As we headed into the Forest, we walked silently. All we could hear was the distant water as it tumbled over the gritstone on its journey to the river. We walked with purpose, intending to be slow and open to the unfurling of experience.
Every single rock and root caressed the souls of our feet. We quietened our minds and opened our hearts to the possibility of nature's eternal unfurling. Something felt different; we weren't just walking; we were fully immersed in the Forest from the tips of our toes to the top of our heads and beyond.
When we go Forest Bathing, we begin by each setting an intention and claiming this time for us; that alone is a radical act, two or three full hours to yourself with no interruptions and no distractions. Then, we walk purposefully and slowly, greet the Forest and open our hearts and minds to what the Forest may offer. It never disappoints and often provides something simple and wonderful. Because we arrive this way, the mundane very quickly becomes magical. The things we would hurry past on a regular walk appear and call out, "please notice me; I am here to heal your heart and lighten your soul".
Time can fall away and single moments can completely captivate you.
On a recent guided walk, we stopped to watch how the sun illuminated the dark green moss of a nearby Elder Tree. We stood gazing at this ray of light for what would have been considered an unusually long time in 'normal walking' terms.
We slowly took a small step backwards, and the sun's angle seemed to change slightly. Then, beyond the tree, a thousand delicate threads spun by dainty spiders appeared out of nowhere. The whole woodland became one beautiful tapestry.
After 5 minutes of silent gazing, I felt the urge to 'move on; I wondered if we should continue, but why? We had all we needed right here; nature gifted us a moment of magic out of something mundane. We remained in place; this would be another fantastic day when we failed to meet our suggested number of steps.
For some, walking slowly without purpose and being open to the unfurling of experience can feel unusual or 'pointless'- too many seem to be on a constant road to 'somewhere' and for 'something'. However, Forest Bathing IS in our nature. Like other animals, we have inbuilt mechanisms to help us thrive in nature. We recover from stressful situations better when we are in a natural environment: our muscle tension decreases, heart rate normalises, blood pressure lessens, thoughts settle down, mood lifts, and level of concentration improves too.
Some people may say they are too busy to 'walk slowly' or dedicate time to the 'possible unfurling of experience'; when we get to this stage, we need it more than ever before!