At some point in our lives, each of us has experienced the serenity, beauty, and one-with-the-world feeling that results from quality time spent immersed in nature, alone, or with others. With the double blessing of fine weather and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, I know I’m not alone in thinking that there really is nothing quite like packing a bag and heading out into nature for an adventure and a reprieve from modern day life.
Enveloping ourselves in nature is good for the soul. In stepping away from our seemingly relentless schedules, from traffic noise, and all the artificial attachments of modern day living, we give ourselves an opportunity to become part of the natural landscape. When we step into nature, we allow ourselves to become calm, to reflect, and to appreciate not only our authentic self, but others too. The Japanese call it ‘shinrin-yoku’, roughly translated as ‘forest bathing’, a term I adore.
By letting nature lead, and consciously stepping away from technology, we learn to care and cultivate both compassion and curiosity for the physical world around us. We find space to develop and strengthen relationships with family and friends, and a psychologically safe haven away from the man-made pressures of society. In nature, we learn to practice perspective, observe and appreciate ecological wonders, and benefit from sharing those feelings of connectedness and joy with others. These moments away from technology remind us of the inherent worth of remaining connected to nature and the lessons it can offer.
And while it may be tempting to head for the shops to see ‘what’s doing’ with everybody else, we should also take time to give thanks that we have so many options surrounding us to visit places of incredible natural beauty, to disconnect from city life, and re-connect with nature. I think it’s time now, to let nature lead.
Five simple steps to practising shinrin-yoku (forest bathing)
Step 1 – leave behind your phone, camera or any other distractions, so that you can be fully present in the experience.
Step 2 – Leave behind your goals and expectations. Wander aimlessly, allowing your body to take you wherever it wants.
Step 3 – Pause from time to time, to look more closely at a leaf or notice the sensation of the path beneath your feet.
Step 4 – Find a comfy spot to take a seat and listen to the sounds around you. See how the behaviour of the birds and other animals’ changes when they become used to your presence.
Step 5 – If you go with others, make an agreement to resist talking until the end of the walk, when you could gather to share your experiences.
Ms Ellena Papas
Executive Director (Operations)