Good evening! I hope this finds you safe and well. I took a week off posting because – as a wise poetry publisher once told me, “we only happen to be writers”. Sometimes, we have nothing to say, and that’s okay.
I could not write last weekend because I was mentally preparing for my final counselling accreditation exam. I passed it, so I am back to this reflective space.
This week, my identity shifted from a trainee counsellor to an accredited one; thus, I am thinking a lot about transitions. It’s hard not to think about them in autumn, of course. As soon as I left the college building with the crispy diploma in my hand, I noticed that the nearby trees were losing so many of their lovely little seeds that it felt like it was raining acorns!
I had a cold in the last two weeks, so I also had to cut down on going outside. I needed to cut myself off from the temptation of walks, runs, bike rides and gardening. I was stuck at home, paying attention to my well-being, wrapped up under a blanket. I was working and studying softly. I was disconnected from Nature intentionally.
Of course, as soon as the exam was over, I immersed myself in Nature again. Cognitively exhausted, but my body was gradually relaxing into its healthy, natural cycle of days and nights. I spent hours walking around Exeter on Thursday. Yesterday I went for a guided walk in local woodland (learned exciting facts about decolonizing health and healing properties of some local plants). Today I sat in a local park with a friend talking about the mixed race experience, politics of mental health and the polarising attempts of various parties to own words – when really, no one owns a language, we all co-create it. I soaked in enough of the autumnal sun to perk up after this week’s effort. I spotted enough crows during my travel and in the local park to feel connected to Mother Earth. I even walked with a leaf in my hair at some point – it’s also raining leaves at the moment! 🙂
(a simple example of Nature connections)
I spent six years doing training that most people complete in three years. I took my time with it as I need to have solid foundations of mental health support before I seriously venture into the digital well-being areas. The nature of counselling courses is such that we change significantly. We shed layers and layers of old habits, assumptions, and biases. We take on new perspectives, learn to shape-shift skillfully and keep our clients safe. If done well, this journey means we can support people’s healing and, often, save lives. But we also learn to take care of ourselves. We heal. We grow. We change. So, we also need to mark the transition and notice what we are leaving behind and what we are taking with us into the future.
And so I am back in Nature and online, too. I am planning a softer, slower time before opening my private counselling practice just to reflect on who I have become. Winter is perfect for this process of restoration and reflection.
One way of marking transitions is to disconnect and reconnect with something else, so today, I am offering you a Nature-based simplified reflective practice – forest bathing. Find a park or woodland where you feel safe. Find a path, a tree or a tree root which can serve as a starting point, a symbolic gate or a threshold. As you start and end your walk, practice transitioning from your daily life into the forest bathing and back to your daily life using the following questions:
Q: What am I leaving behind? What distractions do I need to switch off? What daily tasks, messages, and expectations do I have to pause for the duration of this walk? What notifications do I need to mute, and do I need my phone to be on silent for emergencies (some of us find a complete disconnect too stressful)? What do I need to notice to connect with the Nature around me? Can I see any examples of connection in the landscape around me: a tree with its own biodiversity (maybe a bird or insect, maybe moss or a fern growing on it)? Can I notice the edge of the trees and the skies? Can I see the connections between trees? Can I breathe in the air and notice the smell of the landscape, soil or path? And when I return to the threshold, how will I pause my Nature connectedness? What do I need to do to move softly back into my daily life?
(I wish you a light rest of the evening and a soft start to the week. I will be entering a new phase and softly welcoming this new part of my identity in my emerging conversations with friends this week. Have a light week ahead!)
This post was originally posted on Substack in our Syl’s Liberation Psychologies Newsletter.