Your Guide to Forest Bathing

Learn to take a step away from stress and towards the presence of nature, using mindfulness and meditation to feel peace while surrounded by the wild earth.

| June 2018

  • Leave your phone the next time you walk out into nature; minimize the amount of stress and external distractions you take with you.
    Photo by Getty Images/Gawrav Sinha
  • Your Guide to Forest Bathing by M. Amos Clifford is an effective tool to becoming in-tune with one’s self through the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku.
    Cover courtesy of Conari Press

Your Guide to Forest Bathing (Conari, 2018) by M. Amos Clifford serves as an in-depth introduction to the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Clifford is the founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, which seeks to incorporate nature and forest therapy into modern medical practices. As a 20-year student of Buddhist philosophy and with forty years of wilderness experience, Clifford shares his field notes on how to use forest bathing to deepen a relationship with nature and with one’s self. He walks through the proven techniques to let nature heal the body, mind, and soul.

Forest Bathing Step-By-Step: An Optimal Flow

The sequence described here has proven over hundreds of walks to reliably create a strong sensory connection with the forest. It brings us home, opening our internal gates and inviting the forest to come meet our minds and hearts and spirits.

It is a framework that provides a predictable pattern with room for flexibility, creativity, and adaptation to circumstances. Structure is part of what makes forest bath­ing a “practice.” Its built-in flexibility supports our creative capacity to relax into playfully engaging in a nondirected flow of emerging events.

As with any other practice, repetition helps. The repeated use of these invitations will, over time, deepen your understanding and your capacity to fully “drop in.” Dropping in is a term I’ve often heard forest bathers use. Its origin is in surfing, a practice that’s related in many ways to forest bathing. Surfers wait watchfully for a wave; when one comes, they must paddle to catch it. At a certain point, the paddling gives way to the wave’s own energy carrying the board forward. The surfer stands and “drops in” to the wave and the flow of the moment. When your forest bathing practice begins to ripen, like a skillful surfer you will learn how to drop in, allowing the forest and your own embodied awareness to flow together. The optimal flow described in this book will help you understand how to do this.



Overview: Steps in the Optimal Flow

  1. Have a firm intention to forest bathe.
  2. Begin with a threshold to ceremonially mark the start of the forest bathing walk and set it apart from other experiences. This is called the Threshold of Connection.
  3. Stay in one place for at least fifteen minutes, using your senses to explore here, now. The standard invitation for this is “Embodied Awareness.”
  4. Walk slowly for twenty minutes, noticing what is in motion around you.
  5. Choose one to three invitations that are a good fit for the place, the weather, the people, the mood. This part of the optimal flow is called “Infinite Possibilities,” because the forest offers many choices. This part can last up to two hours.
  6. Sit spot for twenty minutes.
  7. Hold a tea ceremony, with snacks and conversation.
  8. End with the Threshold of Incorporation, marking the end of the forest bath and your return to ordinary experiences.

1. Intention

JennyN
7/16/2018 8:18:35 AM

When I was a graduate student in literature, I was greatly influenced by Northrup Frye and his philosophy of liminality. I see it everywhere - in literature and life. This article seems to have perfect pitch for forest thresholds and the real benefits of forest bathing. I live in a forest and can't wait to "formalize" my relationship with this wise entity. Many thanks! (Speaking of forest thresholds, maybe we should all reread Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night's Dream!")


JennyN
7/16/2018 8:08:54 AM

When I was a graduate student in literature, I was greatly influenced by Northrup Frye and his philosophy of liminality. I see it everywhere - in literature and life. This article seems to have perfect pitch for forest thresholds and the real benefits of forest bathing. I live in a forest and can't wait to "formalize" my relationship with this wise entity. Many thanks! (Speaking of forest thresholds, maybe we should all reread Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night's Dream!")