We’re thrilled to bring you our new Inspired By Nature series, where we highlight Canadians who are dedicated to sharing the health benefits of nature by getting others outside and unplugged. Know someone who we should feature? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Haida from Nature with Haida
I became British Columbia’s first Certified Forest Therapy Guide in 2016 with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, the world’s leading organization in this practice. My previous background includes a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, a Reflexology Certificate and over 30 years of connecting children and nature. These focuses show my commitment to nurturing others and the planet.
My passion has always been to create a happier and healthier world. I feel my work with forest therapy accomplishes this goal in the most gentle heart centred manner.
Currently I live in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast. I was born and raised in Nelson. I moved to the coast to attend university in 1987 and have lived either in Vancouver, Salt Spring Island, Parksville or Pender Harbour ever since.
What I love most about living in Pender Harbour is the abundance of thriving forest ecosystems, lakes, creeks and ocean bays. There is a feeling in the air of serene, peaceful paradise. My heart is in constant awe of the abundance and variety of wildlife seen, both on land and in water. Apart from the natural surroundings, I also appreciate the warmth of the people and the abundance of opportunities to engage in musical events.
Forest Therapy (aka Forest Bathing) involves submerging your body in a forest atmosphere and allowing the ambiance to wash over all of your senses thus creating a nurturing and calming effect.
Unlike hiking, Forest Therapy is slow and is about the journey, not the destination. It allows you to find calm or joy or connection or whatever “medicine” you need in the moment. It is a research based framework that supports healing and wellness. The forest is the therapist and the guide opens the door and invites you to interact with it in healing and meaningful ways.
Unlike a walk with a naturalist, forest therapy is about giving the brain a break and giving oneself permission to just be, to grow the heart and body connection as opposed to the intellect or muscle.
Hiking, naturalist walks and forest therapy are all great ways to enjoy the forest.
Nature with Haida
Nature With Haida meets you where you are in this moment in life without judgement or expectation. I offer invitations or suggestions on how to interact with the forest using your senses. Ultimately, you are your best guide. There is no right or wrong way to follow this practice. Yet I will offer my professional gentle guidance to help you get the most out of the medicine of the forest.
A forest therapy experience includes a standard practice with a little introductory information as we sit and become grounded in the forest. Next, I offer a series of invitations or suggestions on how to interact with the forest in healing and meaningful ways. We finish the experience with a wild tea ceremony and snacks, an opportunity to taste the forest through tea plants found in the forest.
Inspiration behind the program
As I entered my mid-life years, I found myself more interested in connecting teachers, parents and grandparents with nature. For all my adult life I had found ways to connect children. Slowly I realized that my next step in life was to connect those who had an influence on our youth.
When I read about forest bathing and forest therapy, I realized that I had been doing this all my life and now there was a term for it.
I agreed that people had become so disconnected from forests, from the places that truly nourish their well being, that there needed to be a movement to re-connect people. In fact, participating in forest therapy on a more regular basis myself has connected me to myself and others in a richer more authentic way than I could ever have imagined. I want this for people. I want people to know themselves more and love their true selves more, for when we do, the world will naturally become a happier and healthier place for all beings to live.
What the participants say
Often participants thank me for slowing them down to a pace they would never slow themselves down to. They thank me for this because they see things and experience things they are grateful for and realize they would never experience if they were moving at their usual faster pace.
Often participants share that they sleep better after a forest therapy experience, better than they have slept for a long time.
One forest therapy retreat participant thanked me for showing her a new way to appreciate the forest. As an avid hiker all her 67 years, she says she never thought of enjoying the forest in this way. Almost two years later, out of the blue, I received an email from her thanking me again for showing her how to experience the forest the forest bathing / forest therapy way.
And these are just a few of many, many highlights.
What Haida has learned
I have learned to trust the guidance of the forest, which could be seen as trusting my own intuition in the presence of the forest.
I have learned that spending a minimum of an hour in the forest before guiding others helps me to create the best experience possible for my participants.
Haida’s advice to starting Forest Therapy
I invite you to meander slowly into a forest, find a place that feels good to you, sit alone for 20-30 minutes, and give yourself permission, give yourself the gift, of being still and noticing your surroundings through your visual observation, touching different textures gently, closing your eyes and listening, smelling the air and plants, and doing whatever your body feels comfortable doing.
There is no right or wrong way. Just be and allow and trust yourself. Warmest wishes for your experience.