Healing Forest walks are meditative walks that we take in nature, either alone or in small groups. It is a way of finding calm and balance. Nature helps us in becoming free of thoughts that trouble us or hinder us and through the walks we find answers to difficult questions which brings clarity to our lives. Above all, it is a journey that creates lasting peace and serenity.
On this page, you will find some tips and pointers to introduce you to healing forest walks also known as forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku in Japan. Forests are known to have great therapeutic benefits for our body, mind, and spirit. Through a set of structured games, meditations and activities we aim to search for new answers and insights that may help us in our lives.
FOREST WALKS TO FIND YOUR CALM
The 3 key values of a healing forest walk are silence, going slow and focusing on our senses. It is not about physical exercise or collecting information. The aim is to quieten the voice in our heads and fill ourselves with a feeling of calm.
Senses: Focus on the senses to bring your awareness to the present moment. Give importance to all the different senses. The aim is to direct our attention away from unwanted thoughts. It’s easy to do when we notice nature more closely.
Slow: Don’t hurry or rush. It’s about finding awe, wonder, and inspiration in nature. Go at your own pace. Slow down to observe and connect. When you spend more time at a place, you build a deeper relationship with it.
Silence: Move from thinking to feeling. Learn to carry the forest within you. Even when we are not in nature, the peace and serenity of the forests can be a part of us and influence people around us.
The two other values are ‘Safety’ and ‘Sharing’. Always take adequate steps to ensure your safety in the forest. Be aware of the trail map and also the different beings of the forest. When traveling in groups, allow space for sharing at the end of any activity or the walk completion. The sharing space should be free of judgments and unwanted advice.
FOREST WALKS & MEDITATIONS
Move in small groups and in silence. The idea is to talk less and listen more. To experience nature around us with awareness. Over the course of this walk, you may undertake short tasks (Forest meditations) that deepen your connection with the forests. Please undertake the task to the best of your ability and inclination.
Typically the Healing forest walk sessions last for 2 hours. Any forest, lake or natural water body, city park, mountain trail can turn into a healing forest walk.
You can walk slowly for 15 minutes and spend then next 20 minutes focusing on one of your senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. You can then continue the walk and stop whenever you find a place that calls out to you. Sit in your space, observe and learn from nature.
Here are a few forest meditations:
Sound: Listen to the sounds of the forest. Count how many different sounds you can hear. Can you hear the stillness that holds all the sounds?
Sight: Find a spot where you can see an entire tree. Slowly trace the outline of a tree with your eyes, starting from one edge at the base of the trunk. Move your gaze up, covering all the minute details that define the boundary of the tree. If you find your mind wandering or racing, bring it back to the outline of the tree and complete your tree tracing slowly.
Smell: Take deep breaths to soak in the scents of the forest. Every object in nature has a unique smell. Pick up interesting objects and smell them to create a memory of the moment.
Touch: Sit on a rock with your feet firmly on the ground. Hold a piece of the forest in your palms – A pebble / a leaf / a blade of grass. Close your eyes and pay attention to the touch. Connect with the forest. Connect with the earth.
Taste: Carry fruit or some tea with you. Eat the fruit slowly. As slow as you can. Imagine the sunlight that feeds the plant becomes the fruit that becomes a part of you. Observe how everything in nature in interlinked with each other.
Insight: Choose any one word from the following: Impermanence, Interconnectedness, Insignificance. Reflect on the meaning by observing the relationships in nature.
For more ideas for healing forest walks please visit our resources page. If you have suggestions for adding to our list of forest games and meditations, please email us your ideas or leave a comment below.
Keep scrolling for more forest games, exercises and meditations.
FOREST WALKS – MAJOR BENEFITS
IMPORTANT: Shinrin-yoku is best used for preventive health care and healing. It boosts your health, immunity and recovery thus saving you time, money and energy. The concept is proven and well established in countries like Japan and South Korea. However, it is not a substitute for doctors. People suffering from acute illness should get relevant medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.
As you embark on this learning journey, you will find many interesting insights and experiences. We recommend you keep a journal and write them down so that the effect goes deeper. And when you find something valuable, do share it with others, because our healing is not complete unless the environment we live in and those who share it with us are also healed.
BONUS: FOREST WALKS & GAMES
Download link of the Forest Games poster.
END NOTE: We are creating a small community of forest friends who share a close connection with nature. The idea is to learn from each other and share our experiences from different forests around the world. Please feel free to add your own learning and ideas in the comments section below. To get a monthly newsletter with new learning please sign up at this link.
*This page is part of our learning program on nature arts, games, meditations. 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. Please help us spread the word about it in your circles or gift it to someone who might find it helpful.