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Shinrin-Yoku Guided Walks

“Indoors, we tend to use only two senses, our eyes, and our ears. Outside is where we can smell the flowers, taste the fresh air,

look at the changing colors of the trees, hear the birds singing and feel the breeze on our skin.

And when we open up our senses, we begin to connect to the natural world.”   ~Tomohide Akiyama

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A framework for supporting well-being through immersion in natural environments. 

 

The Japanese words translate into English as "Forest Bathing," spending time in nature in a way that invites calming interaction. There is a long tradition of this in cultures throughout the world.  We recognize that forest therapy approaches such as Shinrin-yoku have roots in many cultures throughout history. John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.” He is one of many people whom we include when we think about the origins of the practice.

 

Shinrin-Yoku is not just about increasing the overall health of people; it also has dramatic effects for the forest (or river, or mountain, or whatever environment you are in). These walks are about creating relationships between humans and the natural world, in which the relationship itself becomes a source of joyful well-being. 

 

There is an infinite number of healing activities that can be incorporated into a Shinrin-Yoku guided walk in a forest or any natural area. An activity is likely to be restorative when it makes room for listening, for quiet and accepting presence, and for inquiry through the eight sensory modes we possess.  Some of the ways we experience this through Shinrin-Yoku is by following these baseline requirements:

 

There is a specific intention to connect with nature in a life-giving way. This requires mindfully moving through the landscape in ways that cultivate presence, opening all the senses, and actively communicating with the land.  

 

This is not something to rush through. Shinrin-Yoku walks are not undertaken with the primary goal of physical exercise.  We prefer to avoid the term "hiking" because of its implications of physical exertion. The Shinrin-Yoku walks we lead are a mile or less, yet they often last two hours.  To help keep it from becoming too physically taxing, there will be certain elements we will look for in any trail we explore together.

 

Restorative interactions require giving generously of our attention. When we facilitate guided walks, we encourage mindfulness through an ever-changing and evolving series of suggested activities. These activities slow us down and open our senses. We begin to perceive more deeply the nuances of the constant stream of communication rampant in any natural setting. We learn to let the land and its messages penetrate into our minds more deeply.

 

It's not a one-time event. Developing a meaningful relationship with nature occurs over time and is deepened by returning again and again throughout the natural cycles of the seasons. To partake in the full benefits of Shinrin-Yoku we treat it as a practice and not merely a one-time activity to check off a list.    

 

It's not just about taking walks in the forest. The walks are important, but there are other core routines that we can do that will help in our deepening relationship with nature and in the exchange of health benefits between humans and the more than human world.  

 

The idea of Shinrin-Yoku may seem apparently simple. The benefits of this practice, however, are extremely substantial.  Over the past several decades there have been many scientific studies showing the remarkable and positive effects of simply being in wild and natural areas.

 

The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:

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  • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells.

  • Reduced blood pressure

  • Reduced stress

  • Improved mood

  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD

  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness

  • Increased energy level

  • Improved sleep

 

Just as impressive are the results experienced when we make this a regular practice:

  • Deeper and clearer intuition

  • An increased flow of energy

  • Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species

  • An increased flow of eros/life force

  • Deepening of friendships

  • An overall increase in sense of happiness

 

Opening our senses to nature also develops our intuition. Ultimately we learn to connect in new ways to the world around us. If you would like information about the practice of Shinrin-Yoku, or about guided walks being offered in this area, please contact me