What is Forest Therapy?
Forest Therapy: A Sacred Earth Activism
By Linda Lombardo
As a certified Forest Therapy guide, I’m often asked why someone would need me to lead them on a ‘hike’ through the woods. To say that it’s my sacred activism would only create more confusion or even the occasional ‘face screaming in fear’ emoji that mimics Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream. Yes, it’s been done.
Perhaps my sacred activism is also to share what I know about what Forest Therapy is and isn’t.
You see, many of us have forgotten just how personal nature is. It’s become something we walk through, talking on our phones or with ear buds that blast our favorite music as we ‘get in’ those 10,000 steps or burn those extra, unwanted calories.
A Forest Therapy walk is more than a hike. It is more than time spent in nature, moving quickly along a trail. It is a walk with nature, connecting to trees and plants, reflecting with water, holding a stone that’s tumbled through eons of time to be held by you at this moment in time. It is slowing down and noticing what’s in motion when it isn’t us. It’s opening ourselves to the pleasures of presence: hearing, seeing, sensing the world around and within us, part of it all.
It’s a chance to reconnect with other humans who are feeling the disconnect, the grief, or the questions that weigh heavily on all of us these days. It’s also a chance to reconnect with other humans who feel joy in nature; who recognize her quintessential beauty and timelessness; to laugh, to discover; to be so-very-human in the more-than-human world. We sit together at the end of our walk, sharing a ceremonial tea infusion from the forest itself and we are a community, all of us.
To hold that space for others of my species is sacred. To know that the forest has my back as a guide and knows just how to inform those who walk with me is magical. I feel the trees lean in. I feel their excitement when we arrive, and while I used to introduce myself to the forest when I first began leading walks, now, when I am in a new environment, I have the sense that the trees know me. No introductions are necessary.
Forest Therapy is a sacred activism with roots in the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-Yoku, basking or bathing in a forested environment. It is designed to rebuild a regenerative culture; the kind of culture Indigenous people knew; the kind of culture that perhaps our own ancestors knew. When nature becomes personal again, we will begin to heal ourselves and our relationship with nature; heal all our relationships. Then, our real work as a species can begin.
Linda Lombardo is a certified forest therapy guide at Long Island Forest Walks on Long Island, NY and a certified life coach through the Coaches Training Institute. In addition to coaching and forest therapy, Linda podcasts as Voice of Evolution Radio,sharing the voices of those creating a more compassionate and sustainable world. This is her activism: opening doors to a deeper connection with the more-than-Human world; making it personal because we act on what's personal to us and now is a time to act. www.lifeforestwalks.com
photos by Linda Lombardo