After many years in the research world, 2018, I trained as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. Today, forest bathing is a big part of my life.
You can forest bath on your own, but as for many activities, it can sometimes be good to follow a guide. What does the guide do then? What is the role of the guide during a forest bath? I discuss this in this article.
My role as forest bathing guide
Most forest baths that I guide last about 2-3 hours. Preparation takes at least twice as long, often longer. It is extremely important to explore the place where I will guide, often several times and at least once at the same time of the day that the forest bath will take place. I want to get to know the place: the type of life and natural environment, rocks, water, the ground, animals, plants, special trees, paths, sounds, places where participants can gather (if I am to guide a group), spread out, hide, lie down or sit. Are there places where participants risk falling down or getting lost? I try if it is possible to be one last time on the site the days before the forest bath day. This even if it is a place where I have guided many times before. Of course, nature changes with the seasons, but also from one week to the next, if it has been dry or rained a lot or if it has been windy.
It is during this time spent on site that the forest bath begins to take shape: thinking about the invitation I will offer to the participants. Which senses I will focus on during the different parts of the forest bath. This considering that everything can change on the day depending on the weather, the light, the sound, the group, myself, nature.
As a forest bath guide, I do not work alone in the forest. I guide with the forest, with nature. I let nature "whisper" advices, inspire me in the moment. I can do this because I feel safe with the place.
Create a room and open the door
On the forest bath day, I try to get to the place well in advance to have some time for myself with the place, to greet. Participants come one after the other, in groups. My role is that everyone should feel seen, heard and welcome as individuals and as belonging to the group. I want as much as possible to create a safe room that will provide the opportunity for presence, freedom and connection that I described in the previous article. I will open the door to this room so that people can step in, but also feel that they have the opportunity to get out if needed.
Creating security is also done through the practical aspects of a forest bath: first aid kit with me, be aware of potential risks, make sure everyone is comfortable, can keep warm etc.
Invite to presence and build a story
During a forest bath, I guide participants through various steps that shift their focus towards the senses. I use sensory invitations. The invitations are suggestions that participants can get inspiration from. For example, I can invite you to experience shapes or colors. Each person will follow the invitation in the way that feels right at the moment by letting the body express itself and with a connection to nature. For most people, this leads to peace and presence, but different feelings or experiences can occur in a group.
During forest bathing, I also invite to moments of sharing, where each participant gets the opportunity to express themselves about what they have experienced. This can help to integrate the experience, connect to ourselves, but also to the others in the group. The things that people express gather and a specific and common story is built up during sharing moments as the forest bath goes on.
At the end of the forest bath, an important role for the guide is to support the transition back to everyday life from what has been experienced.
Each forest bath is unique and the possibilities for invitations are endless. It means the guide can adapt a forest bath to special needs: different themes, specific groups. For example, I will guide in different ways for a group that celebrates a birthday, a working group that wants to get inspiration for a new project or a group of people who needs stress management.
Summary of the role of the forest bath guide
You can definitely forest bath by yourself, but sometimes you may want to get a little more out of your experience. Then it is good to be guided and to be able to share your experience with others. If you follow with me, I will offer:
· A well-prepared forest bath,
· Based on a comprehensive certified education,
· Adapted to the day and the group,
· Where I will do my best to create a safe room
· Where you feel welcome, free, in presence,
· To be able to have the best experience together with nature
· And return to everyday life with an integrated experience.
How is this really possible? Is there scientific evidence of what happens during a forest bath? Do we know what happens in us humans?
Answers in future articles.