Saturday, August 2, 2014

Forest Bathing

To conclude my stories about my adventures in Colorado I want to mention a moment that is still with me more than three weeks later. On my second night in Colorado Springs we went to Palmer Park, nearby Toby's house. It has some fun and simple hiking and some small caves to explore. 

We hiked up to this small cave to check out, but only moments after arriving it began to sprinkle. As everyone else quickly began charting their route down to the car to get out of the rain I had a split second moment in time when I wanted to stay. 

That park and that imminent threat of rain somehow made me feel incredibly alive. Instead of the rain bringing me discomfort I trusted it would soothe me, that the cave would protect me, and the Earth truly supported me. Had I been alone, I would have stayed. 

Turns out there is a biological reason I was feeling this way. 

Here's what I learned from WebMD:

Ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. They are created in nature as air molecules break apart due to sunlight, radiation, and moving air and water. You may have experienced the power of negative ions when you last set foot on the beach or walked beneath a waterfall. While part of the euphoria is simply being around these wondrous settings and away from the normal pressures of home and work, the air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions -- Much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero.

Also another theme of my trip turned out to be "forest bathing". What? Known as the Japanese phenomenon of shinrin-yoku, I first learned of this concept from the CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, Jan Barker. During one of her very long, but very interesting speeches to the staff she brought up this concept to us. Something that I was doing and that I loved finally had a name. 

Forest bathing is simple. Take a walk through the forest or some other outdoor setting with lots of natural landscape and soak in the energies that the forest has to give. 

From Mother Earth News:

Medical doctors, including Franklin B. Hough, reported in early U.S. medical journals that forests have a “cheerful and tranquilizing influence which they exert upon the mind, more especially when worn down by mental labor.” Individuals report that forests are the perfect landscape to cultivate what are called transcendent experiences—these are unforgettable moments of extreme happiness, of attunement to that outside the self, and moments that are ultimately perceived as very important to the individual.

Forest bathing is something that I got to do a lot of in Colorado. There is so much fresh oxygen and energy to be taken from this scenery. It feels like your free gift from Mother Nature. I had written before that exercising outdoors is like exercise squared. When you are able to free your mind and nourish it with the positive energy of nature you will hopefully feel results in your state of being.  

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. —Robert Louis Stevenson