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Why I Forest Bathe

Updated: May 10, 2023

An ancient practice for modern life.

My mission is to help people find the calm + the balm, the meaning + connection with Nature.

"I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and have my senses put in order." These words of naturalist and author John Burroughs resonate deeply, capturing what is an important aspect of forest bathing for me. So, too, do John Muir's words:"And into the forest I go to loose my mind and find my soul." With each and every walk, I do.

Forest Bathing. Nature Immersion Nature Connection. Nature + Forest Therapy.

It goes by all these names.

And while it sounds modern, it is actually an ancient practice. Cultures throughout time have had rituals and rites—vision quests, sacred ceremonies, seasonal celebrations and more—connecting them to the land.

The Western term Forest Bathing is inspired by the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-yoku, going to nature to be immersed in its atmosphere. The term Shinrin-yoku was only recently coined, in the 1980s, by the Japanese government as part of marketing effort to get citizens out into the country's forests! Today, the Japanese embrace it fully—as do other cultures around the world— visiting forest bathing trails, centers and retreats. Some doctors even prescribe time in Nature.

Japanese scientists began studying the important physiological and psychological effects of Nature and of the Shinrin-yoku practice in the 1990s. Today there is much international evidence- based research that confirms what we know at our core—time in Nature makes us feel good.

Whether you call it Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing, nature immersion, nature connection therapy— or one of the terms coined by other cultures around the world—the practice at its essence embraces slowing down, in quiet awareness, with all the senses activated. It is a way of seeing, hearing, moving, understanding, knowing, connecting and simply being with Nature.

For me it is a sensory awakening toward living deliberately and intentionally, fully aware of who and what surrounds me, and the idea that I do not live just in or upon the land, but of and in relationship with it—deeply connected in a web of interbeing.

This calls to mind other inspirations. One I have carried since childhood: "I went to the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not discover, when it came time to die, that I had not lived." The late Mary Oliver, ANFT poet laureate, wrote, "To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work." And this: "I don't want to end up having simply visited this world."

—Kate Bast, Certified ANFT Guide (April 2019)

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