Shinrin-Roku (forest bathing)
The concept of Shinrin-Roku (森林浴) is not new, but has become more popular in recent years. So what is it? Well it is basically the Japanese word for forest bathing. To keep it simple, it is a basically walk in the woods. So what's with the fancy name? Well there's more to Shinrin-Roku that meets the eye. Whilst to most people, the last few years haven't been great due to the global pandemic. Some of us used that time to try new things, discover themselves and discovered more about the area they live in. So off to the woods I went. If you're not into the spiritual and philosophical side, please click here .
A walk in the woods is not only good for some fresh air and exercise. It is also a good opportunity heal and refresh. Why not put your phone away and let yourself appreciate your time in the woods. Listen to breeze, the bird's sing and sound of water trickling away. If you can, feel the connection with your environment. Take as long as you need, because woodlands provide a perfect sanctuary and a place to escape the stresses of daily life. Until you've experienced this, you'll never know what wonderful places woodlands are.
Being close to nature is not a modern fad, but deeply linked to the spirituality. By spirituality, I don't religion. Mankind's links to nature goes back a long way. Our ancestors, wherever you're from or whatever cultural background, venerated and respected nature. In China, the cultural background I'm from worshipped nature and this formed the basis of Daoism. On the other side of the world, the Germanic and Norse faiths were no different. Nor were the Native American Indians. This was a facet of spirituality before mankind gave their beliefs a form and formalised their beliefs to become a religion. However, regardless of our backgrounds, a lot of values are mutually understood. For example, we don't need a book to tell us what is good and evil. We may just need a bit of guidance. People are shaped by the environment they exist in. By scratching away the surface, a common theme appears and how we're all alike.
Many people are confused by what is defined as religious and that which is spiritual. The two can be related, but doesn't have to be. E.g. Religion is what others want you to believe. Spirituality is what you wish to believe. You may be a part of a religion, practicing or just brought up in that culture, yet having a different opinion on the doctrine. To some groups, this is sadly, not acceptable. Answers aren't always found in a book and interpretation differ. Hence, it is acceptable to seek your own answers. However, depending on the company you're in, it might not be a wise to speak of them.
There's life and harmony all around you. Stay around long enough and you may witness a whole circle of life. Woodlands are also a great place to practise Taiji and Qigong, just find a spot and blend in with the environment. When you walk and breath, do so slowly and gently, like you do in Taiji. There are some who do seek to practice near trees and try to absorb the natural energy. This energy is known to be strongest in the morning. Learn to be as one with nature. For urban dwellers, the journey doesn't have to end. Remember the experience if it helps you relax. There are some great tracks from music streaming services which have ambient sounds of birds, rivers and woodlands. I recommend using these.
It is important to make time for yourself and take the opportunity to de-stress. We often take the environment for granted and over the last 100 years, mankind has done much to damage our planet. We see natural resources and treat them as commodities to be traded for profit. People seek to improve where they live, but often at the expense of others. It doesn't have to be like that. Daoism is about mankind living in harmony with nature. Pure Land is here in this world. In you care for your environment, the environment will look after you.
If this spiritual talk bores you. Perhaps you could appreciate the biodiversity that exists within a forest. It is amazing how trees contribute to our lives. Trees can help manage erosion, clean the air we breath, Trees enrich the soil and provide food in the form fruits and nuts. Not forgetting wood, one of the old materials known to mankind. From the scientific point of view, trees are both important and interesting.
And lastly, remember to let go, relax and take it easy...
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