I just got home from my first Japanese Forest Bath. My local library organized the event and when the weather got cold and it snowed someone backed out and I was moved off the waiting list.
I met a group of 12 or so at Ryerson Woods. It was rather cold but much of the week’s snow had melted and the foliage was gorgeous.
The practice of Forest Bathing, we were told started when suicides spiked in Japan. A forest ranger figured perhaps we could prevent these suicides by taking people into the forest for slow, meditative walks. He found some people who were troubled and in danger of taking their lives and he led them on slow walks in the woods. These groups did not commit suicide at the level of those with out this “treatment.”
What did we do? We met at the beginning of an easy trail and were instructed just to breathe deeply and look around us. After a while we were guided to walk very slowly in the woods and notice movement. The leader would then signal us to gather in a circle and share what we noticed. There’s an option to pass. We continued in this manner walking very slowly and paying attention to sounds or contrasts or something the guide suggested and then gathering to share what we noticed.
I do feel renewed from the experience. It’s purifying. I wish we had less sharing because some people went on and on and got rather scientific, while I’d have preferred people sharing just a word or nothing. I found this an excellent practice and one I’d do on my own or with a group again.