Some of you know I am a Forest Therapy Guide in practicum with the Association of Nature and Forest Guides and Programs (ANFT). To become a fully certified guide, I will have completed a very comprehensive training regime which involves a week-long residential course, mentoring, running walks, wilderness first aid certification, and six months of project work. No small feat when you are also running your own business and a busy home life spanning two countries – but when you follow your passion, it’s amazing what you can achieve!
I am over half way through now. So much has happened since I last blogged about it on my second day into the training course.
My Forest Family
I feel like I have grown my family; I am now a member of an extensive and international forest family. Something magical happened on our residential course. Our cohort of 24 built an incredible connection through the forest floor and the energy of that connection has transmuted all over the world. I am proud to be one of the first 25 Cohorts ever to be trained in this way. When I was being trained there were 435 guides, now there are over 600. It’s rising every day and it’s exciting, as my family is growing.
My extended forest family encourage, motivate and support me to push the edges of my comfort zone and explore the unknown. Like the energy of the frog’s leap from a lily pad, who knows where it will land next.
I extend my arms around this family with pride and it is with eagerness I become part of it, to work united in our own goals yet also on this much greater quest. To reconnect people back to themselves and our planet for the wholeness and wellness of all beings.
Becoming a guide
This energy and intention is being felt all over the earth – a rising underpinned by a desire to heal and to serve our planet, and all who inhabit her (including the more than human world) in a kinder and more compassionate way. Through the practice of forest therapy, the opportunities to serve this purpose through nature re-connection and increased cultural union, are limitless.
The practice itself is so flexible. It focuses on sensory rather cognitive experience, offering space for reciprocity and witnessing each others’ stories – helping enable a deeper human connection alongside nature. My mind is flooded with ideas of where to take this and who to focus on first. Is everyone too much?!
The flexibility of the practice continues to the way the guide delivers the walks. Beginning from a view point that everyone has an innate nature connection, the guide is there to facilitate the re-connection to each individuals’ intrinsic nature by opening the doorway. The therapy is all provided by the forest.
So, it is ultimately it is to the forest that I extend my deepest love, for the forest is the architect of all this earth dreaming. The seeds that have been planted all over the world now begin to show themselves and we are noticing and tending to their needs, so they can shoot and mature and continue to spread this desire for repair and re-connection. The forest is offering us a way home, and I am humbled to be helping by holding a door ajar for those who want to walk through.
The practicum bit of the training is pretty full on. You are no longer in the bubble of your residential course; life is full steam ahead and it becomes a juggle. Falling behind with the coursework is inevitable. I have come to realise this is all part of it, learning to hold everything ever so lightly. It’s a real skill to have. But when you have the desire to deliver well, you can easily get tangled up in the web of self-doubt.
So, I am practising daily, just doing a little at a time. It might be as simple as to notice if I am drawn to a particular plant on a dog walk, so I can investigate it further. I have recently become aware that yarrow is my next plant to connect with, since it has popped up all over the parks in Copenhagen following a little rain.
As with any course that is worth your time and energy, you get out what you put in. I do not have the luxury of being able to pause at my sit spot for 20 mins each day. If I achieve this twice a week, it has been by getting up extra early or weaving it into my schedule somehow. The investment of effort is key, but this is not forced, it must flow…
I have three months left to deliver my practicum. There is a harvest project and a dawn to dusk medicine walk still to complete and I am still unclear what they will look like, or how I will do them – but that will all become clear when it is supposed to, I am certain.
With all of this I am learning a lot more than what’s on the page. This practice of being a guide is really to embed the ‘way of the guide’ within every cell of my body. It is to feel the difference of when I am a coach, teacher, mentor and guide.
I look for opportunities to use the language of a guide in all life situations and for me, being a coach, it blends so beautifully with my other work.
I try to remind myself that this is the course work too and is just as important as sketching my plants or writing my reports, and that baby steps forward are happening every day.
The early walks
The first few walks I have led using the standard sequence l learnt as part of my ANFT guide training, have been scary, exciting and exhilarating. With practice comes ease and grace, like going from a beginner to intermediate skier! I will never be an expert skier but I certainly feel the difference in my breath come day four of a skiing holiday vs day one. Following the feedback I’ve received so far; the generosity of colleagues who have let me use their land; and how I have felt safe and held by the forest; I can honestly say I love guiding.
My mentors are reaching their early hundreds of guided walks. There is certainly a motivation to see this through and they are inspiring us all on.
Partnerships and Public
To enable these walks to be available to as many as possible, comes the daunting task of meeting and discussing options with land owners. I want to guide in areas where the practice is supported and valued; where it’s easy for people to get to; and to potentially open up some areas of private estates where we may not normally be able to visit.
Giving the forest a gentle loving squeeze, I hope to encourage more and more people to join me for a few hours of opening up our senses to enable the opportunity to restore, revive and reconnect.
I have begun a number of these discussions locally and I have so many ideas. This takes me to one of my edges, and I am working my way through those challenges.
By the time I have ‘graduated’ from this course, I intend to have some wonderful places lined up for people to explore. But if you have any ideas about possible locations, feel free to drop me a line.
Opportunity to wear the right shoes
I don’t believe many people find themselves wearing the right shoes, but with this work I feel like Cinderella. The shoes fit so well and it is only me that can get in my own way. So, I call on you all – my community, my friends, my family and the forest. I want to see this through and with you all beside me, I can.
Come join me when you feel the time is right, I will be in the woods waiting just for you.