Forest Bathing. What??

If I were into artificially driving stats I could have really come up with a doozy of a provocative title. Forest Bathing? What??

For a few months now we’ve just been trying to keep our heads above water. We have made a point of being gentle with ourselves and not demanding more than we can muster. We slowly regain balance.

Anyone who knows me for more than half a day learns that I replenish my lagging spirit with immersion into nature. I honor the connectedness of all living things, and the natural world speaks to me in ways that noisy human connection cannot.

I have a Brené Brown quote I value: …We can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.

Forest Bathing is simply being present in the natural world. I generally don’t have any trouble doing that on my own, but a group experience intrigued me.

I set out very early on a Saturday to join a Forest Bathing “leader” at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, curious as to how the 127-acre “museum of living plants” would be the setting for a particular nature encounter.

If you’d be interested in learning more about the more specific intentions behind the practice of forest bathing, I’d recommend this article. I have also enjoyed the book, “Your Guide to Forest Bathing,” written by M. Amos Clifford.

I joined a group of ten other individuals before the Arboretum opened to the public, and we quietly followed our guide into a specific area of quiet. It is a thickly forested area with what I presume to be ancient trees.

Three thousand years ago inhabitants of this area referred to “the place of many waters,” and in the era of Spanish colonization the indigenous people became known as the Gabrielino, in reference to the mission responsible for their conversion.

 

Quietly walking the paths between these gorgeous old trees I was encouraged to leave the circle of others and to explore on my own until I found a tree that spoke to me. Trees speak to me all the time, so I was eager for a fresh conversation.

It didn’t take long.

This gorgeous old Montezuma cypress called out to me. Strong and determined, not buffeted by time and the elements, I relate. Support for the vines and other plants that rely upon its trunk for either nourishment or stability, I relate. Independent but balancing co-dependency…I relate.

I completed my first “official” communal forest bathing experience with an appreciation for the quiet and calm it afforded and certainly breathing lighter. I can do this myself at any time, but there was an added enjoyment in sharing the soothing energy with others equally desirous of being in the natural world and listening.

I will continue to think of “my tree” when I feel the weight of responsibilities. This has been a very difficult past few months, and I’m frequently anticipated as the support. The truth is, I’ve developed that role over decades. I do it well. Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been different had I not accepted that challenge, but I’m the Montezuma cyprus, and I think I fill that role well.

The past two weeks have had whirlwind proportions, but nature always, ALWAYS, gives me what I need. I almost laughed at what (who?) I found at the hummingbird feeder in my front yard.

At first, Praying Mantis just made me smile. I always enjoy a good visit. While lingering for more than a day I witnessed harmony between the unexpected visitor and the hummingbirds. And then…gone!

Until two weeks later…

Molting, I think? Very pale. Almost white. I think this is more than likely the same mantis. This time the visit was a full 36-hours, and I looked up the symbolism and meaning I could expect from this small creature. Because of a crazy confluence of circumstances that has had my life temporarily upended…

“The mantis comes to us when we need peace quiet and calm in our lives. Usually the mantis makes an appearance when we’ve flooded our lives with so much business, activity, or chaos that we can no longer hear the still small voice within us because of the external din we’ve created.” 

A huge tree and a tiny mantis. I feel full.

We can find what we need if our eyes are open. I hope this week is as full of wonder.

For each of us.

Breathe lighter…however you access the calm.

And if you can share your own delight, I’d be equally excited to hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

46 thoughts on “Forest Bathing. What??

    1. You’ve been on my mind and in my heart frequently. Such a contrast of big and small and equally filling. Good that you’re being gentle with yourself. A fascinating idea of Forest Bathing. Blessings to you dear friend.

      1. Thank you so much, Ellen. As we take our time, all is well. Forest Bathing is such a great name. The guide had very intentional exercises that could be repeated on one’s own, and I think that was a great gain. Hope you, too, are well.

    1. Thank you, Jo. You’re very kind. You’ll also note that I don’t post all that often these days. I spend a lot of time sifting and sorting emotions before I make my way over to my blogging friends. It’s hard to have a blog entitled “breathe lighter” and write with a stressful tone. LOL! I suspect your many wonderful walks are part of your stress reduction plan as well. 🙂

      1. We have an airport drop in an hour or so, then we’re off to meet the walkers. When we’re fed and watered I shall collapse in a heap, and it will be 24 hours till my daughter arrives 🙂 🙂

  1. You have The Knack, beautiful Debra: you can get your feelings across without difficulty.
    I’m sorry that you’ve been having a tough time; but those around you are lucky that you’re there to reach out. Just don’t keep doing it, or you’ll find you can’t reach in to yourself any more.
    That looks almost like a rain forest: what a wonderful thing to do.

    1. I appreciate your very kind words and support, M-R. I am currently able, I’m glad to note, to better balance between the elements of my life that are currently stressful and a quality amount of time in silence and introspection. I do need to guard that balance. The forest bathing guide introduced me to a very dense, rainforest-like area in the botanical garden, and it’s good to know I can return there any time, and when not able to visit, simply recall how good it felt to be perfectly still for most of a morning. 🙂

  2. Nature can heal, Debra. I am so glad you have had these experiences to help you through. The forest looks an amazing place to explore. 🙂 All the best. xx

    1. Thank you very much, Cathy. I have been to this botanical garden many times prior to my forest bathing experience, but the way we were guided to use all of our senses to replenish our weary spirit with the beauty amongst the trees was exceptional, and I can go there any time I need an infusion. I may do that often. 🙂

    1. Ah, Carl! Yes, ordinarily you’d be on to something here. But you recall how dry it is here in California? I think the forest would be waiting entirely too long! 🙂

  3. This is such a beautiful post, and I’m glad you were able to find peace and calm. Like you, I also turn to nature to breathe lighter — although, I had a completely different idea about forest bathing… Here, we have an outdoor shower, and there is nothing like bathing under a canopy of trees (away from the eyes of neighbors, by the way). Another friend also found an old bathtub that he keeps on his patio. It’s where he’s able to relax among bubbles and plants. I’m sorry things have been stressful for you, and I hope you are out of harm’s way with the fires in your part of the world. I’m thrilled the mantis found you, and that you found comfort in his/her visit. Be well, my friend.

    1. Oh wow! I would love a shower or tub under the trees! That would be the icing on the cake! 🙂

      It’s been a stressful summer and early fall, but we are definitely rebalancing and I think we’ve discovered in new ways how responsible we are for choosing the ways we can best take care of our health and well-being. And I must let you know how much you’ve influenced me, Kevin. I’ve been gathering seeds from some of my succulents and a few specialty plants just to see what comes from it! I have poured a lot of my “nervous energy” into the garden, and it’s been beneficial to me, as well as the garden. 🙂 You set a very good example and I think of you often as I experiment! Thank you, my friend. You’re very kind.

  4. People react to tragedy and stress in different ways. My friend lost her husband a few months ago and she packs her life with friends and activities. I need quiet and just a few very special people. I need to make sense out of the senseless and feel the feelings. I would love the forest bathing. In addition to the tree, I’m sure there are birds and wildlife waiting to sooth and make you smile. Hugs.

    1. Kate, I am indeed like you in what I need when experiencing loss or any event that requires emotional adjustment. You are so right about the forest bathing. There were other birds and water fowl nearby. It was funny a few times when the geese would be honking, and rather noisy. I like to take an experience like that and “pretend” for a while that I don’t live in a busy metropolitan area! I pretend pretty well! 🙂

  5. Nature does soothe. Sounds wonderful with a forest bath. I might have to try myself. Also cool with the mantis and the beautiful quote about this rather strange animal. Wish you all the best, peace and a soothing mind.

    1. I like your choice of words, Otto. Soothe! That is exactly what nature does, and I hadn’t actually used that description before. I thought the timing of the mantis’ visit was just incredibly meaningful. I have multiple hummingbird feeders around my yard, and I’ve never had this special visit before. It was indeed special. Thank you for your kind words, Otto.

    1. Thank you, Jim. I am very eager for your next novel, as I have previously really enjoyed what you’ve written! And if the theme of “Joshua’s Tree” blends into areas that I’m currently experiencing, all the better! I’ll be ready. 🙂

  6. Debra this is a stunning reflection of peace. And being OPEN to it. To share, I have recently been very lucky to make a couple of trips to the mountains. Like you, trees call to me, I feel pulled to them and take great comfort from them. While there I physically, spiritually and emotionally feel different. Better. It never fails me. Being in nature.

    1. I think one of the reasons your posts always resonate for me, Colleen, is that your love of the natural world, and desire to experience the outdoors on a personal level, is very clear to me. I think we are kindred spirits. And I like that. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words, my friend.

  7. Anonymous

    I Loved this post ! I get very refreshed when I see a forest and its beautiful nature and these remarkable creatures! Sending you big hugs my dear friend! I Miss you! Love Debi

    1. Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing, Mary Ann. I am so glad you did. In the book that I read and referenced it was clear that the Japanese have have created lovely rituals that do create forest bathing experiences. Poetry and nature are great companions, aren’t they? 🙂

  8. Cindy Montgomery

    Hi Debra, I know blogging is in some ways therapeutic for you, but I’m always amazed by how much I breathe a bit lighter after reading your posts! 😍

    1. Oh dear Cindy! You know me well. And yes, it is rather therapeutic. But it wouldn’t mean as much to me if in sharing it didn’t resonate with others. So thank you, my friend. xx

  9. Oh, how I loved this post, Debra, and my-oh-my, how it spoke to me, as you might imagine.
    As much as I wander about on my own, it is sometimes nourishing and enlightening to be part of guided group. I did something similar in early spring on such a cold morning that ended up warming my soul.
    As I read this, I suddenly remembered my favorite Copper Beach – and I think I need to spend some time, soon, just bathing in and of it. 🙂 You inspire me, Debra; you and your Montezuma cypress.
    How interesting it is about the praying mantis. I didn’t know they molted (duh?) and the symbolism. I noticed one on the wall near our back door a few weeks ago. It stuck around for many days – all the while Tom was in the hospital and afterwards. Hmmm. (He is fine, Afib, under control and doing well – but a bit of a scare).

  10. Hi Debra, a very thoughtful post as always! Forest Bathing is popular in the town where I live and, although it’s not the same thing, my daughter, when she was at primary school, used to have some lessons outdoors among trees (it was called Forest School).

    I am glad you got so much from your walk among the trees in such a beautiful place. I find much comfort from being around nature myself but I suspect I am not doing the full Forest Bathing thing. I usually have my camera with me and I don’t think I pay full attention to all my senses. When I next go out into nature, which may be tomorrow, I shall remember this conversation!

  11. Gail

    Your fabulous pictures, Debra, make me feel like I had a forest sponge bath! It feels good to look at them, and breathe deeply. “We can find what we need when our eyes are open.” Thank you for that!

  12. I love just watching the birds coming to the feeders outside my window – their swift burst of activity punctuating the calm of the rather overgrown garden. I can spend an hour or so drifting around our local nature reserve looking for insects to photograph – time stops and I only realise how long I’ve been there when I get home. A trip out to watch and photograph trains, despite being regulated by timetables that dictate what I will see, is a way to loose myself in the daily activity of others. And, of course, I can relax in the worlds created on my pc – hunting, farming or delivering cargo. Inner peace is where you find it Debra 🙂

    I’m impressed with that Mantis. We don’t have them in the UK, only their Cockroach relatives. I guess it was waiting for insects attracted to the sweet solution put out for the hummingbirds?

  13. Beautiful calming and wise post. I “forest bathe” all the time and did so way before it had a “name” to it. 🙂 So necessary. And the symbolism of the praying mantis is incredible! You have inspired me to put on my walking clothes and walk the neighborhood here (full of red, orange, and yellow leaves) and bathe a bit. Stand firm, stay soft inside. ❤

  14. You have taught us how to calm ourselves through the Forest Bathing connecting with nature during your difficult time. Your experience is expressed eloquently and photos are beautiful and comforting.
    Thank you so much, Debra for this beautiful post. 💗

  15. i found you via Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way. I love the idea of forest bathing and may have been doing it all along, aware that I felt better after time out of doors. Plus, the praying mantis symbolism. Who knew? Lovely thought here.

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