I'm so very pleased that you have accessed my website and sincerely hope that you found some useful resources to help you connect mindfully with the natural world.
My name is Rachel, I'm a further education teacher, a natural mindfulness practitioner, a mindfulness teacher and a qualified natural mindfulness guide. My passion for nature started at a young age - one of my earliest memories was when our family went to California for the summer and more specifically, on a day trip to Sequoia National Park. I remember looking up at the Giant Sequoia trees with a sense of awe and wonder – the enormity of the trees towering above me was almost too much to comprehend as a 5-year-old. The aroma of the trees mixed with a fleeting scent of ozone was intoxicating and the way the orangey-red, fibrous bark felt underneath my small hands are sensations I can still apperceive today. I didn’t know it then, but at the time I was deeply connecting with nature in a way that would have a profound and lasting effect on me. In my early 20's, I was involved in an accident and this had an acute effect on my mental health. I threw myself into gardening and tending to the allotment where I was at peace and was able to escape the prison that was my own mind. Throughout that period of my life, I called on nature to help and support me and it didn't fail me and I will be forever grateful. I moved to the Outer Hebrides in my late 20's to experience a slower, more deliberate way of life and as there is a distinct lack of trees on the Outer Hebrides, the beach became my place of serenity and mindfulness. Wandering aimlessly over the white sands, seashell hunting with my very young daughter and watching the crashing waves against the rugged coast lines of the Islands became my favourite pastimes.
I am no longer on the Outer Hebrides, I returned to the North East of England where I was brought up to settle down and raise my family. In November 2019, I herniated two discs in my lower back and due to the COVID-19 pandemic that was then just beginning, any treatment that I would have had was cancelled and I was left to manage the condition on my own. I started walking to strengthen the muscles in my back and around the same time, came across an article on Mindfulness-Based Stress Relief (MSBR) which had an element of pain control within the programme. I took a course in MSBR and then trained to teach mindfulness and didn’t look back. I was hooked – mindfulness wasn’t out of reach to me, and I found that the MSBR approach worked particularly well for the chronic pain I was experiencing. As I walked around the local nature reserve, I found that my love of being out in nature – experiencing the aroma of the forest floor, the birds singing and the trees swaying rekindled that fire I once had for the natural world. Something reconnected in my mind and body, and I started to map out walks that would take me through woodland and forests – it was akin to a magnetic pull to be with the trees, although I gravitated more towards the coniferous forests. I didn’t understand what this almost obsessive draw to the forests was and why it was happening; I know now that I was experiencing my innate biophilia. My mother in law was paying attention as always and she bought for me, a book, titled ‘Shinrin-Yoku’. I had never heard of Shinrin-Yoku, but I was intrigued as there were trees on the cover and the strapline was ‘the art of forest bathing’ – it had to be good! I started to read and the obsession grew more and more with every word I read and every page I turned. I quickly realised that what I had been doing for the past year – wandering through forests, breathing in the earthy aroma of pine cones, sitting and just ‘being’ and engaging all of my senses was actually 'forest bathing'. It had a huge positive impact on my well-being - both physical and mental and I was hooked!
I trained to guide others to engage their senses in the natural world using mindfulness and other sensory techniques and completed further courses in ecotherapy, forest bathing, woodcraft for wellbeing, and Nature Connectedness with the University of Derby.
I firmly believe that everyone should be able to access the natural world in a mindful way for their health and well-being and this is why The Thinking Tree was created.