Calm Nature – Finding Peace In Difficult Times

Nature Calm

Calm in Nature offers you simple ways to still your mind and recenter your spirit, so that you may deal better with the challenges of life. It’s because finding peace in difficult times is never easy. In this article we will learn from wise masters, established teachers and some poetic seekers. You will find a collection of exceptional meditations that take inspiration from Nature. The cloud, tree, forest, river, ocean, desert, and mountain can all show you the path of finding your calm in nature.

7 Ways to find calm in nature

The very nature of life is to move through cycles of ups and downs. No matter how much we try to predict or control our paths, we are bound to encounter the unexpected. 

With the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus, people across the world are going through testing times. There is uncertainty, anxiety, suffering and loss. Amidst all this, there is also a big need for hope and resilience. Each one of us has to navigate our own journey through this storm. What we can do, is take nature’s help in finding our inner strength and peace. We can grow an awareness that this phase will not last forever. The rainbow at the end of the storm is waiting for us. 

Mountain Calm

The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
Until only the mountain remains.
~Li Po
pic by: Daniel Leone

The following excerpt has been taken from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mountain Meditation.

Allow the body to be still and sit with a sense of dignity, a sense of resolve, a sense of being complete, whole, in this very moment, with your posture reflecting this sense of wholeness. 

As you sit here, let an image form in your mind’s eye, of the most magnificent or beautiful mountain you know or have seen or can imagine…, let it gradually come into greater focus… and even if it doesn’t come as a visual image, allowing the sense of this mountain and feeling its overall shape, its lofty peak or peaks high in the sky, the large base rooted in the bedrock of the earth’s crust, it’s steep or gently sloping sides… 

Notice how massive it is, how solid, how unmoving, how beautiful, whether from a far or up close…

By becoming the mountain in our meditation practice, we can link up with its strength and stability and adopt them for our own. We can use its energies to support our energy to encounter each moment with mindfulness and equanimity and clarity.

It may help us to see that our thoughts and feelings, our preoccupations, our emotional storms and crises, even the things that happen to us are very much like the weather on the mountain. We tend to take it all personally, but its strongest characteristic is impersonal. 

The weather of our own lives is not be ignored or denied, it is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in awareness… And in holding it in this way, we come to know a deeper silence and stillness and wisdom. 

Mountains have this to teach us and much more if we can let it in.

Cloud Meditation

The freedom of an ever moving, ever changing cloud represents the freedom of spirit. One that is not fixed or attached to things that hold us down. Watch this meditative short film from the ‘Valley of Clouds’ and reflect on the cloud within you.

Forest Calm

One way of interpreting the word ‘Forest’ is to see it as a place ‘for rest‘. In this beautiful poem ‘Sleeping in the Forest’ by Mary Oliver, we find respite from a weary world and return to a place of deep calm.

I thought the earth remembered me,
She took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, as they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
~ Mary Oliver

pic by: Katriina Kilpi

Tree Song

Listening to the song of trees is one of the most calming sounds in nature. The wind in the leaves and birds in the branches can slow down the movement of time and fill your heart with joy.

You can create your own tree song at this link.
https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/primevalEuropeanForestSoundscapeGenerator.php

This soundscape has been recorded in the Bieszczady National Park — one of the few remaining primeval forests in Europe. Bieszczady is located at the extreme south-east corner of Poland, bordering Slovakia and Ukraine. The park and its surroundings are part of the wider UNESCO East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, an area of land where the woods are mostly natural.

The bird sounds as well as the other animal sounds were recorded by hiding recorders in the forest and leaving them running for 24-hours continuously, without any human presence.

pic by: Gert Boers

River Story

Fable: Two giants were about to get into an epic battle. Everyone was nervous and yet there was a thrill in the air. One of the giants was immovable and had stood his ground for centuries. He was made of solid rock and no one had been able to make him move from his place. The other giant was crafty and nimble. She could twist and turn and had never been still. No one had been able to stop her yet. 

In a frozen moment of great tension the two giants collided. There was a loud roar that echoed into space. The river pounded with all its force, but the mountain stood his ground. The river’s current was strong, but it had to find ways to flow around and carry on. After watching with great interest the spectators decided that the rock giant was stronger and went to congratulate it. But the mountain was surprised and retorted angrily ‘Can’t you see I am losing?’ 

In a battle that rages till this day, the River Colorado manages to cut through the Grand Canyon forming one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world.

Insight: Perseverance can move mountains. The way of water is stronger than the way of the rock.

Amazing fact: The Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration

I would love to live
like a river flows,
carried by the surprise
of its own unfolding.

~John O’Donohue
pic by: Ivan Bandura

Ocean Poem

The vastness of the ocean is often daunting, for one is always cautious of the unknown. In this wonderful poem by Khalil Gibran we find a metaphor of the river and ocean for overcoming our fears.

It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.
~ by Khalil Gibran

pic by: John Fowler

Desert Meditation

Many people perceive the desert as a harsh and difficult place to live in. But ecologists know that deserts have their own unique ecosystem and many species live and thrive in the desert.

Philosophically speaking, the desert represents emptiness. To meditate on the desert is to meditate on emptiness. It is to go beyond the clutter of thoughts and emotions and to find the vast open space within us.

In following passage from Jack Kornfield’s book ‘A Path With Heart’, he introduces us to the Buddhist concept of healing through emptiness.

“The last aspect of mindful healing is awareness of the universal laws that govern life. Central to it is an understanding of emptiness. We experience it when we see that our existence is transitory, that our body, heart, and mind arise out of the changing web of life, where nothing is disconnected or separate.

The deepest experiences in meditation lead us to an intimate awareness of life’s essential openness and emptiness, of its ever-changing nature, of its nature as an unstoppable process. And it can open us to the great mystery of life, to the discovery of the emptiness and wholeness that we are and our fundamental unity with all things.”

GIFT OF CALM IN NATURE

There are many scientific reasons for the calming effect of nature on our minds. Some of the major benefits include a boost in your physical immunity and well-being. Better mental health and protection from the ill-effects of stress, anxiety, depression. Improvement in sleep, focus, memory and cognitive skills. But the most important phenomenon of connecting with nature is a growth in our understanding of the laws of nature that weave through all creation.

By finding our own calm in nature, we are able to bring this tranquility to our day-to-day chores and influence the nature of other people in our lives.

The coronavirus has shown us that the fate of our species is linked with each other, irrespective of borders and religion. It is time to grow our humanity, come together as a species and lend our support to those in need because we are all connected. There are no others.  

As the world enters a lockdown and our forays into nature become limited, we can still find solace and connection with nature through creative works, meditations and most importantly through each other.

Please add any other inspiring creative works that lead to calm in nature, in the comments section below. We will share it with our large audience base on Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, do check out our Nature Calm course with over 100+ mindful nature activities and meditations from around the world. To get a monthly newsletter with new ideas please sign up at this link

May the calm of nature always be with you.

Forest Bathing – What, How, Where? A beginner’s guide

The state of our mind, designs the state of our life. In this post we look at the Japanese practice of Forest Bathing – a simple way to relax your mind, revitalise your body, and rediscover your Self. The article answers important questions about Forest Bathing, it’s principles and it’s practice. Fascinating insights from Japan as a society show us why forest bathing has become specially relevant in today’s turbulent times and how we can benefit from it.

*This article is part of our Forest Bathing learning program with beautiful ideas from forests around the world.

WHAT IS FOREST BATHING?

Forest bathing is the practice of immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way, using your senses to derive a whole range of benefits for your physical, mental, emotional and social health. It is also known as Shinrin-yoku. ‘Shinrin’ means forest and ‘Yoku’ stands for bathing. The idea took birth in Japan in the 1980’s and proved to be a very effective tool to overcome the ill effects of a hectic life and stressful work environment.

Forest bathing in nature allows the stressed portions of your brain to relax. Positive hormones are released in the body. You feel less sad, angry and anxious. It helps to avoid stress and burnout, and aids in fighting depression and anxiety. A forest bath is known to boost immunity and leads to lesser days of illness as well as faster recovery from injury or surgery. Nature has a positive effect on our mind as well as body. It improves heart and lung health, and is known to increases focus, concentration and memory.

Certain trees like conifers also emit oils and compounds to safeguard themselves from microbes and pathogens. These molecules known as Phytoncides are good for our immunity too. Breathing in the forest air boosts the level of natural killer (NK) cells in our blood. NK cells are used in our body to fight infections, cancers and tumors. So spending time with these tree is a special form of tree bathing.

An intangible outcome of forest bathing is enhancement of emotional intelligence and self confidence which leads to improved relationships and better social health. Something that we know intuitively is now getting scientific proof and validation through research.

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FOREST BATHING IN JAPAN

Japan, the island nation in the far east has a unique culture that has withstood the test of time. It is also a country that has been at the forefront of technological adoption and advancement and is counted among the most developed nations of the world. And yet this progress and development is not bereft of challenges.

Japan is known for one of the most demanding work environments in the world. In fact they have even coined a specific term for death by overwork (Karoshi). The performance pressure from jobs is so high, that there’s very little time left for a personal life. An interesting consequence of this culture is the fact that the marriage rates in Japan have fallen drastically in the last 30 years.

The urban cities of Japan have a hyper digital culture and a peculiar obsession with technology. In the age of internet many Japanese people are spending more time online and having fewer social interactions. It is leading to higher incidents of anxiety and stress. Depression and loneliness are also on the rise.

The country also lies on a seismic fault line, being prone to devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, such that the Japanese have had to face a disproportionate amount of trauma. In Japan, neuropsychiatric disorders are estimated to contribute to 24.6% of the overall burden of disease (WHO, 2008)

Fortunately, over 70% of Japan is still covered in forests. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries came up with the idea of shinrin yoku in the early eighties. Shinrin yoku stands for a forest bath, or enjoying the forest atmosphere in order to relax. Due to the relentless Japanese working culture, the stress levels of Japanese employees was running rampant already then and the forestry department saw a wonderful possibility that would benefit the stress levels of people and increase demand for forest cover needed by the forestry department. And so shinrin yoku / forest bathing was born.The Japanese, who were under the stress of competitive metropolitan life, were lured into the healing atmosphere of the forests to engage in different relaxing activities (Huusko, 2019).

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JAPANESE FOREST BATHING – FOREST ZEN

There is something to be said about the central role that Zen Buddhism plays in Japan. Zen Buddhism encourages the practitioner to learn to gather one’s scattered mind and stabilise one’s attention so that it can be easier to see things more clearly and with a new perspective. When some space is created between our experiences and how we react to these experiences, we are able to respond with greater wisdom and care.

While traditionally, Buddhist monks in India, China and later in Japan, traversed long distances to meditate in nature, in the recent decades the phenomenon of headspace creation has become known as restoration in environmental psychology. The Restoration Theory (Kaplan, 1985) and its closely connected Stress Recovery Theory (Ulrich, 1991) state that our psychophysical recovery from stress starts within minutes of entering a green space. When the physical body has started to calm down – blood pressure stabilises, stress hormones in our blood decrease, muscle tension decreases – the mental health benefits also kick in. We start thinking more clearly, our feelings of vitality increase and our mood starts to lift. The urbanite can now exhale a sigh of relief, as the time needed in nature has been narrowed down to just 20 minutes a day in order to manage our mental health.

Meditation is difficult when you try, easy when you don’t.

The simple act of sitting and focusing on your breath can be quite difficult if you are not in the proper frame of mind. Keeping your thoughts in control or maintaining your awareness on one particular object is a very challenging task for beginners. A large number of people give up meditation due to a frustrating experience in their initial attempts. That’s why the role of a good teacher becomes so important in this journey of learning mindfulness and meditation.

However, when you are immersed in a forest bath it becomes easier to reach a peaceful state of mind. By paying attention to our senses and moving in the forest mindfully we can not only get all the benefits of meditation for our mind, but also boost our immunity and create good health for our body. It’s because we are guided by the greatest teacher of all – Nature.

BENEFITS OF FOREST BATHING MEDITATION

  • Learn to switch off unwanted thoughts.
  • Feel less angry, anxious and sad.
  • Increase self worth and confidence.
  • Overcome fear, self doubt and a wavering mind.
  • Avoid stress and burnout.
  • Get better sleep and rest.
  • Strengthen the ability to control cravings, give up addictions.
  • Find peace and happiness in the present moment.
  • Build empathy. Improve relationships.
  • Find answers for important questions and decisions.
Forest Bathing exercise

FOREST BATHING NEAR ME?

You can practise forest bathing in any safe nature space. The main principles are to go in silence and go slow. Use your senses to find things in nature that bring you peace and happiness. Through nature connection activities and sense exercises, you can alter your mood and energy levels resulting in a host of benefits. Recommended time for forest bathing is at-least 2 hours a week.

STAGES OF A FOREST MIND

Attention: Beginners and young children start with simple activities which focus on objects in nature to hold our attention and slow us down. By directing and controlling our attention we are training to control the direction of our thoughts and feelings.

Awareness: Once we are able to reach a calmer state of mind, we can grow our awareness. In the depths of the forest, one can sense the cycle of transformations that all life goes through. Things that we were. Things that we are yet to become. Just like a seed in the ground. Like a child in the womb. Growing our awareness is growing our connection to all life.

Answers: Our mind gets a much deserved rest so that it can apply itself with renewed energy and come up with surprisingly creative solutions. It begins to ask the right questions rather than simply seeking answers. The forest provides the light to spark new insights and learning which can give us a deeper understanding of life. It is the beginning of a journey into self discovery.

Not everyone has an access to a forest in their backyard. In fact most people who live and work in cities will have to travel a fair amount to get close to the woods. But nature is all around us. You can consider trying out tree bathing and the sense based exercises in any urban park near you.

For people who are unable to go out into the urban parks, or are restricted due to disability, the sense based nature therapy activities can be carried out even in the confines of the their house. Just bring elements of nature indoors. You can use your creativity to build the nature connection even in a closed enclosure. Tap on the banner below to know more.

Forest Bathing works best as a form of prevention and a way to retain a healthy mind and body. It is not a replacement for medical advice or counselling for those who are seriously ill. However under a trained therapist, Forest therapy can be an important part of their treatment as well as recovery. Many people keep coming back after one time “treatment” (Iwasaki, 2019).

Forest bathing has shown positive results across age-groups – from children to the elderly. It’s extremely helpful for parents as well as working professionals. As a company welfare program, forest bathing can be used for employee recreation, new employee training, and mental health management. However, as Prof. Dr. Iwao Uehara points out, it may not work for people who feel uncomfortable in the outdoor environment.

FOREST BATHING BENEFITS

Forest Bathing Benefits

Our mental health is a very precious gift. For most people, the real value of our mind only becomes clear when things fall apart. Once a person becomes affected by any mental health issue, the road to recovery can take a lot of time, effort and money. Finding the right help and guidance is not easy and on top of that there is still a lot of social stigma attached to mental disorders.

A large portion of the human evolution has taken place in nature. Nature connection is intrinsic to our behaviour, and is inscribed into our genetic code. It’s only during the last 200 years or so, that we have reduced our interaction with the outdoors. Going back to nature can bring us to a heightened state of sensory awareness and a feeling of alert calm. It is akin to a feeling of returning home and gives spontaneous rise to peace and happiness.

The story of Japan teaches us that material wealth and economic progress are not enough to create a healthy, happy life. To create health and happiness one needs to prioritise them over materialistic pursuits and actively work towards achieving a balanced life. And this whole process of giving form to a beautiful life, starts by listening to the state of your mind. After all, the state of your mind, designs the state of your life.

REQUEST: Please share this post with folks who might benefit from it.

We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. You can subscribe to our free monthly newsletter at this link.

*This post is part of our Nature Calm course with forest arts, games, meditations from Japan and other parts of the world. The course is free for all school teachers and is available on a pay-as-you-like basis. It is a great resource filled with multiple ideas that also cover the art and science behind healing through nature.

FOREST BATHING QUOTES AND GIFTS

Download some forest bathing quotes and meditations at this link.

Forest Therapy in Japan and its Possibility for the World

In this month’s guest post we explore the Japanese concept of Shinrin-ryoho 森林療法 which translates as Forest Therapy. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, we recommend you go through our article on Introduction to Forest Bathing first.

This note is contributed by Prof. Dr. Iwao Uehara. Iwao UEHARA means “A big rock on the upper field”. Dr. Iwao is a professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and president of The Society of Forest Amenity and Human Health Promotion in Japan. He is also the founder of Forest Therapy (Shinrin-ryoho) in Japan since 1999. Prof. Iwao’s goal is to promote health of forests as well as human beings. 

What is Forest Therapy and its Healing Effects?

Forest Therapy (Shinrin-ryoho) is promoting the health of both forests and human beings! Forests and the trees within them have many healing properties. They promote our health, prevent illness, provide relaxation opportunities, and a rehabilitation environment, can be a treatment place for disabilities, peaceful counseling space, and so forth. When we arrive in the forest, we sometimes pay more attention to oneself and one’s life. Walking and exercise in the forest also change our attitudes and perspectives. Trees also have many fascinating aspects for medical, art, and care utilization.

However, some forests are also ill, depressed, and having stress like us human beings. So, forest therapy is attempting to heal forest and human beings together. Working in the forest to improve it’s health, can be a very therapeutic experience.

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Examples of Forest Therapy and Forest Amenity Programs

There have been many examples of forest therapy and forest amenity programs in Japan.

First of all, Forest Walking. Walking is the simplest rehabilitation method and whole body exercise. Walking can prevent lifestyle related disease. In addition, individuals walking in the forest enjoy the landscape, fresh air, and natural environment.

Next, relaxation. It is quiet and peaceful in the forest. Relaxation in the forest inspires natural peace in our body and mind. It adjusts our nervous system balance too.

Third, rehabilitation. For clients after an operation, accident, and preparing to reintegrate with society, forest walking & working is one possible rehabilitation program.

Fourth, treatment and occupational activities in the forest. Carrying logs & branches, clipping trees & clearing weeds, and planting trees are typical examples of occupational therapy.

Fifth, counseling. Counseling in the forest makes clients relax and sensitive. Forest amenities like landscape aesthetics, wind, fragrance, birds singing sometimes give useful hints to solve our problems and provide an ideal setting for traditional counseling approaches.

I hope you will design your own healing or health promoting programs using forests and trees as a setting and as inspiration.

Forest-meditations-japan-sky

Case Studies of Forest Therapy

There have been already many invaluable case studies utilising forest amenities in Japan.

By experiencing forest activities for a long term and repeatedly, some clients with mental, psychological, and physical disabilities showed positive treatment effects! Their communication has also changed positively. Some experimental studies suggest that forest walking can reduce stress hormone, enhance immune function, and balance nervous system. Recently, some case studies of patients with Dementia found that they improved their communication ability greatly.

Occupational activities such as carrying logs or planting trees with teamwork are also used as one of the forest therapy exercises. Especially, for people with mental disabilities or memory disabilities, these activities are proving to be effective and restorative.

In addition, trees and forest have been sometimes worshipped as natural gods in Japanese culture. Such forests always provides counseling space for the people who have psychological problems.

Trees also have great possibilities for healing. For example, some trees provide medicine, herb tea, and fragrance which have certain healing effects. Forest therapy includes drinking and eating natural amenities, too. Cherry blossom tea is used for celebration in Japan. Berry tea is effective for decreasing high blood pressure.

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PHYTONCIDES: A fascinating find is that evergreen trees secrete certain scents and oils to protect themselves from a host of microbes and pathogens. These chemicals are called Phytoncides and they act as a defense system for the trees.

As we walk in the forests, we breathe in these Phytoncides, which produces some interesting results. Some of these smells relax our brain while others uplift our mood. Inhaling aromatic plant chemicals also increases the antioxidant defense system in the human body.

There is also a known association between higher amounts of phytoncide in the air and improved immune function. Specifically, higher levels of airborne phytoncides cause increased production of anticancer proteins in the blood as well as higher levels of the frontline immune defenders called NKC or Natural Killer Cells. When exposed to viruses (e.g., influenza, common cold) and other infective agents, the NK cells step up to protect the body.

In many ways we are now getting scientific proof for something we have known intuitively for ages. Over time this common wisdom was drowned out in the cacophony of consumerism.

Forest-meditations-japan-tree

Possibilities of Forest and Tree Amenities in the world

Many people recently prefer to enjoy and exercise in the nature. There are beautiful green parks, mountains, and forests all over the world. Also, there are many fairy tales and local folk culture concerned with trees or forests. Therefore, world forests have a big potential for forest therapy programs everywhere. Let’s reconsider your familiar forests and develop the possibilities together!

In case you have any questions for Prof. Iwao Uehara, please add them in the comments section. Your questions and answers by Prof. Iwao will add to our collective knowledge.

For more information on his work please visit.
研究室HP www.geocities.jp/ueharaiwao/
みんなの森ブログ http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/ueharaiwao
日本森林保健学会 http://forest-and-human-health.jp/

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FOREST THERAPY vs FOREST BATHING

Forest therapy is always conducted by a certified professional. It involves having knowledge of psychological counseling as well as the ability to handle patients with different types of mental health problems. It is most effective when carried out on a one-to-one basis or in very small groups of people with similar issues.

*There are a few courses around the world which give certification in forest therapy. The course fee can go up to 1000’s of dollars and needs a background in Psychology. Please enroll for one if you are serious about counseling people with mental health issues. Make sure your course covers all the different psychological aspects of forest therapy.

Forest bathing, on the other hand, can be done by anyone. It is simply a more mindful way of being in nature. You do not need any certification for forest bathing. Unlike a yoga course or any other body-based training, the real benefit in forest bathing comes from being in the forest and not from the instructor. The role of a forest bathing guide is to act as a forest friend and help people find their own connection with nature.

If you only wish to lead people for mindful nature walks and forest bathing walks, our healing forest learning program should give you a host of ideas and activities to do so. Also, there are multiple books available on the topic to grow your knowledge base. The best way to improve your skills is by leading people on different nature walks. However, there are a few people who have devised their own unique methodology for nature connection. If you are inspired by their work, first join a walk they lead and then you can choose whether to attend their training program (Typically the price range for such training courses are about a few hundred dollars).

You can write to us for course recommendations based on your location and interest.

End note: This page is part of our learning program. The aim of this article was to give you a scope of forest therapy and clarify some important queries around this emerging field. You can proceed to the next learning session here.

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Bonus: Here’s a link to download the forest bathing film, forest exercise images and also 2 blank templates that you can use to create your own forest activity. (using sites like Canva). http://bit.ly/hfl-forestbathing

Subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link.  We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Forest Meditation and the Wavering Mind

The mind blows like the wind. It is difficult to control and hard to predict. Especially when it is troubled. Our patterns of thought may vary from scattered confusion or wavering indecision to a spiralling into negative thoughts.

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At such times, the forests can offer us surprisingly simple ways to control the commotion in our head and turn a storm of thoughts into a gentle breeze. In this article, we introduce you to the concept of forest mediation and offer some interesting examples to help you find your calm.

What is Forest Meditation ?

It is a way of finding calm and balance with the help of nature. It helps us in becoming free of thoughts that trouble us or hinder us. By connecting with nature we are able to find answers to difficult questions and bring clarity to life.

In traditional meditation, we withdraw our senses and focus inward to reach a state of inner peace. While in forest meditation we open our senses to experience the peace that exists in nature and deepen our realization, that we are also a part of nature.

Forest meditation is the act of creating a healing experience for yourself. It is about finding the strength of mountains, the compassion of trees and the wisdom of water. The goal of forest meditation is to grow as a person. Above all, it is a journey that creates lasting peace and serenity.

How is it different from traditional meditation?

Many people find it difficult to sit in one place with awareness. The mind is filled with multiple thoughts and the harder one tries to resist, the more they persist.

People who are generally restless or overactive find traditional meditation very hard. Also if one’s mind is already in a state of unrest, or one is going through a troublesome situation in life, it is necessary to calm the thoughts and feelings before one can learn to slow down the thoughts and deepen their focus.

Psychologist Edward Thorndike pointed out that it is not the work expended in the administrative details of an office setting or the algebra in a schoolhouse per se that causes mental fatigue; it is the high energy cost of “inhibiting the tendencies to think of other things.” In other words, mental fatigue was being amplified by firing up the areas of the brain that are required to put the brakes on distracting thoughts.

Forest meditation walks

Start your nature walk by setting an intention for the walk. It helps in channelizing one’s awareness and energies in the right direction.

Be silent. Go slow. Think less. Feel more.

In the first half of the walk use your sense of sight, sound, or smell to bring your thoughts to the present moment. Notice the nature around you and try to find things that fill your heart with awe and wonder.

In forest meditation, we do not try to inhibit or stop any negative thoughts. Instead, we take the help of nature to replace them with positive thoughts, insights, and inspiration.

Creating a relationship with the forest.

Once you are feeling calmer, find a place that calls out to you and sit in silence, observing the world around you. Notice the relationships that exist in nature and the interconnectedness of everything around you. Keep your thoughts in the present moment and learn what nature has to teach us.

Here are a few examples of some forest meditations you could try, the next time you plan to visit a forest or any green space in nature. There is no time limit or rigid rules. Find your own rhythm and choose what feels natural to you. Every person has a unique connection with nature. We hope you find yours.

Time Travel: Find a big rock or an old tree and rest against it. Imagine traveling far back in time and reliving all the experiences from the perspective of the rock or tree.

Gratitude Walk: Find something in nature that fills you with gratitude. Stay with the feeling for as long as you can.

Nature Sponge: As you walk in the forest, imagine every pore in your skin is receiving the sounds of nature just like your ears. Absorb all the sounds like a sponge.

World within worlds: Look closely at the tiny world of insects, grass, and small plants that often pass unnoticed under our feet. Find something unique and unexpected. What message, insight and learning do they have for you?

Circle of Awareness: Sit in a beautiful spot. Create a tiny circle of awareness around you. Become aware of all the beauty in the circle. Slowly expand the circle of awareness to include a larger area. Repeat, until you reach the edge of your imagination.

Dissolving: While sitting at a vantage point which offers a scenic vista, eat a fruit or a piece of mint candy slowly. As the mint dissolves in your mouth, imagine you are dissolving into the forest. In the end, only the forest remains.

Connect with nature. Find your calm.

Forest meditation benefits

For centuries people have turned to the forest for meditation and insights. While the primary objective is for self enquiry and reaching a deeper state of awareness, meditation in general has a whole list of benefits for our day to day lives. Here are some of the important ones.

  • Learn to switch off unwanted thoughts.
  • How to feel less angry, anxious and sad.
  • Increase self worth and confidence.
  • Overcome fear, self doubt and a wavering mind.
  • Avoid stress and burnout.
  • How to get better sleep and rest.
  • Strengthen the ability to control cravings, give up addictions.
  • Find peace and happiness in the present moment.
  • Improve relationships.
  • Find answers for important questions and decisions.

An important point to note is that the experience of forest meditation is always unique for each individual. It depends on what stage of your journey you are. Just like the journey of a river that starts with a small murmuring brook, tumbles down through waterfalls into a serene winding river and finally empties into the vast ocean. And then the cycle continues. It can be the same with your thoughts when you meditate.

Having specific expectations of experiences from meditation can hinder one’s progress. The greatest joy of forest meditation lies in accepting the changing nature within and without, and becoming aware of the laws of nature that bind us and the universe in an everlasting embrace.

A FEW MORE FOREST MEDITATIONS

Perspectives: See as far as you can. Observe things as if you are seeing them for the first time. Observe things as if you are seeing them for the last time.

Points of Light: This is an exercise in creative visualisation. Imagine every living being in the forest as a point of golden light. As you walk in the forest, imagine walking through a field of light. Visualise all the lights forming connections and interacting with each other as well as the light within you.

Sound Map: Take around 10 pebbles in your hand and find a peaceful place to sit. Focus on any one sound from nature. Place a pebble on the ground in the direction from which the sound emanates. Close your eyes and stay with the sound until your mind wanders or the sound stops. Do this until you finish all the pebbles in your hand. By the end of this exercise you would have a small circle of pebbles around you, mapping the various sounds of the forest.

The sounds of nature are a beautiful form of relaxation as well as meditation. Here’s a link to nature sounds compiled from around the world by professional sound recordists. http://www.naturesoundmap.com/

Metta Forest Walk: Metta meditation is a very simple but deep meditation which involves sending out loving kindness into the world. The forest version of this meditation involves focusing on your breath. With every breath you exhale, send out love and warmth to the forest. With every breath you inhale, imagine the forest multiplying and returning your love back to you. You may also choose different emotions such as peace, calm, compassion depending on your own mood and liking. This meditation will expand your emotional boundaries and build a deep bond with nature.

Leaving you with a short forest meditation film. We hope you enjoyed this post. Please share it with those may find it of help.

END NOTE:
Everyone understands the benefits of meditation, but very few people actually try it or give up too easily. In a world that is getting increasingly crowded, competitive and complex it has become even more important to take care of our state of mind.

If you have any questions or suggestions for forest meditations, do add them in the comment box below to create a space for shared learning. The idea is to learn from each other and share our experiences from different forests around the world. To get a monthly newsletter with new learning please sign up at this link

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*This page is part of our learning program. Once you have tried out these activities on a nature walk, you can click on the acorn or proceed to this link.

7 Healing Forests from Japan

Travel with us into the delightful healing forests of Japan. Discover the magical moss covered forests of Yakushima island and know about the volcano museum. Breathe in the deep greens of dense forests and soak in the crystal streams, waterfalls and hot springs scattered around.

During the 1980’s Japanese researchers and scientists started discovering multiple benefits of being in forests and reconnecting with nature. With the development of medical equipment related to natural and life sciences, this field has advanced even more. They have given us scientific proof on our intuitive understanding that nature heals. Japan as a country has established many healing forests in their country over the years. Designated nature reserves where people can go to experience the healing powers of forests.

Image Source

SHINRIN YOKU

Japan is a technologically advanced world. Cities have become mazes of steel, concrete and silicon, swimming in a sea of electromagnetic waves. In this electronic age, some part of us still yearns for the freedom and comfort of nature. For many people, the answer lies in reaching out to the forests.

Shinrin-yoku is a term the Japanese use to describe this practise of immersing oneself in the forest. Literally translated it means ‘forest bathing’. Allowing nature to cleanse the mind and spirit of negative thoughts and emotions. Reawakening your senses, rejuvenating your energy and adding strength to your healing ability.

Given below is a hand picked list of some of the best healing forests of Japan.

Shiratani Unsuikyo, Yakushima Japan
One of Japan’s natural wonders, Shiratani Unsuikyo Gorge on Yakushima Island is home to a mystical, primeval forest with yakusugi cedar trees between 1,000 – 7,200 years old. Covered in 600 types of moss, the forest glows green and radiates an otherworldly beauty that is legendary in Japanese culture. Shiratani Unsuikyo is best explored on the longer trail, Taiko-Iwa, that passes through the most luscious landscapes on the island and leads to the top of the mountain with stunning panoramic views. Yakushima Island is a registered UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site for its rare and diverse ecosystem, unlike any other on earth. Indigenous deer and monkeys roam freely. There are many places along the trail to stop and enjoy the scenery. Bring your rain gear and lunch, walk carefully and enjoy! Information contributed by: Julie Hall, www.shinrin-yoku-walks.com

Yakushima | Image Source

Kitago, Miyazaki
“A town of great natural beauty, clean streams and hot springs”, Kitago Town in Nichinan City is located in the southern part of Miyazaki Prefecture. The natural hot springs of 51 degreesC welling up from 800 meters below the ground are popular with visitors from both within and outside Miyazaki who refer to it as the “The Beauty Hot Spring”. Hanatate Park is famous for its 10,000 cherry trees and in spring, visitors flock from all over to gaze at the clouds of soft pink blossoms.


Ukiha City, Fukuoka
Located in the southeastern part of Fukuoka Prefecture with the Minou Mountains ranging to the south and the Chikugo River flowing in the north, Ukiha City has a rich natural environment.

Ukiha |Image Source

Iinan, Shimane
The Town of Iinan nestles in the highlands at an elevation of 450 meters. The sources of both the Hii and Kando Rivers are to be found in this region made famous by its long history of rice and vegetable production. With easy access to such a rich natural environment, the town of Iinan’s Forest Therapy programs offer a combination of nature, history and culture.

Linan |Image Source

Ashizu, Chizu Town, Yazu-Gun
Along the forest therapy road in Chizu, in the Ashizu valley, flows one of the best streams in western Japan. It is situated in a forest of cedar and hardwoods. The valley is magnificent in all the four seasons and has something new to offer every time you visit. The valley stretches to the Chugoku Nature Trail, encircles the Mitaki Dam and continues on to the upstream river valley.

Ashizu |Image Source

Shiso, Hyogo
Surrounded by towering mountains with an elevation of over 1000 meters, such as Hyonsen, the highest peak in Hyogo Prefecture, the City is full of lush greenery as it is part of the Hyonosen-Ushiroyama-Nagisan Semi-National Park and the Onzui-Chikusa Prefectural Natural Park.

Shiso Hyogo |Image Source

Yamanouchi, Nagano
With towering mountains, primeval forests and clean sparkling lakes, it has an undulating terrain surrounded by high 2,000 meter mountain ranges rich in volcanic rocks such as green tuff, andesite, diorite and basalt, indicating the intensity of past volcanic activity. It is known as a “volcano museum”. The therapy roads often take you to vantage points where you may find a sea of clouds under your feet. The primeval forest of Shiga Kogen also has circular loops around emerald lakes reflecting the forest green.

We hope this article inspired you to go out and spend some time in nature. As part of our project we are identifying and marking healing forests around the world. Quiet spaces in nature that one can visit without feeling unsafe. You can check out the map so far and even recommend a nature trail to be added to this map.

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

May the forests be with you.

KUMANO – 熊野 from Mathieu Le Lay on Vimeo.