If you haven’t tried forest bathing, this event at the Bookworm of Edwards might wet your appetite
Those of us who live in the mountains are familiar with the power of nature. We go outside for a time and return indoors feeling more at peace. The Japanese have long had a name for this type of practice: They call it shinrin-yoku, or as it is known in English, forest bathing.
Now, the practice has been adopted worldwide, and expert M. Amos Clifford will discuss the phenomenon at 6 p.m. Monday at The Bookworm in Edwards. The author of “Your Guide to Forest Bathing” will host a hands-on introduction to the practice that will remind even the most skeptical just why we live here.
Forest bathing, or forest therapy, refers to the practice of spending time in the forest to find healing, health and happiness. And while city folk pay big bucks to experience it, locals call the experience “getting outside.”
But according to Clifford, the important thing isn’t what you call it — it is that you listen to what the natural world says to you when you’re surrounded by it.
“Forest bathing is a practice of immersing your senses,” Clifford said, “away from human-built influences. If we want to become a sustainable species, we have to remember some deep truths about who we are and how we are, in relationship to this world and its many species.”
While many who hike, run or bike up and down trails focus mostly on getting in a good workout, forest bathing requires sending a little added attention to the forest around you. Instead of just moving through the space and filling your lungs with clean air, you have to give the forest your attention and be open to what it has to give you.
“It’s about allowing your heart to come into a new kind of relationship with the forest, and through the forest, the world,” Clifford said.
It is because of our tendency toward active, constantly moving lifestyles that practices such as forest bathing are more relevant than ever. To date, the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, which Clifford founded, has trained over 700 guides in 46 countries. The organization is the most experienced global leader in the world of forest therapy. Each guide has taught countless students, causing forest bathing to take the world by storm.
“Forest bathing is not only a means of connecting to nature,” Clifford said, “it is also a lovely way to cultivate physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being.”
The science agrees. According to a study carried out by the Department of Hygiene and Public Health in Nippon, Japan, forest bathing can have all kinds of physiological effects such as lowered blood pressure, lowered measures for depression and anxiety and greatly decreased stress, even if your session is short. Clearly, nature is a healer in ways that we are only beginning to understand.
But you don’t have to measure your heart rate to feel the effects. If you immerse yourself, the healing will come.
“It is something that is in the deepest places of our bones, our bodies, our hearts, beyond words,” Clifford said. “Forest bathing is the best way I’ve found to nurture this deep remembering. This is what motivates me.”
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