest Bathing Experiences, including scheduled Public Group Walks; Private Groups for special occasions or life passages; Individual and Couples Sessions and Team-Building or Corporate Wellness Walks for your organization.
Come join me in the world of nature and discover the medicine of the forest through the beautiful healing and playful practice of Forest Bathing.
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.