In this episode, forest therapy educator Geeta Stillwel shares from her experience as a teacher of embodiment techniques in nature:
Geeta Stilwell is an ANFT Certified Forest Therapy Guide, Mentor and Trainer based in Portugal. She is the founder of the company Renature where she creates and facilitates restorative programs that promote wellbeing and health through nature connection practices, clean eating and self-care. She works all over the world with various populations that range from the general public, corporate senior and junior teams, schools, families, mental health populations and individuals recovering from situations of excess stress and burn out.
Her passion is to bring human beings back to nature and support the reconnection to the restorative potency of the natural world. Based on her own recovery journey, she creates a safe space for the nature connection and self-care journey to unfold. Over the past 20 years she has dedicated a great part of her time and resources to her own development and self-care journey and this life experience is the foundation for her work.
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For more information on Geeta's work: www.renature.pt or
Tel: +351 965 223 115
Tuning to the Frequency of Nature | One in Nature Podcast Episode 7
Interview with Geeta Stilwell 3/31/2020
Hosted by Pamela Wirth
Pamela: In our Western culture, we tend to overemphasize the mind and sometimes leave not so much space for the subtler notions of the heart and the soul. We can even be a bit timid to speak of things like the soul's longing or the heart's desire, because we can be afraid to be dismissed as woo-woo.
Generally, we leave the so-called spiritual to priests and poets. But what if the world of nature holds pathways for each person into the mysteries of life? Can we meet our soul outdoors?
What if one of the functions of a guide were to point to these kinds of experiences and to make them accessible?
Welcome to One in Nature Podcast. I'm your host Pamela Wirth. In this episode, I have the great pleasure of speaking with Geeta Stilwell in Portugal. Geeta is a forest therapy guide and also a trainer of guides. Her passion is to bring human beings back to nature and to the restorative potency of the natural world.
Based on her own recovery journey, she creates a safe space for the nature connection and self care journey to unfold. Our conversation happened about one month BC before the Coronavirus. And since then, Geeta has had to move a large part of her guiding practice online
So now people from all over the world can join her several days a week on her virtual guided walks Hi Geeta. Thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast, I've been really looking forward to this conversation,
Geeta: Hi, Pamela. It's a real pleasure to be on this call with you today. So I'm in Portugal. I am in a small village called Sintra . In a very beautiful place. I met the foot of a national and natural park just above the sea. So I can quickly hike to the beach and quickly hike up the forest.
Pamela: That sounds beautiful.
Geeta: Yeah. I'm very lucky.
Pamela: And, would you like to share with us a little bit about what brought you to forest therapy? You've been a guide for years and you train forest trapy guides as well. And what, what was that for you?
Geeta: So, I've been working for about 20 years. I've been working with embodiment, so working on awareness of the body through movement and about.
Eight years ago, I started guiding walks in nature where I did it with a couple of friends of mine. One was a trail guide and another was an astrologer. So we do full moon walks where, you know, One would lead the way of showing us the trail. The other would speak about the qualities of that particular moon.
And I would offer embodiment invitations on the walks and that was great fun. And at some point I felt the need to have a little bit more structure in. In, in what I was doing and to get certified and, you know, so I started researching and at one point, one night it was maybe two o'clock in the morning.
I had a very stressful job, I was an event production manager in a, really incredible, great festival that we have here in Portugal. But I was, my soul knew that I wanted to do something different and change the course of what I was doing. So I had absolutely no knowledge that forest therapy was a thing and I just tapped into Google.
I just put embodied mindfulness in nature. And I got a hit and it was the little handbook of Shinrin Yoku written by Amos Clifford like, wow, what is this? Shinrin Yoku, I'd never heard this word before. So I remember I was at the window. I remember, an owl hooting? And for me it was like a sign that it was. You know, this is, this was it. And I just remember, I couldn't sleep that night. I was up like a kid. No, my legs were like jumping up and down.
It was like, yay. I found it. I found it. So that's how forest therapy found me really.
Pamela: That's beautiful. And it sounds like you were really steeped in it already through your, through your full moon walks. And some things sparked my curiosity when you said that during these full moonwalks, you were offering embodiment invitations, and would you like to share an example of that? It sounds so magical!
Geeta: Yeah, so I do very simple stuff, like bringing awareness of participants to the contact of the feet on the earth. And awareness of space, maybe work a little bit with the, with the vision.
Cause we tend to have a very focus oriented way of seeing the world. So I would do some vision exercises to widen the angle of vision and play with space and movement of the arms. For example, that people can connect with this fluidity and the possibilities that exists in space around. I remember one walk that was really, really windy.
So I just said, okay, let yourself be taken by the wind, let your bodies be taken by the wind. And we were walking up a hill and it was great. Cause the wind was like pushing us up. And so just really playful, but very simple stuff to support people, to be more aware of the body and the intelligence of the body that is with us all the time.
Pamela: I get this question often, when I speak to people about forest therapy, and I'm curious how you would describe the difference between forest bathing and just simply spending time in nature, let's say by hiking or picnicking or something like that.
Geeta: So I think the real juice of a forest bathing experience is that you really get the chance to be supported in a field of presence and connection by a guide. And I mean, you can do it yourself also, but when a guide is there, I think that field is stronger where you can really have the space to connect to yourself through the frequency of nature, I think is very important. It's something that holds the experience of forest bathing in a very non-cognitive experience. It's sometimes difficult, difficult to find words. but it's almost like when, when we are supported to be in the present moment that the forest bathing experience really offers. I often have this picture that this space of presence is a multidimensional place where the more than human world, the beings of the forest can really come to us.
I mean, they are there all the time, because we are not present, we aren't able to access them or connect with them. So I love hiking. Like for my own physical health, I like to hike. So I hike every, not every morning, but I like to go and it's a different experience. It's, it's a completely different, Yeah, you can run with your thoughts and, you know, you can exercise your body and you're still getting a lot of benefits because you're breathing in fresh air and, you know, you're hiking up the mountain, but that quality of stillness, I would say, which is present in nature all the time, I think is one of the big gold nuggets of a forest bathing experience and everything that that brings. I think you need to be very still to connect with a tree. You know, you can't be thinking about what does that mean? Am I going to talk to the tree, am I going to talk to the tree…
There's a, there's a quality of stillness that allows for that connection to happen.
Pamela: Yeah. What, what comes up for me is a memory, as you share about that on a walk that I guided several months ago. And it was really a funny experience. There were four people on that guided walk and neither of them had ever done forest therapy before.
And we were kind of in the middle of our walk and we were kind of spread out into the trees and each person was doing something,
Discovering a tree looking at the leaves at was fall. and it was a beautiful moment. There were some birds and it was pretty peaceful.
And then came along the trail, a group of three hikers, and I could hear them from far away. There was just this. The sound bubble and then came closer and closer and he became bigger and bigger and bigger. And then these, these three were in intense conversation and they hiked up through this path, where we were, and then the sound bubble got smaller and smaller again.
And later on Each person remarked on how significant that experience was. It was almost like a freight train was moving through because the silence was so profound of just tuning in with nature that's very real on a forest bathing walk that beyond words, we have that experience.
Geeta: Yeah, I totally resonate with what you're saying. Pamela, one of the trails where I guide is, is a mountain biking trail. And, you know, especially on weekends, there's quite a bit of movement on those trails with guys on bikes.
And I often invite even in introduction to the walk I'll invite participants to, you know, I'll inform them of the possibility of meeting other human beings on bicycles, on the trails. And I invite them to just notice how that lands in their body. Without a judgment, just noticing how that lands and it it's exactly what you were saying.
No? People really feel it because we're in such a space of stillness. and that doesn't mean being stopped, as in there's no motion in the body. It's an inner stillness. it's a heightened awareness of the senses that just, I think illuminates that stillness because I really feel that the seat of the soul in our body is stillness. We are stillness. It's just, there's a, you know, we're just in this very chaotic place with lots of movement. But when we return home to that place, it is a place of stillness as is in nature. There's a lot of movement and there's a stillness that holds everything together.
Pamela: Yeah. And it also makes me wonder, How the beings of nature that are always there might perceive us as humans. Do you have any experiences with that on your walks with your participants?
Geeta: The thing that I, that came to me When you said that was an encounter I had with a Fox not so long ago, it was really early morning and one of my hikes and, she was there drinking water on a little pond and she looked up and just walked away into the forest, not scared, but I carry a bit of a sadness inside me around that because I feel that animals are scared of humans and they've built this through through time.
No. So, I find that this practice allows us to recover that confidence in relationship and that the more than human world beings can also recover that confidence with us.
Pamela: Yeah. Like, for example, when we do a sit spot, which is an element of our forest therapy walks, I noticed sometimes when I sit there for a while, the birds become very comfortable. They'll come pretty close. They do their thing of picking around and talking to each other and they come pretty close to where I sit. As soon as I move, they notice me and they hesitate and sometimes fly away again, but they seem to become more comfortable with me when I just sit still.
Geeta: Yeah. Yeah. I totally resonate with that. And as you were speaking, a story came to me about this deepening of connection with the more than human world and this trust and how it's like a mystery. it unveils or it reveals itself when we are almost like when we're ready to receive it.
And when our trust is there enough to see it. Cause it's always there. It's just, it's kind of like we take the veils away that we have about that possibility of a relationship.
I remember I was in a training in the UK and I'd had like a feeling in my heart that I would love to have some feathers that I could use, you know, just personally for, you know, I'd love to have feathers, I just had this, this feeling and the next day I was out on a walk and the trainees there were guiding each other and they offered this invitation, "wander into the forest and listen to the trees." And my body stood up and I was, I was walking into the forest and suddenly my body stopped. And I say this because my body stopped, I didn't stop. My body stopped. And I looked down at my feet and there was the wing of a Crow. At my feet. And I was like, I asked for this, yesterday, is this, this, this for me? And I asked the trees, is this for me? And the tree said, yeah, yeah, this is for you. So I took the wing and I, you know, I was like, how's this happening? Is this real? It was almost like I was in a dream. You know, there was a disbelief in me that it couldn't be possible. And so, you know, like inside me, I had this thing, Oh, I want to, I want to see what are the teachings of Crow? So I'll, I'll research it and it's a training and we, you know, the really intense and busy days, and I forgot and I forgot the wing in my backpack.
And on the last day of the training, I was sitting at lunchtime. Leaning on a tree and suddenly a Crow came and just stopped in front of me. And it's like, Ah, this is a perfect moment to look up what are the teachings of the crow? I took my phone and started researching and I found this amazing text about the teachings of Crow.
And when I finished the texts, I looked up and there was a meadow in front of me. And there was like maybe 50, 60 crows. There. And it was like, again, this feeling, wow! what is happening? So, it's very generous, when that trust comes and also the disbelief and when we embrace everything, you know, that, that it's just, they're responding to us all the time.
Pamela: Just for curiosity. I mean, what an incredible story. And for curiosity sake, what was the core message for you of the Crow showing up in that moment in your life?
Geeta: Yeah, so the, one of the, teachings of Crow is it's like the stealthiness. To travel from the underworld to the upper world. So kind of like going into my shadow and looking at my shadow self and to bring that into the light.
So it was a particularly strong moment in my life. And it, it was clear the message that, you know, I needed to look at some stuff. I'm a good person, but we all have shadows.
Pamela: And what a, what a perfect place to explore the fullness of who we are.
And, you know, there couldn't be a better place than the forest and nature to do that.
Geeta: Yeah. Nature is very, it's incredible how it really mirrors, what we need in each moment. And how it's so generous and kind, even in our doubtful self, you know, that we question and we kinda like challenge it all the time.
You know, our mind is very inquisitive and challenging. And is this really true? You know, is this really happening? And she comes through every time, just a few days ago, I was guiding a walk and I offered a smell invitation for participants to just go and meet the smells of this place. And of course, you know, I'm the guide. and I know, you know, I guide on that trail almost every day. And so I could watch my mind going for the smells that have a particular characteristic because there is a part of me that wants to offer to the participants that they experienced different smells.
And when I offer the invitation was like," really trust where your attention is going, knowing that the forest is offering something to you. So even if you look at a leaf and your mind says, Oh, that's just the leaf, it's going to smell like a leaf, trust that, and just, receive that invitation from the forest.".
And suddenly my eye caught this very tiny flower, on the forest floor. And it was like, okay, I'm gonna, take some of my own medicine. So I picked up that flower and the scent of honey was so intense, and it was tiny. So I was so humbled by this experience. And they keep coming and they keep coming.
These experiences. So, I don't know. I don't even have a word to describe that. it's just the infinite mystery and generosity. Hmm. Because it'd be beyond, beyond our cognitive understanding. It's from the heart, It's just a very quiet voice of, it's an honest, longing, I think it's from the space of authentic and honest, longing. It's very innocent. It's like almost childlike. It's like, Oh, I really like some feathers then. Yeah.
Pamela: Yeah. I love the words that you're finding to describe this experience and, and what it brings up in me is that that moment, when that happens, when I find the feather or I smell the scent, my heart opens and it didn't even know it needed to open, but it opens and it opens more and more. And it's a very beautiful experience.
Pamela: thank you for opening the door to this experience today in this conversation, I feel it in my heart and in my body.
Geeta: Thank you. I feel it too.
Pamela: So what is the best way for people to connect with you and come to your wonderful retreats and walks? How do people reach you and where do you hold these retreats and walks?
Geeta: I have a website it's called renature.pt. we came up with some friends with this name Renature, because we wanted to bring together a remembering of our own nature and the retuning, to the frequency of life, to our own frequency and the frequency of the more than human world. And I have a teacher that I've been working with for 20 years. Her name is Navanita Harris.
She's my embodiment teacher. And when we were like thinking about Renature and what we could do and how to bring in the embodiment work, she gave this incredible description that, it's as if we are radios that are out of whack at the moment, with lots of static energy, there's a lot of chaos and confusion and when we come back to nature, our frequency realigns with the, with our own frequency and the frequency of nature, So that's a little bit of how, why re re nature exists.
I love to work with people that are going through burnout and stress, you know, I think I came to this work also to heal myself from that and what I find is that our behavior patterns that lead to stress and burnout are not related to the work that we do. They're related to internal behavior patterns that lead us. You know, we think we need to do a lot to be seen, or we need to do a lot to be loved or whatever. Each one of us carries this.
And I love to work with that because I can really feel that no, and this work has been such an incredible healing journey for me on that level. and to speak a little bit of the retreats that I do, which are the restorative nature weeks. There are five day retreats, which I hold in this amazing natural park in the North of Portugal.
So I wanted to find a place where there's a little bit more wilderness. It's not so tame so that the support of the human world also supports the process. And it's held in this tiny little village that has about 25 inhabitants. So the rhythm of the village also supports the slowing down.
So, you know, we're supported on many levels. Yeah. So all my retreats I do there, it's a very beautiful place.
Pamela: yeah. How beautiful. And, before we end this conversation, I want to invite you to share one simple thing with our listeners, that they can practice wherever they happen to be right now. that allows them to sense their relation with nature.
Geeta: So, one thing that I really love to share is leaning.
So wherever you are sitting in nature right now, or even if you're at home, just taking a moment to lean consciously into maybe the trunk of a tree or the back of their chair or wherever you are sitting, just taking a moment to notice your breath when you do that. And when you consciously find support for yourself, so leaning is a really really powerful practice to lean and consciously find support.
And the back is a great support for leaning. So maybe even imagining you're a bear scratching your back on the trunk of the tree, or even on the sofa on the back of the chair,
Pamela: I'm doing that right now. And you're right, it feels really good. Yeah. I feel that my shoulders drop and my breathing deepen
Geeta: yeah, I really find it in the breath, knowing the body feels that there's like somebody awake at home constantly finding support and the body can say, Oh, okay, I'm here. I'm home.
Pamela: Oh, thank you so much Geeta, for this conversation.
Geeta: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
Pamela: Yes, very much so!
Geeta: Bye bye. Bye.
Pamela: Thank you for listening to this episode of one in nature podcast. Our intention is to really promote and encourage positive and mutually beneficial relationships between people and nature.
If you like to support us, you can find us patreon.com/one in nature.