Isn’t forest bathing just like hiking?
Forest bathing is different from hiking in key ways. A forest therapy walk is a slow mindful wander through the forest combining a specific combination of physical and mental exercises.A typical forest bathing experience may take 2 hours over a distance of 2km. Making it accessible for anyone..
A forest bathing experience opens your senses to nature. You are noticing your surroundings using your ears, your nose and your touch.
Your guide will help you feeling and connecting into that and opening your senses to nature: smelling, touching, and when something catches your eye. You are just standing there and immersing yourself and observing everything you see. That it might be a spiderweb that’s caught your eye with the sun glistening on it and all the little water drops. You can stand there for 15 minutes observing everything about that.
What is forest bathing like as a group?
You might go on a two and a half hour session. At the start you’ll hear a brief introduction where the leader will encourage everybody to let go of anything that they perceive that might happen. Leave everything you thought about what this might be or what you’re expecting this to be. Everything that happened that’s in your head stays right here at the beginning of the path. And then we start a journey. The group walks for 15 minutes, wander, explore, As they’re exploring to really tune into their senses, be really observing, listening, listening for birds, listening to the wind in the trees.
The group wander very, very slowly. As each footstep is deliberate and conscious. It’s a very small movement. You might take an hour to walk a kilometre, but that’s the intent. You might wander for 20 minutes and then you would find a place to sit and just be, be present for something like 10 minutes. The guide might encourage the participants to just sit and focus on one object or just sit and focus on what they can hear. The leader would be encouraging people when their mind starts to wander, or if they become distracted, to focus on a sound or what they’re seeing. This is like a guided meditation in the forest hat encourages people to slow right down, let go of other things, and take in the environment that’s around them.
Why do I need a guide to do this?
The group is led by a guide but it is the forest that is the therapist. The therapy comes from nature. People say, why do you need a guide? Well, watch people as they walk in nature. They’re not noticing. When I go for a hike, I’m doing exercise. Mindful forest bathing is a very different experience. It is the practice of being and connecting nature. To do that you need to slow right down to see things and a guide is useful when it comes to helping you do that.
The guide is there to support and encourage people to use the opportunity. Sometimes that’s really quite challenging for people when they’re highly anxious and stressed with life. So that the guide is there to facilitate the most beneficial focus.
Why is being in a group helpful?
Being part of a group of people affirms the validity of spending time to slow yourself down and connecting with nature. Some people might feel a bit awkward initially, but when everybody’s doing it together, it becomes much easier.
There are also challenges everyone experiences in quieting a busy mind. People might say I tried meditation once and I was really bad at it. They don’t realise that everyone feels that way at the start. This is very much part of the normal learning process.
At appropriate times group members will be invited to share some of what they are experiencing and this can be reassuring for others. The guide can offer practical advice in how to settle the mind and connect to the natural environment.