Forest Bathing: Nature Rituals the Japanese Way
Be like a tree. Stay grounded. Connect with your roots. Turn over a new leaf. Bend before you break. Enjoy your unique natural beauty. Keep growing.
M. Amos Clifford explains in A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku that forest bathing is not just about taking walks in the forest. Forest bathing means devoting yourself to being present in the forest and with trees - from sprout to decaying stump. Clear the mind, relax the gaze and appreciate the play of the branch-filtered light. Feel the wind through the leaves. Listen to the sounds - not only the rustles of swaying branches but the gentle whispers of Mother Earth that can only be heard when surrendering to silence and solitude. Inhale the woody scents of surrounding cedars and bask in the beauty of rough bark textures accented with smooth and shiny leaves.
The translation of forest bathing into its original Japanese form is Shinrin-Yoku and the name was coined by the Japanese government in the early 1980’s. However Shinrin-Yoku has its roots in ancient meditation practices akin to mindfulness. According to an article published in 2009 by immunologist Dr Qing Li in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, “a forest bathing trip… is a shot, leisurely visit to a forest and is regarded as being similar to natural aromatherapy. A forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation while breathing in volatile substances, called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees, such as a-pinene and limonene." Trees such as the Japanese sugi and the great cedar are a bountiful source of these phytoncides which have been proven to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and the production of stress hormones. Phytoncides may even prevent certain forms of cancer. Japan’s forestry agency takes this research seriously and has created over forty-eight official Forest Therapy trails. Certainly beats hitting the high street to offload that weekly pent up stress, adding to the destruction of our planet and not its preservation.
So could Forest Therapy be the new Retail Therapy? Well recent statistics certainly show that consumerism on the whole is on the decline. Whether people would given the choice head for the hills rather than the local shopping mall on a Saturday is still up for debate but one thing is for sure, that as a planet we are becoming more conscious of our true nature. Even if we haven’t totally given up fast-fashion or enjoyment of a retail-induced thrill, we are at least now much more aware of the consequences of our choices.
Like the mighty tree we grow, we shed, we sway, we evolve but we always remain connected to our truth no matter how long it takes us to get back to our roots.
Tree Whispers From Wise Sages
“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop” - Rumi
“When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind”
“Storms make trees take deeper roots” - Dolly Parton
“There’s nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend” - Bob Ross
“In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks” - John Muir
“A tree with strong roots laughs at storms” - Malay Proverb
“No tree it is said, can grow down to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell” - C.G Jung