About Kathleen Giese Skoller
Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide
Hello, I’m Kathleen, certified through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs – the leading voice for forest therapy programs in the United States and Europe. Shinrin Yoku helps me relieve stress, detach from the digital world, think and feel my way through creative projects. I’ve learned to distill everyday awareness into deep appreciation for the moment.
I’ve come to realize nature’s beauty isn’t about perfection. I can change and grow at my own pace, in tune with spring, summer, fall, winter, or, the seasons of my life. Shinrin Yoku settles my mind and feelings. Now I notice when my actions and responses are in the flow, or not. As some ways of being fall away, I’m choosing new stories, new perspectives.
Some ask, “How did you transition from teacher into forest therapy guide?”. An inkling of my need for this started when a mentor challenged me to do nothing for two days. This was a huge challenge. I sat, meditated, and sat some more. Eventually, I made a wall of ideas. When they popped up, I’d write them on post-it notes and stick’em to my wall. Then I started organizing the paper ideas by color and placement on the wall. This all felt like cheating. I was doing something, not nothing.
That winter I bought “ice boots” to not fall while walking our dog, Ladyday. We both love the forest — even on icy trails. When she sniffed the forest floor in ecstasy, I started noticing more smells and textures. I savored the forest air, remembered why these places are essential to my well-being.
As a child, my friends and I hiked through ravines down to Lake Michigan in the Milwaukee area. We’d find our way to the beach following ravines. Then, pretending, “we’re lost,” we’d walk north along the beach. When we felt far from home, we’d climb the shoreline to discover a nunnery or new neighborhood. It was easy to find our way home because the lake was east, home was south.
Reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods stirred up questions. My childhood was special. Have we become “indoor creatures”? How much do today’s children and our inner child get to wander in forests and natural areas? How might our lives change if we did?
There were more calls to my current adventure. I’m one of the first certified forest therapy guides in the mid-west. Some were actually global calls. Through on-line courses, I met Sachi in Japan. She takes business executives into the forest – for better decisions? Hedda from the Netherlands is a “forest counselor”. Christy from Indiana introduced me to the idea of Forest Therapy / Forest Bathing after a symposium I facilitated. Brenda in Illinois guided my first Forest Bathing experience.
Slowing down, taking in the pleasure of forest sounds, air, temperature, fragrance, just being was something I needed. A break from stress, the digital world or always doing is something others need as well. I began to imagine our fast paced, me-oriented culture making a shift to we – present, in relationship with each other and the natural world. I decided to follow this path.
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