05 September 2018
Holli Richey offered a forest bathing class at the 2017 Herbal Conference, here's some of what she had to share.
FOREST BATHING is a mindful practice of opening the senses to become more aware while walking in the forest. The practice originated in 1982 in Japan where it is called shinrin-‐yoku; however, the practice of Forest Bathing borrows from ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices of being present with nature and mindfulness meditation. Continued scientific research is proving the therapeutic benefits of Forest Bathing through its impact on biomarkers associated with stress—reduction of heartrate, blood pressure, cortisol, sympathetic nervous system activity and blood glucose, and increase in parasympathetic nervous system activity and natural killer immune cells—and even its improvement of individual and social well‐being measures, such as empathy, depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally paying attention without judgment.
Direct your awareness to how you are right now in the moment, noticing your ordinary awareness—how you’re standing, where your mind is, what expectations you might have about this practice, what physical sensations you notice. Bring your attention to your breath, and then escort your attention to your feet touching the ground. Take a moment to center yourself in your awareness of your breath as you stand firmly on the earth.
Take 10 minutes to focus attention of each of the following senses.
Sound—Notice 2-3 sounds and how the sound arises, is sustained, and falls away. Notice if there are judgments of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral about the sound
Touch—Bring your attention to the air touching your body and all the areas of your body making contact with clothing. Select a few trees without vines (be aware of poison ivy), and touch the bark with each of your fingers, all your fingers, with your palm and with the back of your hand to experience variations of touch. You may, if you are in an area free of glass or sharp rocks, remove your shoes and walk slowly feeling the sensations of the ground on your feet.
Sight—While walking slowly in an area free of downed limbs and obtrusive rocks, bring your eyes into a soft gaze, taking in the peripheral vision. Notice lines, light, shadows, darkness, shapes, color hues, movement and stillness.
Smell—While walking in the forest, bring your attention to your sense of smell. Inhale with the awareness of noting the smell, exhale slowly.
Taste—If you know leaves that are safe to smell and taste, respectfully select a leaf to nibble while noticing the flavor in your mouth. If you do not know edible wild plants, then notice how smell can sometimes include the sense of taste.