Forest Bathing

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.—John Muir

Since hiking the hills of Oklahoma as a little girl, I’ve sought nourishment in nature.

Muir Woods—a redwood-infused forest located outside San Francisco is my most treasured spot on earth and I believe that nature is therapy.

According to the Nature and Forest Therapy website, “Forest Therapy, also known as ‘Shinrin-Yoku,’ refers to the practice of spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness.”

The Forest Agency of Japan began promoting this practice in 1982 and it’s spread globally. You’ve probably seen the multiple books and articles in outlets such as Time, NPR, The Atlantic, and the Huffington Post touting the many benefits.

Last Sunday we packed up the family and headed to a rented Getaway tiny house in the woods. It was nearly a year ago that we first visited these darling cabins and I’d been eyeing a possible return date ever since. We arrived at the 3pm check-in time excited to set up camp.

In this glamping type situation, setting up camp means placing my stack of books on the table, putting food items on the one shelf and inside the refrigerator, and setting out bowls and beds for the pups. Next, campfire time.

Our two days consisted of campfires, noshing (lots of vegan poutine), and walks in the woods. For hours we sat and stared at the fire with pups wrapped up in blankets on our laps. When I looked up and saw the stars, I realized how completely content I felt.

To watch the flames dance, smell the burning wood, and feel the radiating heat is magical. I see how gathering around the campfire was a sacred and social experience for our ancestors.

One recent study found “that hearth and campfires induce relaxation as part of a multi-sensory, absorptive, and social experience.” The anthropologist researcher believes fires awaken our inner cavewoman.

The day after we returned, I took a Forest Bathing workshop through the Smithsonian Associates with Melanie Choukas-Bradley, an author and certified nature and forest therapy guide. We were invited to disengage from our phones and to-dos and to walk through the Enid A. Haupt Garden paying attention with all our senses. Smelling a gardenia plant was a highlight.

Next we wandered through the Katherine Dulin Folger Rose Garden where many roses were in bloom (see last photo). I noticed the sounds of trickling water from a fountain and a nearby carousel that began to play music to entice children (and me) to ride. We ended the two-hour experience with a tea ceremony sipping maple water and eating pure maple candies.

As I’m writing this many days later, there’s a fire crackling in the fireplace and a pug snoring on my lap. Since my time in the forest I’ve been more pensive and moved at a slightly slower pace. I think there’s something to this forest bathing!

Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Now, that’s one to ponder as we move through our weekends. Bisous. x

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