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.