The Therapy of the Forest
With modern life running at such a fast pace Liz Dawes is the perfect person to help us all slow down and live in the present. Gail Bailey meets Liz of to find out more
Through a journey of her own self discovery Liz Dawes shares a combination of two amazing practices, mindfulness and forest bathing, to help people achieve that perfect life balance and a connectivity with the here and now.
“Most of us have the capacity to be mindful and connect with nature,” explains Liz. “It is very much innate in all of us but has been lost with busy modern living. Forest bathing and mindfulness benefit us on an emotional, spiritual and physical level.”
Liz’s own life journey has been a fascinating one. Originally from Burnley in Lancashire, Liz emigrated to California in 1987 with her family and also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Lancashire to study Law and French. Liz was working in London as a commercial property solicitor but in 2012 she started to realise she was dissatisfied with her life and knew she wasn’t yet in the place she wanted to be: “It was whilst in the South of France on a business trip that a chance conversation with clients led me to enrol on The Hoffman Process, a week long personal development course,” Liz explains. “This course helps individuals embrace a new perspective and certainly changed my life! Soon after I handed in my notice, sold my flat and moved to Brighton to allow me the space and time I needed to work out what life path I really wanted to take.”
During her time living in Brighton Liz attended an eight-week mindfulness course: “I wish I had known years ago what I learnt on that course,” says Liz and decided to deliver this practice to those in the workplace to tackle work-based stress. Her own learning journey was far from over however and she did further training with two Buddhist monks in order to become a mindfulness teacher.
“My developing interest in what mindfulness could do for a person connected me with so many interesting people,” Liz explains.
A month-long silent retreat in Somerset was followed by a trek to Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal, hiking through the breathtaking Himalayan landscape. This also led to a connection with that part of the world and especially a desire to see India – a place she has spent much of her time over the last five years: “I came back from that first trip and put my belongings in storage so I could spend my time travelling and exploring India. I simply fell in love with the country, the culture and the people.”
Although she continued to teach mindfulness to individuals and corporate groups, she was still drawn to find something that combined her love of nature with her extensive learning and is now a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide (under mentorship of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy – ANFT).
“On holiday in California last year I began chatting to a film maker called Sylvie Rokab who had made a film, narrated by Liam Neeson, called Love Thy Nature and she asked me if I had ever heard of Forest Bathing. On returning to England I began to investigate this further and realised that this practice incorporates all the aspects of mindfulness along with a connection with nature.” Liz immediately applied to train with the ANFT.
“Inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, the science behind forest bathing fascinates me,” Liz further explains. “Trees emit phytoncides, which are their natural protectors from harmful insects and germs. When humans inhale these elements, tests have revealed a corresponding enhanced immune system, parasympathetic nervous system activity and lower blood pressure.
“We evolved in nature so it’s not surprising that our bodies respond so well to forest bathing. In recent generations, we have moved towards urbanised and digitised environments that do not provide us with natural stimuli required for our health and wellbeing.”
The forest bathing walks that Liz now guides in Lancashire and Yorkshire follow a sequence which allows our minds to rest: “We walk very slowly and find quiet spaces where I offer invitations that are designed to support a sensory connection to the natural environment. In this way we begin to ‘come out of our heads’ to appreciate and re-connect with the wonder of nature. At ANFT we say the forest is the therapist, the guide opens the door!”
Liz’s own journey of discovery is captivating, and she has many more exciting projects in the pipeline, including working with Sylvie Rokab to screen Love Thy Nature here in the UK.
Lancashire is lucky that Liz has come back to her roots to share her journey, her learning, her discovery and her teaching: “I finally feel, after all these years, that I am in the place I am supposed to be, doing the work I am supposed to be doing.”
For more details about Mind You mindfulness and forest bathing, contact: