Forest bathing – shinrin-yoku (森林浴)

Forest bathing – shinrin-yoku (森林浴)

Take a forest bath and experience the healing power of nature. It is simple, go to a forested area and wander. Soak in the beauty. Stop and enjoy the moment whenever you see, hear or smell something interesting. Related practices include “walking meditation” and “random scoot.”

In Japan, this practice is called Shinrin-Yoku or forest bathing. Think of it as bathing in the whole experience of the forest. Turn off your cell-phone and refrain from talking, if you go with others.



Audio guide

Today we are talking about Forest Bathing, from the Japanese Shinrin Yoku. This episode deals with the benefits of Shinrin Yoku and then gives you instructions on how to practice it.
Shinrin Yoku is a Japanese term that literally means “forest bathing.” It is a short, leisurely visit to a forest. It is about open and mindful sensory immersion in the midst of a natural environment.
First, let’s look at the benefits of practicing Shinrin Yoku. “The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include: Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells. Reduced blood pressure. Reduced stress. Improved mood. Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD. Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness. Increased energy level. Improved sleep.” (…)
Second, I want to give you some basic instructions on how to do Shinrin Yoku. You may want to begin with some breathing meditation to bring yourself into the present moment. The point is to be where you are.

We want to get into nature and then become fully mindful of it. As Jon Kabat-Zinn has said, mindfulness is cultivated, “by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Then you may want to sit and/or begin walking slowly. Taking it all in. You want to have an open awareness, rather than a focused awareness, like in mindfulness of the breath. You want to take it all in.
Sensory immersion means using all of your senses. Using your sense of sight you want to have an unfocused wide vision. This is a relaxed looking that tries to take it all in. Bathing your eyes in all the beauties of the natural surrounding.
Using your sense of hearing, you want to be aware of the birds chirping, leaves rustling, and the water running. This is an open and receptive auditory immersion in the sounds that usually go unnoticed. You may even want to close your eyes so that you can focus on the different sounds. Try to notice the difference in the song the birds sing.
Using your sense of smell, see how many different scents you can detect. Can you smell the pine trees, the flowers, or even the leaves on the ground.
Using your sense of touch, see if you can feel the wind on your body. You might want to the touch ground with hands. Notice how it feels. You also might want to touch the trees. Notice how they feel.
As you’re walking, you might want to notice your feet touching the ground. Notice how grounding it is. Don’t do a walking meditation, which focuses too much on the inner mind states. You are wanting to reconnect with nature. Keep your focus on being with nature.
As you walk, walk without a destination. The idea is to freely wander, follow any pull you feel. Focus on the environment.
Afterward, I suggest you do a personal debriefing. When you get home, find a comfortable chair and reflect for a moment. Note how you felt while you were doing Shinrin Yoku. And then note any differences in body, mind, and emotions. You may even want to use a journal to help you keep track of your experiences.
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