These days, we stay indoors for hours scrolling through social media, binge-watching TV shows, or playing video games. We shop online and have purchases delivered straight to our homes. We live in or commute to cities surrounded by concrete, steel, and smog. Our days are mostly spent away from sunshine, trees, water, and fresh air.
While our modern way of life can be convenient, it’s taking us away from the health benefits of nature. To the point where getting outside should now be a priority. This is where the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku — or forest bathing — can help.
What is forest bathing?
In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries created the term shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing” or “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” The practice encourages people to simply spend time in nature — no actual bathing required. It’s also very low impact, which means you don’t have to go for trail runs or do an intense hike. The goal of forest bathing is to live in the present moment while immersing your senses in the sights and sounds of a natural setting.
Forest Therapy, also known as
refers to the practice of spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness. The practice follows the general principle that it is beneficial to spend time bathing in the atmosphere of the forest. The Japanese words translate into English as “Forest Bathing.”
How do might you do it?
Enter the forest with an intent to have a direct, uninterrupted, immersive engagement.
Cross the threshold into the forest and acknowledge the ceremonial honor of entering the home of gracious beings.
Take time to become aware of yourself, your body, and what your senses are perceiving
Begin to take notice of each impression you have as it occurs
Move slowly through the forest as you observe everything else that is moving around you
Explore aspects of the forest that enable you to have an intimate appreciation for what you find by connecting with your senses
Sit and discover what has been revealed to you
close your visit with a ceremony before crossing the threshold as you depart
“The problem with our busy city lives, however, is that the stressful events keep piling up. There will be emails to answer, co-workers demanding attention, a deadline looming, the shopping to get done, the bills to be paid. And our cortisol levels remain always slightly raised.
When cortisol is released constantly, it can disrupt all our body’s processes. And people who produce chronically high levels of cortisol are at increased risk of numerous health problems.”
Dr. Qing Li
Forest Bathing, pgs. 66-67
5 Things You See
For my practice of mindfulness I completed the exercise of describing five things I observed when I went outside today.
The shimmering surface of a pool of water. The clear blue hue. Stained surfaces beneath the water, bleached, rough, and uneven.
Gray Oak leaves blowing in the wind. Bouncing off the ground. Waving along a wooden fence.
An empty hammock rocking slowly back and forth. Dozens of pine needles trapped in the white cloth webbing , dotted with dried leaves.
A black oil lamp hanging from a pole. Rust spots below an empty wick slot, on one side of the base a capless reservoir. Soiled surfaces along the frame and a dusty glass enclosure.
Six silver flutes strung with black string hanging from a stone stamped with “Welcome” in a bed of flowers. Alongside, two faded tear drop clappers twisted into a line of miniature Christmas lights.
Do you practice writing meditations? Does it help you with mindfulness? Does it benefit your writing?
Dear Fellow Sufferer,
I come to you with sad news of the death of my close relative. And while life does go on, I’ll never be the same. I want to say now that fact is accepted. For her life meant so much to me that the loss will forever change how I approach my world. However, I need to recover and eventually arrive to a place where I am thriving. That will take time, effort and help from people such as you.
How can you help? Your tolerance with me when you see me feeling bad, your patience with any unexplained anger I show can help me heal. Seeing you, gives me a chance to lean on your strength. I won’t ask you for advice. But when I of course do ask you, be assured that I won’t heed what you tell me, or even appear to appreciate it. I will appreciate your reaching out to spend time, visits, texts, phone calls. And when I don’t respond, I hope you use that as a sign. Seek me out when that happens because it will probably be when I am most vulnerable and need your help more.
Prayers are always welcome. If you ever feel prompted to share with me how loss has impacted your life I hope that you do. I believe it would benefit both of us. It may not seem like it by the way I look or act, but that’s okay, remember I’m grieving, and that often isn’t comfortable.
Let me close with words of gratitude and appreciation. Because each time you help me this way you will be acting out of love. That gift has more value than every other thing you might provide me. Thank you.
The idea for the grieving letter is from Recovering From Losses In Life by H. Norman Wright, who got the idea from Bob Deits, who wrote Life After Loss.
I am in a discussion group for the book Recovering from Loss in Life, by H. Norman Wright. I believe we have much to benefit from reading and talking ala book club like. I even created an online book club on Goodreads.com, though it hasn’t yet come to fruition.
Have you experienced good results from book discussion groups? If so, to what do you attribute their success? I feel determined to pursue them out of an expectation that the effort will be well rewarded.
At this stage in my current group, I am applying one of the questions in Chapter 2 – healthy things I will do to respond to my next loss – by writing about my mother. Her late stage dementia is a loss I want to cope with. So, for my healing, and for her honor, I am remembering some good times that she created in my life. I’m quite sure some fond memories will be a safe destination.
Once upon a time…
My senior year in high school, we lived far enough away that walking from home would not work. I had a zero hour (7am) class because I played saxophone in the performance band. As a member of the cross country and track team for the school, my team workouts wound up anywhere from 5 to 5:30pm before heading home.
We could not afford for me to have car, and I did not have a job. What did mom do? I drove her to work by 6:30am for her job that started at 8. After dropping her off I would head to school in her car. After work, she would get rides home from co-workers.
This was our routine, done with no fanfare, with no big discussion about sacrifice nor any acknowledgment that anything was special or extraordinary. It just was.
This example reflects a myriad of the shared experiences which she contributed in our lives. The nature of how my mother treated life and family can be imagined, I hope, from considering her role in this story. I love you mom.
Any event that destroys a person’s understanding of the meaning of life is felt as a loss.
Someone you know may face a condition like MS. We can’t know how they feel. But we can listen. Here is something you might hear if you chose to listen. After reading this story, if you are curious to learn more, try positivelivingwithms.com
I’ve shared this story before, but for those who don’t know, when I was younger it wasn’t a requirement to attend kindergarten. Because of that, my first classroom experience was first grade. I loved my teacher, I loved my school, I loved my entire first grade life. Well, most of it.Two weeks into the school year I was sent to the principal’s office. Now you have to understand, I was a well behaved kid back then. Really, I was. For me to be in trouble was a big deal. My dad was a Drill Sergeant at that time in the military so I knew not to misbehave, and if I did misbehave…well, let’s just say it would be better for me to pack my bags and go live in the treehouse.
By taking a little time each week to apply good advice, we can make life changing progress.
I don’t know why I am writing this; it likely will never be read by any other person. I am doing it entirely for myself, in memoriam
of a life well lived, a son sorely missed and greatly mourned.
Some would say his life was too short, or that he never had a chance. . .oh what might have been. . . .
I say he lived his life as fully as any man woman or child on this Earth. It was his life, and it was complete, and it was perfect.
The excerpt above taken from Michael Lynes’ book talks about inspiration as frankly as one might depict it. However it doesn’t tell us what to do. It isn’t about self help. And while it doesn’t preach to us it also makes no attempt to tell us how to think. Yet think you will when you read about the life of a child taken so pitilessly from a loving home.
So how can the experience effect you, reading about the great triumph and tragedy of strangers? It reminds some of us that life’s precious moments are not to be wasted. It teaches others to act before it’s too late. Why do so many people seem to fret away infinite numbers of hours accomplishing nothing? For each such soul how many others can we point to who never get the chance, their total existence not extended beyond childhood?
I’m struck with the thought of a person who chooses to do the absolute least for everyone and everything thing they encounter, and you know who I’m thinking about, because you’ve met ’em.
Is it okay, do you think? What must we say to them?
I will say this to myself. Do not forget, not for a moment. Redeem the time.