On A Guided Walk
“Look up. Stay Awhile. Let your breathing slow.
Know that you always have a home here."
~ Alberto Rios (from the poem, We Are Of a Tribe)
Above the Clouds follows a walk model developed by Amos Clifford, founder of the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy. It is based on his experience with Japanese forest bathing, wilderness guiding, meditation, counseling and teaching. The intention on a walk is to “be here” rather than “get there” – so it’s different from the traditional idea of a hike. Our goal is not to get a workout so I plan paths that are easy to navigate. The pace is slow. The distance covered is not long. There are opportunities for sitting and resting. We disengage from distractions, relax, enjoy and see more deeply the wonderful elements within a small area.
Forest Therapy walks are also not meant to be like naturalist treks which focus on identifying and learning about things. (But those are wonderful complements to a forest bathing practice) Instead we want to let our busy, thinking minds quiet down, be present to the moment and place we are in, and just notice what we notice with all our senses (there are more than 5).
Ideally walks last 2 ½ - 3 hours. There’s no need to rush. We usually cover one mile or less. I begin by providing some background on the land we are on and its first people. I include basics about the science behind the health benefits and the roots of the practice.
The heart of our time together centers on simple “invitations” or prompts that I craft. During each invitation you will have a chance to wander on your own for 10 - 20 minutes. When we return to the group there’s an option for brief sharing about what you noticed if you choose, but silence is perfectly welcome. There are no expectations on a guided walk and there’s nothing to accomplish. We always close with a tea ceremony using local plants with well researched health benefits.
While standard walks aren’t directly related to specific religious beliefs, participants often find their personal faith or spirituality integrates and deepens with the practice. Above the Clouds also offers a faith-based option for walks.