• Deborah A Allen

Nature is trendy

Oh, wow I’m doing something trendy. Well sort of... Ok I’m not. I’m just doing what I always do and somehow this new fad has come along and its more or less what I do anyway.

Have you heard about forest bathing? Apparently, it’s the newest rage that’s arrived from Japan. HRH the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) has been said to be getting involved. So soon I expect it to be promoted as the best thing since sliced bread.

What does this forest bathing entail? Well no water and no nakedness thank goodness. Who wants to find a load of naked people wandering about in the woods like a bunch of chilly oven ready chickens? Not me that’s for sure.

So, what is it?

Well forest bathing, otherwise known as shinrin-yoku is a sort of nature therapy its thought to have started in the 1980s in Japan and it can be coupled to yoga to make it a more powerful experience.

Bathing is used to describe the idea of absorbing the experience and using all of your senses to connect with the forest. It is said to being healing and to reduce stress.

Of course, it’s something you can do alone but people being people they tend to do this in groups with a guide or yogi to help them.

The idea is to take part in various activities like standing still with your eyes closed and listening to the sounds around you. Taking time to study a tree or plant up close and really look at it,

To practice walking meditation, which is to pay very considered attention to the sensations you feel as you walk through the forest. If you go forest bathing with a guide you may be asked to describe with a partner how you feel or to describe a plant or stone, you are holding while the other person sits with their eyes closed.

Sometimes the whole thing will be done in silence, most sessions take about 2 -3 hours, and they don’t cover much ground its not about hiking or marching about, it’s about really looking at where you are.

My husband and I are often out in the woods and the countryside with our dogs and so the concept of listening isn’t new, we like to see nature so moving quietly is a must, also its only when you start to really look that you start to see what’s in the woods.

People have told me that they have been to the same woods as us and never seen a deer, a pheasant or an owl.

I just smile and say we are lucky, but the fact is we are respectful, quiet and calm when we walk.

We don’t charge about bellowing into a phone or having loud conversations with each other and our dogs are also calm and under control, not charging about barking and scaring everything.

So, here’s my grumpy rant, if this is the newest trend it could mean that our walks are going to be disturbed by wannabe tree huggers wandering about in groups gazing at their navels and clogging up the place. Would be gurus will be telling everyone to absorb the atmosphere and glaring at anyone daring to do it themselves instead of paying out for a course that they are running. I know that we don’t own the forest and that is there for everyone but I love the peace and solitude we have when we walk, it’s one of the reasons we go out early, we want to avoid other people!

I suppose I also worry that people who have no idea how to behave in the country will be turning up thinking its all a bit of a lark, parking their cars on the grass and wandering about with their water bottle in hand, leaving a trail of crushed plant life and plastic bottles on the way back to their cars.

I hope I’m wrong, I hope that people who want to try this will be the kind of people who care and who want to respect their surroundings.

I don’t suppose they can be worse than the survival run types who jog about in lycra wading through pools and streams, swinging on ropes, shouting and generally scaring the shit out of every living thing for a week after they have barrelled through the place.

Not to mention the rubbish they leave behind, they might well survive the run and feel elated about it but I doubt if the wildlife is as happy when their larder is scattered with plastic drink bottles and red bull cans.

Honestly why do you have to wait for a trend or guru or guide? Just take a moment to stop and look around you, turn off the phone, take the damn earphones out and listen to the world around you it’s easy.

You don’t have to walk miles you don’t even really need to go into the forest or countryside just sitting in a local park and watching the birds or the ducks on the pond can be really relaxing.

If you’re lucky enough to have green space try using it at different times of the day, somewhere that seems cosy and sweet during the day can be mysterious and slightly scary at night .

Sunrise and sunset are wonderful times, the bursts of colour and the slow changes in the sky are great to watch and the best thing of all is that its free.

If you need to pay someone to tell you how great nature can be then there is something seriously wrong after all this is not a tour to the rain forest this is a trip to a local park or woodland and that’s something everyone should be able to manage.

I’ve never been a follower of fashion or trends but the idea of getting out into nature and taking time to appreciate it is one I can recommend.

Just remember the one golden rule, take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints. What might just be a day out for you is home to another living being, so please respect that.

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