After four years of hiking, the Limestone Ladies intuitively know the healing power of being in nature. We simply feel better, more alive, and more connected to each other and the natural world around us when we are on the trail.
Recently, “forest bathing” or “shinrin-yoku” as it is known in Japan, has become popular for its health benefits. Among the various healing benefits claimed by shinrin-yoku are: improved energy, sleep and mood, increased attention and focus, lower blood pressure, enhanced immunity, and overall increase in sense of happiness. Who wouldn’t want this?
So, the Limestone Ladies are pleased to present to you: “How to take a Forest Bath.” This is based on our own experiences over the past four years, with photos from today’s glorious hike.
Step One: Find a Path Leading into a Forest. Follow it.
The path should beckon you on… and the destination should not be clear. Life is about moving forward into the unknown. The forest bath is a perfect metaphor for the mystery of life.
As Henry David Thoreau said, ” Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” If your path happens to be the Bruce Trail, you will have friendly white blazes to guide you!
“In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks” John Muir
Step Two: Look around slowly and carefully. Look down and look up. Look into the distance. Do not look at electronic devices.
Identify as many colours as you can. Name them.
Let the colours saturate your eyes, leaving no spot unfilled.
Look for patterns of colour, shape, light and dark. There are patterns throughout all of nature and these patterns are also imprinted within us. The soul thinks in symbols.
Step Three: Fill your gaze with beauty. Imagine the view as a feast for your eyes and a balm for your brain. So often, we think we are looking, but our minds are elsewhere. Bring your mind to the present moment and pay attention to the festival of life in front of you.
Let the beautiful view calm and rejuvenate your frazzled mind. Your soul craves beauty.
Natural environments generate strong emotional reactions because for millenia, close observation of nature was crucial for human survival. We may have forgotten this with our logical minds, but our deep brains still respond to nature.
We are also programmed to respond to light. Here the early morning light shimmers on Colpoy’s Bay at the start of our hike. We were all struck by the beauty of the complex interplay of light & water.
Step Four: Find something powerful and allow yourself to experience awe.
Being humbled by the awe-inspiring power of nature reminds us of our place in the natural order. (Hint: we’re not as powerful as we think)
I’m sure a geologist could give a very scientific and rational explanation for this huge rock and its cleavage planes. I prefer just to look at it and think “Wow!”
Step Five: Listen to the sounds around you. (Earbuds not required!)
Enjoy the scuffling crunch of leaves under your boots.
Pay attention to the many different melodies of the wind. And to the response of the trees, shrubs and grasses as the wind passes over them.
Step Six: Get to know a tree, as closely as you can. Feel free to hug the tree, as long as the tree gives consent!
A happy girl and her tree.
Getting comfortable with a tree!
Different humans are attracted to different trees. You might appreciate twisted gnarly branches while another prefers shaggy bark. It’s much like choosing a romantic partner. (except that trees don’t go on eharmony!)
A double date!
Although we can’t hear them, the trees are constantly communicating with each other through their roots. You could be standing on top of a tree conversation!
Step Seven: Smile!
Forests make you happy!
Step Eight: Take time to pause and reflect on where you are and what you are experiencing.
Remember that we are human beings, not human doings. Stop all the doing and allow yourself to be!
Step Nine: Open your mind and connect with the natural world.
Notice the smells of damp leaves and sun-warmed cedar. Listen to the twitter of little birds or the raucous croak of a crow. See if you can synchronize yourself with “forest time.”
Experience unforgettable moments of well-being Revel in the energy of the forest.
And when you think you are done, wander some more. The forest is has more delights to show you.
Step Ten: Share the experience with a friend, if possible.
The heart naturally opens to friendship when in nature.
Share the joy of being here!
A special moment.
After a day in the woods, we are happy but tired. It’s always sad when a great hike ends, but then we have the pleasure of looking forward to the next one!
Heading to the Cape Croker park and the end of the hike.
We would like to thank the Chippewas of Nawash for generously allowing the trail to pass through their land. We are grateful to them for preserving and sharing the beauty of this area.
As this was our last hike of 2016, we will say good-bye and meet you back in this space next April.
Goodbye until next spring!