BenchTalk Events & Programming: Bringing Journaling to Life in Sacred Places Across the Nation

Sacred Places are designed in partnership with the communities that they serve, illustrating the values, culture and energy shared by community members. While Sacred Place vary in size, design elements, and overall intention, one thing they all have in common is the signature Nature Sacred bench. Tucked underneath each bench lives a little yellow journal; a place for visitors to reflect, share and connect with the rest of the community. For 25 years, stirred by nature, people from all walks of life, young and old, have been jotting down their wishes and worries, their grief and gratitude in these little yellow journals. These entries capture the true essence of human connection with nature, and we’ve collected thousands from Sacred Places nationwide.  

For the first time, you can enjoy these insights and inspirations — these unique reminders of our common humanity — wherever you are. 

One of three full journaling boards from St. Timothy’s School’s BenchTalk event

Drawing from the thousands of entries that have been archived from prisons, hospitals, universities and neighborhoods, we have selected some of the most memorable to publish as BenchTalk: Wisdoms Inspired in Nature. 

This year, the Firesoul Network is offering all Sacred Places the opportunity to highlight their involvement and connection to this movement by hosting a community journaling event. The activity invites participants to explore their community’s connection to nature, BenchTalk and other Sacred Places across the country. Participants are encouraged to write a ‘journal entry’ on loose leaf pages, and pin them to a cork board display in order to create a visual journal exhibit. Participants are also given a flyer that details the mental and physical health benefits of journaling, encouraging them to return to the Sacred Place and add to the journal located beneath the bench. Giveaways including a mini version of our yellow journals, a Nature Sacred tote bag, and a Nature Sacred pencil and sticker. Along with all materials needed for the journaling activity, each Sacred Place that opts in to this program also receives $1000 in grant funding to support the journaling event, or any other needs the Sacred Places may have.

As always, our Firesouls have surpassed expectations with twelve sites opting in and scheduling a journaling event so far this year (and we’re not even halfway through!) We are energized and inspired by each site and encourage those who have not opted in to consider doing so. Check out a snapshot of a few of the BenchTalk events that have happened around the Network so far.  

Participants at Maryland Hall’s journaling and candle-making workshop

Maryland Hall: Annapolis, MD 

 In December of 2023, Maryland Hall, a center for arts education located in Annapolis and one of the very first Sacred Places created over 20 years ago was the very first Sacred Place to host a BenchTalk journaling program in conjunction with a holiday candle-makingworkshop. Folks of all ages came together for a relaxing afternoon of journaling, arts and crafts, and most importantly, community connection. 

St. Timothy’s students create entries to add to the journaling board

St. Timothy’s School: Baltimore, MD 

St. Timothy’s School is a private all-girls boarding school serving 9th – 12th grade students in Baltimore, MD. Their Sacred Place includes a beautiful brick labyrinth and little library that sits adjacent to the historic and beautiful administration building.  

In February, Nature Sacred joined the St. Tims community’s Wellness Day event. Structured much like a market or fair, the event featured various activity stations emphasizing some aspect of personal wellness, one of them being the Nature Sacred BenchTalk journaling activity. Wellness coordinator and Firesoul, Mary Ann Salim is an expert at engaging young people and getting invested in their own wellness during a time that can be turbulent for many. Students eagerly participated in the activity, were curious to learn about other Sacred Places nearby, and shared their intentions to more regularly visit the site on their campus.

Nurses at BWMC enjoy yoga and journaling to recharge mid-shift

University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center: Glen Burnie, MD 

The Sacred Place at UMBWMC is gorgeous space that includes a variety of native plants, seating and a water feature that transports visitors away from the fluorescent and sterile hospital corridors and into a nature oasis.  

In celebration of National Nurses Week in early May, BWMC coupled the journaling activity with a yoga class for nurses. Participants were so appreciative to the Wellness Department for coordinating this opportunity during a busy workday.