I recently had the opportunity to participate in a group “forest bathing” exercise. Sounds exciting, I know, but it’s not what you’re thinking 😉
“Forest bathing” is the practice of mindfully walking through nature paying special attention to everything around us. There were about 10 of us in the group and our instructor led us through this beautiful property. Silent, barefoot (and fully clothed – I might add), we all sllllooooowwwwllllyyyy walked as our guide prompted our attention to different things.
Notice how the ground feels beneath your feet – how each part of your foot senses something a little different.
Listen to the sounds surrounding you. Can you tell where they come from?
Tap into childlike wonder and imagine the plants and flowers are moving of their own choice.
Let’s take a moment and connect with this tree. Feel it. Wonder how it takes the breath we exhale and gives off the oxygen we inhale.
As we walked and I allowed myself to sink into the experience I found myself giggling at different things. A tickle on my toes, the wonder of a butterfly, the delight I witnessed in someone’s face.
Each time I giggled our guide would say, “and let’s come back to mindfulness.” I honestly felt a bit like a chastised child. “Stop interrupting us. You’re to be seen, not heard. You’re doing the activity wrong.”
Honestly, I was right in it. I was doing as she asked by allowing my inner child to wonder at the world around us. My inner child is happy, joyful, and a bit mischievous. Gratefully, my adult being was able to hold the balance in managing adult expectations and allowing the youthful being to enjoy the moment. If I hadn’t, my inner child would have retreated into insecurity and shame, and the rest of the time spent with the group would have been unhappy and oppressed.
At the end, we circled up on yoga mats and our guide asked us to share our insights. I was towards the end of the line so I got to enjoy everyone’s answers before I needed to respond. This was a gift I’m grateful for. If I had been first my child would have let her know how upsetting it was to be chastised for following directions. Instead, I had time to seek what was truly in my heart and this is what came out:
There were moments when the ground was uncomfortable and prickly. This reminded me of difficult times in life where you don’t really like what’s happening and yet you still have to keep moving forward. Sadness, pain, loss, and fear, are emotions none of us like to experience and yet they are the ones we seem to remember more.
And then I’d connect with the tree and feel so much joy I had to allow it to be expressed. The wonder of watching a dragonfly dance above the water. Imagining the palm trees clapping as their fronds moved with the wind. Feeling the soft grass tickle the arches of my feet or the water flowing between my toes.
And my added realization: The rough times hold lessons for us. We remember them because they are deep and upsetting and changing. We often share them with others so they can understand and share our experiences. It’s the misery loves company thing. We can sink into them. It’s easier to fall than fly.
The thing is, the joyful parts aren’t always as life-changing as others. They’re more like guideposts letting us know we’re on a good path. We experience the moment and often hold them close or let them pass.
If you ask a young child about their day you’ll likely hear an abundance of wonder and excitement in seemingly mundane things. My renewed hope is to go just as deep into the joys and find the lesson in simply embracing childlike wonder.
Go color…outside the lines.
Pet some cats
Snuggle a stuffed animal
Play king of the rock while you go bouldering
Or imagine what the trees are saying as they sway in the breeze 😉