Have you heard of forest bathing?
I learned about something at a recent visit to a wellness retreat and now I’m obsessed with it. It’s called Shinrin Yoku and it means “forest bathing”. No, you don’t take a bath in the forest. Rather, you are mindful and present in the forest, observing with all of your senses.
So today I persuaded my dog (didn’t take much convincing, I had him as soon as I picked up his harness) and my husband (this took a little more finessing) to go on a walk with me. It was on a trail that I haven’t been on for quite a while but is a favorite. Normally, when I walk, I am listening to either music or an audiobook to pass the time and make it seem more interesting.
Today, I decided to walk sans technology and distraction. I wanted to practice Forest Bathing and be very mindful of what I saw, heard, smelled (I didn’t do any tasting, that sense will have to wait for some other mindful adventure). I noticed the sound of the breeze through the trees. This trail has large mature trees all along it. Some of the leaves were almost glistening the way I remember the aspens doing out West.
There are also several ponds along the way. I saw groups of fish coming up to the surface to catch bugs. I don’t think I had ever actually witnessed this before. It wasn’t just a fish or two. It was large groups in several different areas of several ponds. I also observed little turtles coming up to the surface for air and swimming along. And incredibly, I heard a very unique sound. It was different from the various bugs that were chirping or whatever it is they do to make their noise. I stopped, looked up to where it was coming from, and there was a squirrel on a limb munching on a walnut. I realized if I had been wearing my earbuds and listening to something artificial, I would never even have noticed him.
But what happened next was the cherry on top.
I heard a bird screeching in the air. It was a pretty distinct call I thought I recognized. I looked up, searching for it. And there it was. An eagle. Now eagles are pretty much my favorite creation on this planet. I think the eagle is my spirit animal. At least I want it to be. I only got to see it for a few seconds, but it was magical. Again, normally I would not have been aware of its presence.
I am sharing this with you because I think my walk today is so symbolic of what’s been happening in my life, and I suspect in yours. Beauty and wonder are all around, but we miss it because we aren’t engaged. We aren’t mindful about what we do and how we are doing it. Give it a try and see what happens. Choose a path that is surrounded by nature and take it all in. You might just end up lowering your blood pressure, calming your anxiety and stress, and most certainly putting a smile on your face. I sure did.
5 Steps To Practice Forest Bathing
- Step 1 – leave behind your phone, camera or any other distractions, so that you can be fully present in the experience.
- Step 2 – Leave behind your goals and expectations. Wander aimlessly, allowing your body to take you wherever it wants.
- Step 3 – Pause from time to time, to look more closely at a leaf or notice the sensation of the path beneath your feet.
- Step 4 – Find a comfy spot to take a seat and listen to the sounds around you. See how the behavior of the birds and other animals changes when they become used to your presence.
- Step 5 – If you go with others, make an agreement to resist talking until the end of the walk, when you could gather to share your experiences.