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Creating a Safe and Brave Space

At Highland Quietlife we work hard to make sure anyone who joins a session feels safe and supported. As my podcast co-presenter described it, not just a safe space but a brave space too.

We have the following Basic Group Expectations:

Connectedness - We support compassionate social interaction. There is no pressure to share anything with the group when invited, but the group does support you to do so.

Hope and optimism – During our session, the forest and nature around you is the therapist and your guide merely opens the door. We encourage you to let nature support you.

Identity - Everyone has a voice and when sharing please be mindful of time and use appropriate language. We avoid stigmatising or terms that may cause offence.

Empowerment – We understand that life can affect us all differently and if a challenge arises, we take personal responsibility to let the guide know. Some people can find the peace that a Forest Bathing sessions brings can bring on an emotional reaction. If there is need in the group for support, we share this, being mindful of confidentiality.

Two people stand in the distance on the shore of a loch, the light is low at sunrise and reflections of tall trees in the water.
Sunrise in the Cairngorms (Highland Quietlife)


Quite simply because I have spent too many years being judged by others and not feeling comfortable in certain settings. Species survive by having ‘tending’ relationships with other species; simply we look after, or out for each other. If we don’t receive this from the people around us, we start to feel sad, defensive, left out of things, different to others, unliked, confused….the list goes on.

Human communities are like healthy forests, we thrive on diversity and the health of all beings is connected and supports each other. When I am with the trees and in nature, I don’t feel judged, I feel protected and tended. Introduce people to that environment, especially ones I don’t know and suddenly it is less predictable and inevitably a ‘mask’ will go up and I won’t be 100% my authentic self. When people join a Forest Bathing session with Highland Quietlife, I want them to feel that they can be their authentic self, in turn, I will promise to too. 

Forest Bathing can be an emotional process, people can underestimate how powerful it is to give yourself permission to just ‘be’ in nature and hand it over to the trees. During a session you might find yourself in a liminal space, which is a bit like the twilight zone - you are not in this world anymore and you are venturing into the more than human world. Floating about, a little spacey but supported and happy. This is where the support and tending from others around you comes in, we hold space for what you need to feel and we support you. It is importance to remember that forest bathing is not counselling and the guide is not a trained therapist - nature is the therapist and the guide just opens the door.

Our Community Monthly Forest Bathing Group - Grantown on Spey

I first experienced Forest Bathing in June 2019, I was in the US for a conference and we had to do an activity day the day day before the conference started. I chose the only one that was related to nature - forest bathing with Helene and Suzanne from Adirondack Riverwalking and Forest Bathing. I really didn’t know what to expect but it did sound like a relaxing day on the shores of Lake George. We were a big group and I didn’t know anyone, I’m also not the fittest or sporty looking of people so I did not feel particularly comfortable. 

As the session went on, I didn’t find it easy to relax and certainly kept that mask up that I referred to earlier. Towards the end of the session though, we did something called a ‘sit spot’ and we were asked to find a place we were drawn to and sit for 20 minutes and try to let our mind empty. I spent a lot of the time we had, looking at the boats on the water and watching people enjoying themselves in the distance. I didn’t really relax and I suspect I was clock watching. Suddenly though I was struck by the tiny twigs right in front of my face, they had been there the whole time and I had been too busy looking into the distance to notice them.

This was the lightbulb moment that made be realise how aligned forest bathing is with how I live my life. I’m a person in recovery and there is a saying “One day at a time”, meaning don’t look to far ahead and just work on the next 24 hours. These twigs were my reminder! I was too busy looking at the bigger things in the distance I had not noticed the small things right in front of me. I completely lost myself looking at those smaller twigs for the next few moments and my head truly started to relax. At that point I knew training to be a Forest Therapy Guide was something I wanted to do, it was the piece of the jigsaw that was missing and importantly, I knew I wanted people who NEEDED forest bathing to be able to experience it, with no barriers and get the benefits that were available.

In June 2023, thanks to a start up grant from the Green Health Small Grants Fund our monthly community group was born. These are sessions are completely free for anyone who would like to attend, no questions asked, although many people come through the Badenoch and Strathspey Green Prescription Scheme. We hold the group in the Health Woods next to Grantown Medical centre, the paths are completely accessible and there is plenty of seating for people. It might not be the quietest of woods as it is next the main road, but it is accessible and the noise from the road dies down and we fully appreciate the silence and birdsong.

Join us - its free - 10:30am on the first Sunday of the month. You’ll find a safe space and group of people to share some time in nature with. Get in touch with me if you would like to talk beforehand.

If you would like to hear more about how I and others create safe spaces and our own experiences, check out this podcast episode with my colleague Michelle (or Moose she answers to both!)

A tall and old Scots Pine stands in the centre of the image surrounded by smaller trees
Nurture yourself in nature (Highland Quietlife)


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