This past month, for the women’s retreat, I led the women of Lovely Lane through a series of various spiritual practices. So many women have told me afterwards how much it meant to them and how much they needed it but didn’t know it. We are spiritual beings, and often times that means tending to our spirituality in disciplines and formation. When I talk to the confirmation students about Spiritual Disciplines, they often conjure up images of reading the Bible or journaling. They’re often surprised when I tell them that my spiritual disciplines involve hiking, being in nature, spending time in silence, and really anything outside. I think this is why some of us struggle in spiritual disciplines because we haven’t found the right ones that work for us. We all have unique spiritualities that need tending to.
I love Forest Bathing as a spiritual practice, and it was one that we explored at the women’s retreat. Forest bathing arose in Japan in the 1980s as the country was going through a huge cultural shift. They experienced high levels of stress, addiction, and pollution. Of course, we all know that those things often contribute to mental illness, high blood pressure, and other illnesses. And the Japanese government, along with public health, began doing research into preventing these harmful events of a changing government. One of those projects was shrin-yoku, or forest and nature bathing.
What images do you think of when you think of sunbathing? You often just lay there, experiencing the sun and its relationship to your body. It’s relaxing. Forest bathing is the same thing. It is relaxing and you experience the physical sensations of being in the forest. Spending time in nature, to linger, and notice is healing for the body. Moving slow allows the body to shift to promote self-healing. We also experience healing from different organic compounds released from trees and other plant life. It’s no wonder we feel a bit better after taking a stroll through the woods.
Now it’s important to know that forest bathing is NOT exercise. You’re not trying to burn calories or get a higher step count. If you’re truly going slow and immersing yourself in nature, you might not even make it ¼ of a mile in an hour. There are multiple forest bathing experiences right here in our city, many led by my friend Emelia Sautter. If you’d like to learn more, head to her website: www.goodmedicine.earth.