Jessica Wilkinson lives in Manchester (UK) but has spent most of her life in the countryside. She likes to call herself a “Family Nature Wellbeing, Children’s Mindfulness Teacher” specialized in nature connection, art and yoga.
She studied Art, worked in a company with young people, trained to be a teacher, quit that job and created The See Within, “symbolising emotions as water inspired by a Japanese word ‘Innsaei’ which means to follow your intuition”. Jessica is heart-driven: “Much of my practice focuses on following our intuition and trusting this as a guide in life”.
As an FTHub Forest Bathing Guide, in the semi-wild gardens where she guides short powerful Forest Bathing walks, she has witnessed how impressive metaphors from nature strike a chord with autistic children, deaf adults or skeptical grandparents.
“I am really interested in living and teaching holistically. A lot of the government focus in the UK is on mental health awareness, but my holistic training has helped me to understand and focus on improving children’s health on all levels”.
“My focus is on giving children and young people skills to self soothe, regulate their emotions and get to know themselves better. I encourage kindness, self-acceptance and build confidence through my offerings. And I’m also passionate about improving planetary health and hope that by encouraging children to love nature, I will plant a seed in their hearts and minds to want to protect it.
“My online classes helped children and families through a very difficult time during the lockdowns, by keeping them connected with nature, each other and their feelings. I am still running my weekly Mindful Art online class with 7-12 year olds ‘Art & Relax’ and they love the regular practice. The forest bathing training has really added to this practice and we sometimes go for Forest Bathing walks in our minds during the meditations”.
“I started offering Forest Bathing for parents and teachers, with a focus on child-like exploring. I believe that good familyhealth and well-being begins with the adults and I love guiding families who don’t usually connect with nature ».
The wild garden
“I guide families for the RHS (leading gardening charity in the UK, Royal Horticultural Society), and though their gardens are ‘manicured’, they have a little wild area in the back where I would take people. This guy wanted to join us, he had a dog, he was deaf and he loved it. While connecting with a tree he started being in another world, to the bottom of the ocean. He went completely into this, and when he opened his eyes he was kind of embarrassed as he was emotional about it, his senses heightened.
“And it is magical for kids. Kids connect with nature really quickly. I used to work in a school and to teach in a formal controlled way, and just came a step back now. I have activities planned but I let them explore and take the lead to whatever they are drawn to.
“This little girl who has autism, we went every week to the woods and one day there was this butterfly coming over, she kept running over to her, chasing her, and I said why don’t you just sit here and see what happens. When she sat down the butterfly went over her, settled on her. So she said ‘I think I will play on my own, be still and see who comes to me instead of chasing other kids to play with me’, so she found this metaphor on her own.
“So i think I allow kids to be in nature without rushing them, just being peaceful and still and listening, and something always happens that becomes a message or a reason… It’s an intuitive thing ».
The spark with youngsters and children
“I started in the fashion industry, I did an Art degree in university and ended up doing window dressings. Then I worked with this company, American apparel, and people there were really young and they didn’t know what to do, and had issues, so I ended up training them up and working with them and really enjoyed it. So I decided to train to be a teacher in high school, teached Arts and textiles. I absolutely loved it.
“And I had lots of kids with mental health issues, they were drawn to art because it is like a sanctuary for them. I felt powerless to help them -it is such a long waiting list in the NHS to get help-. So I started training in mindfulness, meditation and yoga. I started teaching under a tree and they responded greatly. Then I trained in kids’ meditation and yoga, and had those feelings like ‘I need to just do this as a job’, so quit my job as a teacher and started my own business. Now I’m only working with younger children but actually love working with all ages.
“Being a child I always felt really connected with nature, sort of daydreaming, always looking at the sky, the trees, colors, really into details, noticing stuff. My grandmother was an artist so she used to do lots of nature art, and I spent lots of times in her house just playing in nature. But only when I was working as a teacher, that I was stressful, not feeling good myself that I was naturally drawn to nature. I would go to the woods every day. Nature brings me inspiration, is where I find answers to questions and comfort and safety. It is very healing for me”.
The Forest Bathing training
“Forest Bathing for me it feels like it is a heart-led practice rather than something in your head. The training was amazing, I was dreaming about the forest for weeks after. I didn’t expect it to be so spiritual. It was kind of playful at first, and then in the last days I felt like I’ve deeply gone somewhere with it, and I had kind of an awakening moment. All of a sudden tears started coming and felt ‘all you need is you in the forest’. I found it really powerful. So inspiring. And a group where everyone connected, cohesive, just lovely.
“Forest Bathing easily blended with what I was doing with teenagers. We always go to the woods, we stop and do an art activity or meditation, and the walk to the destination became the Forest Bathing walk. I changed the dynamics, because they chat chat chat, and in the sharing circle jump in and talk at the same time, so I became more structured and they relaxed a lot.
“I worked with families doing guided nature walk in RHS, and after the Forest Bathing training I completely changed my plan and turned them into mini forest bathing walks, it was a mini version of half an hour and for each and everyone it was magical: for kids, grandparents, adults that said ‘I’ve never done anything like this before’, even in half an hour they were just so connected.
« I would say that with The Sea Within I just try to keep things really simple, especially with Forest Bathing. I enjoy the science and the theory but show the experience to people, sharing how it feels through experience. I guess my thing is from the heart, is heart-led learning. And Forest Bathing for me is finding a way back to your heart and back to yourself rather than discovering something new”.
Ph: Courtesy Jessica Wilkinson