An islander who suffers from ME has opened up about how she found "sanctuary" and a new lease of life through the Japanese art of 'Shinrin-yoku' – forest bathing – which she is now hoping to share with others.
Amanda Bond is a certified ANFT Nature and Forest Guide, with a Master’s degree in Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapeutic Practice, and the founder of Wild Edgewalker.
She offers forest bathing sessions as well as therapy walks. Over the last three years, she has also provided guided walks for local charities, such as Macmillan Jersey.
Over the coming weeks, Amanda will be guiding three walks for the National Trust for Jersey as part of the ‘Love Nature Festival’ and for the Jersey National Park’s ‘Walk in the Park’ event.
In addition to these events, Amanda has just debuted a new series of Forest Therapy inspiring creativity wanders on Wednesday mornings running until 21 June, which is sponsored by Connect Me.
Her favourite spots to “forest bathe” in the island include Le Sentier des Moulins in Waterworks Valley, Fern Valley, The ‘Forgotten Forest’ in Val de la Mare, Greve de Lecq woods and Noirmont woodlands.
“Nature and forest therapy includes all terrain, and landscapes, including the urban parks and gardens,” she said.
Pictured: Amanda Bond will be guiding three walks for the National Trust for Jersey as part of the ‘Love Nature Festival’.
Amanda first discovered the benefits of being in nature whilst qualifying as a practitioner in Craniosacral Biodynamics following several sessions in London that she said helped her see “there was a life beyond pain”, after suffering from back pain for around 20 years at that time.
“That training introduced me to many new theories, particularly about the stress response, and trauma, how both are rooted somatically in the body,” she explained.
“The body does not differentiate between the feelings held around past trauma, and an event in the present, that triggers a response informed by the past.
“A key aspect of the training was learning to resource, for myself, and to share with others. Resources may be internal or external, enabling us to cope with daily life, as well as the curveballs that we often receive throughout life.
"I realised that nature, spending time in wild places, and amongst trees for me especially, is my primary resource. It’s been that way since childhood, growing up in St. Peter’s Valley, the woodlands were my sanctuary, my safe place.”
Whilst she could only see a few clients due to the debilitating symptoms of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), also called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Amanda started practicing from home, in a rural setting, “continually resourcing herself” and orienting clients to resourcing in nature.
Pictured: "I realised that nature, spending time in wild places, and amongst trees for me especially, is my primary resource..."
When she was offered the opportunity of undertaking a Master’s degree in 2012, she chose to return to the Karuna Institute, where she had previously trained, to enroll on a three-year clinical training in depth, mindfulness-based psychotherapy, and compassion-oriented Buddhist psychology.
“It was during this training that I realised, likely due to the environmental effects of the Institute being on Dartmoor, that I did not want to follow the standard route to professional practice, but wanted instead to focus on the power of nature to heal.
“So, following my graduation in 2017, having written my dissertation on grief and healing in nature, I chose to fully embrace working with individuals and groups outdoors.”
Amanda became certified as an ANFT Nature & Forest Therapy Guide in 2018, which she said offered a framework for working with people in nature.
Pictured: Amanda became certified as an ANFT Nature & Forest Therapy Guide in 2018.
“As a Nature & Forest Therapy Guide, I offer ways to reconnect with nature through a sensory experience,” she explained. “This is new to many people, even those who spend lots of time outdoors.
“Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing was established in Japan in the 80s. Shinrin means ‘forest’, and yoku ‘bath’. So, the term means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or receiving the forest through our senses. The Japanese are a forest civilisation, their culture, philosophy and religion are carved out of the forests that blanket the country.
“So, it is unsurprising that they devised a practice to counter the effects of burnout and intense urban living that returned people to a sensory engagement with forests. This led to a national health provision that was researched and gradually grew into Forest Bathing centres, with associated nature-based treatments.
“Forest Bathing is the art of connecting with nature through our senses. In essence, a basic five sense-based practice of walking slowly within an environment of trees. Forest Therapy in Japan is practiced only by certified professionals.
Pictured: “Forest Bathing is the art of connecting with nature through our senses."
“Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy elsewhere around the world are often intertwined, however the Forest Therapy practice that I share was devised by M.Amos Clifford, a native of California, working with others, inspired by Shinrin-yoku and informed by his earlier work as a wilderness guide, as well as indigenous practices.”
Amanda said there are many research-based benefits of Forest Bathing and Therapy, which include:
Amanda said she herself experienced and witnessed the benefits of a consistent practice of Forest Therapy, which she described as “a transformative, often shifting a person’s perspective on life in general, toward more meaning and purpose, pro-environmental behaviours and often creativity in some form, whether that being a new craft or hobby, or a new idea for a business”.
She added: “I’ve witnessed profound changes in the way people regard their lives for the better, whatever their circumstances.”
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