Restoring Connections Forest Therapy

Life’s pace seems to move so fast forcing us to spend much of our lives on high alert. Being chronically overstimulated for long periods of time is hard on the body and mind. Now more than ever, we need time and space to slow down to experience respite from the overwhelm.

Perhaps you have noticed you feel disconnected or like something is missing. Maybe you feel a bit (or a lot) out of sorts but are unsure how to connect with yourself in a meaningful way. Perhaps your attempts at self-care have not had a meaningful impact and you are wondering what else is out there to help you feel better? Do you find yourself living life in the fast lane with no exit in sight?

Forest therapy (also known as forest bathing) can help by providing you opportunities to slow down and connect with the natural world through a series of sensory experiences. This is much more than a walk in the woods or a park. It is about being in nature rather than moving through it. Forest bathing is about the experience of “bodyfulness”, a way of noticing the body’s connection to the natural world. This is separate from mindfulness, where the focus of attention is on what is happening in the mind.

Forest bathing invites people to immerse themselves in the healing presence of forests and natural spaces. When we engage our senses fully, we encounter ourselves by developing a reciprocal relationship with nature. Also known as Shinrin-yoku, this practice became mainstream in the 1980’s in Japan in response to a lack of work/life balance resulting in an serious increase in disease and mental health challenges. It is well researched and proven to improve health and well-being. Today, forest therapy is practiced all over the world as its benefits are becoming more well known.

In my late 30’s, I became a full time caregiver while working full time as a middle school counselor, to my then husband who had broken his neck in a diving accident and lived with quadriplegia. The next 15 years were very stressful and I found myself becoming overwhelmed. With no breaks in caregiving, I was growing increasingly disconnected from myself. I put myself on autopilot and in survival mode. It was difficult to even admit to anyone, including myself, that I was having such a difficult time. After all, I was a trained counselor. But that training did not exempt me from this experience.

Over the years my attempts at self-care left me empty and wondering why they did not provide me any long-lasting relief. My spiritual needs were changing as the chasm of disconnection was growing larger within me.

When my brother gave me a copy of The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama, I read it from cover to cover and noticed something awakening within me as I began practicing mindfulness meditation. Finding a renewed connection to myself gave me respite from the crazy amount of stress I was living in. Life began to look a lot different from the inside even though my external circumstances were increasingly stressful.

Fast forward to 2012, life changed as my role as caregiver suddenly ended and I had a new title…widow. This left me wandering in a cavern of deep emptiness and a need to reinvent myself. What was I going to do with my life moving forward?

Mindfulness became a new focus for my life. I got trained in deepening my meditation practice as well as teaching it to my students and staff at the school where I was counseling. This stuff worked so well for me, I felt very eager pass this along to others.

Along side this was my lifelong love of nature and being outdoors. After a deeply meaningful encounter with some giant redwood trees in 2019, I came to understand how to be in relationship with the natural world, rather than a visitor. One thing led to another and I found myself taking my meditation practice outdoors. I got more training in this practice as well.

Learning that I am part of nature began to heal some deep wounds in my being. My sense of who I was was changing toward feeling connected to something much greater than myself.

In 2020, I was introduced to the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT) and was pleased to learn I could become trained in bringing mindfulness, people and the forest together. I experienced so much restoration and renewal that I knew I wanted to share this. My own on-going forest therapy practice continues to provide respite, resilience and joy while navigating the challenges and hardships this life often has to offer.

Becoming a forest therapy guide makes sharing this practice possible while allowing walk participants to create their own journey to encounter themselves without any agenda or prescribed outcomes from me as the guide. We each get to decide what we need from these experiences with nature.

So, If you are interested in having the experience of slowing down, restoring connections to yourself and the natural world, and reducing your stress, this practice could be a good fit for you. Come experience the medicine of the forest by encountering yourself in nature like never before while finding much needed respite from the race pace of life.

Reach out to me using my contact page link above.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

Why practice forest therapy?

Being in nature and surrounded by so many beings, we have the opportunity to disconnect from the busyness of life, let go of our constant stream of thoughts and uncover what gives us joy and peace. The forest reveals what we need to experience healing and peace. Forest therapy gives participants time and space for slowing down enough to reconnect with themselves, others and the natural world.

How Forest Therapy Works

In this practice, we say, “The forest is the healer and the guide opens the doors.” Through safe and gentle, two to three hour walks led by a certified forest therapy guide, participants are introduced to the forest and other natural environments through a series of invitations.

Following their curiosity, participants open their senses to the natural world and develop their own relationship with the forest to decide what they need from the experience.

The guide is not a therapist in this context and does not have a desired agenda or any prescribed outcomes for participants.

My mission of forest therapy is to nurture heart-centered relationships between all humans and the natural world.

My vision is that all who experience nature through a forest therapy walk will come away feeling a deeper connection to themselves, others and the natural world.

—Serena Vogel

Offerings for Restoring Connections Forest Therapy

Private Forest Therapy Walks

These are 2 -3 hour walks of two or more people that are scheduled directly through me rather than through any other organizations I guide walks for. They start at $25 per person. Please request a walk through my contact page.

Partnership Forest Therapy Walks

These walks are provided in partnership with specific organizations. Costs vary according to the organization such as the Colorado Springs Senior Center. I will be hosting more walks through other organizations in the future.

Introduction to Forest Therapy Four Week Series

Give forest bathing a try by participating in a four week series of 1 hour walks to see what this practice is all about. To schedule a series, gather some friends and family and then contact me through my Contact page. These walks are $100 per person for the complete series.

Day-long Outdoor Meditation Retreats

More information coming. Please stay tuned.

Before and After

I arrive with hopes of feeling peaceful and connected.

Searching this outdoor space for meaning that my inside may feel its wholeness.

Moving THROUGH nature is my usual pace. I wonder, what will it be like just sitting with her?
Perhaps observing that Mother Earth never rushes, I will receive permission to relax.

I leave this forested place with my hopes realized.
My mind is focused having left behind scattered and frenzied thoughts.

Feeling refreshed with a renewed sense of control and connection, I greet the feelings I encountered today with calm and am connected to myself and Mother Nature.

“I am so glad to have taken the time for myself, commune with nature and feel the calmness. I would recommend this to everyone. I plan to take it again.”

“For the first time, I don’t feel like an intruder in the forest.”

“We are so disconnected from people and the world around us, but forest therapy gives an opportunity to reconnect with the larger world and ourselves.”

“I almost didn’t come as I hold my weekend time as much needed respite. So glad I came and got the respite I needed.”

Colorado Springs Senior Center Forest Bathing

North Shooks Run Park North Shooks Run Park, Colorado Springs, CO, United States

These walks are open to people ages 50 and up and are held at North Shooks Run Park in Colorado […]

Flying Pig Farm Forest Therapy Immersion

Flying Pig Farm Flying Pig Farm, Manitou Springs, CO, United States

This immersion is held at the Flying Pig Farm (http://flyingpigmanitou.org) in Manitou Springs, Colorado with a suggested minimum donation of […]

Colorado Springs Senior Center Forest Bathing

North Shooks Run Park North Shooks Run Park, Colorado Springs, CO, United States

These walks are open to people ages 50 and up and are held at North Shooks Run Park in Colorado […]

$8.00

Flying Pig Farm Forest Therapy Immersion

Flying Pig Farm Flying Pig Farm, Manitou Springs, CO, United States

This immersion is held at the Flying Pig Farm (http://flyingpigmanitou.org) in Manitou Springs, Colorado with a suggested minimum donation of […]

Colorado Springs Senior Center Forest Bathing

North Shooks Run Park North Shooks Run Park, Colorado Springs, CO, United States

These walks are open to people ages 50 and up and are held at North Shooks Run Park in Colorado […]

$8.00

Flying Pig Farm Forest Therapy Immersion

Flying Pig Farm Flying Pig Farm, Manitou Springs, CO, United States

This immersion is held at the Flying Pig Farm (http://flyingpigmanitou.org) in Manitou Springs, Colorado with a suggested minimum donation of […]

Contact Me

I am in Colorado Springs, Colorado. If you are interested in scheduling a forest therapy walk, please send me a message.

Serena Vogel, MA

Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide

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