Franck Bernigaud

Historic Forest Therapy projects in France – and also in martial arts and life

Franck Bernigaud can speak about his life as a Forest Bathing walk. And indeed, his path has led him to wonderful projects of Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy in hospitals, schools and shelters, but also the martial arts he teaches have been filled with forest bathing to give his philosophy of life and his love for his “partner” nature a higher meaning. 

“I am working on my new life project: to practice, to have people practice, to develop the practice and to make Forest Bathing accessible to as many people as possible”. 

“While finalizing my certification as an FTHub Forest Therapy Practitioner, I am in an internship and immersion at the day hospital of the region. It is a very enriching experience. I can see and hear the positive effects of forest bathing from the patients that I accompany into the forest with two caregivers. After the first 4 forest bathing sessions, the feedback is very encouraging and the feedback from the caregivers and the psychologist is very positive about the practice of Shinrin Yoku. 

“I am in the process of finalizing an agreement with the Office Nationale des Forêts for the use of the state forest near my home for one year for forest bathing and, for 2023, for joint interventions with forestry agents on the relationship between the forest and well-being. A sharing of practices and knowledge for the general public. Another forest estate belonging to my department of residence renewed in early January the agreement for the use of the forest set up in 2022 for 2023. 

“I am also working on a project with a school located in a very urban area for immersions in the forest for children in CP and CM1 classes for the spring of 2023″.

The partner of all times

“Nature, as far as I can remember, has always been a universe that fascinates me. It started when I was a child and mainly with the animals that I could discover through books or TV shows. I dreamed of doing like the adventurers, traveling the savannah or the tropical and/or equatorial forests, which I was able to do as an adult.   

“My first contacts with the forest were at the same period, during the days when my father took me with him to pick mushrooms in the woods and forests that he had walked through as a child or during our walks in the countryside. My father taught me to recognize the songs of certain birds, the habits of certain animals in the woods. 

“Nature has always given me a deep respect for all that makes it up: animals, plants, minerals and elements such as water, earth, air and sun. I consider her as a living being in her own right, just like a human being. I don’t consider her to be at my service, but rather as a partner, a friend or a relative to whom I would never wish to have happen to them what I would not wish to happen to me”.

“Today, I can say that for me, nature is a ‘second skin’ and forest bathing an ‘ART OF LIVING’. I don’t live in the woods, a bit reluctantly, but I am in the middle of nature and in the forest as often as possible, several times a week. With each new immersion, I am always amazed like a child who discovers the forest and the elements for the first time. Nature and the forest have ‘healed’ me during my burn-outs, I am filled with gratitude for them”.

When Forest Bathing meets Karate

“The first profession I learned during my studies was that of horticulturist in the creation of gardens and green spaces. I began to discover part of the functioning of nature through my classes. Then, while looking for a job, I joined a large distribution company where I made a career as an executive. The ‘nature’ of things made me understand that it was not really for me, hence a ‘burn-out’. At the same time, as a martial arts practitioner, I passed a State Teacher’s Certificate and then a State Diploma of Youth, Popular Education and Sport. After leaving the retail sector, I opened my own karate club where I still teach today. 

“I practice and teach Karate today in a way that is more in line with the energies of nature and the senses we have to perceive our environment whatever it is. It is common to say that man has used his sense of observation to create the martial arts by being inspired by animals and their way of approaching their environment. This is what I refer to today to teach karate: the energies, the use of our senses to perceive and be, ‘to be’ not in the ‘martial’ fight, but in the personal development. The ‘fight’ is not against the other, but with ‘oneself’, for the good of each and everyone. I find this spirit in the practice of forest bathing. 

“The forest is not an ‘other’ support at my service but a partner, a friend who allows me to progress, to understand myself, who participates in the development of my well-being. It is not an ‘enemy’ either, as we have been made to believe and think for generations, when we were children. We are afraid of what we do not know, and forest bathing reconciles the human being with the woods, nature and himself. In the forest, ‘fear’ has no place, brotherhood does”.

“My karate and the practice of forest bathing are today, in a way, communicating vessels. This corresponds, in my opinion, to the holistic vision of well-being: the Head, the Body and the Spirit”.  

Moments of the walk of life

“The path then led me to the educational field where, for 10 years, I accompanied minors aged 15 to 18 in great social and often psychological difficulty. A very beautiful job where the accompaniment in any form also takes all its meaning, I had to leave it not because of the public, but because of the gap between the field and the administrative and economic requirements. A second burn-out was the result. I practice and have been trained in Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication. 

You’ll understand, I go back over my life path until today and I observe a moment of  tuning where I traveled the planet in different environments and countries: Amazonia, the southern lands in New Zealand and Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America, the savannah and the bush in West Africa, the equatorial forests in South America, Japan”.

“To have important times of personal introspection to understand and ‘digest’, as far as I am concerned and in front of a certain blindness in spite of everything, that went through the Burn-out, certainly extremely painful.  Without forgetting the circles of sharing: my positions, my personal commitments, my times of silence in my social and professional lives, my marriage, the birth of my daughter, etc… 

“And finally, the circle of incorporation and ‘digestion’ of all this ‘information’, like phytoncides, to feel that my well-being was passing through my presence in nature, in the forest and through the accompaniment of people in this nature that brought me so much”.  

This is what you have to do

“I remember well when all this opened up. We were on vacation in Brittany with my wife. A tourist office was offering Forest Bathing, an activity that was unknown to us at the time. Once in the group, my wife told me: ‘This is what you have to do, it suits you exactly’. Everything opened then consciously and unconsciously, as an evidence, forest bathing gathered all my experiences, my knowledge, my desires, my desire of contribution to the ecology, my ‘philosophy’ of the life, my wellbeing, the desire to contribute to the wellbeing of my fellow creatures and the whole of the reigns of our Mother Earth. Later on, I ‘fell’ on the site of FTHub. The FTHub’s proposal suited me perfectly”.

 

Ph: Courtesy Franck Bernigaud

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