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Meet the Guide: Lisa Duncan, Abinger Hammer, U.K.

Meet the Guide: A series about the Forest Therapy Guides I meet on their trails around the world.

About Lisa:

Born in Hawaii to American and Japanese parents, her love of nature is intrinsic with fond childhood memories on the beach and in the forest. Lisa is a certified Forest Bathing guide, trained with The Forest Bathing Institute (TFBI) in the UK. She is also a mindfulness and meditation coach, foraging enthusiast and a student of herbal medicine.

With a Bachelor in Science (BS) degree from the University of Southern California and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Chicago, her career spans from advertising to corporate strategy, taken her to Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo. In the last year, she had the opportunity to work with the world’s renown forest therapy researcher Dr. Qing Li with the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine (INFOM) and played a key role in partnering with Dr. Li as the Scientific Adviser for the TFBI.

Lisa now lives in the Surrey Hills in Abinger Hammer, near Guildford, with her husband, three daughters and border collie, Maile. She practises forest bathing daily in the Surrey Hills and especially enjoys being in the woodland on Holmbury Hill.

My Meeting Lisa:

While traveling in England, I stayed with good friends in Guildford, UK. I found Lisa on Instagram after a search for local forest therapy activities. Lisa responded quickly to my direct message with an openness and interest in meeting a fellow guide.

On September 26, 2022, Lisa kindly picked me up at my friend’s house and was immediately greeted by Maile, her adorable black and white border collie who made herself comfortable on my lap as we drove to one of Lisa’s favourite forests—Holmbury Hill in the Surrey Hills area. Surrey Hills is one of England’s many AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). I’ve been impressed with the U.K.’s commitment not only to land protection and conservation but also the free access to spaces for the public’s use. You will find walking trails that meander through golf courses, estate properties and throughout the countryside giving free access for everyone to enjoy (more information about these programs are found at the end of this blog).

As we entered the trails, the first thing I noticed was mushrooms. Fortunately, Lisa has a passion for all things foraging and part of our walk included an introduction to many of the area’s mushrooms including shiitakes and oyster.

Lisa led me to a seating area with a spectacular view over St Mary’s, a location for her walk introductions and sunrise meditation walks. As we stopped here to take in the view below of quaint houses, far reaching fields and lush greenery, I was struck by how well the UK government has planned their trails to encourage use by their residents.

The circular seating area is made by artist Matthew Burt “Converse” as part of the Inspiring Views program. The sweet chestnut benches are arranged for conversation and contemplation which is exactly what we did as we connected through deep sharing and deep listening, getting to know each other, learning about our similar interests and passion for the forest and how we transformed our lives from working in corporate jobs to becoming entrepreneurs committed to helping others heal, breathe, connect and slow down.

Walking further up to the look out point is not usually part of Lisa’s traditional forest bathing walks because of the incline and distance but we took a moment to hike up to the highest point of Holbury Hill to enjoy the vistas of the Surrey hills. We continued to get to know each other, discussing how our lives have changed with the pandemic, with forest therapy and our practice, the similar experiences we’ve been through with work, life, family and friends. We connected at a soul level.

As we made our way back down to her usual forest guiding trail, we discussed some of our favourite invitations. I love how Lisa works in partnership with the forest adjusting the experience by being in tune with what is happening in the moment. She introduced me to “Deer’s ears”, and we experienced magic of this collaboration as the wind picked up when she mentioned how wind can enhance or change the experience. At one point we laughed about the many synchronicities during our time together with a “cue the wind”.

We also discussed our approach to the invitation “Gratitude altars” where I tend to invite forest art creations and mandalas while Lisa she suggests trying unstructured vs structured approaches inviting her participants to try the opposite of what they normally might do. In her experience, this has led to some personal insights by moving beyond standard comfort zones or personal “edges” leading to a deeper understanding of self.

One of the many highlights of our time together was entering the Hurtwood Millennium Pinetum. It’s hard to believe that this area of 40 varieties of trees was planted only 22 years ago when you see how this grove has already become a rich and diverse ecosystem. Lisa introduced me to many new trees and a sensory experience. A map of each tree is available at this location as well. Although this area recently lost many larch trees due to a rapidly spreading disease, you can witness nature’s ability to adapt and regenerate quickly with open sunlight allowing new trees the freedom to grow.

She introduced me to her Sugi tree, a Japanese cedar where she often goes for grounding. I enjoyed the experience of going under its low hanging canopy feeling like I’d become part of the tree inhaling the rich scent of the forest floor beneath.

We noticed the rain drops on the tips like thousands of pretty fairy lights.

We scratched a branch to release a refreshing grapefruit scent. We did the same on a few other trees like a grand fir, brewers weeping spruce, and spent time taking in the essence of a redwood. I have never enjoyed such vibrant smells in a forest walk quite like this before. She then gave me a small magnifying lens and invited me to look through the lens at the redwood bark, a fern and moss witnessing a miniature world close up. This playful experience was another first for me.

We ended our walk at the centre of the Pinetum surrounded by a world of fir, pine and cedar trees. In this magical spot, feeling protected, comfortable and completely at peace, Lisa led a sacred Japanese-influenced woodland tea ceremony with larch tea to honour the lost larch trees in beautiful wabi sabi tea cups made by Anouka.

Her invitation was to feel the heat of the cup, shape of the cup, scent of the tea, noticing the colour at the top and in the bottom of the teacup, reflection of the trees on the tea. It was a calming ceremony bringing me into the moment. This moment together felt sacred and brought me closer to Lisa, the tea, the missing larch trees, all the trees and other than human beings in the pinetum. It was an experience I will always cherish.

On our way home, Lisa stopped by the Heartwork Coffee Bar a small neighourhood gathering place that became a salve for the community during the pandemic. It is a safe oasis tucked into a forested area where I had a chance to meet her beautiful daughter Sophie and some of her friends. This is clearly a tight-knit loving community.

As we continued our drive back to Guildford, Lisa made a spontaneous decision to take me to one of her favourite places. Here we walked to the river’s edge to try “Deer’s ears” once more. This time, our hands over our ears amplified the sound of the rushing water. When we turned our backs to the river and cupped our hands over our ears, the sound of the river was drawn into ears even further. I was awed at this new ability to expand the sense of sound and I look forward to incorporating this invitation in my future forest therapy walks.

We walked a bit further through some thick bramble and fern into a field of very tall larch trees. Here I lay on the earth to watch the dance of the canopy. This reminded me of one of my favourite spots in Toronto where I would do the same thing…only looking at maple trees instead of these giant larch trees. It felt familiar and soothing. We both watched in silence and took in the beauty of the dance. Then giant rain drops began to fall as though in slow motion. We saw each one fall very slowly toward us. One big drop at a time. And momentarily, time stood still.

I want to thank Lisa for sharing her time, trail and deep wisdom with me. It’s not often that you meet someone who you have so much in common with and feel an instant connection. Sharing time together was a balm for my soul and I look forward to keeping in touch and working together to support other forest therapy guides.

About Hinoke Forest Bathing

Lisa’s forest bathing practice, Hinoke Forest Bathing is unique as she weaves in meditation, mindfulness while embracing the pleasures of guiding in the rain, wind and sunshine and her Japanese heritage with guided walks such as:

· NIJIKAN (Japanese for two hours)

· SANJIKAN (Japanese for three hours)

· HINODE (Japanese for sunrise)

· YUYAKE (Japanese for sunset)

· SHIZEN meditation (Japanese for nature)

Lisa also offers seasonal foraging sessions and meditation classes. Her clients primarily are those interested in slowing down the pace of life, relaxation, mental health support, ADHD and more. Her therapy-focused walks awaken all the senses and explore the sixth sense--the sense of being and connection with nature.

Connect with Lisa:

Connect with Monique:



The Forest Whisperer for #meettheguide stories and forest therapy

The Flourishment Collective for #2suitcases1laptop travel stories and flourishment stories


Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an area of countryside in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, that has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty enjoy levels of protection from development similar to those of UK national parks. The purpose of an AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the designated landscape, meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside and have regard for the interests of those who live and work there. There are 46 AONBs in Britain. AONB's cover around 15% of England's land area.

The Surrey Hills is a 422 km2 (163 sq mi) Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which principally covers parts of the North Downs and Greensand Ridge in Surrey, England (approximately one quarter of the land area of the county). The AONB was designated in 1958 and adjoins the Kent Downs AONB to the east and the South Downs National Park in the southwest.

About National Trust

In 1895, environmental pioneers, Octavia Hill, Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley pledged to preserve UK’s historical and natural places. Their aim was not only to save important sites, but to open them up for everyone to enjoy. They believed that everyone needs nature, beauty and history, so they set up the National Trust to look after the nation’s coastline, historic sites, countryside and green spaces. With 5.37 million members, over 50,000 volunteers and 10,000 staff, the National Trust is the biggest conservation charity in Europe, caring for over 250,000 hectares of farmland, over 780 miles of coastline and 500 historic properties, gardens and nature reserves, for everyone, for ever. Most properties are open to the public for a charge (members have free entry), while open spaces are free to all. The Trust also owns forests, woods, downs and moorland.  These areas are generally open to the public free of charge, as are some of the parks attached to country houses (others have an admission charge).

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