In this conversation with Helene Gibbens we explore:
The word YOGA is from ancient sanskrit, meaning 'to join' or 'to unite'. It first came from India to the west in the late 19th century and gradually became a broadly known aspect in western society; now being taught in many gyms, community centers and schools.
Some have wondered if forest therapy could be the “new yoga” and one day become a mainstream way for people to engage with the world of forests, rivers and mountains, thereby influencing the way we think and feel about our relationships with the more than human world.
In this episode, Helene Gibbens shares how the practice of yoga raises our awareness of self, others and of the sentient life surrounding us. She shares how her long journey as a yoga practitioner transformed the relationships in her life and eventually awakened the desire to also engage with the sentient beings of nature in more fulfilling ways.
She speaks in simple, relatable language about the philosophy of yoga, which states that a universal intelligence pervades all existing life forms; and how yoga prepared her to embrace forest bathing as a path to experience intimate states of one-ness and interconnectedness with all forms of life.
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Helene Gibbens has been living in northern New York for two decades, teaching yoga, wellness and meditation in surrounding communities. After growing up in Montreal, she found her heart yearned for greener landscapes. Settling in the Adirondack Park in 2009, she found "home". She took her yoga practice out of doors and yet, there was still a yearning for a different way to relate with the forests and rivers outside her door. She became a certified Forest and Nature Therapy Guide and feels privileged to share with others the practice of Forest Bathing through guided nature sensory immersion experiences. She also enjoys yoga practice and meditation, skiing, hiking and gardening.
Hosted by Kat Novotna and Pamela Wirth
Episode 12 Transcript
Guest: Helene Gibbens
Hosts: Kat Novotna, Pamela Wirth
Hello, dear listeners. Hello and welcome to this new episode of the One in Nature podcast. So my name is Kat Novotna and together with my dear Pamela Wirth we are exploring what it actually feels like to be one in nature, and we are exploring what it means to be one in nature. And we have the pleasure to have some amazing guests on this podcast who are sharing about their vision and their heartfelt experience of what this means. So today Pamela will be interviewing an amazing human being, a certified forest therapy guide, a yoga teacher and wellness educator Helene Gibbens. The interview is very honest. It's a very honest and sometimes vulnerable sharing about Helene's story. And along the way, along the path, along the journey that she's sharing, she's also dropping some amazingly deep insights. It's a conversation about connection. It's a conversation about the simple, present moments It's a conversation of both the felt, felt sense of aliveness, about the experience of oneness and where yoga and forest bathing or nature connection actually intersect or they meet and what they share, what they have in common. Enjoy the interview!
Hello Helene. Thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast.
It's my pleasure to join you. Thank you for inviting me, Pamela.
And you're living in Northern New York, in the Adirondack park. Very beautiful area. I've had the pleasure of spending a summer there.
Oh, how wonderful. Yes, it is. It is an incredible wilderness area within New York state. Yeah. And
then you are also you're teaching yoga, outdoors as well as having your own yoga practice outdoors near the forests and rivers close to where you live.
I do practice yoga outdoors. In the months when I can do it, because there are of course, many months where the temperature does not really allow it. And then I also have [00:01:00] an indoor yoga practice, personal practice and teach classes on a weekly basis and work with people individually.
And you've been a yoga practitioner and teacher for a very long time.
And what has brought you to immerse yourself in forest therapy and become a certified forest therapy guide? you know, you'd had a well-established yoga practice and what, what really inspired you to include this into your work?
That's a great question. And there's kind of a funny story behind that.
We'd love to hear it.
Yeah. I had been living about an hour outside of the Adirondack park for 10 years and then moved within the park and I enjoy outdoor activities. And so had been spending time out of doors and [00:02:00] hiking, gardening, and. After several years here, I really started to see that nature was asking for a different kind of relationship.
You know, yoga as a practice raises our awareness, our awareness of ourselves, our awareness of the world around us, our awareness of our surroundings. And so I really started to feel that this certain sense of restlessness in myself in the ways that I spent time in nature that it wasn't quite fulfilling or satisfying.
And I just had this growing sense of the presence of these living beings in the forest around me. And [00:03:00] just not quite knowing how to make this a more fulfilling relationship. Doing yoga out of doors helped because it was a way of slowing down and from the moment that I experienced my first forest bathing walk in a way, it was like coming home and. There, it was like opening up a different relationship with nature and with you know, my, with nature with forests and with rivers, and there was just this sense of rightness and this sense of joy and this greater sense of reciprocity. And I think an important part of it was slowing down. So I just think it's kind of ironic because I, it was a journey I did not expect to make and it's become a practice [00:04:00] that is just so important to me. And that speaks to every aspect of my being. Hmm,
that is really a beautiful story. And you know, you were speaking earlier about sensing the sentience of the nature beings around you. I'm curious what that is like for you. Is it like a like a personalized sense of connection, or is it more, you know, relating to the entirety of the forest? How would you describe it?
I would describe it as both a collective and a very individual relationship. And [00:05:00] so experiencing forest bathing, I felt this sense of community that had a special quality to it and I'm not sure that I have felt elsewhere. A sense of support that is there, that simply asks us to tune into it. And I would also say, letting myself be moved instead of walking in with an agenda that I have felt often this sense of Invitation, there's kind of calling like a draw, you know, how you might be drawn to certain people.
If we come into a room full of people and we don't know why we may not know who they are, they may not even have spoken yet. But we just kind of feel drawn to them. And so there certainly [00:06:00] have been beings, whether they are trees or rocks or bends in the river that where I've just felt a very personal kind of exchange and relationship. And to me, what was really interesting is that I started to read more about things that related to nature and. You know how it is often it's like books will come into our awareness or come to us. Someone will say, Oh, you might enjoy this. You know?
They seem to come at the right time in a way we seem to draw what we, you know, what we're ready to read about. And so, I started to read beautiful books, such as the Hidden Life of Trees or Braiding Sweetgrass, which are books written by biologists. [00:07:00] that share with us the findings of the last decade that indicate again and again, that nature, that the plant world has sentience, has its own intelligence.
And so in a way, reading you know, these these books just reading about these studies just kind of supported my own experiences and, you know, sometimes we need a little validation, a little support and it just made it okay to open the door even more and to be more willing even to explore. So, yes reciprocity in so many ways.
And so when people come to your, to your outdoor sensory experiences, what is the journey that you take them on?
So the journey as can be described [00:08:00] in so many ways and instead of describing the process or the structure, perhaps what I would just speak to a little is more the journey itself or the content and what I the process and what I find is that guiding people, the first thing that happens is that we reconnect with our own bodies, our own senses. And with that greater awareness of our sensory imprint of ourselves, then we also become more aware of what's around us and we become more aware of all these different life forms around us in the forest. And [00:09:00] so the journey of forest bathing allows us to develop a rich connection and one that is flexible, individual, you know, not prescribed with A and B equals C and takes us to D and the objective is E…
It really has a lot of room for people to individualize their experience. And so I would say in a nutshell, it's a reconnection to oneself, a rediscovering of how interconnected we are with nature at the same time and reconnection with other humans for that sense of community with humans that in our busy lives can sometimes feel quite.
Yeah. I just had an experience like that this morning, you know, not too long ago,I just went to a little park [00:10:00] in the town where I live and that's where I go most mornings and you know, because I've done it so much, for a number of years, it's almost instant as soon as I walk in, my sensory body seems to be more alert and awake. And I hear the bird song and I smell the smells. And I noticed how much the grass has grown since the last time, the last couple of days that I've been there and it's an instant connection. I then feel like I'm part of it. Like I'm part of this whole party going on. The birds are so awakened alive, and so many different songs are coming through the air and, then I now have this sense of human connection with you, Helene, knowing that you're sharing these experiences with people all the way on the other side of this continent
So, I [00:11:00] can't help, but feel that connection as we're having this conversation and feeling also the presence of the more than human world in this conversation, you know, brought in by both of us, as well as the listeners who are also part of, you know, this, this interconnected web of, of nature.
That's lovely. I have to say that, you know, for me, the practice of forest bathing has just, it was like the next step, you and in a in a journey.
and I, that I would describe in many ways, but certainly partly a spiritual journey. And I'd like to kind of tie back with [00:12:00] our last topic and also with the philosophy, if you wish, or the underpinnings of yoga. And I, I hope that I know that in our listeners today, they may be people who are new to yoga and it may be people who are very experienced.
So I hope that I can explain this in a way that is simple and, and easy to connect with for everyone. In the philosophy of yoga we speak about the fact that again, of awareness and that there is an awareness, or if you wish, and an intelligence that pervades everything. And every life form that exists, that we all come from that same energy, that same awareness that [00:13:00] has taken different, an infinite number of forms.
And so what I've found on my long yoga journey was that as I practice and became more and more aware of myself, I also became less reactive. I found that I was, my perspective tended to be much broader and that my yoga practice was influencing, not just my relationship with myself, which became more nurturing and more respectful, but that it also impacted my relationship with others.
And I could see it ripple out into my intimate relationship and into my family relationships and my [00:14:00] friendships. And even over time, my professional relationships, I think that when I discovered forest bathing, what it did, it's as if yoga prepared me to now experience on a broader level that same awareness that pervades everything.
Let's some traditions call it Shiva. I'll use that word for a moment that it allowed me to experience Shiva or that awareness a s part of all life forms. And so it allowed me to recognize that every life form human animal plants and so many others, that [00:15:00] we all are interconnected, that we're all interwoven and that we really all are a part of each other.
And so, in that way my practice of forest bathing has become very much a spiritual practice and it has taken my spirituality to encompass, if you wish, in an experiential way, a tangible way all life forms. I'd like to take it from just another angle momentarily, because many people who are yoga practitioners have also found through their teachers or their schools, other routes, philosophically, which tie back into Buddhism and Buddhism speaks of the fact of [00:16:00] speaks of non-duality and the fact that everything is one and I would say, yeah, and that for me, the practice of forest bathing has given me that very intimate experience with so much more than humans but with all other life forms. And I'm not saying that I feel that every moment of every day, but as you were sharing, the more I practice, the more I get out, the faster my awareness gets tuned in the quicker, the deeper I can feel those interrelations.
So from that standpoint, I know that there was in the media recently the question of is forest bathing, the new yoga.
That was going to be my next question!
I would say that there are, there are many [00:17:00] commonalities between yoga and forest bathing and at the same time, they are very complimentary practices. And as I've shared, I think that it's a practice that helps us break down our perceptions of separation which is so important. If we in this time of climate change and at this time where our planet needs us to heal our relationships with, with it, with all of the more than human world.
Well, Helene, I just have to tell you that your words are landing very deeply in my heart. Listening to you describe your experience with so much wisdom, so much lived wisdom. I've never quite heard it expressed in this way, and I really want to thank you. I want to invite you to share a simple and easy practice that, you know, our listeners can do right now, wherever they are, whether they're driving or sitting at their desk or you know, listening, whatever circumstance they're in to experience this interconnectedness with life.
I would be delighted - a brief practice. I would,
I had a feeling you would be.
I would just though caution that it may not be best to do this practice while driving.
Okay, pull over.
Anything else? yes, or any other situation? I think it works beautifully. Not while driving.
So, I would invite us all to close our eyes for a moment.
And with our eyes closed to notice [00:19:00] the movement of our breath in our body
to notice the sense of expansion and softening that comes with each breath in and each breath out.
Noticing all the areas that move with our breath
and then we're in Now. I. Invite us all to open our eyes and to look around us as if we were seeing for the very first time. [00:20:00] And if you're indoors, perhaps to make your way to the window
and to perhaps look for a tree or a plant, or perhaps there are many.
And to see it as if you were seeing a tree, a plant for the very first time.
And as you do, to be aware that with every one of your breath in.
We are taking in oxygen that the plants and the trees give to us and with each breath out [00:21:00] that we are giving back carbon dioxide, which the plants and the trees use to transform them into sugars in fruits. An elemental reciprocity.
And now I like to imagine that every one of those molecules is colored. If you can imagine that for a moment, you'll begin to see all those colored threads. All those molecules, that link us to one another and every moment and every day.
Thank you, Helene. Thank you so much. That was wonderful.
So if people would like to connect with you in, in , uh, New York state, in the Adirondacks,
So our website is Adirondackriverwalking.com and also, if someone is Googling, they can simply Google forest bathing in the Adirondacks, and they will find us.
Pamela: Wonderful. Helene, thank you so much. Yeah, I've really enjoyed this conversation tremendously. And until we meet again,
Thank you for the opportunity to share and for the opportunity just to spend this time with you.
Thank you. Bye bye.
Happy trails. Bye bye.
We hope you have enjoyed the conversation as much as we have. And to me, I'm taking away a couple of real gems that are definitely worth writing down and reflecting and later maybe sitting out in nature and just letting them sink deeper and inspire me on a deeper level. Please feel free to do the same if you like.
And, to make it easier, you could use the One in Nature, journaling prompts that we are making for you for each episode of this podcast to receive these journaling prompts, a little booklet, a beautiful booklet. But also our special audio and video invitations that we are offering to our patrons. You can find us on Patreon and decide to support our work in a way that feels good to you.
So that is Patreon.com/OneinNature. Please feel free to send us a message. If you would like to share anything with us and take care, stay connected. And remember, we are all one in nature. Thank you for listening.