Having travelled to Japan it is evident the benefits of absorbing the stillness of nature and meditation together. The Japanese relish being outdoors and especially nurture their connection to nature as part of a zen lifestyle. Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese phrase which describes “forest bathing or therapy”, the art of being in nature with no effort and simply just being.
Besides the aesthetic appreciation of meditation in nature, Shinrin-yoku has many documented scientific benefits which last long after your visit into nature, namely due to the release of phytoncides (essential oils released by plants, trees and insects) which have a positive effect on the immune system, and some studies go as far as to say they have an effect on killing cancer cells. In addition, decreased blood pressure and a general reduction in stress and depression are great side effects. The experience is likened to natural aromatherapy.
The best part of this type of meditation and nature therapy, it requires no experience, no specific pose or skill. Simply walking in nature, being mindful and relaxing will give you the full benefits of this practice.
So how do you get the most benefits from Shinrin-yoku?
- Choose areas that are beautiful and peaceful
- Walk slowly and in silence, take your time, stop and touch leaves, feel the smooth rocks, look up, feel the sun on your face…
- Take notice of all of your senses; what can you smell, feel, see, hear…
- Rest in a nice quiet spot, take off your shoes and feel the ground, maybe you can even put your feet in running water.
- Close your eyes and imagine all of the natural healing energy from the earth running up through this natural ground, seeping through the soles of your feet as you absorb the energy from deep in the ground like roots of a tree into your body, healing and energising every cell (a beautiful analogy isn’t it!)
- Shinrin-yoku also claims to enhance deeper friendships, so this experience is best shared with a special friend or so (much safer too)
- By all means take your phone with you for safety, but turn it off or to silent while you are enjoying your mindfulness experience as you would for any meditation.
Best 3 places to enjoy a Shinrin-yoku meditation experience in Wollongong (details of the walk locations are available on http://www.bushwalkthegong.com)
- Brokers Nose Summit Traverse
This walk offers some beautiful forests, complete with a fern carpet and mossy rocks. Follow the walk in until you reach the forest section, find a nice quiet spot to the side to sit and enjoy this luscious forest…
2. Cascades Trail, Macquarie National Pass
To enjoy the Shinrin-yoku experience with a water element, it doesn’t get more zen than the Cascades Trail. This trail can be busy so pick a quiet time of the day, sunrise or sunset, and wander the creek bed to find a nice secluded spot. Take your shoes off and find a comfy rock to sit and soak your feet – it will be cold, so maybe just enjoy a cleansing dip of the toes before you sit and just ‘be’.
3. Mt Keira Ring Trail
Although some sections are closed on the trail, there is a magical forest on the North West side. Filled with ferns, palms and ancient trees, it is a delightful place to spend the afternoon. Find the trail signpost at the junction of Queen Elizabeth Drive and Mt Keira Road as you drive to the Summit of Mt Keira. There are also some bench seats on the walk, so it makes for a comfortable sit to absorb those phytoncides.
So now you are all equipped to enjoy a Shirin-yoku experience. Don’t forget the general safety cautions for bushwalking, tell a friend where you are going and how long you will be, pack enough water and food and especially pack the appropriate clothes – your body temperature can drop whilst you meditate and you may want to pack a little cushion or rug to sit on also. Don’t attempt to sit on the edge of cliffs to meditate, this is not the point and is extremely dangerous, the idea is to sit in a forest. Be cautious of snake hazards as you would on any other walk as you will be sitting in the forest.
For additional information or questions on safety, go to http://www.bushwalkthegong.com