I love to forest bathe with my dogs, especially sitting with them in a "sit spot" near the end of our walk. I have a favourite place that I like to go, in a secluded neighborhood park, that has a bench and is surrounded by beautiful cedar, chestnut, and fruit trees. Today we sat together for about fifteen minutes, just using our senses to notice. I have found that my dogs do best after they have walked awhile, burnt off some energy, done some sniffing and of course, done their "business". If you decide to do a "sit spot" just find a place in nature that calls to you, sit, and do nothing, just relax. You might find that the first five minutes or so they are impatient, or whiny, and your own mind begins to wander, however in time this will dissipate for all. I notice that the longer I sit, the more patient and calmer we all become.
Today the songbirds were out and we were sitting near a magnificent chestnut tree. When I entered the park, I felt her beckoning to me, to come and be near her. I have walked to this beautiful sanctuary for many years, and she has become like an old friend knowing the stories in my heart. Everything is okay she said, just come sit with me awhile, and be still. So we all sat together my dogs, and I. My oldest girl is twelve (photo above), loves to whine, and can be very impatient. It took her about five minutes to settle and join me in the sit spot. As I sat I quietly noticed my body as it too started to calm, my breathing became softer, and my mind relaxed. Then my second girl joined us, sitting motionless and just noticing.
Together we forest bathed --in the distance I could hear the sound of water from a nearby creek, the ocean waves, the songbirds singing and feeling a gentle breeze on my face and skin. My girls were looking up, and I wondered, what are they seeing? So, I followed their lead, looking up and noticing the slow movement of clouds and some sunlight trying to come through. The little bit of sun felt good, and I experienced joy in that moment. The branches on the tops of the cedar trees were swaying in the wind, and a flock of songbirds flew quickly by, scattering from the sound of a moving vehicle. Together they moved on, finding shelter in some distant trees. There must have been at least fifty hiding in the tops of the cedar trees today. My girls were quiet now, just being in that moment in time, as though nothing else mattered.
The wind picked up. I love the sound of the wind; it is music to my heart. Silence in nature, is music to my ears.
I discovered this beautiful poem through the mindfulness teacher Tara Brach. I feel that it embodies with beautiful words, the importance of slowing down, noticing the little things, and letting life live through us. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was an important Japanese artist.
"Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive --
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you."
by Roger Keyes
How I go to the Woods by Mary Oliver
"Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.” ~Mary Oliver
Forest & Nature Therapy
with Kelly Hutchison (Kiss).
Come walk with me...
Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) on Salt Spring Island,
the Gulf Islands &
Vancouver Island, BC.
Kelly Hutchison (Kiss)
I would like to acknowledge the land where I am living ~the unceded territory and ancestors of the Coast Salish Peoples of Salt Spring Island and surrounding areas who continue to use and steward the lands and waters of the Salish Sea. These include the traditional land of the local Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group (Cowichan, Halalt, Lyackson, Cowichan Lake, Penelakut), and Saanich First Nations
(Tsartlip, Tseycum, and Tswaout).