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Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy in Nature

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Being in nature while talking about the challenges you face can create a space that isn’t available in the therapy office. When you disclose something that you’ve hidden, even from yourself, there is a space, a freedom about you that helps you be with the pain of that disclosure. Not only was the therapist able to hear it and still be with you, the sky, the trees, the birds and so much other life was able to carry on having heard it too. Being able to express yourself so freely can help you to be with what troubles you and to move on and create something new. "In every walk in nature one recieves far more than she seeks." John Muir

Imagine you’re walking along a path with your eyes focused ahead. Part of your mind is focused on the path so as to adjust to the rugged terrain so you don’t trip. Part of your mind is connected to the scent of the cedar leaves warming in the early morning along with the smell of dew rising from the composting maple leaves. The breeze blowing along your face has a touch of cool to it while the sun beaming through the leaves and hitting your skin also warms it. Your ears notice the humming of the birds all around, the new chicks of the warbler and the bellowed screech of the hawk above. Mindfulness may be seen as the cultivation of attention and awareness. In nature it is almost as if we have an infinite array of other beings sending signals to our mind cultivating our awareness, pulling us away from the past based dialogue that persistently steals our attention.

The psychological benefits of mindfulness practice have been one of the most researched and valued studies of the past ten years in psychotherapy. Guatama Buddah attained enlightenment while meditating underneath a bodhi tree. Countless hours have looked at how the technique of the Buddah gave them enlightenment. Here in this article we’ll begin to discuss how the bodhi tree helped as well.

Mindfulness based psychotherapy helps one heal through becoming aware of what the client is dealing with, and to gain acceptance of it. This allows the client to be with what’s so and free their mind to use their limitless potential to create and connect to the world around them. This is a very general description and the ways in which people can be helped are as infinite as the human mind's creativity. What we’re focused on here is how mindfulness helps an individual heal and how nature helps an individual be mindful of themself and the world they are in. "By discovering nature, you discover yourself." Maxime Lagacé

Mindfulness can help us step out of our mind when it gets trapped by sudden events that impact our life in a way we didn’t expect. If we look at two of the most common symptoms that limit one's life experience they are found in anxiety and depression. Both anxiety and depression are different ways of not accepting what’s so or what might be. Depression is often described as a sunken feeling. One in which we feel stuck or trapped by some outside force we cannot see. In this current moment the fears of a pandemic have left many to feel more depressed. If we look closer it is because much has been taken away. The forest can help. "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." Rachel Carson

Typically a psychotherapist sees clients within four walls with maybe a window to let a little light in. This can be very helpful to the client by creating a safe space to help the client share and be vulnerable. However this stale space can also amplify the story the client is scared to connect with. And so it may take a long time for the client to share what they are really dealing with. In nature it is almost as if the surrounding stimuli of all of the living organisms and the movement of the air and the sun can create a space the client can begin to become present to the world in which they are in. In this space the internal painful story the client is avoiding and not accepting isn’t quite so loud. I’ve found in the sessions that I’ve worked with clients in nature that they were able to share in ways they weren’t able to share in the therapy office. One client described it as “feeling more supported by the life that surrounded me. I felt hopeful even when discussing that.”

Nature therapy available in the Wissahickon.

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