That was fast! In the last 2 weeks we’ve seen the leaves on the trees pop open like umbrellas in a downpour and our weather is veering back and forth from rain to sunny heat. Our zucchini and cucumber plants appear to be growing so fast there are noticeable changes in leaf size and number from morning to evening. Nature, always in transition, is flexing its “becoming” muscle again!
The potential influence of nature on our health and moods is profound. We can deepen the benefits of our coexistence with nature simply by taking notice. Designated green spaces encompass a wide variety of types from farmland to the backyard vegetable patch, national forest to urban greenway, botanical garden to Zen garden. As a teacher and practitioner of Therapeutic Qi Gong I am well acquainted with the Daoist traditions of oneness with nature and the healing benefits of an affiliation with the natural world.
The ferns on the edge of the backyard have unfurled. The mass of color alone is
enough to calm you. Remember your color wheel? Green is in the family of cool colors that can relax you. It even reduces eyestrain. Communing with nature enhances your sense of wellbeing and boosts your creativity. As with other forms of meditation, drawing upon and attending to each of your senses one by one can lead to physiological as well as mental relaxation. There is growing evidence that you can boost your immune system by spending time in nature. Studies of the practice of forest bathing, shinrin yoku, a Japanese term coined in the 1980s, have garnered attention and encouraged the emergence of forest guides.
Recently I attended a forest-bathing walk at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. This was a small group experience primarily in the forest area of the Garden. Our guide Nadine Mazzola skillfully led us to slow down our minds and tune into our green surroundings by isolating our senses. Soon we were listening with eyes closed, looking closely as directed by a walk buddy, moving deliberately along grassy paths, breathing in the resinous scent of pines mixed with the cycle of new growth and old decay and, yes, even tasting the flavors of a woodland-foraged tea. Opening up our senses we were drawn into a spiritual communing with the trees, encouraged to introduce ourselves to a tree and even dance among them.
Try it on your own or meet up with a Forest Therapy Guide. Some of this might be outside your comfort zone or maybe you will surprise yourself! You can adjust the activity to suit your needs and temperament. Whether you engage in such a practice on your own or in a group, it will provide a gentle escape from the harsh clatter of daily life. You will come away paradoxically relaxed and energized.
What, no forest nearby? I’ll bet you can find a pocket forest close to you. Shift your perspective by looking on a different scale – blades of grass become a forest, leaves of a flowering bush a dense jungle. Sometimes one strong solid tree is your best friend, where you can Let Things Be.
And if you suffer too much from allergy or asthma then use this list to read your way into the garden Literary Gardens to Escape to this Summer or take a virtual walk with one of the numerous websites such as World Nature Video. There are even nature walks at the beach such as the White Cedar Swamp Trail on Cape Cod.
May your Summer Be Filled with the Joy of Nature!
All Photos by Claire Mauro unless indicated