Healing Forest walks are meditative walks that we take in nature, either alone or in small groups. It is an effective way of finding calm and balance. Nature helps us in becoming free of negative thoughts that pull us down, and through the walks we find answers to difficult questions which brings clarity to our lives. Above all, the intention of a healing forest walk is to create lasting peace and serenity.
On this page, you will discover 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 search for new answers and insights that may help us in our lives. Here’s a 2 minute film that captures the essence of our forest walk.
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. This experience is unique to each person as we all interpret the world differently. No one knows your mind better than you. Look for things in nature which call out to you and fill you with peace.
Senses: Focus on the senses to bring your awareness to the present moment. Give importance to each of the different senses, one at a time. This directs your attention away from unwanted thoughts. When you notice nature more closely it’s easy to fill yourself with awe, wonder, and inspiration.
Slow: Don’t hurry or rush. Make a conscious effort to slow down your pace. By spending more time at a place, you build a deeper relationship with it. You begin to observe more and will start to make new connections.
Silence: Shift from thinking to sensing, and from sensing to feeling. By staying with our feelings, we can learn to carry the forest within us. Even when we are not in nature, the peace and serenity of the forest 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 undertake short tasks (Forest meditations) that deepen your connection with the forests. These tasks are mere guidelines to develop your attention and awareness.
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.
Before you start your nature walk, take 3-5 minutes to bring attention to different parts of your body. Relax the tension and stress you may be carrying by mentally scanning your body from the feet to the crown of the head.
You can walk slowly for 15 minutes and spend the next 20 minutes by selecting an exercise that focuses on one of your senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.
Here’s an introductory collection of sense based forest meditations to choose from.
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: Search for 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.
In the next stage, continue the silent walk for some time. Stop whenever you find a place that calls out to you. Spend time in your space, observe and learn from nature. You may choose to do another sense based exercise from the list above or try the insight meditation.
Insight Meditation: Choose any one word from the following: Impermanence, Interconnectedness, Insignificance. Reflect on the meaning by observing the relationships in nature. The aim of insight meditation is to dissolve the boundaries between us and nature. To become aware of the subtle truths that links us with the Universe and in doing so, become one with it.
The magic of the forest lies in its mysteries.
The more I search, the less I find.
The less I try, the more I heal.
FOREST WALKS – MAJOR BENEFITS
IMPORTANT: Shinrin-yoku is best used for preventive 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. Please note: it is not a substitute for doctors. People suffering from acute illness should get relevant medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.
BONUS: FOREST WALKS & GAMES
LEARNING THROUGH NATURE
As you embark on this learning journey, you will discover many interesting insights and experiences. We recommend you keep a journal and write them down so that the effect goes deeper. And when you learn 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.
Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating a learning process.– Peter Senge
If you have suggestions for adding to our list of forest games and meditations, do leave them in the comments section below so that others may learn from your journey.
To get a monthly newsletter with new ideas you can sign up at this link. We are creating a small community of forest friends who share a close connection with nature. The aim is to learn from each other and share our experiences from different forests around the world.
*This page is part of our Nature Calm course with nature arts, games, meditations from around the world. The course is made available in the giving spirit of trees. It is also free for school teachers.
Please feel free to share this page in your circles, so that it reaches those who will find it helpful. Also, here’s the download link of the Forest Games poster.