I began writing while working as an acupuncturist in an effort to provide people with more tools for maintaining their own health. I soon realized our modern disconnect from nature was at the root of many of our individual health challenges as well as our society's unhealthy and unsustainable relationship with nature. My desire to help others rediscover their relationship with the more-than-human-world was the catalyst for writing Tao of Sustainability and also lead me to train as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. In the process of writing Tao of Sustainability, I also discovered a love for storytelling and when the book was published, I thirsted for more. I have since turned to fiction in Voice of the Elders (Calumet Editions, 2018), a novel with strong environmental themes that isn't easily categorized. Is it a Daoist sci-fi novel or a metaphysical spy thriller? You'll have to be the judge of that.
My latest work, The Hundred Remedies of the Tao: Spiritual Wisdom for Interesting Times, is a translation and commentary of a 6th Century Daoist text called the Bai Yao Lu, The Statutes of the Hundred Remedies. As I discuss in my commentary, the 'spiritual prescriptions' this text offers are just as applicable to daily life in the the 21st century. The book is published by Inner Traditions, distributed by Simon & Schuster, and is available for preorder now online or from your favorite local bookstore.
I live in Minnesota with my family and three huskies. I'm a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, certified by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. I am also trained as a Natural Mindfulness Guide and am an ordained Daoist Priest in the 22nd generation of the Quanzhen Longmen tradition. In previous lives, I've worked as an acupuncturist in Minnesota, an organic farmer in New Mexico, and a barista in Tennessee, among others things.
Our lived lives and our awakening are not different. The Hundred Remedies of the Tao points us to what that means. Words from the ancestors with comments from a contemporary Taoist priest. Gregory Ripley brings wisdom and insight to this amazing Taoist guidebook for an embodied spiritual life. A wonderful book.
—James Ishmael Ford, author of If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will break, Introduction to Zen Koans, & the forthcoming Intimate Way of Zen.
Forest Therapy | Forest bathing | Shinrin Yoku
What makes a walk in nature a Forest Bathing walk?
(from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy)
First, there is a specific intention to connect with nature in a healing way. This requires mindfully moving through the landscape in ways that cultivate presence, opening all the senses, and actively communicating with the land.
It is not something to rush through. Shinrin-yoku walks are not undertaken with the primary goal of physical exercise. We prefer to avoid the term “hiking” because of its implications of physical exertion. As taught by the Association, Shinrin-Yoku walks are typically a mile or less and range in duration from two to four hours.
Healing interactions require giving generously of our attention. We encourage becoming fully present through an evolving series of invitations given by guides, who have learned to listen deeply to the forest and often co-create these invitations in the moment, working in partnership with the forest and what it offers. Each invitation is crafted to help participants slow down and open our senses, giving the forest access to our emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual being. As we do this, we begin to perceive more deeply the nuances of the constant stream of communications rampant in any natural setting. We learn to let the land and its messages penetrate into our minds and hearts more deeply.
Forest Therapy is best seen as a practice, not a one-time event. Developing a meaningful relationship with nature occurs over time and is deepened by returning again and again throughout the natural cycles of the seasons. Like yoga, meditation, prayer, working out, and many other worthy endeavors, shinrin-yoku is a practice. And because it is a practice, it is best to learn it from a qualified guide.
Forest therapy is about creating relationships between humans and the more-than-human world, in which the relationship itself becomes a field of healing and a source of joyful well-being. Besides being a deeply healing practice, Forest Therapy is also an emerging community of friends and activists who are making a global impact. As we learn to love the forests, this connection leads naturally to an ethic of tenderness and reciprocity, we become more engaged in working for their well-being.