Excrpt from What the Walrus Knows , 2011
Hello friends! This process won’t help you get the root square of pi but it can definitely offer you hidden and helpful information to some of the most vexing questions of life…such as “How can I feel better?” or “How can I know I am on the right path?
Shinrin-yoku – The Practice of Forest Bathing
The Japanese term shinrin-yoku translates as forest bathing, and is defined as “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It’s a powerful exercise for connecting to nature and Beastie spirits on a deeper level.
Don’t be fooled by the word forest in forest bathing. You can do this practice in any kind of nature. Your backyard. A city park. Beach. Prairie. Marsh. You can do it sitting still in nature or walking through nature at a relaxed pace.
Many scientists are finding evidence that the phytochemicals emitted by plants and trees while we practice activities like forest bathing appear to have healing and enhancing effects on humans. There’s so much happening when we’re out in nature. It’s quite magical and ineffable.
1 – Pick Your Spot
Find a spot in nature that appeals to you and really draws you in. You can prepare for this by remembering and/or observing what kinds of natural places you’re most drawn to – they’re often the most powerful places to be in for connecting. I like to call them “thin places” – places where there’s not much between us and the world of nature and Beastie energies. It just takes a little contemplation to notice what places feel most inviting to you.
The place you intuitively select will be a powerful place simply because you chose it. Maybe there’s a deep forest that invites you. Or you may feel more comfortable in a space that’s open and exposed, like a desert, a prairie, or a mountain plateau. Or it might be a corner of your backyard. I know someone who loves to sit under a tree in his backyard in a specific chair and do this exercise.
It can be fabulous to have a place that feels great that’s nearby. Then you can return to it whenever you like without a big hassle. But whatever feels good to you is the perfect place.
2 – Set an Intention
Set an intention of what you’d like to get out of this shinrin-yoku time. Are you looking for insight about a particular issue? Is there something you’d like to learn about yourself? Would you like to have a visit from a guest beastie to help you with a particular quandary? Or perhaps the intention you want to set is simply to go out and experience joy in nature.
3 – Open All Your Senses
Open all your senses to what’s happening around you. Simply take in all the sensory information you can. Either sit in one place or walk at a very relaxed pace that’s about 50 percent slower than your normal walking pace.
Doing this for 10 to 30 minutes is a great start. If your mind wanders, that’s fine. Just bring it back to what your senses are taking in.
If it’s possible, I suggest going barefoot, as that will really enhance the connection to nature and your sensory experience. When was the last time you walked barefoot in nature? You deserve to have that much fun.
OPEN YOUR EYES
Gaze with soft eyes on what’s around you. This soft gaze is often called wide-angle vision. Don’t focus on anything specific, but open up your vision to extend as far as it can to the right and to the left, up and down, all at once, as far as you easily can. This helps the brain connect to a relaxed state and use its right side, tapping into your intuitive, subconscious self.
What you might see as you do this is evidence of an animal. You may see the path of a deer that’s crushed the grass as it headed off into the woods. You may see scat of an animal. You may see a feather or a spider web draped with dew. Any of those kinds of signs point to the presence of a particular Beastie.
OPEN YOUR EARS
Even though you may never see it, you could hear a woodpecker hammering away on a tree. You may hear squirrels chasing each other in the tree branches above or in the dry leaves below. Perhaps you hear the call of a bird or the buzz of a dragonfly zigging and zagging through the air nearby.
USE YOUR SNIFFER
Encounter this place with your nose. How does it smell? Green and moist, or dry and brittle? Do you smell the natural perfume from blooming trees or fields? What is your nose telling you? Allow your descriptions to be free-form, to come from your right brain. Maybe the air smells yellow or the tree you’re leaning against smells like good memories. Just notice the smells and their associations.
NOTICE YOUR SKIN
What sensations are you experiencing via your skin? Does the air feel moist on your bare legs? Does it feel dry? Can you feel bits of sand blowing against your back? Is there a harsh wind? Or is it a very soft breeze? Or is there no wind at all? Do leaves or grasses tickle you as they brush against your arms? How does the earth feel beneath your feet? Is it soft and squishy or firm and unmoving?
4 – Review Your Experience
Ask yourself what (if any) messages showed up during your forest bathing experience. Were they helpful to you? Was the experience as a whole pleasant? Did anything you experienced suggest a thought or an action to you?
If you came across any Beasties or signs of Beasties while forest bathing, read a bit about them afterwards. If several Beasties showed up, you can pick one that’s most interesting to you and read about it first.
You may be surprised how many Beasties you actually become aware of through your various senses as you practice shinrin-yoku. I sure was the first time I did it.
I invite you to do this exercise as much as possible, to actually make the time for it. The more you do it, the deeper your connection with nature will grow. Keeping a notebook of your shinrin-yoku experiences – with the date, your intention, and even a few simple notes about your reflections about what showed up – can be powerful. It can help you begin to define for yourself the most powerful way to practice this shinrin-yoku exercise, and it can give you evidence of when the process is working to inform and guide your life. The more we connect with nature, the more magical our lives become.