‘Tree hugger’ travels 9,000 miles to run Hill workshops

Posted 7/17/19

Hannah McQuilkan, a literal “tree hugger” from New Zealand, will be offering “Forest Therapy,” a “Sacred Essence Making” workshop and “Shamanic Healing” sessions from July 17 to July …

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‘Tree hugger’ travels 9,000 miles to run Hill workshops


Hannah McQuilkan, a literal “tree hugger” from New Zealand, will be offering “Forest Therapy,” a “Sacred Essence Making” workshop and “Shamanic Healing” sessions from July 17 to July 22 in Chestnut Hill.[/caption]

by Len Lear

Over the years, the term “tree hugger” has been used as an insult against environmentalists and “New Agers” by certain corporate and right-wing politicians and opinion makers. Hannah McQuilkan, however, is one person who is proud to be a literal “tree hugger.”

McQuilkan, 39, a New Zealand-based Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and Forest Therapy Guide, is traveling 9,000 miles to come to Chestnut Hill to the Healing Arts Studio, 15 W. Highland Ave., on Wednesday July 17, 6 p.m., for a 90-minute interactive presentation about “Forest Therapy;” Saturday, July 20, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., for a 3-hour “Forest Therapy Walk;” Sunday, July 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for a “Sacred Essence Making” workshop, and Sunday afternoon to Monday for private “Shamanic Healing” sessions.

McQuilkan, who has been involved in natural health, wellness and healing for 18 years, has diplomas in Naturopathy, Medical Herbalism and Aromatherapy.

“When I was in my 20s,” she told us last week, “I got sick with digestive issues and sought alternative medicine to treat me, as mainstream medicine couldn't help. I went to see the local Naturopath, who worked with me and changed the way I saw health and well-being completely. As I recovered with her help, I started to study Naturopathy. This interest led onto a passion for all aspects of alternative health and wellness, including energy healing work.”

For her Chestnut Hill Forest Therapy experience, McQuilkan will incorporate some special insights about New Zealand, including Maori blessings, songs and New Zealand “healing” tea.

“Forest Therapy,” McQuilkan explained, “is a series of sensory nature connection invitations designed to connect one to the more than human world. Forest Therapy guides aim to create a safe, exploratory space for people to deeply relax and experience themselves as one with nature.

“A walk usually lasts for 2-3 hours and starts with a meditation to slow down the busy mind and open one to all the wonderful sensory experiences nature can offer – sight, smell, touch, hearing; then the group gets led though a series of simple sensory invitations, ending with a tea ceremony of found plants.”

McQuilkan contacted the Healing Arts Studio after a Google search of healing centers in Chestnut Hill, and Jodi Schwartz-Levy, founder of the studio, agreed to support her in presenting her work. The New Zealander has a sister in New York, so she comes to New York once a year. Last year, there was a course she wanted to take that was in Philadelphia, so she came to Philly for three months and “discovered Chestnut Hill much too late in my stay!”

McQuilkan says her company, “Tree Mystic,” started as a result of her stay in Philly.

“Overcome with the dense urban intensity,” she said, “and shocked by the lack of accessibility to nature spaces (I was staying in South Philly), I became aware of the divide that a large proportion of humans are suffering from. Living in New Zealand, its not nearly so noticeable. Parks, beaches, reserves and pretty darn beautiful ones are usually located walking distance from most places, even in the urban centers.

“I realized a sad truth, that many people don’t even know that the jaded fatigue and exhaustion they are afflicted with, that has become second nature, is caused by being completely out of touch with the natural world. So out of touch, you don’t even know; its just a way of life.

“So finally, once the snow had thawed, I discovered Bartam's Garden and the Wissahickon, and after such a lack of nature for three months, I saw clearly that my path was to reconnect all humans to nature … In Chestnut Hill I hope to meet some cool people, share my work and hopefully come back next year!”

What is the best advice McQuilkan has ever received?

“My mother once told me when I was being teased at school not to take it personally, as kids who do that are not happy in themselves and are just jealous. She suggested that I look at them like a hunk of mud. It worked.”

If McQuilkan could have any super power, what would it be?

“The power to turn into a tree any time, anywhere!”

If McQuilkan could meet anyone on earth, who would it be and why?

“My future husband, as I have been waiting a long time!”

For more information about McQuilkan’s events, call 215-370-7878, or visit HealingArtsPhilly.com. To learn more about McQuilkan, visit TreeMystic.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com