I grew up playing with crayfish barefoot in creeks and running through grassy fields on my family’s organic farm. I am privileged to be able to live in-tune with nature once again on the EcoWisdom Forest Preserve after decades of urban dwelling.
I bring a robust set of professional trainings along with unique personal experiences to my contemplative forest bathing programming which I have offered in places such as urban greenspaces, forest preserves, retreat centres and online. My programming, offered in collaboration with co-facilitators, weaves together a foundational knowledge in neuroscience, psychology and mindfulness with a commitment to inclusion, compassion, community building and sustainability.
I am fascinated by the research in the field of forest medicine and have had personal experiences of deep healing and symptom management using mindfulness, meditation and forest bathing/ shinrin-yoku. I am deeply appreciative of all the opportunities I have had to connect with others who are interested in exploring nature’s profound gifts and fostering our commitments to caring for the earth and all her beings.
- Receiving the Royal Society of Canada Alice Wilson Award for Academic Excellence (female emergent scholar)
- Representing Canada at WHO Disability Policy Development Congress
- Forming a biracial family and adopting our wonderful daughter
- Taking my first steps with my physiotherapist after three years in a wheelchair
- Experiencing nature’s healing properties with measured neurological improvements
- Going on silent retreat in nature for five years & then creating EcoWisdom with my partner Dave
- Living off-grid on the EcoWisdom Forest Preserve (since March 2020)
- Senior Research Fellow with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
- University Professor in Critical Disability Studies
- Post-Doctoral Fellowship with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
- Doctoral Internship, Neurology, Hospital for Sick Children
- Community Development & Qualitative Research Consultant
- PhD Human Development and Applied Psychology
- MA Instruction and Special Education
- BSc Environmental Studies
- Nature and Forest Therapy Guide (6 months)
- Interfaith Spiritual Accompaniment, Ontario Jubilee (2 years)
- Mindfulness Meditation Teacher, MMTCP Brach/Kornfield (2 years – in process)
I grew up in Toronto and love the city for its diversity and vitality, as well as its ravines and parks. I’ve spent decades using my bicycle to explore, travel and commute to work (even in winter) which gave me an intimate view of urban life while enjoying my explorations of urban green spaces.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to camping and canoeing as a youth and have continued to paddle each year with friends for companionship, exercise and the wide-ranging benefit of slow time in nature. During my 30 years of teaching High School, my life was enriched by the enthusiasm, integrity, commitment and positive outlook of students. It has been a great privilege to work with hundreds of young people ready and excited to take action for a more sustainable and just planet.
I look forward to continuing to be an active steward of the EcoWisdom Forest Preserve, habitat to wolves, bear, moose, deer and lynx. We invite you to come join us (in person or virtually) to learn about yourself and the planet.
- Endless hours playing in the ravines of Toronto
- Spending summers outdoors camping in Northern Ontario
- Forming a biracial family and adopting our wonderful daughter
- Working for 30 years as a teacher with the gift that is the energy and vitality of youth.
- Having my school win “Greenest School on Earth” in 2015
- Creating EcoWisdom with my partner Kari
- Living off-grid on the EcoWisdom Forest Preserve (since March 2020)
- BEs Environmental Studies (Waterloo)
- BEd (Toronto)
- Board Member, EcoSpark (8 years)
- Member, Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network
- WHMIS Train the Trainer Certificate
Alicia is a registered psychotherapist and forest bathing, enthusiast. She feels strongly that building circles of support are key to good mental wellness and she has dedicated the past 25 years to helping clients with relational and mental health challenges. She has observed how our relationship with our natural world not only increases our resiliency and care of the earth but can create spaces to expand our circle of support in the world.
Paul Gauthier (he/him) is the executive director of the Individualized Funding Resource Centre (IFRC) Society, an organization supporting independence and choice among people living with a disability requiring the assistance of personal support workers for daily living. Paul has provided leadership in promoting EcoWisdom’s Accessible Nature Wellbeing Programs among members of the disability community in British Columbia.
He is a well-recognized community leader involved in collaborative projects with organizations and park groups, as well as municipal and provincial governments. Paul is a public speaker promoting the rights of people with disabilities. Paul is also a Paralympian gold medalist. He uses mindful nature-connection practices himself to add balance to his very busy lifestyle.
Mahnoor is a university student studying neuroscience, human biology, and psychology with her eye on entering medicine. She is simultaneously enrolled in a program to become a professional personal support worker so that she can offer compassionate and respectful assistance to people with disabilities and seniors. Mahnoor enjoys admiring the beauty of the earth and gaining inspiration from her nature walks with her siblings. She is passionate about the arts, both drawing and painting, where nature is one of her greatest muses. What she enjoys most about EcoWisdom programming is the attention paid to inclusive community building as well as the creative nature-immersive methods use to foster a soulful experience.
Norma Lelless earned degrees in German Language & Literature, Art History and Theology. She is a Certified Spiritual Director and a CASC Certified Spiritual Care Practitioner. Currently she is earning certification in Enneagram contemplative and breath work practices taught by Russ Hudson and Jennifer Dibb. Norma retired from the College of Registered Psychotherapists (2021) and from her position as a Chaplain at North York General Hospital (2020). She retired as a university instructor in 2014. Norma is interested in Nature and spirituality. She believes that receiving the gift of Nature’s healing properties by attuning oneself to its forms, its rhythm and its melodies is the second most important way to experience the fullness and richness of life. The first is to live, as we were intended to, as responsible, committed caregivers of our Earth.
Alyssa is a biomedical sciences student on full scholarship. Engaging in citizen science is a passion of hers and she has studied animals species affected by climate change, ranging from polar bears and beluga whales in the sub-arctic to pink dolphins, caiman, monkeys and understory birds in the Amazon. Alyssa also loves the arts and has completed her grade 9 piano with the Royal Conservatory of Music achieving first class honours with distinction.
As a visual artist, she is fascinated by the role that creativity plays within EcoWisdom programming in promoting nature connection and wellness. Alyssa is interested in issues of health equity for people living with disabilities and members of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) populations.
Kim Dunlop has worked as a massage therapist and teacher for 20 years. She has co-owned two therapeutic clinics, taught at the Shiatsu School of Canada, led a variety of self-care workshops, and served as a meditation guide for many years. Her former career as a dancer and choreographer gave her a solid background in body mechanics with the intimate understanding of how the body heals itself and the steps needed for recovery. She is writing a blog on self-care that you can find at www.kimldunlop.com. Kim continues to embody… self-care practices for her own physical, mental and emotional health and the well-being of her family.
Rosemary Anderson is passionate about learning, living a lifestyle that promotes wellness, and assisting people to be as healthy as possible. She has practiced physiotherapy for 40+ years and osteopathy since 2004. More info is on her website: beachphysioosteopathy.ca. Rosemary is grateful to have supported Kari during the 8-day onsite portion of her Forest Therapy training years ago and to have had opportunities since to assist with the Forest Therapy Programs Kari has led online and in urban parks/ ravines.
Rosemary grew up and still lives in the Beaches area of Toronto where her family had a canoe at the Silverbirch boathouse. She spent one month every summer swimming, canoeing, and camping growing up and has continued connecting to nature as an adult. Rosemary walks and pole walks daily and appreciates the beauty of nature within her neighbourhood, especially at Kew Gardens Park and Glen Stewart Ravine in Toronto where being among the trees reminds her of Narnia.
Mary-jo, a yoga teacher for over 30 years, is passionate about diversity, inclusion, ecology and our visceral and collective community. As a health & life coach she incorporates her background in psychology, mindfulness meditation and yoga therapy to bring the best, in bringing out the best in people. It is her belief that if we make a way, we find a way that will include everybody even those who don’t think they can – because we can.
A lover of animals, nature and life, mary-jo is an avid sailor, gardener, writer, yogi and chef alongside a healthy dose of activism, professional and volunteer work. A single-mother of two mary-jo thinks green, acts locally, lives sustainably, and strives to leave the world a better place. She is thrilled to be a guest speaker for EcoWisdom’s six-month Nature and Forest Therapy training program.
Heather has a busy household that includes her husband, two children and several rescue animals. With her husband Adam, she runs a small home-based graphic design and t-shirt printing business. They work closely with several animal sanctuaries from concept and design, to printing and sales to raise funds for animal care.
Her home is filled with plants. Her job at a flower shop brings her much joy as she engages in conversation with customers about what a particular plant or flower might represent as a gift to someone in need of uplifting. Creativity feeds her soul. Heather is an avid crafter and has worked alongside a fused-glass artist for the last twenty-three years.
Heather has always had a deep connection to the natural world and is the recipient of the EcoWisdom scholarship for a person of Indigenous heritage. She is excited to share her knowledge of nature connection to support self-care and wellbeing as a member of the EcoWisdom team.
Felicia Assenza is a Naturopathic Doctor whose own healthcare experiences lead her to discover the benefits of naturopathic medicine. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree at McMaster University, majoring in Biology & Psychology and went on to earn her Doctor of Naturopathy degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.
Felicia aims to share knowledge and experiences gained on her own journey to help others on their health journeys. Gentle curiosity guides her practice and much time is spent in office visits exploring symptoms and making connections to discover their root cause. She also loves food and gardening and believes both are among the most powerful medicines.
Dr. Assensa is very pleased to be a guest speaker for EcoWisdom’s six-month Nature and Forest Therapy training program. In her teaching she highlights deepening our connection to plants by understanding their cultural significance and medicinal properties. She offers tips for making teas using a variety of commonly found flowers, plants, and sprigs from evergreen trees.
Harriet was actively engaged in community development and disability advocacy when, in March 2020, she became ill with Covid-19. She developed complicated and life-changing post-infection conditions including Long Covid, POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), and Chronic Migraines. These health issues forced her to leave her role running a community project in inner-city London and reimagine her life.
Harriet felt a longing to be in nature, but the physical limitations associated with her illnesses and concerns about reinfection made most nearby urban green spaces inaccessible to her. After training as an Integrative Forest Therapy Practitioner (in a modified manner), she has gone on to run online Forest Bathing sessions for people with Long Covid. She has discovered that you do not need to hike in wilderness areas to feel connected to the natural world. Taking an intentionally mindful approach to watching a snail on a leaf or following clouds moving across the sky can be powerful experiences.
She is a passionate advocate of the Social Model of Disability commonly used in Disability Studies and has experience making programs inclusive for herself and others through appropriate accommodations. You can find out more about Harriet and her work through her website www.kindredsoil.co.uk. Harriet is thrilled to join the EcoWisdom team and very excited about their unique approach which includes a deep commitment to inclusion, equity, and accessibility.