Shinrin-yoku “forest bathing”
For many of us, walks in the forests are a ritual. We go to the woods not as much to disconnect from the world as to reconnect with our essential nature.
Overwhelmed with the disruptions in the world and the sense that much is irrevocably changed, we seek what is unchanged, that which is less hurt by our presence here. We look for the Essential Mother- Earth. We may not even know we are doing it.
I’ve gone to the trees, to the ferns, to the green darkness speckled with sunlight peeping through the trees since I was a child. As a little person, I was prohibited the company of others, isolated due to immune system long before it was a widely known thing. I went to the woods and napped on moss, gathered fallen leaves, and fell deeply in love with the sound of birds and insects talking and singing with me.
There is a worldwide movement now called forest bathing. There are b0oks and videos and guides. For some, who simply cannot pause, these resources are valuable- seek them. For many, we simply need to go, alone or in silence with another, to the deep woods.
When I begin, I watch the ground as I near my place and choose a stone that calls to me. I carry it with me tightly in one hand. When I reach the forest door, I stop and give all my cares to the rock. Then I place it by the path and go lighter into the deep green woods.
This is not a hike or a walk, it is barely a stroll sometimes. As you move farther into the grounds the sounds change: birds, insects, wind in the leaves. The scent of the pine needles, the damp moss, the ferns, even the decay of fallen trees move gently around you. If you wander near the ocean the salt air with come, in the wind high in the treetops.
Stop often and just be still, immerse yourself in the moment. We do so little of that. If you are not near the forest, you can do this on a tree-lines street, or in park. Just go with intention, listen to whatever sounds are there. Close your eyes and listen to the music of cars, and the breeze that passes over the top of buildings. Find the symphony of sound and sight in a new way. Watch for insects. Even in the most concrete of cities, you can find your oasis, your way to Shinrin-yoku. Some use You-Tube videos.
Finding your way to hit pause is unique to you. But do try to find it- the world needs you to rest your weary soul.
“And now soul-tired, people-weary
wrap yourself in green darkness
and lay you down under pines
as the sun forms lace patterns on the trunk
of a silvery birch nearby
listen only to the catbirds cry
a breeze kissing the tree tops
a distant sound of water over rocks
the air sweet with fern and pine
drift away from all the all
and let the forest sing us all to sleep
like the mother she is
holding the ground firmly in her grasp
shielding us from ourselves
and the earth from all of us”