Walking in the Woods: Slow Down and Relax

Stalking and fox walking are two ways to walk in the woods to better connect with nature. It’s precise soothing and relaxing all at once. Tom Brown III (of Sigma 3 Survival School) is the son of Tom Brown Jr. the famous survivalist, author, and teacher who runs The Tracker School. He is your teacher in this video, lucky you. If you’d like to come closer to the natural world, it’s important to shift your thinking and let your body do the work. Your body remembers the old ways and can take you on great adventures, but a good teacher can’t hurt. Enjoy the video and practice your stalking it’s a great way to slow down and relax.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Benefits Podcast 001

 

The value of trees is remarkable and leaves me stunned in this podcast all about the benefit of trees.

“We find that having ten more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.”

http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150709/srep11610/full/srep11610.html

 

AMW The Benefit of Trees Podcast 001

“The findings suggest therapeutic benefits for direct capacity attention from an early intervention aimed at restoring attention in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.”

http://journals.lww.com/cancernursingonline/Abstract/2003/08000/An_Environmental_Intervention_to_Restore_Attention.5.aspx

 

Tree Friendly Organizations

National Arbor Day Foundation
www.arborday.org

The National Arbor Day Foundation’s mission is to help promote tree care and conservation and to educate people on tree issues in the USA. To do so, they have developed nationally recognized programs like Rain Forest Rescue, Trees for America, and the Arbor Day Farm. Find tips on planting and caring for trees, educational tools for teachers and kids, and conference and workshop announcements.

National Alliance for Community Trees
www.actrees.org

Through collaborative endeavors of a spirited membership, ACT is a vigilant advocate for local communities, states, and the nation creating a positive, action-oriented presence for the member groups. Membership will have grown to include virtually every tree group in the country as a result of substantive benefits and services that strengthen individual member groups and their leaders. 

Thanks to http://spiritoftrees.org/organizations for their list of tree organizations.

 

Why City Parks Are Good for Your Health

Experiencing the relaxation and joy of my local park and inviting you to the Tampa Nature Therapy Meetup. The crows in the background are the symphony that accompanies this talk on grounding in nature. Grounding is a way to connect to the earth and balance with her help. Being in nature helps your reset as you can see I do in this clip. Visit https://www.meetup.com/Tampa-Nature-Therapy-Meetup/ to join my nature healing walks.

Greenbelt History and City Trails

High Rock and the Greenbelt: The Making of New York City’s Largest Park

In 1976, the influential journalist and “National Geographic” editor John G. Mitchell published a book in the hopes of saving a precious part of Staten Island, where he and his family had lived for many years. The book, “High Rock: A Natural and Unnatural History,” helped to save a beloved tract of land a Girl Scout camp known as High Rock from becoming the roadbed for a m…more 

 

Nature Speaks: A small leaf turned into a nursery.

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I encourage you to take morning walks. It’s a good time to talk to Spirit and ask for guidance. Walk out the door and take a moment to think about what you want for the day. Perhaps come up with a question and allow Spirit to inspire you.

What you see and hear on your walk will depend on your awareness. The thing to look for is context, is this creature that I’ve come across in the morning a nocturnal creature that might not be expected during this time of day? Is this paw print unusual for this area? You’ll have to put your observations together with your intentions and see if you’ve made a spiritual connection. This skill will grow as you exercise this muscle, so give yourself some time.

Usually, I’m interested in having a question answered. So as I walk or sit in nature I ask my question, then wait to see what signs, symbols or omens Spirit sends me. It’s a bit of magic inserted into my life that never gets old.

A small leaf curled up and sealed fell from one of the branches into my lap. I know from experience that it’s an insect nursery. I was startled, and then I noticed how beautiful it was, how complex it was, how interesting it was. And when I put it between my two fingers and began to look at it deeply it dawned on me that my question for the day had been answered.

I was asking about creativity, writing, and nature. This tiny little gift that fell from above was answering my question and Spirit had once again sent me the perfect guidance for the day. Just like the nursery leaf, creativity needs time to develop and when it’s ready, it’ll burst open.

There are times when it’s very clear to me what Spirit is trying to say and other times it might take a few days before I completely understand the answer to my question. It becomes a mini adventure that fills my heart each day.

So give yourself the gift of Spirit’s guidance by visiting nature and learning from her. She is extremely wise and has lots to say, you only need to ask.

Part 3 It All Began on Dykman Street-The Nature Walk

Inwood Hill ParkSuspicious Bob

I told a friend, Bob, about these walks and his first remark was, “How did you find this walk?” When a brochure arrived at my home describing a teacher giving a walk in the park I realized he’s a traveler like me. I also deduced that he read the same book I did, titled “The Tracker,” A book I found on the blanket of a street seller.

Bob wasn’t a traveler yet so he didn’t see that this teacher had access to a certain kind of knowledge. Who knew that I’d take this walk each week for the next three years and find a generous teacher, willing to take me to places I’d only glimpsed in my dreams.

My friend Bob never took the walk with me. He did, however, question everything about the walk. He couldn’t understand why I kept going back. He first started to ask me out for coffee just before the walk, sometimes tempting me with street festivals and bookstores. By the second year, he wanted to meet after the walk to hear about the travelers and see my face. He said it had changed.

I once told him that each group of walkers gave me the impression I’d made a prearranged commitment to meet them in this life for those two hours in the park. The ease with which we all moved and talked was very unlike city dwellers, subway riders, and New Yorkers.

During the walks, Vin would lead and I’d take the rear. My legs became strong after a while and my breathing easy as we moved through the landscape week after week. The first few times I huffed and puffed, but soon my stride opened and my comfort increased. Breathing so much oxygen was invigorating. The trees and I began to know each other.

Walking as One
As we continued our walk, the travelers began to exhibit signs of becoming a clan or tribe. They were remembering how to walk quietly on the earth. Perhaps it’s because we were all cement and asphalt walkers walking on soft soil. The harsh pounding created by hitting pavement was gone. Without the noise we could hear each other.

Each person’s experience seemed to relate to what they were asking for and what they wanted out of the walk. Some wanted a brisk walk, others to learn about survival. Still others were open to the spiritual experience before them. Everyone slowly began to feel “something” was different about this walk.

We were all enchanted, taken to a park and put under a spell until the walk was over. Some travelers felt this and recognized it but others felt “something” they couldn’t describe. The universal response was, “I feel relaxed.” It doesn’t matter who was on the walk or whether they felt like I did about the day. What mattered was that we all rendezvoused for one beautiful New York afternoon to share the woods. Many times we hugged, said good bye, and walked back into our lives never to meet again.

Part 2 of It All Started on Dykman Street-The Nature Walk

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Along the walk, plants are identified as useful edibles, medicinal, cordage, and more. There are reeds good for making arrows and young saplings that would never survive the competition for light. They were touched and talked about because they would be the first to harvest in a survival situation. They make excellent shelters and sweat lodges.

However, there is a code that we live by and it includes never taking anything from city parks. They are already under stress from their surroundings and need to thrive in a very limited area with limited resources. No materials were taken from such places. This is the role of the traveler. Of course this doesn’t apply to garbage. We always cleaned up after ourselves and others.

Compare and Contrast
Traipsing around a New York City park, learning about awareness and survival is like choosing the most difficult setting on a new video game you haven’t even tried to play yet. Getting beat up, robbed, raped or any number of other things come to mind. But, and there’s always a “but” with me, I want what I want. I want a closer relationship to the earth. And the only way to get it is to step out of my comfort zone and dare to take a different road. In this case, it’s a nature walk with a magus in one of the biggest cities of the world.

I’ve always enjoyed sauntering. I’m not much of a fast walker. I love looking at things along the way. When I’m walking along a busy road I notice all the nuts, bolts and other metals strewn about the shoulder. An inventory would shock you, not to mention that it dawns on you that they flew out of cars traveling at high speeds. I find money, and car parts that make me think there are lots of vehicles falling apart out there. But I digress. Our walk worked wonders on the nerves unlike the walk along the highway, I described above. Walking deeper into the park the ding of modern life dulled and our nervous systems began to recognize the removal of those manmade stimuli.

The joy of walking in the woods is intoxicating. All of God is before you. Even discomfort is welcome because the prize is so great. There is nothing that I can’t do in the woods. There is nothing that I need when strolling through the park. And I’ve had magnificent city parks to walk in, Prospect Park being my favorite, then Central Park. And, of course, Inwood Park, thick and dark with trees. These are small islands that enrich the lives of us city slickers. It’s true that the ability to expand out and reach the mountains or prairie without concrete or skyscrapers in the way is a needed exercise for the soul. It’s a way to dream with the endless, the oneness, the sameness that we all share, urbanites or not. But when in Rome do as the Romans do and Inwood was what we had to dream in. The walk had no destination, so when we finished we had to find our way out of the park and onto the street. This is part of the code. Never have a destination.

Stay tuned for part 3 of The Nature Walk and meet suspicious Bob.

It All Started on Dykman Street

Welcome to the first of a three part series The Nature Walk.
It was the 80’s and my spiritual journey began in earnest with this walk in Inwood Park, New York City.
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The group gathers at Dyckman street subway station, the northwest corner of the intersection. We all approach one or two at a time and greet each other with a nod. Everyone bundled against the cold, travelers on an adventure into the park. At the right moment, Vin tells us to follow him. The walk begins. As we walk, I notice I’m relaxing.

It’s hard to describe calming down on a busy New York City sidewalk as you view the entrance to what feels like a Garden of Eden. Each step closer to the trees, I think, ”How beautiful.” We all stop before entering the park. This walk is taking on a whole new feel.

The Veil
With a few words, Vin asks us to contemplate the entrance to the park and to see perhaps for the first time that creation is before us, that once we enter, we’ll immerse ourselves in another realm. I walk into the park, trying not to make a big deal about it, I feel the veil that separates the park from the noisy sidewalk. The next two hours are a blur of information, feelings, and spiritual awareness. Who knew so much lived in the city parks?
The trees are barriers to city sounds, the kind you accept every day because you must to survive, the kind of sounds that overwhelm. These two hours are an opportunity to open up to the spirit of the forest, the spirit of beings who share our planet and give us breath. The chemical exchange we share reminds us we need each other.

This is how the landscape begins to heal the travelers. It grounds them. It holds them up. It bestows on them the ancient connection to the land. Each step became sacred. Each beat of their heart begins to synchronize with the rhythm of the earth. It’s the call of your mother, your Creator. Each time your foot touches the ground a connection is made and rings of intention spread across the land. The message sent is simple. Our hearts are opening to creation.
Geography

Inwood Park has huge boulders and stones made of granite from the last ice age. When the ice recessed it dragged and pulled stones over the earth and left giants on the landscape. Their grey color and sharp edges created nooks and crannies everywhere. The fall leaves wedge themselves in the crevices.
Vin is the leader of the walk and on the streets of New York Vin is my height. He’s slight and possesses a hearty laugh that often trails off into a giggle. In the woods, he is magic, sometimes towering over me and other times a dark dwarf with mischief in his eyes. He stands fiercely focused on the task at hand, a nature walk in Inwood Park in upper Manhattan.

Stay tuned for part 2 of The Nature Walk, with details about the code and the importance of wondering.

Forest Bathing

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“Forest bathing” is one of the new buzzwords in the health and wellness industry. The trend originated in Japan. This is coming on the heels of “Earthing,” which has a lot to do with lying on the ground, walking around barefoot, allowing you to connect with the earth. And, of course, we have had “nature therapy” bantered about now and then to emphasize the therapeutic value of spending time on the landscape.

The Japanese have always been close to nature. In fact, it’s so embedded into the culture that it may be found in calligraphy, sword making, and the martial arts, to name a few. There’s even a special poetic structure devoted to nature called haiku. So it’s no surprise that they have something called Shinrin-yoku.

The term Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing, was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1982. In 2010 they conducted a study of Japan’s 24 forests and scientifically compared “forest bathers” with urban walkers. The physical differences were significant. The forest bathers had lower blood pressure, heart rates and stress hormones.

The fact that enjoying the outdoors is associated with lower blood pressure, improved work memory, and feeling more alive is not lost on countries like Finland and the United States. There are nature walks given all over the United States but these are more informational, while hikes are about getting to a specific destination. Forest bathing, however, is about taking in what nature has to offer by way of slowing down, noticing things that take time to appreciate, and letting go of the daily stress that can over take us.

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture has taken their study a step further and now certify trails as the best for Shinrin-yoku. They gathered blood samples and other metrics, before and after participants walk a trail. Then scientists analyzed the results. What they found was an increase in white blood cells, called killer cells, a kind of cell that fights infection and other immune system indicators that point to better health. In several studies, the killer cells increased by 50%. If the results are within a specified range the trail is certified as a Shinrin-yoku trail.

Scientists in several countries, including the United States and Finland, think the health benefits come from phytoncides, or antimicrobial organic compounds given off by plants. The idea is that breathing in the substance gives people the feeling of relaxation. The other explanation is that there is an “awe” factor similar to that of astronauts who view earth from space, the admiration of the Grand Canyon, or Monument Valley in Utah.

Perhaps it’s living inside with so much technology that prompts us to visit the trees and seek out the smells and sounds of nature. We crave a feeling of well being and enjoy the beauty of nature and the benefits of drinking in the sunshine, oxygen, and colors of the landscape. Whatever it is, it’s good for us.