“My responsibility is to help build relationships between you and the forest,” Pat Bavin told his five forest therapy guests as he led us into the woods at Radius Retreat.
Mr. Bavin’s goal with each group session is to help people let go of the stress and worries of their lives and learn to relax.
“Ideally the whole concept is to bring you into the present,” he said. “We want no ripples in the brain. Nice and calm.”
As we settled on tree stumps arranged in a circle, he invited us to remove our shoes and notice how the ground felt beneath our feet.
He led us from one sense to the next as we noticed the sounds of the breeze in the trees, the scent of our sleeves, and the colourful shapes in the woods. Then we went for a walk as slow as puppies riveted by every new smell or quivering leaf.
Once we were good and settled – after I had admired the amber gleam of a trickle of sap, after I had touched the springing softness of a bed of moss – Mr. Bavin had an assignment for us.
“Follow your body to a tree,” he said. “Let the roots of your feet mix with the roots of the forest.”
We dispersed silently to follow his instructions and to glean whatever wisdom our chosen trees had to offer. Mine, a stately conifer so tall I had to crane my neck to see the top, was curved at its base and as inviting as chair, which I nestled into.
Asked for a single word to describe how they were feeling after enjoying the company of their tree, the guests responded with: “freedom,” “joy” and “ease.”
Following our session, Anne Douglas said she had felt better instantly when she followed Mr. Bavin into the woods and “dropped into a sense of inner stillness and peace.”
That relaxation is normal when we go outside and engage our senses to experience the natural world, Mr. Bavin said, adding that he can see the changes taking place in his guests. Eyes soften. Shoulders drop. Breathing deepens.
“I see and feel an even deeper, relaxed shift in people as they venture off to engage with their forest invitation,” he said. “It really helps to mirror yourself with all things living in the forest and not get caught up in the fear of our world.”
Mr. Bavin credits Forest Therapy for helping him navigate his grief after his wife Bonnie, who had been stricken with cancer, passed away earlier this year.
Nature teaches us by example “to live life and carry on,” he said. “It’s helping me to heal, and through that I’m also working quite a bit with people who are also healing.”
For more information on Forest Therapy or to book a group walk, visit www.bavinglass.com/pages/pat-bavin or email firstname.lastname@example.org.