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Reconnecting with Nature & Self: A Nature Therapy Walk Through the Woods

My footsteps tread with anticipation as I walked along the tree-shaded path toward the Hartman Nature Reserve Center. Each step brought me closer to a gentleman a few strides ahead with his walking stick, bag with a water jug flung across his back signaling experience in the woods.


As I neared walking alongside him, I asked if was also here for the Nature Therapy Walk with Connie Svodoba. A quick grin spread across his face as he joked, “Yep, here to feed the bugs!” before sharing that he’d known Connie for quite some time. This, a conversation I’d held with several people in different walks of life... that they’d known Connie from when this and such was happening, or so and so was around. And always shared with the same smile of gratitude for the friendship and warmth she shared.


I’d only had the pleasure of meeting this well-loved Iowa Naturalist and Certified Forest Therapy Guide a year before, as she cared for a dear friend who’d hurt her ankle. As I watched her do so with such a comforting demeanor, I recognized a women who nurtured living things with such grace and compassion. A woman whose ways indicated depth and wisdom.


More of us gathered and after a quick introduction we began down the familiar path, moving more slowly than I would typically go. Barely ten yards in I stepped over a harmless little brown snake, pointing it out to our companions behind me as we walked on by. Despite our footsteps, it lay still upon the mulch path. Perhaps it was waiting for each of us to observe it’s presence and symbolism.


Transformation.


This small snake’s head was resting aligned with the direction she as headed. The upper portion of her body curved back and forth with grace and power. Though unmoving, she was ready at any time to propel herself forward. The lower half of her body trailed off into a more elongated state.


I chuckled to myself as I considered the spiritual meaning of the snake, reminded of the process of shedding it must complete in order to continue growth and expansion.


I’d been moving through a season of shedding... everything from friendships no longer aligned with my highest good fading away to conscious reprogramming of belief systems harmful to my soul.


This process was painful at times but was already leading me to great growth and expansion. Part of which had led me here. A past version of myself would have dismissed the invitation, choosing to put the wants of my kids and husband above my own needs. It was what I’d been taught a good mom and wife did. Yet as I deconstructed the harmful belief of self-sacrifice over self-care, I choose something I was growing increasingly more comfortable with as I practiced.


I chose to show myself the same level of compassion I was used to pouring out to those I loved.


I smiled in recognition of this growth and thanked the snake for making her timely appearance as we paused at the first downed tree.


Connie began to guide us further as to the beautiful journey of our Nature Therapy Walk in which we had embarked and gently supported us in a meditative process of reconnecting to our breath and the natural world. She guided this experience with a series of invitations. It was up to us to accept and experience them.


This mirrored the experience of spiritual growth and development that was all too familiar. We’re presented with invitations to dive deeper, heal, and grow. It’s up to us to embrace them.


As we reopened our eyes after being guided into a more meditative state, we gazed around in awe. We were invited to imagine viewing our surroundings for the very first time. I was nearly brought to tears at the beauty of sunlight filtering through the trees, and the dance of their leaves in the light breeze.


As we continued along the path, Connie provided the invitation of exploring our senses and how they related to our surroundings. I found myself closing my eyes to enhance the sense of sounds.


All around me birds of several kinds were singing their songs. The gentle breeze stirred the leaves upon their branches. And oh, the mosquitoes!


There are few sounds as triggering as that of a mosquito buzzing near one’s ear. After the abundant rainfall we’d experienced this spring, their population was booming. The gentleman at the beginning of our walk was right, we sure were feeding the bugs! Despite the peaceful experience of quality time among the trees, I found my anxiety rising as I generously applied yet another coat of bug spray from head to toe. I was determined not to let these tiny creatures diminish my enjoyment of this special experience.


Yet the more I focused on them, the harder it was not to let their presence bother me. Connie gently guided our next mindful invitation prompt and as I got to know a nearby tree I noticed something powerful.


The less I focused my attention on this minor irritation and shifted instead to the beauty and awe of life all around me, the more peaceful I became.


The mosquitoes were still there. Their existence did not change. Yet by shifting my focus to what was good about this experience rather than desperately trying o eradicate what I found to be uncomfortable, I was able to reconnect with myself and nature all around me.


Too often we spend our time complaining and dwelling on the little aspects of our life giving us challenge, rather than the extensive list of blessings. I breathed deeply to internalize this reminder.


I heard a fluttering sound that was so close I could feel a slight breeze upon my face. I opened my eyes to see a ruby-throated hummingbird go flitting past. I watched as this amazing little creature hovered, grabbing a snack from the native blooms before diving down toward the creek. A gentle smile overtook my face, knowing that if I’d come to the woods to “hike”... focused on where I was getting to rather than where I currently was, this incredible sight would have been overlooked.


An inward chuckle filled my heart as I noticed something unexpected.


While the time of peacefulness away from the kids gave me space to breathe, this practice of nature therapy was exactly how our children move through the forest. They aren’t concerned about the time, nor getting to their decided destination. They pause to take off their shoes and feel the flowing water of the creek, and stop at any and every new sight that sparks their interest. From flora to fauna, they are observant and curious to sense all they can of the world around them.


I found my own inner child soaring with joy as she embraced the freedom of true presence without being rushed .


Just like the tree I’d rested upon and become one with energetically, thanks to this compassionate guide and nature all around me,


I was once again content to simply be.


For more uplifting stories, helpful articles, and Her story features, check out the Heal & Rise Magazine online for free here. To join in Nature Therapy walks and other wonderful offerings at Hartman Nature Reserve, click here.






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I'm a writer, energy healer, and plant-obsessed meditating mama on a mission of guiding women to Heal & Rise! For more about my story...

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