Setting an intention
On a sparkly spring day, I had the pleasure of taking an ecotherapy walk with Ariana Candell in an Oakland Hills park.
At the start of the trail, Ariana asks about my intention for the walk. “I want to feel more grounded and at peace since I’m feeling anxious and unsteady,” I answer. She instructs me to mindfully notice my feet on the ground, observe the sights and smells around me, and express anything I feel like, in any manner. She then shared this poem:
To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:
To look at this green and say,
’I have seen spring in these
Woods,’ will not do – you must
Be the thing you see:
You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.
— John Moffitt, “To Look at Any Thing”
What are you drawn to in nature?
And so my journey begins…
I am immediately drawn to a redwood tree with its branches stretched out wide and leaves blowing softly in the breeze. I’m struck by how it is anchored into the ground, despite being situated on a slanted hill. “What are you noticing or feeling?” Ariana asks. “I’m in awe of how this tree is steadfast and strong and so graceful.”
Ariana asks, “Would you like to express this somehow?” Without hesitation, I stretch my arms to the sky and wave them gently. I dig my feet into the ground. I delight in the feeling of being rooted and resolute. Ariana mirrors my movement, which makes me feel appreciated and seen.
Not far down the path, we stop in a protected redwood grove. I close my eyes and delight in the lush smell, the warm breeze against my face and the singing birds. “What do you feel now?” Ariana asks. “I’m in heaven. I’m loving this.”
She invites me to look around and find something else which represents grounding. I notice a cascade of ancient roots pouring over the path. I appreciate how the roots have withstood so much and weathered so many challenges. I notice how the tree stands alone, yet is supported. I close my eyes and visualize these roots as part of me, growing under my feet…Aaah, more groundedness. I sink deeper into myself.
We walk silently down a path caressed by trees. Ariana watches me intently. I spontaneously say: “I have the roots of an ancient tree. I am protected. I am at peace.” Now, away from this enchanted walk, whenever I feel anxious and ungrounded, I recall these tree roots and relax.
I feel grateful for this walk which reawakened my senses and connection with nature, and for the supportive guide who encouraged me along the way.
“I have gone every day to the same woods,
Not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can’t be repeated.
It you want to talk about this
Come to visit. I live in the house
Near the corner, which I have named
— Mary Oliver, “The Place I Want To Get Back To”
“Walking the Path to Spirit”
By Gail Koffman