Having grown up in suburban New York, going hiking at 13 years old opened a door for FTHub Forest Bathing Guide Jon Gottsegen. A Masters Degree in Environmental Planning, he worked in geographic information systems becoming the chief data officer for Colorado, where he moved after desiring the west mountains to be his homeland. Now, he is spiritual director guiding journeys in nature, where he includes Forest Bathing and a specially deep guidance into what he calls “interbeing”.
“I just always loved being out in nature and always wanted to move out to the west, to the mountains. So I finally did, and then I started sort of connecting with it in a more explicitly or consciously spiritual way. I did a sort of a spiritual connection with nature through a Jewish perspective several years ago. And then I’ve done many things making that deep connection with the natural surroundings. Just a couple of years ago, I left that job and spent half my time on spiritual and nature work.
“I always kind of had a little inkling of like, there’s something else, something bigger. I was in a Jewish Sabbath morning service, and something just clicked. Something just came alive in me, like deep, I like to say genetically. It was like something in my DNA just fired up. And that’s when I thought this is what this whole Jewish thing is supposed to be about”.
“I do a lot of work with men’s groups and we were doing some deep ceremony and I found a teacher and a mentor and that’s how I came into the idea of becoming a spiritual director. I found this area of practice in Judaism that I had never discovered before that was really deep, rich and meaningful. I say I learned how to pray in sweat lodge. Those prayers that just came from my own heart, I went back to my own lineage, my own liturgy, the Jewish liturgy.
“And I borrow from the philosophical branch of phenomenology: when we are in nature, it’s a process of inter being. And I sometimes say I call it interloving. It’s this network of beingness”.
“When I go out on walks with people, I often start with the Forest Bathing opening up the senses and those moments, and then I will invite people into what I call wanders, their own individual moments with certain spiritually oriented guidance and invitation to it. That first step of entering into that connection is important.
“Even though I am informed very much by the Jewish calendar and observers and so on, I always make these things very ecumenical. Just the themes and so on are universal. When I am in the forest, on the land, my heart opens up. It’s a process of feeling deeply in love and that’s what I would love to bring to people because I think that’s what this world is like dying for”.
“We are whole. Not in spite of our wounds, because we’re all wounded. As one rabbi would say, or Leonard Cohen would say, we’re all broken. We’re all cracked. And we’re whole because of those. Our wholeness includes all of those things. Our wounds and our brokenness. And so I believe the first step is truly touching and inviting those wounds and figuring out how to just accept those lovingly to start with.
“And what better place to do that other than in the forest: there’s brokenness and there’s love, there’s resilience as well as hurt and wounds. The land can be both a model, an example of it and at the same time, I believe that we can offer that. The land supports us and resources in that process and holds our vulnerability”.
Ph: Courtesy Jon Gottsegen