Forest Bathing first caught my eye at the Lodge at Woodloch. It showed up on their list of activities. Forest Bathing grew out of Japan in the 1980’s when a doctor began prescribing spending time in nature to their patients as a way to deal with stress and a variety of stress related issues. Not surprising really when you think about it. I have long noticed that some of the best destinations spas have a strong component of nature incorporated into their resort – beautiful scenery, activities in nature, etc. And even so, on non-spa vacations to the beach, isn’t it just relaxing spending time watching the ocean? I can just stare at beautiful waters all day. That’s really the theory behind Forest Bathing.
I have often found that walking is a moving meditation anyway, and when you are able to do that in a way that connects you with nature, I think the mindfulness, stress management and even inspirational side effects are profound. More so than if you were just walking on a treadmill to nowhere, with nothing but other fitness equipment and TV screens around you.
A friend of mine some months ago, found his way to the park when he needed to clear his head and while walking in the park he came across an idea of a universal moment of time where everyone dedicated to doing something positive for themselves in that moment. The power of that moment multiplied by the energy of simultaneous like minded intentions globally. The idea hasn’t caught on… yet, but you heard it hear first. But it speaks to the inspiration that can come from some moving meditation connected back to nature.
Similarly back in the fall, I was stressed out with multiple projects and demands (yes, even those of us devoted to spa-living can get stressed and overwhelmed at times). As I progressed on my walk through the park, I started to shift my focus – the thought actually occurred to me that what if instead of being so focused on everything that was hitting me, what if I looked back later on this time in my life and realized it was a powerful time when a lot of things started to happen, and I would look back on this time thinking it all happened at this time. I don’t think that same inspiration would have come while walking at the gym.
Don’t get me wrong, from a physical perspective, exercise is good anyway and anywhere you can get it. And a lot of people do feel more clear-headed after they have worked out in a gym. What I am saying though, is that nature is fundamentally connected to the same source of all things that we are. And back thousands of years ago, we spent most of our timing living in touch with nature. Even a hundred or so years ago, we made a lot of our living off the land, farming and such. So there is just something special about being connected back to nature and Forest Bathing reminds us of that.
Forest Bathing is a great spa activity you can do without a spa. You don’t even need a forest, any natural setting will do. Forest Bathing is about slowing down. Its more about time, than distance, and no major power walks. The point is to spend time in nature, and notice your surroundings. In essence practicing mindfulness while surrounded by nature. This may involve intermittent periods of walking and sitting on a bench or the ground.
It is about noticing what you can — the leaves on a tree, the birds, the clouds. Notice what you smell: the fresh air, pine? or fresh water, or salt water and sea air? Closer yet, can you examine something, noticing a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, or a watch a branch float downstream or the waves crashing. Give it your full attention, and consider the object. What does it mean to you. What comes to mind for you? What do you observe about your relationship with nature.
Of course, it goes without saying that disconnecting from technology for the duration of your session is best. You can see my thoughts on disconnecting from technology in general, as well as specifically while out walking in a prior blog.
Little did I know I was practicing Forest-Bathing for years overtime I went to he beach! Forest bathing is something that you can do any time you have access to nature for a little DIY spa experience. And you can check it out at a few destination spas, such as the Lodge at Woodloch and L’auberge de Sedona.
Share your experience with Forest Bathing in the comments.