Forest Bathing is a meditative practice of surrendering one’s mind to the expansive and ever-changing energy of the forest. It was originally developed in Japan in the 1980s as a well-being practice called “shinrin-yoku.”

Forest Bathing is indeed a profound experience with undeniable health benefits; it has been demonstrated that “forest bathing positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system(*)”

Like many nature poems, the practice of forest bathing imagines the forest as a sanctuary—a place to breathe and connect one’s inner being to nature’s deep, pure beauty. Don’t get me wrong – I love nature poems! However, when I walk through nature, I don’t always see a sanctuary.

After all, fires are blazing through West Coast forest as I write this post; in other words, as calming as the idea of a forest may be, many now reveal radical and often destructive anthropocentric impacts.

In the Hillside Woods of my town in Westchester, NY, damage by deer, invasive species and humans—plus diseased and downed trees and climate change—are causing potentially irrecoverable changes to the ecosystem. My internal relationship to the forest has also changed: what had been a sanctuary has become a locus of anxiety as we become more and more aware of the impact humans are having on the natural world that we rely on to survive. (See Jonathan Skinner’s terrific ecopoetic meditation, “Paragraphs on Forest Bathing” for a more in-depth essay on this subject.)

During this time of masks and social distancing, when viruses continue to evolve and climate as well as political and social catastrophes continue to disrupt people’s lives around the world, it may be more important than ever to bathe in the long-suffering forest and learn from it about how we as humans can live with uncertainty and surrender to nature’s powerful resilience.

ABOUT THE RECORDING
In September 2020, Haven Colgate—forest protector and luminary of my town’s Conservation Committee— asked me to lead a poetry walk through our Hillside Woods. And so, I created this recording as an asynchronous, forest bathing guided walk. Happily, now all can join anytime, and in any forest: including forests of the imagination, as well as urban forests, desert forests, and sea forests.

To use the recording, stand at the threshold of a forest path. Like listening to a guided tour of a museum, the recording moves with you along the path (with many minutes of silence.) It is an invitation to bring a notebook and a pen, and to sit and write to various prompts.

At the end, you will have an ecopoetic poem: a poem that, when read straight through as if it is one long piece, blurs genre into a borderless, evolving form. Think about this pome like an ecosystem when not constrained by limited ideas about what an ecosystem “should” be.

ACCESS THE WALK:

If you’re interested in ways to think about this, or if you are using this in your classroom, here are some writing prompts you can offer at the end of the walk:

AFTER-THE-WALKDownload

Also check out my post on “The Poetry Walk” which is wonderful to give to students as an asynchronous activity!

MATERIALS NEEDED:
* The recording (right click below)
*Headphones.
*Pen, notebook.
INSTRUCTIONS:
Stand at the threshold of the forest path, and hit play. After that, follow… when prompted to write, assume the mentality of “first thought, best thought.” In other words, let the language move through you, without editing or second guessing yourself.

NOTE: The recording has LONG periods of silence (anywhere from 2 to 7 minutes) but don’t worry! My voice will pop in and out during the full 30 minutes.

I’d love to hear how your walk goes! 

I’m happy offer you free access to this recording. However, if you like what you’ve experienced, please consider making a donation to support this work. Thank you!

Published On: September 20th, 2020 / Categories: Uncategorized /

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