With everything so chaotic around us, even when we are calm within, we sometimes need a little help in re-aligning with ourselves and the Earth. The best way of surviving the challenges of this changing time is to harmonize with Nature – it does the inner work for us. It brings peace to our busy minds and hearts and helps us just breathe.
We human beings have the great ability to automatically change our vibration to match the most fixed vibration near us. While that doesn’t make us feel better when we’re standing next to a person stuck in hate and fear, it means we can be healed or uplifted by those near us who are positive and hopeful. Or we can be that positive and hopeful person to help influence others. We do this by matching our personal energy with the vibration of beings of peace and harmony (not all of them human, not all of them physical).
To that idea, have you heard about shinrin-yoku? In Japanese, it means “immersing in the forest atmosphere”. It is also called forest bathing. The following is an excerpt from an article presented and published by Amy Chillag for CNN on August 11, 2017.
How often do you get outside into Nature, to smell the fresh air, walk among trees or kick up some dirt? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is: almost never. In the US, we spend a depressing 93 percent of each week indoors. And according to the evidence of an EPA survey, it’s hurting our health.
Enter shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Since the 1980s, the Japanese have managed forests to help citizens relax and reduce stress — and scientists have measured the results.
“Studies have shown that within fifteen minutes of being in Nature, your stress level goes down, your heart rate, blood pressure improves,” said Dr. Nooshin Razani, a pediatrician and Nature researcher with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. “If you’re in Nature longer, you can feel less depressed, less anxious. And if you’re in Nature for a few days, you have much increased creativity and cognitive ability.”
And there’s another big payoff, Razani said. “Over the course of a lifetime,” she said, “being in Nature can lead to less heart disease, as well as improvements in how long people can live.”
Being in the forest offers “a remembering for our whole being that we are Nature and we’re not separate from it,” said Julia Plevin, founder of the Forest Bathing Club in San Francisco. Plevin started the club in 2014 after suffering from anxiety during graduate school in New York. As part of her design school thesis, she studied the effects of being disconnected from Nature. She wanted to design walks to help people unplug from smartphones and reconnect with their own “Nature.” When Plevin took her own advice and headed outside, her mental and physical health improved.
On a recent walk through San Francisco’s Mount Sutro Forest, an oasis in the middle of the city, Plevin took more than a dozen Nature lovers on a two-hour winding walk through towering eucalyptus trees planted more than a century ago. The thing about forest bathing is it’s not a hike. You don’t wear a Fitbit or chart your progress on your phone.
“The practice of forest bathing is about non-efforting,” Plevin said. “So we don’t have a destination. It’s all about moving slow — a lot slower than you expect. It’s about engaging your senses, so when all of your five senses are engaged, you are by definition present, not lost in (your) head.”
Plevin asked her fellow bathers to turn off their phones and put them away. “We formed a circle at the head of the trail, and — as in a yoga class –” Plevin asked them to calm their minds, become more present, and deeply inhale and exhale. Then reach toward the sky where 100-foot-tall trees stretched dramatically overhead.
For the first 15 minutes, Plevin had our group walk in complete silence. “Pretend that you’ve just landed on planet Earth, and you’ve never seen any of this before,” she told us. “So, what’s that smell like? What’s that feel like?”
Throughout the walk, Plevin stopped at “activation points,” where she invited our crew to smell — and even taste — the flowers. “What do you think, peppery?” she asked. With assurances this had been done before without anyone keeling over, I tasted a petal. It was that brilliant orange flower, and yes, it was peppery like an orange bell pepper with a kick.
Later, Plevin asked the group to pick up a leaf and to think of something that makes us feel anxious or stressed — and then to literally let the leaf go. “So often, we’re not even totally aware of those things that are, you know, running in the background of our lives,” she said. Later, our guide asked the group to stop and touch the bark of the trees — and even to silently ask the tree a question to see what thoughts it might spark.
Human beings are ‘new’ to life indoors. Throughout history, humans and our ancestors spent every second outdoors in the natural environment. It’s only with urbanization over the past couple of centuries that human environments changed drastically. And that means we need to make an effort to get outdoors.
“Really, what we should be talking about is: How are we doing without Nature in our lives every day?” said Dr. Razani.
In what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind partnership, Razani brought the East Bay Regional Park District together with her employer, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, to form a “park prescription and Nature shuttle” program. She and her staff ferry patients into the parks.
“The impact on patients has been phenomenal,” she said. “Many children spend 23 out of 24 hours inside. I don’t think there’s any animal that we do that to, even in captivity. I mean, it’s not OK. The rise of indoor living has paralleled the rise of sedentary living, which has also paralleled the rise in chronic illness. So, one out of three Americans has a chronic illness. The rates of obesity and depression and anxiety are way higher in children, in particular, than they should be. The reason why chronic illness is so heartbreaking for the medical profession, and actually for parents, is because it’s completely preventable.”
In 2016, Razani founded the Center for Nature and Health, which conducts research and offers medical care “in Nature.” Besides physical improvements, patients report emotional benefits, including feeling less anger, aggression and stress — and more happiness.
“Just get outside a little every day,” Dr. Razani recommends. “Or spend at least one hour outside three times a week. Get at least a small “daily dose” of Nature, even just 10 or 15 minutes spent absorbing the green. And it doesn’t have to be in a forest. When you step out of doors, put away your electronics and look up and find what’s alive, whether it’s the sky or ants on the ground or your child. Just take some time to be with things that are living.”
To find a forest bathing club in your city, go to shinrin-yoku.org.
I offer this with love and gratitude…