Forest Therapy guides refer to their offerings as invitations. An invitation is defined as “a spoken or written request to do something”. So, we may offer a verbal invitation or share an invitation on small scrolls, designed to be opened by the forest bathers. On my walks, I explain how invitations work; that in our lives, when you receive an invitation via text, email or (do we still?) snail mail, you have choices. You might arrive late, leave early, not go at all or something else. Bottom line, you get to choose.
The same holds true for forest therapy/forest bathing. When a guide offers an invitation, say to connect with a tree, you choose how you’ll interact, or choose if you’ll interact at all. Those who’ve been waiting for this, may run up to the tree and throw their arms around it. Others may approach cautiously to figure out what that means for them. Still others may ‘speed date’ and visit lots of trees without any deep connection. Some may just stand around and check their phones. Someone on a walk once asked me, “What if the tree tells me to get lost? That it doesn’t want to connect?” It was a joke from someone who must have been thinking that I was a bit off suggesting a connection with a tree. My response? “If a tree tells you that, go find another tree.” Here’s the thing about invitations. Consider that you’ve already come to the party. You’re there. You’re present. What have you got to lose?
Well, one of our stories is that we do have something to lose when we’re seen by others. One reason invitations can be difficult for adults lies in our inhibitions, or the impediment to act freely when others are around. Someone will see me. I may look foolish. I won’t do this correctly, etc. This hesitancy around invitations might also be related to those who were coerced into coming on the walk in the first place. I recognize them immediately, and sometimes I ask them to raise their hands. And they do, and yes, I see you. Yet, every one of those forest bathers has astonished me in some way by the end of the walk. Now, I simply wait for the forest to do its thing, even with the most resistant.
You don’t get to be wrong when you’re forest bathing. Whatever feels right to you is right for you. And yet, I long for people to step over their edges (our limits, our boundaries, our beliefs) and try new things: connect with a tree, send a message through a flower, give something of your essence to a river, and more. I use language like “we’re now entering time tree, which is different than human time”, or I say we’re invisible because we’re moving so slowly in the world.
I discourage ‘wrong’ and encourage connection. I haven’t cracked the code for everyone and making that my mission would be trying to control their experience which isn’t my role as a guide. I simply trust that the forest has their backs, just like it has mine. What would it take for you to come to the party, cross over an edge, or suspend your disbelief? What waits for you if and when you do?