Healing through Nature

Most of us have experienced a feeling of relaxation or revitalization after spending time in nature. But how can nature help us heal? What are we referring to when we talk about healing through nature?

We can feel nature’s healing effects from subtle to profound ways, on a physical level or on an emotional or even spiritual level. Here are three ways nature can help us heal:

1. Healing the Body

We know that herbal remedies and plant-based diets can accelerate healing and keep our bodies strong. Most pharmaceuticals are based on healing compounds originally found in plants. Nature clearly provides us with a wide array of medicines to heal our bodies, but simply immersing ourselves in nature can also be healing.

Scientists have found that evergreen trees secrete natural chemicals known collectively as phytoncide, which help boost our immune system. The air in forests and near rivers has a high concentration of negative ions that increase serotonin levels and reduce depression, fatigue and stress. Multiple studies have shown that levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline decrease when people spend time in nature, and blood pressure drops too. Learn more.

Forest bathing or forest therapy is a wonderful way to experience the forest with all five senses, and reap the health benefits that the forest has to offer. At Ewassa we also host Art in the Forest sessions, which offer the same benefits as forest therapy but are fun for all ages to participate in. Explore upcoming forest therapy events at Ewassa here.  

Laying on the ground, leaning against a tree, or taking off your shoes when out walking in nature can accelerate the process of balancing through grounding. I recommend spending at least 10 minutes every morning and afternoon/evening outside, with your body directly touching the earth in some way. Just this simple practice can significantly increase your overall feeling of well-being.

2. Providing Life Perspective

As we slow down to watch a bird soar gracefully and weightlessly across the sky, listen to squirrels chatter in the trees, or observe the ants busily working together, we glimpse the continuous flow of life that extends beyond our selves.

The trees, the flowers, the birds, the insects and the animals share the same vitality and life force that flows through us. We’re all bound by the same cycles of birth, fragile infancy, growth, strength, survival, procreation, maturation, decline, and eventually death. We all prepare the world in some way for the life that will follow us. Realizing this can create a deep sense of connection to the rest of the world that is both anchoring and uplifting.

Spending time in nature can help us release the rigidity of “should’s” and “must’s” and fixed notions of how things should be, to soften to embrace a world of beautiful imperfection. Relaxing our perspective on life can help reduce stress and perceive new paths or options.

One of my favorite lines from a movie comes from The Power of One, when Morgan Freeman’s character says “The answer to every question you have can be found in nature.” This struck a deep chord when I heard it many years ago, and over time I’ve found it to be true. When I spend time in nature meditating on a question about my life, I almost always find some sort of clarity or an insightful shift in perspective. I simply need to open my eyes and mind so that I can perceive the metaphors in the cycles of nature, and there I find my answer.

3. Emotional and Psychological Healing

Nature can also offer opportunities for emotional or psychological healing. The reminder of our own eventual death as a tiny piece of the majestic and continuous ebb and flow of life can help us push past our pain or trauma and strive to make the most of the short time we have here.

As we delve deeper into the cycles of nature, the four elements and how they are mirrored in our own lives and psychological landscape, we find powerful tools for positive transformation. For example if your inner fire and creativity is weak, we can perform a fire ritual to re-ignite the spark of inspiration that propels and keeps you moving forward. If you’re having issues with finances or finding work we can examine your situation and work with the energies of the element earth to regain balance. If the waters of your emotions are stagnant or stuck, we can create a ceremony or ritual using pure river water or sea water to help release them.

When we engage elements of nature as part of a ritual of release or rebalancing, it amplifies our intentions and brings potent results.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we work with the four elements or incorporate nature into healing rituals, please explore our services, nature energies and upcoming events.

Nature healing offers something for everyone, wherever you are at in your life. You can seek out nature for relaxation and rebalancing, to help gain insight and perspective on your life, or to create powerful rituals that work on a deeper emotional or psychological level.

If you’d like to experience the healing power of nature, please visit our events page and sign up for any event that calls to you.

A Walk in the Sacred Forest

The elaborate and textured beauty of the forest stands beckoning me to join it. I remove my shoes in respect and step forward into this sacred space.

The forest floor welcomes my feet, cushioning them with soft pine needles and leaves, brown and decomposing amidst the tiny blades of grass and shoots of plants just reborn.

Beneath my feet a divine and timeless process of death and rebirth is taking place. Life is decaying and decomposing to give way to new life. What once was glorious and full of life now lays on the forest floor, disintegrating and making way for what is yet to come.

I give thanks for my life and my breath, and my time that is here and now. It will be over in the blink of an eye when compared with the timeline of the earth.

Overhead the piercing call from a hidden squirrel breaks the silence, calling out a warning for all the forest to hear. Is it me that triggered the warning? Or a fox? I continue to walk, the watchful eyes of the sentinel surveying my every move. I am not alone in this sacred forest.

The wind whips through my hair, nudging my mind to release the thoughts I’ve been grasping onto since the morning. The leaves rustle, branches wave in the wind. Another gust and one breaks and falls to the ground.

The wind. Unseen power that can only be felt, shaking off what is not attached or not needed, whipping us around until we shift as needed. Molding us, extracting what isn’t essential – sometimes gently and sometimes violently. The magical wind who keeps life moving and evolving. Thanks to her, nothing becomes stagnant. I let down my hair so she can blow it wild and clear out the forest of my mind.

I press on, breaking small branches beneath my feet, changing the composition of the forest with my humble presence.

I kneel down to observe a wildflower. Soft and delicate, beautiful and persistent. Tiny petals burst from a tiny stem, pushed forth from a tiny seed by the miraculous desire for life. Or the need to simply exist within this space. Thanking her for her presence, I move on.

A large boulder appears, stately and regal in the midst of the trees. His presence is breathtaking. Strong and powerful, he brings a balance to the forest. It seems as if he’s holding court among the trees, ready to impart justice.

I stop and rest in his presence, asking for balance in my own live and divine justice to play out in our world. He reminds me that it always does if we’re patient.

Moving deeper into the forest, as silently and gracefully as my steps will allow, my eyes open wide in anticipation of what might appear next.

A stream. A small, gurgling stream, courtesy of the recent rains. Fresh life-giving water is flowing through the forest. It feels like an exquisite blessing, cleansing the path she follows and fertilizing the ground where she passes. I feel the presence of a grandmotherly energy, of tenderness and compassion. I bend down to fill my hands with her water, washing my face and crown.

Gratefulness fills my heart. Deep appreciation for the life all around us, held in balance by our Creator, washes over me. The ever-present force of life that flows through us all, continually renewing itself through the death and rebirth of millions of living things, diverse and interdependent.

I’m grateful to share the beauty of this space, if only for a short while. I feel comforted by the assurance that it is always here, regardless of where I am. The life in this forest is timeless and will continue long after my own leaves have withered and fallen to the ground.

I make my way back to my starting point, slip on my shoes, and humbly bow before the grandeur of this sacred forest. Then I return to my daily life, energized and grateful.

What Is “Grounding”?

One morning this past summer I had a migraine so intense I could barely stand up without being sick. After hours of nausea and my head feeling it was about to explode I was so desperate that I found a blanket and dragged myself outside to the lawn in front of my house. I laid down flat on my back on the ground and covered up with the blanket, shivering.

Within 30 minutes my migraine was gone, reduced to a slight, barely perceptible headache. It felt like a miracle.

What Is Grounding?

Apparently the result I experienced wasn’t a miracle – it was simply a natural process of grounding or “earthing” that happens when we touch the earth directly.

This process helps reduce pain and keep our bodies in balance, and has been validated in more than 20 scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals. See the video below for a more in-depth explanation of how it works.

 

How to Take Advantage of Grounding?

When walking in the forest I usually remove my shoes. The forest floor is surprisingly soft and welcoming if you avoid the pine cones. If it has recently rained the ground feels almost like a carpet and the pine needles are soft. If it’s dry it may feel slightly more prickly but not uncomfortable.

I can feel a difference in how relaxed I am after a forest walk if I’ve had my shoes on or off. When walking barefoot, I feel much more relaxed and lighter – and more connected to the forest. A walk in shoes is also wonderful but it’s almost as if a layer of distance still remains between myself and the forest.

Next time you’re out in nature, a park or even just in your backyard, try removing your shoes and feeling your feet connecting with the earth. Doing this daily, even for 5-10 minutes can make a significant difference in your overall mood and give your health a palpable boost. The best thing? It doesn’t cost a thing and anyone can do it!