Refresh Welcome Presence
self kindness

Refresh Yourself And Get More Done

 

How often have you found yourself in a situation where you have to perform, but feel wiped out even before you begin? Sometimes it can’t be helped, we’re just called on to do what feels like to much. And when you’re pushing so hard self care is often the first thing to go, which can leave you feeling drained pretty quickly. What can you do to refresh yourself before you’re completely worn out?

Here are a few ways you can re-energize and give yourself a fighting chance at accomplishing all the things you want to do today.

You Are Here!

You know when you step into a one of those giant, multi-level malls and there’s so many people moving around you barely even know where to start? We all know the first thing to do in that situation is to head for one of those huge signs with everything mapped out and that brightly colored little arrow that lets you know ‘You Are Here!”. How comforting it is in that moment to have a sense of where you are in the midst of all that confusion. It just makes the task ahead of you seem that more do-able.

Well, the same thing can be very helpful if your day starts to crowd out and get unmanageable. How can you first one of those brightly colored arrows into your day?

Orient to your space: Look around you, name five objects that you see as you swing your gaze around.

Orient to your body: Feel your feet on the floor, notice your breathing, briefly scan your body and see where you may be feeling any tension/constriction right now.

Orient to time: Check the time, not to invoke a sense of urgency or anything, just note where you are in your day. Are you at the beginning? the middle? are you nearly done for the day?

Orienting to space, time and to your body help give you a sense of roundedness that allows you to respond in a more deliberate way to your situation.

What Have You Got To Lose?

My art studio used to be a whole room, then a half  a room, and now it’s a 1/4 gallon Ziplock freezer bag containing watercolors, a permanent marker, pencil, eraser and pencil sharpener. This shift has been so good to me. I can sit down anywhere and make art on the spot. The limited number of materials forces me to be more focused, I have more clarity as a result of giving myself fewer artistic choices and it also allows me to be more creative.

Sometimes taking a cleaner more minimal approach can open up new options, and more energy, for you.

Spend Time With People Who Support You

“Everyone blooms with respectful, spacious attention and contracts with disapproval, disinterest, and disrespect.”

Pamela Wilson

When we feel stressed out, or filled with worry, we contract our bodies to protect ourselves. Sometimes we  become so tense we don’t even notice it any more.

Spending time with people who are willing to be with us and accept us for who we are, and where we are, allows us to unwind a little. We feel accepted and there is a lessening of our need to contract against the world. We feel safe to let go a little. Holding tension in the body requires a lot of energy and the smallest amount of letting go can release that energy for you. Enough to make a big difference.

Freshen Up!

Eat fresh fruit, breathe fresh air, drink fresh water, wash your face, jump up and down for one minute.

Get active and allow the blood to run through your body and freshen things up.

Press Pause

Allow yourself some time for whatever you need. Rest, some quiet time for reflection, a conversation with a friend. Just exercising your right to have time for yourself is a big step. You’re allowed.

We are often pressured into constant, meaningless movement, for the sake of the movement itself. As long as your busy you are worthwhile.

Too much of that’s not good for you. We do need to take action, of course, but we also need to take time to slow down. You are a reflective being. You need time to reflect and access your own wisdom. That wisdom is often put aside for the sake of getting things done. But too much of that and you start to lose touch.

Have you ever noticed that people who exploit others are always encouraging (or pressuring) the people around them to rush. I suspect it’s so they have less chance to access their own power.

Make it a daily habit to carve out at least a little time to access your own power.

Take A Wide View

You know that feeling when you decide to just head out to the beach and recharge? The feeling of sitting there at the water’s edge taking in the sound of the waves, the fresh air.

Our whole being responds to being near the water. At the water’s edge there is often a panoramic view–the shoreline extends out from where you are in each direction and you look out at a wide, unrestricted expanse of water. There’s less visual clutter and your brain starts to attune to that wide open nature of the moment.

It seems easier to let go of constrictive thoughts and possibilities seem to open up. If not a beach, a mountain top, an open field, or even lying on your back and looking up at the wide openness of the sky can all work just as well.

You Deserve It

It matters that you are looked after and at operating at your full capacity. It’s a gift you can give to yourself, and you are worth it. A reminder: this is not just about getting your projects done, it’s about looking after yourself even when life gets hectic.

in the world

What Are You Called To Do Today?

How’s Your To-Do List Today?

Mine is jam-packed (bet yours is too) and everything feels urgent. The tasks crowding the top of my list are mostly things I’d rather not be doing and set against a backdrop of expectations and consequences for not getting them done. Which just adds to the sense of crisis and urgency.

Putting aside urgency for a moment, it can be useful to take a few minutes to pause for a bit and take stock.

You might notice feelings of agitation at the thought of having to do these things.

That sense of agitation probably comes from thoughts about these things that need doing. Often, tasks aren’t really that bad, it’s our thinking that can make us feel really antsy.

So. Imagine letting go of thinking about your To-Do list right now. You might feel some of that tension drain away immediately. They’re just actions that need doing. There’s still a slight sense of agitation, perhaps, but once the thinking is stripped away and you’re left with the tasks themselves, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Inside / Outside

One thing that stands out about most To-Do lists is the ‘outside’ nature of them. How so many tasks are generated by external needs–from other people, or from circumstances outside of ourselves that need fixing. It’s like your list is pulling you out from yourself.

When you move your focus from things that need doing ‘out there’ and look inside, sometimes a new list shows up.

By ‘look inside’ I mean shifting awareness out from your head and all the thoughts swimming inside it and allowing awareness to settle into your body. To be conscious of the physical sensations in your body. To feel your feet on the floor, the temperature in the room and how it feels on your skin, the movement of your chest as it breathes in and out. Then, moving deeper in, being aware what’s going on in your chest, your heart center.

There might be a slight sense of unease there, we have been talking about To-Do lists after all!

Maybe you’re feeling calmer than when you started reading, more present.

Whatever is going on for you now, going deeper you’re likely to find there’s something more underneath these sensations if you’re willing to check.

Something inside of you that wants to be heard. A desire for actions that come from a deeper place and that are infused with a sense of ease. Actions that come more from this place, inside, rather than from the outside. Actions that are both restful and productive. Tasks that are generated from a sense of purpose and are more closely aligned with who you are, and what you want to accomplish.

What might those tasks be? What are you called to do today?

 

presence practices

Finding Rest

I find water restful. Baths, showers, beaches, swimming pools. I love the expanse of an ocean, the feel of water holding me up, the smell of salt water in the air and the sound of waves crashing. I love the smell of rain hitting the ground after a dry spell. Love misty rain, pouring rain, spotty rain.

My being resonates with water. And being in it, near it, even drinking it, recharges me.

But I’m not everyone. Maybe you resonate most with the earth, with lying on the ground and feeling that solidity holding you up, infusing you with energy.

Maybe space and air are the tonics that nourish you the most. Or being around animals.

For you, it might be fresh food and being in the kitchen. Getting creative with your hands and crafting beautiful dishes: smelling, tasting, touching food as you go. Cutting and arranging beautiful morsles of food for yourself or others.

Maybe music is what touches you, or deep silence, or the smell of old books. Art! all kinds of art. There are so many ways that we can be nourished by the world we live in.

And we all have a few different ways of being, different places we go to to feel rejuvenated.

And it’s probably not just one thing, either. All of the elements I just listed came to mind because they give me some sense of rest and ease. They fill me up in their own way.

What Fills You Up?

People are able to come up with their own list with just a few moments to think about it.

You probably have a few activities or environments that you rely on when you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to just settle into your beingness and rest a little. To recharge.

And sometimes it’s easy to forget those places, those ways of being. So it’s good to take a few moments every now and then to remind yourself.

The things we love can be so restful because they invite us in. If painting is your thing then you ‘re probably aware of  that sense of absorption that can come when you’re creating. Same with cooking, surfing, kitting, meditation.

The things we love invite us to listen closely. They call us to be present. They invite us to release our tight grip on our sense of self and expand a little. They allow us to let something new come in and fill us up.

When you do something restful that allows you to let go in this way you are touching some deep part of yourself that is often forgotten in the busyness of living.

I’m wondering if just soaking in this idea of resting helps you to see some possible changes you could make to nurture yourself more. Changes that might give you even more space and time to unwind a little.

And even if that needs to take place in a busy environment, just know that small opporunities can open up, or be opened by you. How do you know otherwise unless you try?

goat king
heart mind writing

The Goat King

Years ago I moved to a new place just days before the area was hit with ferocious bush fires. Shortly after  shifting everything I owned into my new home, I had to quickly pack all my possessions up again, and stack them by the door ready for evacuation.

This new home was a broken-down, rambling 130 year old house that I shared with two other renters. It sat on 5 acres at the top of a ridge, in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, Australia. There was no fence and the bush started at our back door and rolled all the way down the valley, which was part of over 600,000 acres of National Park.

Watching The Fire

We spent one anxious night sitting on the back verandah watching the glowing fires out to the west. The winds were forecast to be 80 km/hour and headed straight for us. We scanned the orange glow across the horizon, tracking the movement, waiting for the moment we would have to leave.

The moment never came. The forecast winds only hit 4 km an hour instead of the predicted 80. The next day the local bush-fire brigade came out and did some back-burning in the valley behind our house. It seemed we were safe for the moment.

The day after the back-burning I went for a walk to check things out. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a full-blown raging bushfire run through, because the effect of a tightly controlled back-burn was pretty decimating.

The previous day,  the undergrowth had been thick, disorienting, and difficult to navigate. My first few attempts to get down into the valley to join the track leading to the creeks and waterfalls were
futile. I ended up turning back, fearful I would lose track of where my new house was.

But after the back-burning there was just an expanse of charred soil, warm underfoot, smoke slowly rising from it. Dead remnants of trees still stood here and there. A few had fallen and needed climbing over. The walk to where the valley dropped down now took five minutes, about a quarter what it had when battling through the undergrowth.

An Odd Visitor

So I was standing there, looking over the seared landscape, when a white shape shifted behind a clump of blackened trunks. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, and walked quietly closer
to get a look. And there I saw it.

A white goat had come up from the valley and was walking through looking for green vegetation to eat.

I stood quietly and watched it nose around for awhile. The goat was so white. I wondered if it had bolted from a nearby home, frightened by the fire. It was such a strange sight, so clean and seemingly domesticated, calmly foraging through the charred ground.

After watching the goat for a while, I went back to the house and drew a few quick sketches in a notebook. The image was locked into my memory, and still is years later. I thought it might be good to use in a piece of art somewhere down the line. After I made a note of it I didn’t think about it much for a while.

A few months later, the bush had begun the task of regenerating. Even with the undergrowth returning, the bush was still nicely thinned out and it was an easy walk down to the public tracks.

I’d gotten to the point where I could scramble all over the valleys behind the house and had gotten to know the area very well. At least one day of the weekend was reserved for walking in the valleys, I usually followed the creeks that spread out through the surrounding area, climbing up waterfalls as they gradually got smaller and smaller and almost disappeared, or slowed to a trickle at their source.

The area is famous for the golden sandstone cliffs and ridges, and I would often spot caves high up above the creeks and would make a detour to climb up and check them out.

The Goat King

One series of cliffs had these gigantic golden caves that were eroded into the shape of golden waves about to break over the valley. I tried a few times but could never find a path up to the ledges near the top of the cliffs. Whenever I walked by the creek below them I’d look up above the tree-line and check them out.

One day I looked up as I was walking by and saw another white whiff of movement. I stopped and looked more closely. It was the goat, sitting on his belly, paws close to the lip of the ledge, surveying the valley. There was something about the way he sat that struck me, he was so at home, he seemed like a king looking over his kingdom. I’m sure he must have seen me but he must have felt that I was no threat as he didn’t move or acknowledge me in any way, he certainly shoed no sense of skittishness or fear.

That goat, who in some ways seemed so out of place in that wild environment but had clearly made a life for himself out there, continues to walk the the landscape of my imagination. He represents a model for how I want to be in my own life. He represents the qualities of sovereignty  and resilience that I want to bring to my life. The way he sat there on the cliff was so regal, there was such a strong sense of belonging and ease in the way that goat held himself.

And he brought that same calm presence to the blackened landscape as he did to the recovering landscape. He walked among the charred debris with the same confidence he displayed sitting high up on his throne, present and watchful as the land around him bloomed.

He reminds me that all we need to do when things chaotic is to forage calmly, sniffing after any remaining green shoots.

And he reminds me that we, too,  can simply sit here and be fully ourselves.  Settled, calm, secure in the knowledge that we belong.

I like to think of the present moment as my throne, and yours too. And believe that how we occupy that throne matters. How do you feel as you sit in that throne? Can you make your home there? When you sit
on your golden throne what perspective does it give you?

writing prompts
heart mind writing

Imagine This …

Imagine This …

You are sitting at your desk

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing when a robin bathes vigorously in the birdbath outside your window reminding you how low the water really is

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing when a robin bathes vigorously in the birdbath outside your window reminding you how low the water really is, so you go to the garden to fill the birdbath back up and maybe water the roses, and the rhododendrons by the back fence, before heading back in and then

You are sitting at your desk …

self-kindness holidays gift christmas
self kindness

Give Yourself The Gift Of Self-Kindness For The Holidays

 

The holidays can take a toll on us if we neglect our own needs. It’s easy to get lost in focusing on other people and events, and trying to check all the boxes. The Holidays are a time for connecting with the people we love, and it’s important to take care of ourselves too. Focusing on self-kindness is one way to help get you through the season without feeling too drained.

And it’s not about being selfish, or cynical: self-kindness helps us to be generous and loving to others through the Holidays, while offering the same love and care to ourselves.

So, with that in mind here are seven gifts of self-kindness you can give yourself these Holidays.

The Gift Of Permission

An especially valuable gift is to allow yourself to let go of expectations. Holidays can be a minefield of shoulds and obligations–from self and others. It’s important to give yourself permission to participate in the Holidays in a way that takes into account your own desires, energy levels, and a strong sense of who you are.

This involves consciously setting some boundaries. A nice way to think about boundaries is that you don’t create boundaries to keep other poeple out, you create boundaries for your own energy, to ensure you have what it takes to connect more meaningfully with the people you care for.

The Gift Of Time

The Holidays often descend into a dizzying blur of activity. It may seem impossible at first, but try taking the time to plan a little and slow down. Then slow down some more.

Think about where you might be able to give yourself some time buffers here and there. Can you cut some time from your shopping trip? The wrapping and preparation? Food preparation? Travel? All of these activities can get away from you if you let them. If you can’t cut time out can you spread little breaks for yourself through the time you’ve already committed to?

The Gift Of Space

I remember years back, being in line at a Barnes and Noble bookstore, pretty late on a Christmas Eve. It was jam packed and I can remember the claustrophobic feeling of standing there, people squeezed in on all sides, and a low-grade sense of anxiety rolling through the store. It was such a physical experience.

The holidays are a time where people come together, and hang out in small spaces. It’s worth noting that the people are often gathered together because they are family or friends with a shared history, and this can mean a lot of intense feelings, sometimes positive and sometimes difficult, can come up. That makes it especially important to make sure you can get some space when you need it.

My favorite way to do this is to go outside if possible. I’ll often go stand on the front porch, or in the back yard if there is one. Take a few minutes outside of the packed house, breathe in some fresh air, feel the open space around you and above you. You might be amazed at the difference one or two minutes can make.

If you can’t make it outside, try to find a quiet spot inside where you can just be alone for a few moments–the bathroom, kitchen, maybe a corner of the room where no one else is sitting.

The Gift Of Presence

Christmas is such a sensual time, and filled with beauty, too. Make sure you taste the food, smell the smells, enjoy coming in from the cold into a warm and cozy space.

Connect with yourself whenever you remember to. When you’re seated at the dinner table feel your feet on the floor, appreciate all the faces around you, take in the decorations, be as present as you can for each conversation.

The Gift Of Connection

Make the most of the moment. Who do you most want to catch up with at the family gathering? Who do you want to really touch base with at that party? Is there someone you don’t know who might be interesting to talk to? Keep an eye out for chances to craft your experience so that it resonates for you and others, allow yourself to give what you want to give and receive.

The Gift Of Rest

The Holidays can often take an emotional toll on your body, Whether it’s people you love being around, or not, emotions can get triggered. Underneath everything there’s a whole lot of emotional processing going on.

Be aware of that and allow yourself some downtime to let all this sink in and settle.

The best way to do this is to build in opportunities for rest. Take care to not overcommit to events, or tasks. If you have a long list of things to do, build in mini-rest breaks so you can pace yourself better through the day.

Put time for yourself on your to-do list! Give yourself a half hour somewhere to just put your feet up and recharge before you move onto the next taks or social event. Planning these mini-breaks ahead can really help. (Hint: Other people don’t have to know about this!)

The Gift Of Meaning

Some childhood memories I associate with Christmas include: midnight mass, pillowslips used as christmas stockings, and the slow tempo of Christmas Day spent quietly with the family.

What are the most meaningful memories of the holidays for you? It’s important to remember these and make the most of them. If your memories of the Holidays are not appealing, then give yourself permission to create your own rituals and ways of celebrating.

With the focus on family, and the sometimes overwhelming commercialization, the Holidays can be stressful. Many people are excluded and forgotten in the crush, and it can be the most difficult time of year for many.

In my early twenties I was in recovery from alcohol/addiction problems and feeling pretty alienated. An older member of my local A.A. group took me to a treatment center that had organized a gathering for A.A. members. There was ongoing meetings,free food, and no alcohol around, making it a safe and welcoming environment.

I remember feeling so grateful for the poeple who organized the event, how it allowed me to relax and connect with people and experience a sense of belonging on what would otherwise have been a very tough day.

Reaching out to people having a hard time is a great way to connect more deeply, and remember the real meaning of the Holidays.

Happy Holidays From Welcome Presence

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season. And hoping that you remember your own needs and celebrate as fully as you wish.

How To Be Mindful When It Feels Impossible
presence practices

How To Be Mindful When It Feels Impossible

You’ve heard about the benefits of being mindful, and you’re in! You want to be present and available to life. You want more clarity and calmness. You’re done with being dragged around by wasted moments, and now it’s time to feel more present, more grounded, more able to really take in and appreciate life.

Let’s do this! you say. But when you get to the doing, something happens to bounce you out.

Because there’s always something waiting to bounce you out, if you’ll let it.

Once we commit to being more present we are presented with a variety of challenges.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is simply the practice of being intentionally present and aware of what you are experiencing in this moment. That includes an awareness of physical sensations, thoughts, feelings, and what is happening around you. And we try to hold all these perceptions without a sense of judgement, just allowing what is present to be here. And if it’s hard to stay present, we try not to judge that either. Self kindness really helps.

Whether you are new to mindfulness or an old hand, there are always difficulties to navigate. Problems that make it difficult to remain present may also provide opportunities to deepen your mindfulness practice as you solve them.

Here are three common problems and some ways to move beyond them.

All The Thoughts

It’s time to be mindful. You might be sitting down to meditate, or standing at the bus stop with a few minutes to spare, maybe you want a moment to get quiet before a meal.

Then all the thoughts come flooding in.

When the mind becomes a Pandora’s box of swirling thoughts, mindfulness can feel impossible.

This is such a common state to find yourself in, and it’s important to remind yourself that this is the most natural thing in the world.

The function of the mind is to think.

This problem will often sort itself out with a bit of patience. With a little time the activity of your mind will often settle all on its own. Sometimes it won’t, but there are things that you can do to make it easier on yourself.

One way you can help this settling down process is to gently guide your awareness away from the head.

Get curious about your the place where your feet meet the ground. What are you experiencing in the soles of your feet? your toes? Do you sense anything there?

Your feet are a great place to focus on as they are the furthest point from your head, but don’t feel restricted to your feet. Your whole body is your ally.

You can try a full body scan, slowly move awareness all through your body. Track the air as it fills your lungs, your belly. Feel those places where the air meets your skin.

Not only does this take the focus away from an over-active mind, it’s like entering a new world, like trying scuba diving for the first time: here everything is new and has it’s own way of being.

Too Busy

Maybe you’ve worked with mindfulness before. Maybe you’ve felt like you were making progress, but life got too busy. It’s hard to maintain a practice when you have so many demands being placed on you. That is a difficult position, and everyone finds themselves here at some point.

That sense of busy-ness, when you are scheduled to the hilt and running from crisis to crisis can feel like standing in front of an impenetrable brick wall. It seems like there’s no way through.

But like any brick wall when you get up close it’s full of cracks. Once you start looking for them you start seeing them everywhere.

Everything contains space. Even the densest, most compacted objects contain space. Your task when feeling overwhelmed like this is to find the space.

Find the gaps between activities. Then find the gaps inside the activities.

Insert small moments of mindfulness in the gaps. Choose one simple cue that reminds you to come back to being present: a mindful sip of water between meetings, taking a moment to feel your feet on the floor between phone calls, move your attention to just below the belly and feel it rise and fall with your breath.

Keep it simple and repeat your cue whenever you remember, you’ll be surprised at how quickly becoming present for small moments at a time becomes a habit for you.

Be Here Now (And In The Future)

Richard Strozzier Heckler says “You are what you practice.”

If mindfulness is your practice, eventually your natural response to even impossible situations will be mindfulness. and even if those impossible situations knock you off course, with practice your natural instinct is to return, again and again.

Practice when things are not not feeling impossible. Enjoy that feeling. Know that you’re creating fresh neural grooves that will enhance your ability to be mindful later on.

Practice when it does feel impossible. Just making the effort is a win. And that’s not just a pretend win either, I’ve sat through so many awful meditation periods where my body felt tied up in knots and my head felt on fire, only to feel a delicious sense of clarity and calmness an hour or two later.

Trust that something is happening for you. Have faith and play the long game.

Practice in short bursts. Find your own style, own it, have fun: make a game of it. Rack up flying hours and soon enough, being more present and mindful will become second nature to you.

Every moment of awareness is a victory. Every moment of awareness helps to create a habit of being more and more aware in the future.

And hey, if you need some help–I offer bite-size, half hour coaching sessions that help you get into a mindful, grounded state as preparation for working on a challenge you face right now. They’re very effective and great fun as well!

 

Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku translates as "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing".
in the world

Forest Bathing – Shinrin-Yoku

“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke

The term Shinrin-yoku sounds ancient and mystical, as if it was handed down from a mountain monastery by a wizened Zen monk before he turned and disappeared back into the mists, never to be seen again.

In fact, Shinrin-yoku translates as “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” and describes a program developed in Japan in the early 80’s by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

It seems funny that such a sensitive and healing practice could spring out of a beaurocratic body with a name like ‘The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’, but forest bathing is inspired by Shinto and Buddhist practices and comes at a time when the need to be reimagining our relationship with forests, with all of nature, is hitting a crisis point.

Mindfulness and Nature

Humans have lived in close communion with forests for all of our existence. We’re wired to be affected by, and respond to, our natural environment. For so many of us living in urban environments, it’s common to feel that pull towards wilderness in whatever form resonates for us, whether that’s hiking in the forest, climbing mountains, or the gazing out at the ocean. We all know that spending time outside in nature can have a rejuvenating effect on us.

What makes forest bathing more than just ‘being outdoors’, however, is that participants are encouraged to engage with and explore this natural environment consciously, using their senses. So there’s the experience of being outdoors combined with the element of mindful engagement.

There are certified Shinrin-yoku guides who are trained in leading groups in the forest bathing experience. Their job is to guide the group safely and assist them in opening themselves up to the forest through a loose sequence of activities.

Some of the activities include mindful breathing, smelling, listening, and other exercises that encourage interaction with the environment through the sensing body.

Here is a description of a beautiful invitation called ‘shared breath’

With the help of the guides participants get to experience themselves in relationship with the surrounding forest, to feel immersed in the experience, to allow the boundaries of the self to soften a little and let the forest in.

In this way there is a sharing of energy, as the forest is allowed to influence you and nourish the forest bathers.

The guides sometimes lead the group in an activity called ‘The Way of Council’– small meetings where the group is given a forum to support each other in reflecting on their shared experience.

Benefits Of Forest Bathing

Some of the benefits of forest bathing include: lower blood pressure, a reduction in stress, more energy and improved sleep. People who have tried the experience often report feeling a closer, and deeper, connection to nature and themselves. And a lot of people have tried it, with over 2.5 million people in Japan walking forest therapy trails in Japan every year. Yes, they have have spent millions setting up dedicated trails throughout Japan.

It makes sense that Japan would be leading the way with forest bathing, and the extensive research they are doing into the effects of the experience. Japan is highly urbanized and city life is chaotic and draining on the people who live there. One area of the research focuses on the effects of “aromatic volatile substances’, the oils exuded by trees that are breathed in as people walk through the forest. These substances are proving to have profound effects on people’s brains and bodies.

And while the chemical properties of forests might be rejuvenating and contribute great health benefits, my instinct is that the opening up of yourself to the forest, that process of allowing the outside world to come in and affect you, is where the deep healing comes in, as people reconnect to the old ways of being in right relationship to the world that holds us.

 

forest bathing shrine-yoku mindfulness

longing and belonging welcome presence
in the world

Longing

Sentience is not an attribute of a body in isolation: it emerges from the ongoing encounter between our flesh and the forest of rhythms in which it finds itself, born of the interplay and tension between the world’s wild hunger and our own.

David Abram

What do you long for? What does your body long for? Are these two different things?

There’s something striking about the shape-shifting nature of desire, and how what we think we desire sometimes turns out to be not so.

A friend described this once as “cravings masquerading as desire”.

The word ‘crave’ has a more grasping quality to it, and seems to hint more at what we think we might want, whereas actual desire seems to come from a deeper place. Another way of saying that might be: craving is what our mind says we want, while desire is what our body says we want

The word ‘crave’ also seems to imply a movement inwards, a curling up in defense against the world. I get the image of a prisoner huddled over their gruel, with one hand spooning the food in and the other curled around the bowl to make sure nobody gets at it.

Desires Stretching Us Out

I’ve also been thinking about another term we use for desire: ‘longing’, and how it has an alternate physical sense to it, that of lengthening, and how our physical response to desire is to reach out to what we long for, almost like a stretch, lengthening our selves in order to get what we want.

The idea of our desires stretching us out–changing our shape–highlights a different gift our desires give us. That of drawing us out of the mental world we construct for ourselves and into a more real world, one that calls us to engage with it and connect.

And as our desires urge us to reach and lengthen, we become more spacious and less closed in, more awake and responsive to the world around us. We touch the world and allow the world to touch us. Maybe the longing that draws us out is also a key element of our aliveness, and necessary for us to feel the fact of our belonging to the world.

Sitting here in my office chair (I’m noticing how I’m all bent at the middle) tapping away on my keyboard, it’s easy to focus on my own smaller wants and forget that I am a being made for interacting in a world with it’s own wild hungers.

Your desires are what call you back to the wild and hungry world that wants your body to interact with it. Asking you to take part in the push and pull of self and world, as we all trade longings in order to stretch and shape each other.