When I first started the Forest Bathing Club in 2015, I had to explain to people what forest bathing was and why they needed it. Flash forward a few years to today and now forest bathing, the evidence-based Japanese practice of connecting to nature as a way to destress and heal, has become so popular that there are multiple new books on the subject (including mine!) and endless articles. As the practice becomes more popular, I find that more and more people are seeking out opportunities to practice forest bathing and learn more about it. I believe this is because the Earth is calling out to us louder and louder and we are all starting to heed the call. The time to reconnect to nature is now and it starts with forest bathing.
Forest bathing is not a one and done kind of thing. There are days when you have hours to wander through the forest and days when you have just a few sacred moments to walk through a park on your way to work. It’s all good — research has proven people begin to feel psychologically restored after just fifteen minutes of being in a forest or a park.
The key to staying nature-connected is daily ritual. Most of us don’t live in the forest. In the United States, we’ve been more urban than rural since the early twentieth century. By 2050, the population of the world is expected to be 9.8 billion with the population living in urban environments (6.7 billion) double the population living in rural environments (3.1 billion). But not to worry — we can bring the gifts of the forest into our daily lives.
A standard forest bath lasts about two and a half hours and my wish for all of us is that we can spend at least an hour or two outside every day. But sometimes that’s just not realistic. And we can be connected to nature no matter where we are.
Here are five forest bathing rituals that you can add to your morning practice. Try these out for a few weeks and notice what happens:
We get everything from the Earth. What do we give back to her? Yes, we can give our time, presence, and love. The Earth also loves when we give her gifts from our heart. Many cultures have practices of giving offerings to the Earth. You can give anything from corn kernels to tobacco to water collected from a special source. It doesn’t matter what you give. What’s more important is the pure intent behind it. I like to make little bouquets or sculptures or pour some of my tea out for the Earth to drink before I do.
Find a Sit Spot:
Spend fifteen minutes every day sitting in the same spot outside. It doesn’t matter where the spot is. Try to find a place that is you can access easily and will be able to relax. Go beyond observation and embrace the nature around you. Notice what happens after fifteen minutes. And then after fifteen days. Nature might reveal herself more over time.
Connect with the Elements:
Everything in nature (including us) is made up of some manifestation of the four elements – Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire. Bring your awareness to these elements by dancing the feel of each one. Take a sip of tea and notice the elements at play. See the elements in each flower and every bite of food. Consider the elements you are most drawn to at this time and see how you can cultivate them in your life.
Talk to a Tree:
I have a story that I can talk with trees and they give me insights on issues I am facing and help me see with higher perspective. Allow yourself to be called to a tree. Ask the tree if it wants to talk. If the tree says, yes, go ahead and strike up a conversation. If you get a “no,” then thank the tree and find another one. Usually trees are eager to connect but it’s a good practice to ask first. Allow the conversation to go until it reaches a natural conclusion. Thank the tree and say goodbye! You may feel called to share your conversation but if not, keep it to yourself and nurture your personal connection to the forest.
Say a Prayer for the Forest:
Many cultures and traditions have their own way of praying to the forest and all the forest beings. There’s no right or wrong way to say a prayer as long as it comes from your heart. I like to put my head down on the Earth or lie my whole body on the Earth for this prayer. Pray for your life and also the lives of others and the whole forest. The forests and the Earth are in a lot of pain right now and our heartfelt prayers are a powerful first step in healing.
About the Author: As the founder of the Forest Bathing Club, Julia Plevin has more than a decade of experience guiding individuals and groups of people into the forest, where the practice of shinrin-yoku helps calm the mind and create space for wellness and prosperity. Through studies with Shamanic Reiki masters, Shugendo Buddhist monks, Mayan elders, Bhakti yogis, and Renewal rabbis, she has developed a unique program that both respects and transcends tradition and brings us back into direct connection with Source. She recently published her first book, The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World. Julia will be facilitating Forest Bathing workshops and classes at the 2019 Weekend Getaway!