Saturday, April 23, 2016

shinrin-yoku: Forest Bathing

In Style February 2016
Stressed out? Take a walk in the woods. Japanese studies 'show that the treatment (walking in the woods) can reduce levels of cortisol, our stress hormone.'

Apparently, 'forest bathing' is a thing at select spas. Spa-ers are taken into the forest surrounding the compound for a guided stroll. At some point, the guide gives them various instructions to shut eyes, breathe, and focus on the environs. With the instruction to 'call the senses,' visitors are rewarded with calm and serenity.

Well, I could have told them that, right?!

Not far from where my mother lives is a forest. In it is a bicycle path. One of my favorite activities in the summer is to ride through the forest with my niece, who visits along with the rest of her family, every year. She always insists that we pack drinks, sometimes snacks, and we wheel off into the quiet of the wood. My young niece is a thoughtful one, so the ride is not a sprint. We stop on the bridges and watch the float of leaf to creek and the ensuing ripples that the tiny thing makes on still water. At several points of the ride, we come across tended prairie. Now, it is mowed down, as I rode along the path this week. But in July, it's hip high and full of grass, weed, and wild flowers. We always stop to listen to the prairie. We talk about the what ifs and size of the universe and pluck a few flowers to bring back to grandma.

The forest this week is still waking up from winter. The trees are just budding and straining to show green. Very few of what will be the abundance is evident, but it is readying itself. As I rolled by, a duck waded quietly in a pool of rain water enjoying the quiet of the calm before summer's storm. I did not pause, nor stop for drink ... I just rolled through. But the effect wasn't lost on me. I missed my riding partner and was sad for it, but anything else was but a blur but for the peace and tranquility that drops slowly there (thanks Yeats for that).

Shinrin-yoku for sure.

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