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.