Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the definition of Forest Therapy and my approach to Forest Mind. What I realize is, my approach, which is inspired by Metsämieli is still my own interpretation and adaption of a highly Finnish approach to the Flemish soil.
At the moment when I was looking for a way to share my own experience of the importance of the forest in my life, Metsämieli was the only approach I found. Only later I found shinrin yoku, ANFT tradition of shinrin yoku, Natural Mindfulness etc. That does not mean they didn´t already exist, but I just happened to find Metsämieli first. That was my way into Forest Therapy that has now swallowed my life as a whole.
In Metsämieli, I was attracted to its evidence based approach, the variability according to the guides own skills and, being a person who gets irritated by someone telling me what to do, the central notion of everyone being the expert of their own wellbeing.
In my Forest Mind approach, what I try to do is inspire people to experience the forest in a way they might never have experienced before. It is based on health benefits of the forest as it relies on the forest´s stress relieving properties, and the immune boosting effects of being in concrete contact with the elements in the forest (sitting on the ground, picking up things, smelling, even tasking things). This all makes it shinrin yoku/forest bathing – you are taking in the forest atmosphere and you come into a state of relaxation.
In Forest Mind like in shinrin yoku, the stress relief is aided by the exercises that are done to open the senses. After the stress relieving has kicked in, and people have more head space, more exercises are done to get some clarity and perspective into things that are occupying the mind. These exercises are inspired by mindfulness, positive psychology and coaching.
Here, however, the work is done on your own, it´s not the point that each walker confides in the guide. The guide does not even need to know what the people are going through atthe moment, unless they want to share. It can be a very personal practice, but often people do want to share. But then it´s with the group, not to be given advise by the guide. However, if you have the skills and qualificatons to take on what the people are carrying, which is sometimes “heavy stuff”, you can use the more advanced exercises for that as well. There are three levels. You can adapt it to fit your skills.
My main goal with my practice is to facilitate a positive, health promoting new experience that will inspire the people to go to the forest in a different perspective the next time. I want to open the eyes to see what all the forest can mean to us and what we, in turn can mean to the forest. Afterall, you will want to protect that which you love.
Read more about my approach here. To sign up fo the first international Forest Mind/Metsämieli training, go here.