Julie Ann Gandulla is a Natural Wellness Educator and Certified Nature Therapy Guide in the Bozeman, MT area.
We began at the trailhead of Drinking Horse with introductions, description of trail, safety points, and nature walk theme (“Walking WITH Nature”). Participants were instructed that the walk theme would be highlighting different ways to interact with Nature, as one would interact with any companion in conversation, or in an activity.
The first part of the walk was dedicated to feeling/touch: where as we walk, talk, stop, observe, we take note of how we can feel Nature communicating with us, and actively contrast that experience with different individuals in our lives and how touch may or may not play out in our interactions.
I learned that I should think about “us” being nature, even when we’re not within it.
The second part of the walk was dedicated to taste and smell.
Tea with Nature
- Prepare Space: Set up in an appropriate nature setting, where either carried or local supplies can be used as seats, and a flat surface can be used to prepare the tea and snacks. Arrange guests in a circle.
- Prepare the Tea: Carry in hot water (in an insulated mug), tea leaves, and light snacks. During preparation describe the tea and snacks (ingredients and interesting facts) to the guests. In addition, describe to guests the significance of the primordial act of sharing food. And how this sharing of food WITH one another honors, encourages, and acknowledges our connections.
- Create an Extra Plate: Placing an extra cup and plate in the center of the gathering, ask each person to add a splash of tea (leaving room for the next guest to contribute) and a pinch of special food for Nature (leaving room for the next guest to contribute – this food is wildlife-friendly). Instruct quests to think or speak a welcome or expression of gratitude to Nature when making these contributions.
- Drink and Eat Together: Distribute tea and snacks to guests and offer a final note of gratitude to Nature for joining us. “Thank you for enjoying this tea, food, and company with us today.”
- Closing: End with a “surrender” breath (a deep inhale, holding at the top, followed by a complete exhale) and direct everyone to begin enjoying their refreshments. Remind guests to include Nature in the conversation (paying special attention to listening to Nature), as well as letting guests know they are free to leave or linger. If needed, ease stage fright by helping guests to talk about their nature walk experience.
(Modified from the Nature Spirit Walks Tea Ceremony .)
The fourth part of the walk is dedicated to hearing, where as we walk, talk, stop, observe, we take note of how we can hear Nature speaking; and actively contrast it other conversations and verbal interactions we have had. This was especially pointed near water.
I felt happy and peaceful.
The fifth part of the walk is dedicated to sight, where as we walk, talk, stop, observe, we take note of how we can feel Nature communicating with us; and actively contrast it with different experiences in our lives. This last part of the walk marks our return to the trailhead.
I very much enjoyed this walk and felt it went over well. I can see how the individual dynamics of the person or group dictates the flow of the walk. I also could see how difficult it would be to keep the walk on target when individuals talk or play. I tried hard to strike a balance of letting everyone enjoy their walk WITH nature, which includes play, but simultaneously not derail the walk. I felt I did a good job managing practical issues (e.g., route, safety, and expectations), with free-play, and theme-work (i.e., exercises with the senses).
Nature Therapy walks provide participants benefits like improved immune function, increased cognitive function, lowers blood pressure, as well as provide them with phytoncides, an environment that they biologically register as less stress and meditative, as well as the opportunity to restore themselves. Moreover, I believe this list is far from exhaustive. Above all, I believe nature therapy walks help people most immediately and pointedly to reduce their stress and create peace. This change, this effect, seems to happen almost instantaneously and is an incredibly powerful and much needed gift.
© Julie Ann Gandulla