Last week in yoga class I heard a lovely term for the first time: Forest Bathing. Exploring further, I find Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) literally means forest bathing, and it originated in Japan in the early 1980s. There are more than 60 Forest Therapy Camps nowadays in Japan alone.
The idea of bathing in the forest brings to mind the unseen, but very much felt experience of nourishment, calm and connection that touches deep in our soul when we give ourselves the time and pleasure to be in nature in an open and receptive way—not as background to the rest of our manmade lives, but to put our attention there in a way that enhances our awareness of the beauty, magic and wonder it holds.
Sitting here this morning, I hear a woodpecker rhythmically tapping on a nearby tree, the sweet tweet of multiple birds waking in the morning freshness, each with their very specific song. I see the light stream angularly through the dense green leaves of the full round deciduous and evergreen trees; I see multiple intricate spider webs strewn across the dewy lawn; I watch a turkey bobbing and strutting to who knows where; and I smell the sweet perfume of the summer blooms. This is all from my back porch—so accessible and always there, waiting for me to witness.
It may not be as accessible for you; you may have to make a bigger effort to witness it. However, isn’t it wonderful that we have parks and public wild spaces wherever we live that we can enter when we choose to nourish our soul and experience the wonder of this alive throbbing planet we co-habit
When we spend time forest bathing, we awaken the natural part of us, and recognize that despite ticks, mosquitoes and other threats, we need to be stewards of this valuable, natural world for our very survival and for our thriving.
When we spend intimate time bathing in nature, we leave the prison of our incessant thinking minds—lost in doing, remembering, anticipating—and are reminded of our BEingness, as modeled by rocks, plants and animals. By not thinking, naming or categorizing, but simply bringing our attention, we come to a still, quiet presence, able to let go and be ourselves, uncomplicated by any worldly demands—to just be.
“Nature can bring you to stillness. That is its gift to you.
When you perceive and join with nature in the field of stillness, that field becomes permeated with your awareness. That is your gift to nature.
Through you, nature becomes aware of itself.
Nature has been waiting for you, as it were, for millions of years.”