During a forest therapy walk, your guide will periodically invite you to consider or try something. Sometimes it may be a quest to find a leaf or tree that resonates with you, other times it may be to become aware of movement as you walk – the options are endless! These invitations do not actually come from the guide but from the forest. I don’t mean this in a necessarily esoteric way, just that the guide will intuit the invitation that a specific location seems to call for with those particular participants. Thus every walk is unique.
Invitations are designed to help open participants to the forest therapy experience through engaging with their senses and their surroundings by slowing down and becoming present. Simply walking through the woods is nice, but the benefits of forest bathing is in that slowing down and active engagement.
As an invitation, it is important to remember that they are optional. Walkers can decide what invitations to accept, and are welcome to change them to fit their own need or calling. Additionally, it is not so much about the doing as it is the experience of doing, and so there is no need to stress about doing it “right” or even completing it in the time provided. For example, if you were invited to find 5 items that resonated with you and you found 2, that is perfectly fine! This was not a test or a race! Such numbers are arbitrary to encourage participants to spend some time in that activity. If you were invited to make art, it does not need to be a masterpiece – just a moment of creative play between you and the forest.
If you are in a group, please allow everyone space to have their own experiences and time with the forest. Too much chatter removes us from the present moment. It is in these invitations that one’s experiences become deeper.
Guides are always seeking to discover or learn new invitations to add to their toolbox so that they always have options available to them. Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with your guide after the walk – the feedback really helps! I will often take chances and experiment with invitations when I feel the group is open to that. Guides want to have fun too!