The art of forest therapy (based on shinrin-yoku)

Due to the long pause in my blog writing, there is much to catch up on! I hope to do so in the coming posts.

For now, I’ll focus on a recent adventure Scott and I embarked on: we traveled to Costa Rica for a week-long intensive training in forest therapy with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides & Programs. Since our return to the Midwestern US, we have begun our 6-month long practicum in order to become certified forest therapy guides (also known as forest bathing, based on the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku).

ANFT picWhat is forest therapy, forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku?

In a word? Beautiful.

It is also difficult to describe in words. Essentially, it is an immersive, guided practice in which we enhance our relationship with nature. The practice involves slowing down and listening to ourselves as we relate to and with nature, bringing gentle awareness to our relationship(s) with any or all aspects of the environment surrounding us. The physical and mental health impacts from this gentle practice are astounding… I hope to soon dedicate a future blog post to those impacts alone. Sunset at ANFT .jpegFor now, perhaps I can simply invite you… where ever you are as you read this… to notice the air around you as it touches your body with your inhale and departs, warmed, with your exhale… and to imagine that the air you meet longs for you just as your body longs for the air… and both you and the air are influenced by one another.

(pictured below is a forest therapy/forest bathing tea ceremony from our training in Costa Rica)

Tea ceremony ANFT.jpeg

While I love the rigor of backpacking and other higher-intensity adventures in the outdoors, I also deeply appreciate the gentle simplicity of cultivating conscious being. Though the forest therapy training was intensive, each day we practiced simply engaging in the practice of forest therapy ourselves for several hours. It was those moments, beyond any didactic content I learned, that held the most transformative impact.

While we were away in Costa Rica, we also learned of the passing of Mary Oliver, a beloved poet and native Ohioan. So, I will end with pictures taken during adventures in our Midwestern landscape and the words of Mary Oliver, whose poetry has been such an exquisite gift in my life and in the lives of so many others…

(most of the pics below were taken at Hoosier National Forest and Lake Monroe in Indiana in early November of 2018. The last 2 pics in this cluster were taken this February at Dawes Arboretum in Ohio, one of the places we will begin to offer forest therapy in our community).

“Everything That Was Broken”

Everything that was broken has

forgotten its brokenness. I live 

now in a sky-house, through every

window the sun. Also your presence. 

Our touching, our stories. Earthy

and holy both. How can this be, but

it is. Every day has something in

it whose name is Forever.

(from Mary Oliver’s book Felicity, (2015), p. 61). Indiana national forest monroe lake

(picture above was taken one early November morning in 2018 at Lake Monroe, Hoosier National Forest).

Namaste.

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