I bit ago I shared an article on Facebook about the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. In short, you spend two to three hours minimum, in the forest, electronics-free. You can bring a book or a journal if you like. But the idea is to be soaked in nature. Take it all in.
I was hoping to practice this in the beautiful red cedar forests on Vancouver Island when I visited recently. However, the place we picked was very busy with people and we couldn’t find a place away from the “people noise.” We did however checkout a beautiful waterfall area, and spent some time lying on a picnic table bench watching the clouds float by and breathing in the fresh air. As tranquil as that was, it wasn’t the forest bathing experience I was hoping for.
We then spent some time by the ocean, sitting on drift wood and watching the small waves come in. I recorded five minutes of waves in an audio clip. And noticed a piece of drift wood dancing in the waves, so recorded two minutes of that. (This clip will be available in my next newsletter, so be sure to sign up right away so you don’t miss it. It’s a beautiful, meditative clip.)
On the drive from BC to home in Manitoba, we stopped at the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail, and walked through an old-growth forest. It had been raining, so everything was lush and wet and smelled amazing.
Anyway, none of these were the nature experience I was looking for. And it’s funny, because I live in a forest. But I’m so enraptured by the massive trees in the forests of BC, I don’t always think of my forest as significant. However, today, I took a chair, one of my dogs, and my journal and went and sat in my forest. (Pics taken before and after my forest bathing, not during.)
I spent just over an hour breathing in my own forest and was delighted. I made a commitment to “stay in the moment.” Meaning I couldn’t worry about the past, the future, the current stress. None of it was welcome in my forest time. I did this by journaling about my forest using my senses – what could I hear, what could I see, what could I smell. I also spent time with my eyes closed and just focusing on my breathing. I find counting out my breaths helps to stay focused (five seconds inhale, hold, ten seconds exhale).
Some of the highlights I noticed were the leaves floating down as they fell. Of course, the autumn colours are in full swing here in Manitoba. The birds singing and leaves rustling in the wind. I heard the wind speed change when I focused on what I could hear. This was revealed thorugh the sounds the leaves made as the breeze grew into gusts and reduced again.
I saw broken trees and a tree pecked heavily by a woodpecker.
An aspen leaf fluttered to my lap. It smelled sweet and was sticky with sap.
Occassionally my dog whined, confused why we weren’t going for a walk and just sitting there. But he soon settled on my lap and became focused on the birds.
After a little over an hour, human noises (motors running, etc) became more than I could ignore and encroached on my space, so I thought perhaps that was all for today. Although not the two to three hours recommended, it is something I will work towards, I enjoyed my time alone and just observing, pushing away any thoughts that didn’t belong in my piece of forest. I recommend this experience and it’s one I plan to do weekly until it’s too cold.