This simple practice that can change everything!
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese practice that is growing more popular every day. It involves a complete immersion in nature away from the busyness of urban and suburban life. I wanted to share more about this practice, as it ties closely to our intention for the month of June with our free final weeks of tai chi & qigong.
The Japanese term, shinrin-yoku, literally translates into “forest” and “bath,” which is a perfect description of the activity. Not to be confused with camping or hiking, forest bathing truly engages all five senses. Participants are encouraged to observe, listen, smell, touch, and even taste elements of the forest to take in everything that is happening in a given moment.
Forest bathing can be tremendously relaxing and rejuvenating. It allows us to reconnect with nature and appreciate its multi-dimensional beauty in an incredibly deep way. When people give themselves completely to shinrin-yoku, it is impossible to be anywhere else emotionally or spiritually, especially since it is meant to be a technology-free experience.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein
So much of the anxiety we struggle with today is attributable to digital proximity. The things that bother us may be physically far away but can still feel overbearing because of the instantaneous nature of modern technology. By unplugging, we separate ourselves completely from major stressors in our lives, near and far.
There is simply no room for negativity in forest bathing. In this way, it is similar to meditative movements like Tai Chi and Qigong, ancient martial art forms that demand total focus from mind, body, and spirit. However, forest bathing differs from those other practices in that it is not meant to be treated as an exercise. Oftentimes, participants will remain in a relatively small area for several hours. Forest bathing is about going deep, not wide.
Forest bathing is also countercultural in another keyway. There is no target or defined objective. You don’t go searching for a specific object or try to reach a particular destination. In fact, you are supposed to wander aimlessly and slowly.
“By discovering nature, you discover yourself.” Maxime Lagacé
I bet that idea is scary to many of you!
Forest bathing isn’t about being productive, efficient, or “successful.” In this way, the practice is in total tension with how we live day in and day out. You are meant to enter nature and follow where it leads you. That’s it.
My hope is that this concept is liberating for many of you. How many other activities in life don’t require you to accomplish a task or achieve something worth sharing? Very few. And this is why shinrin-yoku can be so valuable for us!
The practice is a powerful way to reduce stress and restore vitality as it “bridges the gap between us and the natural world,” says Dr Qing Li, author of Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. And as more people move into cities, shinrin-yoku will become even more important.
We have to learn to make room in our lives for meditative practices, like forest bathing and Qigong, that go against the negative aspects of today’s culture. We lean heavily on medication when the best solution may be to spend a few hours outdoors with no specific goal at all except to enjoy being in nature!
“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Dr Seuss
As we continue to explore ways to manage stress, here are three questions to help guide you along the way.
When was the last time you did something that didn’t have a clear goal?
We are so entrenched in productivity culture that we don’t realize how much our lives are oriented towards getting things done! One downside of this is that we start to view certain activities as a waste of time when in reality, they aren’t!
You should be free to enjoy things outside of what they yield. For example, if you enjoy playing music, you should be able to do so without feeling any pressure to create something that another person would pay to hear.
In a similar way, you should be able to enjoy a forest bathing experience without having to justify it with results or metrics.
How do you derive your own self worth?
It can be hard to practice something like forest bathing if your own self worth is tied to achievements. Think hard about what makes you feel valuable and worthy of love in this life. If you have to accomplish, create, and succeed at all times, you will quickly burn out.
I encourage you to define who you are not by what you do. You are so much more than your salary, title, and degrees. You have passions that are worth exploring simply because they are your passions and that’s it! When you reach this point, you are ready for an immersive experience like forest bathing.
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Confucius
When was the last time you fell in love with Mother Earth?
There is beauty all around us. We can’t forget how incredible Mother Earth is and what she gives to us every single day. The air we breathe, the flowers we love, the food we grow is all possible because of her.
If you haven’t had a special moment outdoors in a long time, there is no better opportunity than the present. Gift yourself a few hours this weekend to enjoy nature and shed all of the stress you are carrying. If you are feeling especially ambitious, why not give forest bathing a try? You clean your physical body often, so why not do the same for your mental and spiritual being 🙂
Want to learn more about how to cultivate a strong relationship with nature? Join us in our FB group, The Power of SHE Sleep. Health. Energy. for a few more weeks of free tai chi and qigong classes and we’ll take it deeper.