Since the mid-’90s I have been devoted to transforming lives from yearning, absence of purpose and meaning into lives that are purpose-driven, fulfilling and abundant in love, health, service and gratitude. As a lifelong student, teacher, transformational depth coach, wilderness adventurer and witness to the human experience, I believe that how we breathe is how we live.
Throughout my life I have been acutely aware of the impact our breath has on our ability to be present, resourceful, to cope in difficult situations, to find joy, peace and accept love, and to find ease in our body. Our breath offers a pathway into grace — the indwelling peace within us all. Our conscious awareness of each breath attunes us to the roadmap of our life, by feeling into our breath we have a direct communion with the source of life and our moment-by-moment experience and expression of it.
This is the Universal Law of Nature. Natural Law refers to “a regularly occurring or apparently inevitable phenomenon observable in human society.” As I see it, the first fundamental law of nature is: “Seek peace and follow it.”
My advice for everyone is simple. Make your way into nature. Spend time sitting, walking, listening, watching, breathing. Your mind, body and your breath will recalibrate with the natural rhythms of nature. The more you enter the natural world, surrounded in fresh air, trees, plants, water and wild life, you will notice a shift. Your breath will gently carry you into an altered state in which you are taking in the forest through your senses. This describes “shinrin-yoku,” a Japanese term for “forest bathing.”
Communing with creation can open us up to inspiration and awareness of that great cosmic mystery that connects us all, whether you call it Life Force, God, Creator, some other word, or feel it as a concept that is challenging to express by words. Easing into this connection, what I call God consciousness or deeper knowing, can help clear the distractions from our lower minds and activate our higher consciousness.
The same force that flows through nature and the universe flows through us. Experience some shinrin-yoku to tap the deep inner peace that happens when we are enveloped by nature. Dr. Qiing Li, chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, uses a scientific perspective to suggest proof for what naturalist John Muir offered through prose, C.S. Lewis in Narnia, Enid Blyton in Enchanted Wood, and JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts.
Forest Bathing is done fully clothed, with the intention of “taking in the forest through our senses.” We seek a state of connectedness to the natural world by bathing our senses in the elements. Li’s studies elaborate on forest bathing’s spiritual benefits, in addition to several physical advantages. “Immersed in the natural world,” he says, “we can experience the miracle of life and connect to something larger than ourselves. Nature takes our breath away and breathes new life into us.”
Forest Bathe for Reconnection
Find a green natural spot. Google Maps can help reveal green spaces near you. Discovertheforest.org provides a wonderful list of locations and resources.
When you arrive, start with the following tip from Ruth Baetz’s book Wild Communication: Experiencing Peace in Nature: Leave your nagging thoughts behind. Remember her phrase “I’m leaving behind” and follow it with anything you are ruminating about.
Silence your phone or, better yet, leave it behind along with your ear buds.
Wander. Bathe your senses. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat 10 times. Ten conscious, luxurious inhales and exhales. I believe that it takes just ten breaths to change our state of mind and point of perspective. Be aware of your breathing. Notice the sensation of the breath. What do you see? Smell? Hear? How does the ground feel? What if you took your shoes off? How does the air taste? What colors and shapes do you see? Tune in with your senses. Repeat.
Notice the connections. Leaves are part of trees, but whole within themselves. Birds share space in the trees. The roots of trees share space with the sky, the air, the soil and earth. Consider cycles in progress around you. Plants live, die, become part of the soil from which they seeded and sprouted.
Notice the paths around you. Can you see tracks of animals? What about the routes of the winged ones above your head? What about your path with the Earth?
Reflect on your own path. What feels in balance? Does anything feel out of balance? Where may you need extra support? Where could you seek needed support?
Journal your insights for further reflection.
Continue forest bathing often to reestablish open, receptive and mutually enlivening channels of communication with ourselves, human and non-human kin.