I recall being asked some time in my early 20s where I found religion. My immediate response was ‘in nature and I call it spirituality’. Nature, the earth, gives me all that I have to be thankful for ~ food, clothes, medicine ~ how could I not view it as some sort of temple or sacred place. The Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku asks that you experience nature with all of your senses and leave the rest of the world behind.
Have you ever felt cooped up in your life with no real way to escape? I know I have. Life, work, children and all your other responsibilities make it impossible for you to see a way out, but maybe what you really need is a way in. We often think that we need to ‘just get away from it all’. Sure a vacation or road trip sounds nice, but that takes planning, money and time. Some time with yourself in nature can be the only prescription you need.
Shinrin Yoku combines mindfulness and nature to help quiet the mind. When was the last time you took a walk without your cell phone, with no time limitations, alone in the woods or, hell, even just in your neighborhood. I find that when I disconnect from it all my thoughts are free to roam where they will and I often have some of the most enriching conversations with myself. Yes, myself!
I start by opening myself to the experience. Don’t just walk the trail head down focusing on not tripping on limbs. Open your eyes. View the world like you’re a six year old. Try to find the place where fairies might live. Now that you’re seeing try to breathe and listen. Can you hear the bark of tree branches chafing in a breeze? Do you smell some distance flower or the sweaty mulch of leaves? Touch things. Is that moss damp? Can you feel the slight fuzziness of the ferns? If you can allow yourself to get into the moment you can have a truly rewarding experience.
Don’t have time to go out alone? No worries. You can still experience nature with new eyes by dragging the kids along. When my family hikes we have a tendency to leave the trail, create rock art, swim in creeks and whatever else may come to mind. Let the kids lead the way. They are pro explorers and know how to have fun even if you don’t remember.
Want the full Shinrin Yoku experience? Here’s a few tools.
- 5 Simple Steps to Practicing Shinrin Yoku
- Introduction to Shinrin Yoku
How do you experience nature?