I have another wonderful local experience to share!
This morning I went to Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in the lovely Richmond Beach area of Shoreline, WA for "Mindfulness in the Garden", hosted by Jessica Hancock, ND from the mindfulness organization Mindful in the Wild (www.mindfulinthewild.com)
The event was all about our connection to the healing power of nature, using meditation, mindfulness & Japanese Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku) techniques.
We did several short walks with various mindful nature focuses. We started separating out the senses, first aware of sights for a 'wander', then sounds, then touch.
Next we combined the three, which was incredibly immersive for me.
I discovered in the past I have mostly viewed mindfulness as a sense of focus - in a meditative state it's on one thing like the breath, or moving guided through various sensations, while in an active state, though involving multiple senses at once, I still focus on that direct present state of activity.
Today in the forest, mindfully actively engaging multiple senses without that main focus was incredibly freeing. It was as if the moving awareness of continually engaging all the senses became an extra avenue for stilling my mind - or a different direction of curiosity - creating the intention of openly "seeing" (++) the ever-changing present moment surrounding me.
I'm excited to see how it evolves my mindfulness practices over the next several days!
I also learned some amazing new stats about nature immersion that I have to share:
- Just 2 hours spent in forest canopy, even if over a few days, has immune boosting properties that can continue within the body for more than a week!
- 90 seconds with your hand on a tree turns on the parasympathetic nervous system - meaning calming the body and stopping the 'fight or flight' sympathetic nervous system response that we are often stuck in, when feeling stress or anxiety.
(and previously I have heard even just viewing pictures of trees stimulates the parasympathetic response)
On our next wander-walk, after being told about the 90 seconds, I placed one hand on a trunk for about a minute, then I was inspired to add my 2nd hand to the tree.
At that point the energy greatly intensified! I was profoundly aware of the flow created by 'connecting the circuit' of my energy integrating with the tree. There was a beautiful sense of give and take, which grew stronger in our following exercise: during which we closed our eyes and felt into the in-breath, taking oxygen as a gift from the trees, and then experienced the out-breath, giving carbon dioxide back to the trees.
We continued this breathing awareness for a few minutes. It was really wonderful to gratefully receive from nature, and to appreciate the human-side of that gifting interaction as well.
I highly recommend getting yourself out into nature - even if it's simply your backyard, or the tiny park a few blocks down the street: We are so blessed with all the green spaces we have in the Pacific Northwest! Even many of our shopping centers are next to banks of trees that you can take a moment to acknowledge & appreciate.
So give yourself a few breaths - feel all your senses - consider trying out a 90-second trunk 'palming' to see how it might calm you, or even try ambitiously diving in with a couple hours in a forest setting to boost your immune system.
If you don't try, you never know what you might be missing. =)
Here are some links about Forest Immersion, with some of the science, if you'd like to learn more: