I began my journey as a nature therapy guide long before I found the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy guides, but have found my people and myself through the hospitality, process and connections in this wise and gentle community. My reasons for searching and finding this community are plentiful – layers upon layers like the forest herself, some hidden from the casual observer and others reaching heavenward for all to see. My well rooted past, tangled with wounds and gifts, my calling to pastoral care, my daughter’s wild love for the natural world, and a still small voice calling me deeper into the natural world to experience a divine presence in every being I encounter are part and parcel of what has led me to and moves me forward on the way of the guide.
I recently wrote this blog post which was inspired by the invitation to create a Threshold project:
A long time ago, in a mindset far away, I planted and served an online church in Second Life. I’ve served as the minister of digital community at the UCC denominational level and even traveled the States leading “social media bootcamps” for clergy. For about 4 years I worked as the director of digital strategy for a liberal arts college in the south. All this after I graduated from seminary with a focus in social justice, pastoral care and digital ministry. I was about as nerdy as theologically progressive gal could be.
And then just before the world turned upside down and tuned into all things virtual (meetings, game night, karaoke and church), the universe with her delightful sense of humor, plopped Braiding Sweetgrass into my heart, shook me to the core and called me away from the screen and into the woods.
Now I am called to (and trained in) nature therapy, outdoor life coaching and eco-chaplaincy, as far removed from technology as possible. Of course I still hang out in digital spaces, the public square of our age, and even build websites for folx in helping professions. But every day I more fully inhabit my wild love for the natural world – of which we are all a part – to invite others into this (re)connection with creation of which we are all luminescent, interdependent parts.
More and more research around the world verifies the positive physiological, mental and spiritual benefits of intentional time in nature.
But it’s not all about humans and how we can use nature for our wellbeing. When we spend more time (re)connecting with the natural world through activities such as forest bathing, nature retreats or guided nature meditations, there are positive impacts on our environmental attitudes and behavior. A spirit of reciprocity invites each of us to be in and with nature, recognizing we are of nature and to do what we can to be for nature in a world that only sees what can be consumed. A walk in and with nature is the first step to remembering we are of and for nature.
I hope to have the honor of sharing a walk with you one day.
The above reflection is only a tiny glimpse of how profoundly my encounter with the Way of The Guide has been and continues to be in my life. I feel more at home in my own skin as I more full inhabit the evolution of my calling to accompany others on their own journey of rewilding. I feel most keenly alive when I step into guiding others through the doors of perception through each aspect of guided walk. And when a walk is complete, the impact lingers will after the experience so that my heart is so tender and open that I can suddenly weep with delight upon seeing sunlight through a glass of sparkling water. What an amazing gift!
So too am I grateful for my companions in the Wild Tulip cohort who’ve brought their full selves to the co-creation of our little, digital community. I have learned a great deal from everyone and feel connected to our merry little band of guides in ways I cannot yet fully articulate. I do feel a growing sense of – gosh, I don’t know what to call it – to be set out on my own to continue this journey without the support and celebrations of the Wild Tulips. I only hope that the way I guide others will honor our shared experience and our leaders Ben and Kat who so deftly wove together the many threads of this learning and the diverse spirits entrusted to their care.
With a hopeful heart I will never be done sharing what I need to make this experience complete. For now, I have a small slide show of just a sliver of things I experienced along the way.