The radical work of setting aside time for nature immersion

Published September 26th, 2016

2016-restorative-nature-retreatIn August of this year, Wild Earth and Wellness Embodied brought together an inspiring circle of 22 wellness and healing professionals for a full day of intentional and intimate nature immersion.

Renewing moments of wonder and awe became the ground for life-affirming values and intentions, savoring new and ongoing supportive friendships, and harvesting personal and professional insights from the ways and rhythms of the natural world.

A thread of caregiving roles, responsibilities, and related experiences among the participants formed a clear and quick bond, offering a container for turning toward quiet, reflective time. As a group, we opened our minds, hearts, and senses to listen closely to the lively fullness of summer.

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees,
books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
William Shakespeare

We were both alone and deeply connected (i.e. the etymology of “alone” is “all one,” after all!), as we entered a potent hour of settling into silence, and subtle observation in personal “sit spots” -some soaking their feet in the cool waters, some leaning into majestic trees, some witnessing flurries of wildlife activity, some resting on the earth’s soft floor.

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”
Mary Oliver

We walked like foxes, sat like frogs, witnessed like owls, played like children, howled like wolves, sang like birds, and shed some soft tears of joy and sorrow.

We delighted in the restful summer camp tradition of lingering in an after-lunch story-time. We had meaningful, supportive dialogues to integrate and ground our non-verbal explorations into specific intentions for our daily lives – as parents, therapists, teachers, caregivers, doctors, and as responsible friends, neighbors, and stewards of our environment.

Amidst our fast-paced, over-scheduled, plugged-in modern lives, it’s often a radical, upstream gesture to create space and pauses for nourishing nature immersion and deepening community bonds.

It is with tender and full hearts that we want to acknowledge and thank the remarkable group of participants who boldly joined us for this gentle self-care day in the woods, and shared themselves so generously in supporting and helping co-create a memorable, strong beginning for this programming. We arrived from various places and paths, some feeling more at home in the wild than others.

We joined in sharing a contemplative walk and forest bath, and left with a renewed sense of belonging and interconnection with all of life.

One hope is that sense memories of this restorative retreat will arise as invitations throughout our days to pause in mindfulness and gratitude, coming home to the moment and the land where we stand. May such touchstones of resilience ripple out into our relationships, work, and widening circles in our communities.

Another hope is to continue developing and offering more programs that incorporate ecotherapy practices and principles. We look forward to introducing, sharing, learning from, and refining a balance of contemplative, playful, and creative activities we’ve been preparing.

As local mentoring naturalist Ann Guenther has expressed and embodied over the last few seasons of Wild Earth’s free Restorative Nature Strolls, “Nature absorbs our chaos.”

Get outside, and try it! Each and all of us can benefit greatly from slowing down to savor the innate resources of our true nature, our community, and the natural world. Let’s all take a pause to notice and appreciate any small wonder at any small moment.

“We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.”
David Steindl-Rast

Looking to learn more about the restorative, renewing powers of nature connection?

Check out Wellness Embodied’s NATURE ABSORBS OUR CHAOS: INTRODUCTION TO ECOTHERAPY lecture on Wednesday, October 5 in New Paltz!

This is part of Wellness Embodied’s LIVING WELLNESS SERIES, Wednesdays from 12:30-2pm, October 2016-June 2017. There are lots of great lectures lined up, hope to see you there!


Meredith Johnson, MS MHC-LPMeredith Johnson, MS MHC-LPMeredith Johnson, MS MHC-LP, Instructor

Meredith Johnson works as a wellness counselor and educator to help strengthen resilience, with a specialized focus on reducing the negative impact of trauma, cumulative stress, and chronic illness. She received her MS in Mental Health Counseling from SUNY New Paltz and her BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College with a focus in Community Outreach Theater. Meredith brings 20 years of experience and training in mindfulness practices into nature-based and wellness programs to help facilitate restorative, empowering, and therapeutic experiences. She has completed professional training in Somatic Experiencing, Simplicity Parenting, MBSR, and Compassion Fatigue Resilience. During her career in disaster mental health, Meredith taught, consulted, and published about best practices for preventing burnout and maximizing therapists’ and responders’ well-being. Meredith grew up spending more time in trees than houses, and she’s excited to now be bringing her counseling work outdoors into nature. Her appreciation for the healing power of mindful nature connection has deepened over the years, and she’s inspired about combining her body-centered approaches to healing with ecotherapy principles and practices. More about Meredith's work.

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