Shinrin-Yoku

“In the woods, is perpetual youth.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hippocrates – the father of medicine – is thought to have said, “Nature itself is the best medicine.” In his 1836 essay, Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel nothing can befall me in life, –no disgrace, no calamity, which nature cannot repair.”

And in the 1980s, the Japanese agreed with the truth found in these statements and their own zen philosophies and started the practice of shinrin-yoku – or forest bathing.

Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (1832 – 1898) – Walk in the Woods 1869

The simple act of meandering in a wooded forest, hearing the sounds it makes, or even its stillness, soaking in the sunlight as it filters through the canopy of green leaves silhouetted against the blue sky above, smelling the earthy, woody smells of the trees, and feeling the mossiness of their trunks – all of these are essential to our being. These are nature’s timeless elements that keep us grounded; and refresh our minds, bodies, and souls when we connect with them mindfully.

Shinrin-yoku started when it became apparent that technology, modernizaion, and urban landscapes themselves were causing the stress and depression found in city dwellers. But I wonder if it was just going back to our roots – to something we always did – something that we simply lost along the way and have found again.

(Images courtesy Cincinnati Museum, Rousseau.org, and Tate Gallery).

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