Early humans lived outdoors, using Nature to shield them from the dangerous wild—be it bears, a raging thunderstorm, or the scorching sun. Some early people climbed trees and used the branches as their shelter, while others hid inside caves. Until 3100 BC, when ancient people learned to make bricks out of dried mud, people used bones, sticks, and animal hides as their home bases, using Nature to their benefit. They existed in Nature, using it not only for shelter, but for food and play, among all other daily activities.

For the past few months, our world has been sheltered indoors while we battle an invisible enemy. While it hasn’t been easy on many levels, this time has given our natural world a chance to breathe, recover and ultimately, heal. Instead of commuting via bus and train and spending our days behind computer screens, people have been walking, biking and spending time outdoors. Neighbors that haven’t had a conversation in many months have rekindled their friendships, albeit from a 6 foot distance.

As we look back to our pre-Covid-19 routines, we hardly allowed ourselves the time to breathe fresh air during the busy workday. Many times, we would head home after dark, and hurry inside to make dinner and get the kids to bed. And this “inside living” translated to the younger generation, too. On a gorgeous day, kids were often shackled to their video games instead of outside shooting hoops or playing tag. This recent norm has given us a few blessings in perspective. We have more time to enjoy our families and spend time outdoors—playing catch, planting our gardens, or simply walking down the street. In this midst of this worldwide pandemic, our connection to Nature is more vital than ever to maintain.

Back in the 1980s, a national health program began in Japan to revitalize the link between humans and Nature. Shinrin-yoku, translated as “the medicine of being in the forest,” and simply named “forest bathing,” believes that being immersed in nature heightens our intuition, lowers our stress levels, increases our immune system function, and boosts our overall health.

Over an 8-year time span 20 plus years after its inception, Japanese officials studied the effects of Shinrin-yoku. The results were overwhelmingly positive, showing a significant increase in immune system health after just one week of forest bathing. Studies attribute this boost to a natural oil called phytoncide, which trees and plants emit to ward off germs and insects. This natural oil is also found in some fruits and vegetables. Other experiments and studies have brought about similar results, showing that spending time in a living forest lowered stress levels and blood pressure and increased overall well-being and energy.

Forest bathing has expanded beyond Japan, sparking a new trend in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Participants meditate under a canopy of trees and allow Nature to soothe their spirits and wash away their worries. They fully immerse themselves in Nature while disconnecting from the reality of work, life and schedules. But having a leader isn’t essential; you can practice Shinrin-yoku solo or with your own small group, once the quarantine has ended.

For now, be present. Simply walk among the trees. Breathe in the rejuvenating nature of the forest—even if it’s the breeze coming from the trees in your own backyard. Notice the details that you once overlooked, or even took for granted. Practice Oneness by letting go of everything that ties you. Be free in mind, body and spirit. As naturalist John Muir once said, “In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

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Mind, Body, Spirit, Nature
2 Responses to Forest Bathing
  1. This is great advice,

    Yesterday i read about Neidan (internal elixir training) 12 day retreat in Wutang mountain in China. participants practice all day and receive instruction in Wutang arts such as sword or taichi or Qigong. Unfortuanately my responsibilities to my family do not permit me to go with a 6 year old for intensive training. During my daily qigong practice i recall a story where a Taiost child student in training is locked up in a hut and must meditate for hours with no view of the outside world for 30 days. This was difficult training and the child had very difficult time and wished they can go out to play. One time it became unbearable and the child beat on the door asking to be let out but the guardians would not let him out of the hut. Eventually as the training progress after 1 week locked up in the hut meditating the child wondered what his schoolmates at school was doing. Then in his mind he willed to see his friends at school and could clearly see his students in the classroom. He then pictured what his father is doing and a picture of his father also came to his mind where he could see his father at work. The moral is even though one is physically in one place one can transcend this with practice and the world is open to them.

    Therefore yesterday in my qigong standing practice i decide to put myself as if i was training in Wutang mountain temple in the late evening meditating letting myself go. I look for the feeling and relaxed my body. I asked myself what would it be like if at the time i am training in wudang mouuntain meditating rather then just training inside my home in the living room? I looked for that feeling and the qigong stainding that i was doing began to open up my energy levels more and more. It was a great expirience.

    I hope that each of you can also try to picture yourself in a great place of nature in your training whether at the beach or in the mountains or maybe some other great place you have been to while you practice at home.

  2. Trees have a calming and grounding energy. Just sit or stand in the aura of a favorite tree. You’ll experience serenity and tranquility as you drift into a world of natural communication. If you’re patient, the tree may whisper a message to you. Quiet your mind and listen.


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