Updated: Jul 12
By Noah Ginsburg
This morning I had the privilege of attending a very special event, hosted by the Beyond Trees Network’s Dr. Tamberly Kerr Conway, a trained and licensed nature therapist who has spent the last several years training more and more nature therapists and spreading this practice across the world. Although the pandemic is nearly over, the need for social distancing, as well as the long distances between many of the participants around the globe, from India to South America, has brought on the need for using Zoom to safely and universally share the experience. Many of the activities are normally done in a closely-knit group where the natural scenes are taken in together, but because of these circumstances, we all had to experience our own bit of nature behind our screens.
So, what exactly is nature therapy? I’ll admit that going into this session, I was very skeptical. I thought I would just be meditating and maybe even doing some yoga, but I soon realized that the process is much more experiential and sensory than I thought. We began by finding a comfortable and peaceful position outside in nature. I sat in my backyard in the grass with the computer on my lap. The grass tickled my legs and the sun flickered through the leaves above my head as my session leader, Toby Bloom, began speaking gently. She asked that we close our eyes and slow our breathing, feel the natural elements around us and be conscious of them but keep our minds quiet. She implored us to think about our skin and how it felt against the cool breeze, how the hairs on our arms danced as it flowed across. She asked us to listen closely to the sounds around us, the leaves rattling, the chirping of the birds, a plane flying swiftly overhead. She asked us to breathe deeply through our noses and bring in the smells around us, all the while keeping our eyes closed and our bodies still.
After several minutes of meditating and taking in nature, she asked us to spin around and slowly open our eyes as if the image we were about to see would be for the first time. I slowly opened my eyes to find myself facing the woods behind my house. They were brightly lit and splotched with patches of shadow. It was really quite beautiful and to see it after focusing all of my senses was really something special.
Throughout the rest of the session, we explored the texture of natural things around us like grass, leaves, and rocks, and at the end, Toby performed a small tea ceremony that is commonplace in these sessions. Unfortunately, I did not have any tea made for the session so I simply had to watch behind my screen. When the session was over, I closed my computer and sat outside for just a few more minutes. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility. My whole body felt relaxed and I felt an Earthly connection from my head to my feet. Holistically, it made me feel very good.
Dr. Conway explained that these forms of therapy started to become popular in the late 80s and have spread across the globe, helping with depression, stress, and anxiety. The calming vibe of the therapy takes little to no effort to reach and can effectively center and relax a person in under an hour. Dr. Conway’s organization aims to improve forest welfare globally, hoping to bring economic, social, and emotional support to the public, with the aim of improving the public welfare.
If you have a moment in your day where you have just a few minutes to yourself, I would highly recommend taking the time to step outside, close your eyes, and open your senses to the natural world around you. Nature’s healing powers are nothing short of pure magic.