I had the pleasure of participating in Ben’s initial Shinrin-Yoku walk in Sunnybrook Park in Toronto. Having had experience with dancing in nature, being part of the conscious community in Toronto and being a landscape architect, I had some preconceived notions of what to expect. It was a wonderful surprise to find that the invitations that Ben provided, lead to experiences that deepened my connection to the park well beyond my expectations. It was another lessen, indeed, of limiting expectations and being open to new experiences. While Ben clarified at the start that this was to be an experiential walk focusing on our senses, Ben’s extensive knowledge of ecology became readily apparent and his ability to convey compelling information even when he was not trying to was a cool supplement to the walk. Quite simply, the various invitations lead us to heightening our awareness, through all of our senses, of the wooded area of the park we were walking through. It was essentially a guided moving meditation through which we learned new approaches to being fully present in each moment in the context of the park and within the group. The sharing of our experience after each exercise helped to consolidate and integrate my perception of each exercise. At the end we also shared our overall experience while sitting down for a tea ceremony with tea made from Ben’s mindful foraging of leaves along the walk……yet another direct sensuous experience of the nature we were immersed in. I would recommend that anyone interested in deepening their connection to the landscape through a therapeutic experience, and simultaneously connecting to their own healing inner landscape, participate in a Shinrin-Yoku walk with Ben.
On our walks, Ben gently guided us in the moment to experience nature’s inspirations in the slow and attentive way it deserves. He responded to our group’s needs as they emerged, just as the untamed world does, when we allow it. In trainee certification discussions and teaching, it became clear that Ben’s longstanding scientific background has developed into a newer, deeper relationship with the forest. As a workshop leader myself—and in the quest for those multiple levels of nature knowledge—I actively sought him as a mentor. P.S. To watch him climb trees and share in his playfulness is a joy!
Thanks to 'Gosia' (Malgorzata Dzierzgowska) for this great photo that I, in a sense, helped co-create at Royal Botanical Gardens, June 30th, 2016 (see 'What I Do') for further story.
“Many people have asked about the Forest Therapy Guide training I attended in Massachusetts. M. Amos Clifford, Ben Porchuk, and Nadine Mazzola were my co-trainers. I spent lots of time in the woods growing up, but I’ve never experienced the forest at this level before. You’re in for a treat!”
Ben’s warm humor and deep connection to and knowledge of the natural world helped me to open my own senses and heart to enrich my relationship to both the natural world and my inner world. The seen and unseen world became more vivid and alive. I look forward to continuing to study with Ben.
Having spent time in nature frequently, I was so surprised how Ben opened my entire ‘spirit’s eyes’ to a new way of experience; not just for the sights of the forest, but for the sounds, feelings, scents, and even the rich taste of the air. His guiding helped me connect to the essence of the plants...and it all lead to help reawaken my own nature and inner drive to cultivate my life from the inside out.
With Ben as the guide, this was one of the most interesting and enjoyable walks I have ever experienced. The introduction to Shinrin-Yoku has to spread and be available to those who enjoy nature and those who need an introduction to its benefits. Absolutely theraputic!!...I will definitely continue to connect with trees, do the trust walk and listen to nature with my eyes closed to enjoy it all!!
The experience was remarkable. Being led through the invitations opened a regular walk up into a whole new world of experience.
Although many parts of the walk stood out, the body and breath work at the beginning left an impression. I wrestle with anxiety and mindful movement has always been a technique to help me manage it. It was calming for me and I think it kind of eased us all into a deeper awareness right from the get~go. I also really enjoyed the walk after our introduction to a tree. I enjoyed hugging the tree and holding a nice silent and expansive space as we walked. It was a really uplifting experience to be with people that were so open. Before the walk, emotionally I was a little anxious and my body a bit tense. As we progressed through the invitations I felt like space was opening up to be. There were windows of expansiveness that transcended the chatter of the mind and that felt very peaceful ~ a moving meditation. I usually meditate with my eyes closed, and I was surprised that wasn’t necessary at all.I couldn’t believe how fast it went! I think that’s a great indicator of how flowing the experience was; its hard to make suggestions. I sometimes felt the sharing of our experiences interfered with the flow a little bit. But that just might be because I’m a reclusive cat lady and liked the lone walking times. :)It is definitely something accessible for everyone, at any time. But just like any new field of learning, the benefits are greatly enhanced with a wise guide like Ben.
My walk with Ben was a beautiful experience. He was aware of the group’s needs but at the same time felt the desire to have us test our boundaries with a cool mountain stream. His attention to detail with the tea was lovely. I felt safe, cared for and challenged at the same time. I wish I lived closer so I could attend more. Thank you, Ben!
I experienced Ben’s Forest Therapy walks and his teaching during a seven day Forest Therapy Guide intensive training. Ben’s life experiences and nature connection stories are awe-inspiring. My favourite part of being guided by Ben is his free spirit and playful nature. Thank you for giving the gift of tree climbing to me again! I have now fallen in love with a Butternut tree in my back yard where I enjoy my morning sit spot.
It was Ben’s voice that helped get me in sync with the forest. I don’t even remember the words - there were very few of them. But it was the timing of them, the simplicity and then the beckoning nature of the wild things calling me to join in. He really did open the door to let nature come back home to me.