Forest bathing

Thankfully there are some things that will never be up for debate. Here’s one: the weather is going to be the talk of the town today! It’s forecasted to be an absolutely perfect day. And it’s going to be amazing after the recent heat wave. This is the type of day that comes along every few years. Mark my words. It’s going to be majestic. I’d say it’s an ideal day for forest bathing. We have a few spots available for our afternoon planned session. RSVP to this email or call the office if you’d like to attend. We are meeting today at 4 pm at the Stockbridge Town Offices (the old school building) by the basketball court. We will walk only a little. This is accessible to anyone who can walk on a trail and who wants to be outside for a couple of hours (approx 4–6 pm). Zach Rissman will be our guide. Suggested donation is $15–$30.

I must tell you I recently treated my staff to a team-building forest bathing exercise with Zach. It was stupendous. He is very genuine and sincere. During our session in the woods, we totally shifted gears. We slowed down and tuned in to the forest and ourselves. The different sights, smells, and tactile experiences that we sought out individually through a series of invitations from our host became a mindfulness exercise. It’s much different from the typical walk or jog in the woods. It was instructive and rejuvenating for all present.

World’s Best Medicine?

Miraculous Mindfulness

Speaking of mindfulness exercises in the woods, there are a few points about mindfulness that I’d like to amplify. I’ve jotted down seven that I hope you will find worthwhile this am:

  1. Mindfulness can be called present-time consciousness. The present lies between the past and the future. It’s the middle path. The weight of certain abnormally dense past memories or the anxiety about an unformed future all too easily crowd out the present. It gets squeezed away. We must consciously create the space to sink into the present. With practice, the bad feelings connected to not being in the present (discomfort or angst) become almost pleasant reminders to redirect the consciousness into the present moment.
  2. Purpose: what’s the reward of mindfulness? There is a lightness and a movement inherent to present time consciousness. It’s where we find fluidity and flow state. It’s rich. Layers of hidden muscle tension can be discovered and released. Clarity and intuition lives in that space as well. The most basic reality becomes partially distorted by our overly applied thought process. Mindfulness is the antidote and starts to peel away distortions. 
  3. Practice. It’s like any skill: if you want it, you have to put in the time. We each have a different starting point. Some are more oriented to the present than others. However, anyone who’s interested and dedicated can make steps towards mastery. Present time conciousness is an absolute foundation for our lives. There is no other skill more worthy of your effort than this. You can start with just a couple of minutes per day and expand from there. It becomes a platform.
  4. Mindset: Generosity and curiosity are needed because mindfulness involves taking in the world immediately accessible to us for what it is without any judgment—whether it be another person, the natural world around us, our bodily sensations, or even our thoughts. Having no judgment is the biggest key. To love is to be able to really see and appreciate what’s there. Then and only then are we in true service to our world.
  5. Access: techniques can vary, but in general, mindfulness meditation involves breathing exercises and awareness of body and mind. Turning our senses fully to the body in some way is a good foundational step. It is tricky to work with thoughts, so the focus on the body helps to anchor oneself to the present. Eventually, we learn to see our thoughts like toy boats going by in babbling Brook. They’ll entice us in and, before we know it, we’ll be under the deck fighting with pirate figurines. The goal is to stay anchored and build a home on the bank on the side of the brook and get good at watching the boats go by.
  1. Just start: practicing mindfulness meditation doesn’t require props or preparation (candles, essential oils, or mantras are not needed). You can do it while brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, or driving in the car. And it’s not all or nothing. It’s okay to oscillate in and out of present-time consciousness. Remebering that orieting to the present without judgment is on the agenda is part of the practice.
  2. Summary: Focussing on your body and breathing without judgment and without an agenda is simple but miraculous. (Example exercise — noticing your breath: “As I breathe in, I realize I am breathing in. As I breathe out, I realize I breathe out.” —Thich Nhat Hanh) Observe what is there. When judgments arise, don’t suppress them. Recognize that they are there. Become conscious of them. Instead of pushing them away, just be sure not to elaborate them or identify with them. Notice the difference!

Gratitude or generosity from present-time consciousness is special. It’s a high and noble but elusive goal: to give from a place of fullness. Things are different when we give from this place. Relaxed and flowing in the present state defines “fullness” well, as far as I’m concerned. Love from this same place has a special intensity, the intensity needed for our times, also something that is not debatable!

Best wishes on this next spin!