What comes to mind when you hear the term forest bathing? Do you envision a more literal or metaphorical interpretation? This concept is described as Shinrin-yoku in Japan, which when translated means stimulation for the senses. It is also known as nature therapy or ecotherapy. Although it may be difficult to fully understand the concept, try to think of it as a rejuvenation for your wellbeing. Every single person on the planet can benefit from experiencing it regularly.
Little by little we are encouraged to lay aside the chaos of a troubled world and gently nurture the capacity within to hear a more harmonious, universal rhythm.Hoichi Kurisu
Forest bathing is a fairly simple process with some mindful participation on your part. First, find a location with plenty of trees — the larger the better. Some people are fortunate enough to have access to forested areas via their own backyard, while others may need to travel to a nearby park. I recommend walking or riding a bike if possible. Ideally, you should silence your phone along with any additional noise to eliminate distractions. Forest bathing provides a way to disconnect while immersing yourself in nature.
The distinct difference between going on a hike and forest bathing is that you are not walking toward a specific destination or viewpoint. You are simply there to reflect and enjoy the journey of the present moment. Allow your senses to awaken. The journey is the destination.
This is something that I have been doing my entire life without even realizing what it was. I spent hours exploring the forest around my house without any specific goal or destination when I was a child. Many of us are drawn to the outdoors for the same reasons as adults. We seek to escape from our busy schedules and enjoy the beautiful simplicity amid the presence of nature. It helps us to put our lives in perspective and appreciate what truly matters. Forest bathing is at its core the most natural, therapeutic way to relieve stress while promoting wellbeing and happiness.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to enjoy forest bathing on my birthday at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Designer Hoichi Kurisu created the overall layout. He was heavily inspired by the profound gardens of Japan.
The six sweeping gardens beyond the museum were given the name Roji-en, meaning Garden of the Drops of Dew. Each one is beautifully unique and awe-inspiring while seamlessly transitioning into the next. A sense of fulfillment and wellbeing washes over you. Calmness and clarity arise while enjoying every moment within the journey.
It can be difficult not to feel slightly agoraphobic when venturing out into a post-pandemic world filled with uncertainty. However, it was comforting to know that the staff at Morikami were very professional. They had taken every precaution to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit for their guests. The path through the gardens was one-way and counter-clockwise to ensure minimal contact with others. I rarely encountered other visitors, but when I did, they were always kind and respectful of personal space.
Roji-en provides a sense of calm, peacefulness, and tranquility that I have rarely experienced anywhere else. One of my favorite areas of the entire garden was within the bamboo grove. Looking up, I could see the light streaming down from above in contrast to the cool shade below. I felt the gentle breeze blowing as the music of the swaying bamboo gently swelled and filled the air.
Within that moment, all of the worries and troubles of the world had washed away, and I was completely at peace. You could feel the Ki-Sei or uplifting energy. It left me beaming with happiness. I had even momentarily forgotten it was my birthday. The celebration of forest bathing in itself is something special to behold — fully immersed in the surroundings.
It was such a blessing and an honor to spend the day walking within this inspirational masterpiece. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to explore these idyllic gardens. If you are feeling in need of serenity, I highly recommend giving it a try. Forest bathing can be a powerful, transformative experience that helps you to discover a renewed state of mind and clarity within yourself.