We had the good fortune of connecting with Jane Deming Scanlon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jane, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
The naturalist John Muir once wrote: “Between two pine trees is a door to a new way of life.” As a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, I have the honor of helping people to “open the door” to a deeper relationship with the natural world from which many feel disconnected. I recognize that nature is the therapist; the guide opens the doors.
Spending mindful time unplugging, quieting the chatter inside our heads, awakening our senses and connecting closely with nature has a way of shifting our experience of life and increasing well being on many levels. Although it doesn’t require “two pine trees”! Any outdoor space can be transformative – a tree outside an apartment, a potted plant or indoors with a photo of a nature place or object.
The Forest Bathing walks I guide promote mutual healing, for the human and for the more-than-human environment. People want to take care of what they love. Through my “work” as a guide, I’m allowed to witness people finding, or usually rediscovering, their love of what we think of as “nature”, which inspires efforts to respect, honor and preserve her. (Of course we ARE nature too, in human form)
I hope others will also grow in their respect for the indigenous people who tended these lands for centuries and seek ways to repair their relationship with the earth.
My greatest joy is when guests begin to realize and experience the ways nature responds to us humans, often in literal, physical ways. Whether through a guided walk or just encouraging people to cultivate a simple “sit spot” (a place outside where go regularly to just “notice” and BE) I feel I am a vehicle for helping individuals, communities and the world.
Forest Bathing walks aren’t oriented to any religious orientation, but many find time in nature prompts their most intimate experience of the spiritual or the presence of something sacred. I do offer faith based walks where we are a bit more oriented to recognizing the Creator within this glorious creation we inhabit. It fills my soul if my guiding open new doors for others on their faith journey.
The wellness practice of Forest Bathing (translated from Shinrin-yoku in Japanese) is grounded in extensive (and growing) research on the wide ranging health benefits of focused, quiet time in natural settings. Evidence documents decrease in production of cortisol/stress hormones, lowered blood pressure, improved cardiovascular and immune system functioning, increase in NK cancer fighting cells, just to name a few impacts on physical health. Studies related to a regular forest bathing type practice related to psychological health show wonderful benefits for ADHD, depression, PTSD and much more. Most of us know we just feel better when have relaxed time outdoors but it’s fascinating to learn there is a science to that!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Above the Clouds Forest Bathing evolved in my 7th decade of life, a season when I thought I had finished the various enterprises that had (joyfully) filled my adult life – raising a family, coordinating programs for an interfaith seminary, directing high school community service programs, being a sculptor, an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and a Volunteer Coordinator for a refugee resettlement agency. My husband and I retired to Woodland Park, the “City Above the Clouds” where Pike National Forest awaits me just outside my door. I’ve always been fueled by the outdoors, but mostly in very ACTIVE ways – hiking, backpacking, skiing. Some personal challenges led me to slow down and simply be present to the forest in a mindful, meditative way. Focusing on “being here”, rather than “getting there” wasn’t easy, but God used it in exactly the ways I needed for strength, healing, hope and deepening my faith. I had heard about Shinrin-yoku/ Forest Bathing and learned there was an actual thing called Nature Therapy! Pursuing training and certification as a guide through the Association of Nature & Therapy Guides was something I couldn’t NOT do. I am beyond grateful to be able to help others and the more-than-human world by sharing this practice.
One the greatest lessons I’ve learned along the way is to be open to surprise and changing course. I celebrate how the generations after mine are less attached to a linear path. When I was beginning my adult journey, there was high value on finding a career path and sticking with it. I used to think I lacked perseverance or that it was a weakness that I wanted to change direction in my work (and pasttimes) trajectory. I had a dear friend who was a nun who counseled me one day when I was wallowing in my “lack of focus”: “God doesn’t CALL many of us to a singular mission; for most, it’s a series of SUMMONSES”. The freedom, encouragement and affirmation I found in those words allowed (and still allows) me to weave a very eclectic and incredibly fulfilling life path.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Enjoy the great outdoors! Greater Colorado Springs is distinct in the parks, hiking trails and accessible nature spaces within its boundaries. My favorites “in the city” for hiking (and forest bathing!) are North Cheyenne Canon, Fox Run Regional Park and Ute Valley Park. Rock Ledge Range is an oasis. But the ultimate place for feeding body and spirit is Mueller State Park just up the Ute Pass in Divide.
I guide public Forest Bathing walks monthly for the Garden of the Gods Mindful Monday program and at Mueller State Park.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m deeply grateful to have found the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides (www.natureandforesttherapy.earth) where I received my training and certification and my mentor and fellow guide, Darlene Rooney Keller of Nature Heals Forest Bathing based in the Boulder area. I found this vocation in my 6th decade of life. I am blessed to have the support of my husband
Peter as I have followed some very different summons over the years. And thank you God for being both my still center and the creator and source of all life!
Books that have inspired and educated me:
~The Nature Fix by Florence Williams
~ Your Guide to Forest Bathing by M. Amos Clifford
~ Healing Trees by Ben Page
~ The Joy of Forest Bathing by Melanie Choukas Bradley
Facebook: Above the Clouds Forest Bathing Walks