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Shinrin-Yoku

Forest Bathing

After the winter we had, I wonder if this spring just seemed spectacular or if it really was an epic blossoming of flowers and trees. I am going to bank on epic. The drama of the early spring flowers has faded and the trees have leafed out dropping their pale linden-green skirts on the pavement. Summer is here. Green. So much green. 

This weekend I took a walk in the woods in West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard. It struck me upon entering the cathedral of trees at Cedar Tree Neck, that the quality of my mind shifted. Smelling the moist earth, the decay of winter leaves…the creak of tall tree trunks rubbing against each other in the breeze. It was like walking through a soporific veil. Everything seemed to slow down as I bathed in the filtered light of the forest. My feet, touching the earth, created a rhythm with my breath. 

Recently, I learned about a Japanese movement called “Shinrin-Yoku” or Forest Bathing. It literally means “taking in the atmosphere of the forest”. Since the 1980s Japan has been researching and promoting the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. While walking through the woods we apparently breathe in wood essential oils or “phytoncides”, antimicrobial organic compounds derived from trees. 

In Japan, there is a growing appreciation for the practice of Forest Bathing. They tout the benefits of boosting one’s immune system and increasing one’s energy flow and ability to focus. Rejuvenation. They also report that one can develop clearer intuition and an increased capability to connect with the land. Currently, in Japan there are now 44 accredited Shinrin Yoku forests. 

Beyond the science of it, perhaps this is something we all know in our core. Being in the forest is relaxing and restorative. This grounding effect can create the calm foundation for inspiration and intuiting authentic momentum. Yet, how often do we actually spend time there? 

Until next time, take a hike. Notice the shift in the quality of your mind and body. What ideas arise walking under a canopy of green? CREATE.