Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese practice of bathing your senses, or immersing yourself, in the forest; it’s a process of slowing down to pay attention to nature. Research shows that forest bathing reduces anxiety, strengthens your immune system, and helps you sleep better. And it will also help you to develop a stronger connection with nature.
I am ambivalent about driving out to a forest to connect with nature – my preference is to find a wooded place I can walk or bike to. We have trees all over our town! And I believe forest bathing can be done anywhere, even in your own backyard.
- Find a quiet spot outdoors, and leave your devices behind.
- Slow down. Forest bathing is not hiking; instead, sit quietly, or take a slow walk. Be aware of the beginning, the middle and the end of your stepping, and walk as silently as possible.
- Pay attention to any areas of stiffness or pain in your body and consciously relax them. Become aware of your present mental and emotional states.
- Use all five senses to connect with nature. Get up close to the plants, trees, and dirt and begin to notice the details around you – the bark on the trees, the color of the sky, how the air feels on your face, the noises you hear and those you don’t.
The similarity of forest bathing to Meeting for Worship is clear.
In A Talk by Shelley Tanenbaum (recent Quaker Earthcare Witness General Secretary), Shelley says,
…there is a presence in nature that is the same presence we connect within a gathered Meeting. In fact, to me sensing that spiritual presence in nature comes easier than finding it during worship – although I have experienced spirit in both settings. This is not nature worship, but rather, it is worship within nature. To me, a forest is like a cathedral or a traditional Meetinghouse, only better. I can use the space to feel centered, knowing with all my senses that the world includes all of nature, not just the manmade parts.
Our Friend Becky S. says,
For me forest bathing is also about re-membering myself in unity with nature – that I am part of the Community of creation. This remembering engenders Peace and Simplicity which in turn contributes to my Integrity and wholeness.
Our Friend Mary Ann P. says, in her post about Green Island:
Sometimes I think we ask too much of nature. We go forest bathing and swimming in it; walking and running through it; drinking, huffing, and gobbling it down, all the time. It gives all that we need. How do we give back?