“It’s so wonderful to get out into the natural environment that helps us start to realign — to get away from the high tension of our daily lives, our work lives, or even our interpersonal lives.”
Those are the words of Deane Root, a member of Congregation Dor Hadash. He is one of the earliest participants in Walking the Healing Path, a program that is hosted by the 10.27 Healing Partnership and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. It is a healing and meditative program that features guided walks alongside grounding and reflective exercises within several of Pittsburgh’s 163 beautiful parks and gardens. The goal is to create space for mutual healing through movement, meditation practices and togetherness.
Many turn to nature during times of sorrow and sadness to seek respite and refuge, and for good reason. Being outside can help the spirit recover from hardship. It helps the body, too; time in nature can reduce blood pressure and anxiety while improving one’s overall mood. In addition, parks and green spaces improve health and well-being, strengthen communities and make neighborhoods better places to live, work and play.
“To be out there in G-d’s medium is wonderful, with the sun and the sky and the animals and plants, and to be in a space where I can just interact with the trees and the grasses and the butterflies and other people in a gentle, humane and thoughtful way,” Root said.
Recent, tragic events have rocked our country’s core and highlighted the urgent importance of peace and calm for our community. We’ve witnessed unspeakable acts of violence that have touched many of our lives. We continue mourning the innocent lives taken in Uvalde, Texas; in Buffalo, New York; in Laguna Woods, California; and too many others. These horrible events only add to the emotional disturbances many of us experience in our daily lives.
The 10.27 Healing Partnership and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy recognized that our community needs a safe space for reflection and peace. Walking the Healing Path is part of our effort to create diverse opportunities for people to compassionately work through their difficult emotions and trauma journeys. These walks will provide opportunities to build relationships and connections with new or familiar people, a key factor in strengthening community resilience.
“It’s hard for me to sit down in an office with a grief counselor or trauma therapist and talk about things sometimes,” Root said. “But if we’re outdoors and in a quiet space, that’s inviting, that makes it possible to be able to open up a little bit more and talk and walk. To be on a healing walk is such a great relief. We don’t have to say anything, or if we want to, we feel it’s a safe space to talk about some of the things that we’ve been facing.”
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit that improves the quality of life for the people of Pittsburgh by restoring the park system to excellence in partnership with government agencies and the community. The 10.27 Healing Partnership is the coordinating agency for resiliency and healing efforts after the 2018 synagogue shooting. Together, our guides create an educational space with moments of reflection, meditation, and thoughtfulness. It’s a chance to process one’s own thoughts, in a direct way; or, to connect with others.
When current events – or the events of our lives – are difficult, sometimes our reaction is withdraw from the world and from others. We urge you to join us in nature, and to connect with your neighbors.
The program is free and open to the public. It will take place in a different park or garden each Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. through July 7. The walks are specifically intended to be slow, not rigorous, so they are accessible for individuals with limited mobility. For more details, or to register, call us at 412-697-3534 or visit us online at 1027healingpartnership.org/events.
Finally, if you need someone to talk to, please know that 10.27 Healing Partnership is always available to help. You can contact us at 412-697-3534 or 1027healingpartnership.org/contact. PJC
Maggie Feinstein is director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership. Catherine Qureshi is president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.