Interested in trying a bit of forest bathing? Join me for a slow-and-easy excursion in beautiful McCormick’s Creek State Park this Saturday, October 13. We’ll meet at 3pm in the Orange Flower Healing parking lot, so that we can carpool and save on the park entry fee. (You are welcome to drive alone and meet us there, if you prefer). We’ll explore the Wolf Cave Trail (#5).
I recently read Dr. Qing Li’s 2018 book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. Dr. Li is the Chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, and his book is an easy read, straightforward and practical. The first chapter describes the benefits of spending time in the forest: decreased stress levels, a sense of calm, increased vitality, and a strong feeling of connection with the natural world. He cites studies that show some measurable health benefits gained from forest bathing, including improved blood pressure, boosted immune system response, and mood enhancement.
The book offers guidance on how to practice shinrin-yoku and suggests methods for bringing “the forest” into our living and work spaces, with indoor plants and essential oils. The author then encourages readers to join the effort to preserve our forests, which cover just over 30% of the Earth’s land. Most Americans experience forests as a place for recreation, but the reality is that the livelihoods and food security of around 250 million rural poor depend on vibrant forests and trees, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
Li offers facts and figures, but is also careful to convey the aesthetic power of forests. He offers lines of poetry from Bashō, and provides an outline for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. He also mentions a study, Fertile Green: Green Facilitates Creative Performance, that demonstrated how just a brief glimpse of the color green can influence performance on creative tasks.
The color green is a balm to the human eye, and nature’s age-old method of indicating that water, and possibly food, are nearby. Green is the color of nourishment, potentiality, and growth–and can help set the stage for healing.
The practice of shinrin-yoku aligns perfectly with Reiki practice; some of my favorite Reiki sessions have been in large urban parks, practicing among the trees. And that was before I even knew about shinrin-yoku! I’ve often gone to the woods searching for refuge and comfort, but Li’s book encourages me to think of nature as prescription: Big Tree Medicine.
Take 2 hours in the forest, and call me in the morning.