Fernando Cesar de Souza broke prejudices. He was the first non-physician to graduate from a Postgraduate of Advanced Studies in Integrative Health and Well-being. PhD in Education from the Catholic University of São Paulo, he is Professor and coordinator of Postgraduate Studies in Integrative Medicine and Wellbeing at the Teaching Institute of the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein and FTHub Forest Therapy Practitioner.
He guides walks and interventions for professionals in general and for physicians and advanced medical students. He has been a public school teacher since he was 19 years old and today, the boy who used to wake up at dawn just to climb on the roof of his house and see the mist of dawn is happy to have discovered in Forest Bathing that enormous tool of « self-compassion » and a process to « rebalance the internal systems ».
Fernando will be a speaker at the IV Iberoamerican Seminar Nature, Health and Wellbeing.
« My city as a child is very small. I was always observing nature. I remember one time in particular, I woke up at six in the morning and went up to the roof of the house. I noticed the morning mist, the morning dew. It was a moment when I felt completely connected. It was a moment when I felt a great presence. Since I was a child, my contact with nature has been very direct, with my feet on the ground, in the mud. That’s my first memory, that feeling of morning dew, in that sunrise from the roof of my house in Bom Jesus dos Perdões, near Atibaia, a very beautiful mountainous region, with lots of water, lots of waterfalls and lots of trees.
« Then I moved to a bigger city and then I lost direct contact with nature. I started working a lot and then moved to São Paulo, where I still work today. My change of research focus, that different look, came during my PhD, connecting education with health. My doctoral thesis focused on why school cannot be a space for self-care and care for the other, why hospitals cannot be places of learning and growth in community.
« So, I approached Integrative Medicine. I took a course in integrative medicine at Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital and was the only non-physician in my class. In that sense, I broke a lot of prejudices. Since then, I’ve been working at the intersection of education and health. »
« I started teaching when I was 19 years old in public schools. I was always a public school teacher. Later, I studied business administration and then got a Master’s degree in education and a Ph.D. in education, specifically in school curriculum. It was all a sequence.
« I became interested in forest therapy, in one of those courses I met Alex (Gesse, trainer and Executive Director of FTHub) and there I understood that I could link things, bring that Fernando who got up at dawn to see nature. I already felt a great need to work with these aspects even in the big cities, with the people who live there.
« I had already been working for four years on the concept of educating cities, a document brought from Spain that treats the city as an entire learning space. It doesn’t matter if you learn at school, but that you can do it in the whole city. Forest Bathing came exactly to hook up with what I wanted to continue ».
RESEARCH AND REBALANCING
« I am a researcher in a Research group in Education, Nursing and Care at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. And I am currently working on a 6-week program where I offer doctors and advanced medical students Forest Bathing walks and activities in green spaces.
« The idea is to help them reduce stress and reconnect with nature so that, in turn, they can recommend and guide others in similar experiences. The doctors are also teachers, and the students are in their last semester of medical training, already seeing patients. There is a stress, a burn out that I want to understand in order to help them manage contacts with various forms of violence within the hospitals, situations of social risk of the vulnerable population they serve. And that they can do Forest Bathing and guide people to spend more time consciously in nature.
« For me, Forest Bathing is a rebalancing process. It is rebalancing the internal systems, before the greatness of nature. It is a small moment, a small intervention, but the reconnection with what we already have, which are the processes of self-care and environmental awareness, are much greater than with public policies. It is a belonging that is generated in a process. It is an intervention to reconnect people with self-care and self-healing processes ».
« I perceived it in myself and then in others, an attitude of self-compassion. Less ‘cashing in’ on what I can’t do at the moment. It’s this sense of very great self-compassion, of stopping and thinking, less harsh on oneself. That was a very big change for me.
« Among the people there are some very interesting scenes, of a participant who in a moment of sharing with an ancient instrument from Brazil, where each one composed their music, she began to cry, and she told me that her brother had died a week ago and that only at that moment she felt well. Sitting on top of a huge tree root, she felt that her brother was fine, that everything was all right. She was already calm. She gave up all her sensations there, she lived a very different mourning process, with a very strong sense of presence. As if nature had cleansed the pain, with very few words, but a lot of love.
« And I remember the expression of a very rigid, severe participant, and with the passage of Forest Bathing she calmed down, took off her shoes, began to walk barefoot, and at the end of the walk she was completely different, her facial expression, her gestures, a lightness, even a muscular lightness ».
Ph: Courtesy Fernando César de Souza