A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku, M. Amos Clifford
The Forest Unseen, David Haskell
The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben
Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
What The Robin Knows, Jon Young
The Last Child in The Woods, Richard Louv
The Nature Principle, Richard Louv
The Healing Woods, Martha Reben
The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis, Brendan Kelly
Becoming Nature, Tamarack Song
The True Power of Water, Masaru Emoto
Adirondack Riverwalking Quarterly Newsletter
Fall 2017 - Nature’s wellbeing and our own are intimately tied together.
Our Riverwalking season has come to an end and we thank everyone who made this summer a great season!
This fall is the perfect time to experience our second eco-trip, the wellness practice of Forest Bathing. Don't be put off by the name, which is the literal translation from the Japanese Shinrin-Yoku, the original practice that inspired Forest Bathing in the USA. There are no bathtubs in the woods, no bars of soap and no swimsuits involved. Forest Bathing is a sensory immersion - ergo "bathing" - in the woods. While interpretive walks and hiking are important to our well being, Forest Bathing has a different focus: to open all our senses to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of nature through a series of brief ever-changing sensory activities. This allows us to slow down and to become more aware of the natural world around us. Rekindling our natural sense of curiosity and wonder, we notice so much more. Our senses are the portal through which we experience a deeper relationship with nature, how we are interconnected in a myriad of ways. We walk on gentle terrain, we cover little ground, often no more than half a mile in two and a half hours. To open our senses we must slow down. Modern science and technology have allowed us to learn so much about the way species in nature live together. Other life forms around us have sentience or innate intelligence, even wisdom. For instance, we now know that trees communicate with each other through the chemicals they secrete when they are being attacked, which are carried by the wind to other trees of their species so they can protect themselves. Cultures across time have recognized that nature has a lot to teach us.
Forest Bathing is not a traditional meditation or mindfulness practice, yet opening our senses anchors us in our body, which in turn brings our mind to focus in the present, our physical sensations and the natural world around us. Our thoughts slow down, our worries float away, for a while at least, and our stress level drops. It is more accessible for many people than traditional seated meditation practices, because we are moving, progressively more slowly, yet we are still moving and we are involving our senses rather than trying to turn them off or ignore them.
We tend to live in our minds more than our bodies in our culture, yet we know now that our intelligence is not solely based in our brains. We have learned that in our gut and in our heart particularly are neurons that communicate with our brains, providing important feedback loops for our health and wellbeing. Most of our modern illnesses are lifestyle diseases, where chronic stress over time is the major contributing or aggravating factor. Opening our senses to nature is also opening our senses to the cues our body offers us, to our own innate wisdom, so we can nurture our wellbeing.
While Suzanne and I combined have been teaching yoga for over 20 years, the unique nature of the practice of Forest Bathing was a surprise. We already had developed a lot more mindfulness, we lived in our bodies more than many, we knew how to clear the clutter in our minds with meditation...and yet we were delighted and awed at how this sensory practice could deepen both our relationship with our "self" and with nature. A Forest Therapy Guide is essential to this experience because slowing down is challenging. Opening our senses is a lost skill. A Forest Therapy Guide leads a systematic process of sensory opening. We hope to see you on a walk this fall,