September 27, 2018
Forest Therapy is happening in Floyd, probably has been practiced here for centuries, however, what’s new is we are giving it a Focusing twist. Forest Therapy, also known as “Shinrin-Yoku,” refers to a practice of spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness. The practice follows the general principle that it is beneficial to spend time bathing in the atmosphere of the forest. The Japanese words translate into English as “Forest Bathing.” On wet, misty days like we experience some in this area, the term “Bathing” even comes with the added experience of noticing a literal wetness on our skin. Human skin meets forest air. As Focusers, we know this as an edge, the edge where IF we pause now and pay attention, we can feel how the Forest is affecting us and maybe even get a sense of how we are affecting the Forest. If we bring interested curiosity and a sense of Presence to this experience here now, we open up for an expanded understanding about this “wet”, what it might mean for us in this particular moment of interaction with the Forest. It might feel like a cleansing, it might feel like an immersion, it might feel heavy and you feel yourself wanting to shake it off like a dog might. Any of us can go to the Forest and set an intention to do this on our own. The Focusing twist we are adding is that we are visiting the Forest together; practicing Self-in-Presence together as a group in the same piece of Forest, at the same time.
This idea arose this year when a graduating Level 4 group was looking for ways to stay connected now that class was over. They came up with Forest Therapy and we have been gathering to explore various ways to “be together in Presence with the Forest“. I really, really like it. There are the benefits we expected. One being the commitment to the group – it’s easier to do this for ourselves when others will be there too. Carving out being time in this world of infinite doing opportunities is a real challenge for us all. I appreciate this as something that shows up on my schedule as something to DO that really lets me BE. Another benefit we expected was how good it feels to be with the Forest, and this is true no matter what the weather. Being experienced Focusers, we also expected to appreciate hearing each others felt sense experiences. During one visit, every one of us had some type of connection with death or aging. All were very different and unique to our current life situations and sharing gave us all a broader perspective than our own experience had. Which brings me to the surprise benefit. Together is MORE. More magical, more subtle, more metaphorical, more interactive, more experiential, more of pretty much whatever you were coming for.
Update 2022: Floyd Focusers met for about 2 yrs, often at Smart View picnic area on Sunday afternoons. They are no longer meeting and that is just fine as there are some other local groups practicing Forest Therapy now. You might check out InStill Mindfulness - they meet locally all over south west Virginia with a variety of outdoor mindfulness activities.
If you are not local and this sounds like something you’d like to try in another community, feel free to contact me to chat about how we started. I’m happy to share what we learned.