Coming Events



 Asheville Urban Landscape Painters and The Inspired Writers of Asheville are collaborating to offer painting in the morning  9:30 am to 12:30 pm and an insight-oriented writing workshop en plein air from 1:30 to 4:00 pm on Thursday, April 23, 2020 at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. For more info on how to register for the writing workshop contact Dr. Paula, No charge for the "paint-out." Fee for the writing workshop is $35.


 Enhancing Spirituality of Older Adults through Plein Air Narrative Programs 

by Paula Hartman-Stein,PhD and Reverend Beth Long-Higgins, March 26,2020 @ 2 to 3 pm

What are Plein Air-Inspired writing groups?

Writing groups that are intergenerational or with older adults done en plein air (out of doors) piggyback on the open air painting movement that captures the beauty and awe of the natural world. Plein air writing uses natural objects as writing prompts, encouraging the writers to observe details in nature settings, use mindfulness meditation strategies and write how what they observe in nature relates to worries and concerns in their own lives. 

Plein air writing groups may enhance spiritual connections regardless of their faith traditions or belief systems. The American nature writer, Mary Oliver, has composed many poems with spiritual overtones. 

En plein air writing for therapeutic benefits uses elements found in nature such as water, trees, flowers, and animals as prompts for close observation and triggers for insights through the use of metaphor. 

I have offered plein air writing workshops for over ten years to groups as diverse as my psychotherapy patients, at professional conferences for mental health professionals and energy healers, or as a community-based program for adult campers, or in a mountain retreat setting and in city parks for anyone interested in how writing could enhance wellness or produce unexpected insights into solving life's problems.


In the nature-inspired writing workshops themes that have typically emerged from the writing done on the spot: recognizing the positive awe of nature; striving for emotional healing from trauma, grief; searching for creative insights to gain greater inner harmony; or seeking transformative insights about life's purpose and meaning as we age. Spiritual themes also emerged from the writings of individuals across faith traditions and beliefs, from conservative Christians to agnostics.

Benefits of exposure to nature

Until relatively recently Western Medicine and Psychology have shown little interest in exploring what indigenous people across the world intuitively knew: spending time in nature can result in calm feelings and improvement in clarity of thought and physical health. The emergence of published studies of nature's healing benefits from simple exposure to seeing nature began in the early 1980s when patients who received gall bladder surgery and whose hospital windows faced outdoor scenes with trees rather than brick walls needed less pain medication, were discharged sooner and were less irritable (Ulrich, 1984).

Since that initial study there has been an explosion of attention on the benefits of exposure to nature. Growing evidence shows exposure to nature results in increases in working memory, creativity, problem-solving, decreases in blood pressure, improving immune function, and enhancing mood. (Williamson, 2017; Selhub & Logan, 2012; Louv, 2011). In Japan, the practice of forest bathing has become a prescribed practice to lower blood pressure and improve immune functioning. Evidence shows that reflective writing triggers similar results as those from exposure to nature.

The writing en plein air workshops I offer combine reflective writing, exposure to nature, while doing so in a safe space with supportive peers. 


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