I sit on a blanket on the ground under a big oak tree. I hear the chattering of blackbirds, the distant thrum of a woodpecker and a breeze blowing through the trees. I check the reception on my phone and dial into a Zoom session with my therapist. Since late autumn last year we've been meeting this way, she's in her study and I'm outside in the woods where I live.
Like many people, I’ve found the chilly winter lockdown tough and have sought new ways to connect to myself and the natural world. As a therapist in private practice, I began to work outside with some of my clients between lockdowns, so it felt like a natural step to experience my own therapy outdoors. It’s opened up a new opportunity to form closer bonds with the nature on my doorstep as well as enabling me to go deeper into my own therapeutic process.
There's a ritualistic quality about getting ready to go to therapy and this feels even more pronounced when going outdoors. I check the weather forecast and pack my bag accordingly, including a blanket to sit on and choosing suitable clothes and shoes. Next, comes the journey to my therapy spot. I always sit in the same place and it takes me 10 minutes to walk there. On the way I observe the trees in the woods - I've watched the leaves fall off their branches, noticed their skeletal shapes throughout winter and even seen them covered in snow. As winter has turned to spring, I’ve taken delight in seeing the sky get lighter and the buds on the branches burst forth into beautiful blossom and now, spring green luscious leaves.
I walk, observing the rhythm of the changing seasons in the woods and it gives me an opportunity to bring my focus to my inner world and reflect upon the changes and growth that are taking place there. My attention is brought to the ebb and flow of feelings and the meaning I make from them. I become aware of my body and the sensations I feel in response to my inner world and what's going on around me.
When I arrive under the oak tree, I feel present and ready to meet with my therapist on Zoom. The ritual of preparation, journey and arrival feel as if they too are part of the therapeutic process, reaching beyond the therapeutic hour.
I feel held in that place in the woods, not only by my therapist, but also by the familiar sights, sounds and smells of the natural world around me. It’s a place I can visit at other times during the week too, a place that feels like a part of me and as if I’m a part of it. Whatever I’m feeling or experiencing, my place in the woods is there - changing, growing and connected.
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.