Claire The Green Geekette
Member for 4 years 3 months
Yogi and slow tourism devotee
FOREST BATHING: EXPERIENCE THE BARE ESSENTIALS
5 minutes OF FRESH FOREST AIR
Lowering of the stress and anxiety levels, prevention of respiratory diseases and cancer; the health benefits of sylvotherapy are nowadays widely recognized by the scientific community. Once sea bathing was popular, but nowadays forest bathing is gaining in popularity. It is really a truly relaxing activity and nothing is easier than letting the forest work its magic, although you might need some guidance at first.
Patrick, our forest therapy instructor
For Patrick Deguelte, forest therapy is the culmination of a life of reflexion and constant contact with nature. Patrick - who confides he prefers the term of “forest bathing” rather than “sylvotherapy” – avoids taking a dogmatic approach. Walking in the forest, an activity that at first glance appears pretty straightforward, can take you so much deeper into your inner self, and is conducive to introspection, allowing you to reconnect with the fundamentals… The time has come to rekindle our lost connection to with nature, to dare plunge into the realm of imagination that has so much to teach us…
We all seek to give meaning to our lives. We are more and more aware of our outer world, while also seeking to develop self-awareness…Many of us our looking to create balance in our everyday life and strike the perfect balance between personal wellbeing and the humdrum of our busy lives. We seem to have lost our ancestral connection to nature, and this is why forest bathing is an ideal tool to help us along is our quest for a greater well-being.
One thing is for sure, with its vast forest stretching out over thousands of hectares, the Ardennes is the ideal destination for the emergence of this typically Japanese practice. Forest bathing has been considered as a scientifically sound method since 1927, and has a range of mental and physical health benefits.
Getting back to our roots
If there is one thing that I took back after spending the three hours in the forest with Patrick, it is the fact that it is imperative that we get back to our roots. By this I mean getting back to something deep and meaningful, you might even say that we need to get back to a certain form of spirituality. As enchanted as it may look on the outside, the forest is also a mirror image of our society, a fragile alliance between cooperation and competition.
Feeling the vibes of the forest, soaking up its energy, reflecting upon the intrinsically unique symbiosis between these vegetal beings and ourselves, this is what Patrick offers us. I marvel at the emotion he manages to convey when he shares his vision of the forest, which he sees as a metaphor of our lives.
If you see consider see the forest as a tool for “interior transition”, as Patrick likes to put it, he tends to leave each of us free to enjoy the magic of the forest. By distilling morsels of personal development, Patrick likes to remind us that a day is really just a succession of present moments. I was particularly touched by one metaphor in particular: that of the tree, that even in a hostile environment, still tends to grow towards the light.
It is vital to get back to our roots, to something deep and meaningful, you might even say a certain form of spirituality.
Trusting your five senses
Many of us have a stereotypical idea of sylvotherapy, which is generally considered to be about little more than randomly hugging trees, but in reality the experience of forest bathing encompasses so much more. First our five senses were awakened , and only at the end of our outing did we really experience this unique connection between man and forest.
First, you need to concentrate on your breathing, and adopt a regular pace, a kind of silent meditative gait, where everyone respects everyone else’s personal space. Then, you need to focus on your sense of smell, of hearing, your sense of touch and taste…Let your senses awaken gradually, either by breathing in the oily and resinous aromas exuded by a recently cut pine cone or the humus covering the forest soil, or by plunging your hand into the cool water of a babbling brook, or by listening to the birds chirping and twittering while tasting edible plants.
For me, the experience that really left its mark on me was the moment when, totally deprived of our sense of sight, we needed to give our trust. Trust the forest to welcome us in our human wholeness, trust our partner so we won’t stray from the path, trust ourselves in order to fully experience this gift that we had been given as if by enchantment.
Trust the future that lies ahead as well, because – as Patrick likes to say - the sun always hides behind the clouds before shining again. Then, and only then, carried along by the sheer exaltation of this moment outside of time, it is possible to let yourself be intoxicated by this legendary forest and get up close and personal with a tree.
Not abruptly, no, certainly not: step by little step. First you face the tree, treating it with empathy, and then you serenely place one hand on the tree (your right hand, same as when you greet a human being). Then, the contact becomes more intimate; first by facing the tree, then with your back towards the tree. While you do this, put your hand on your heart chakra in order to feel a genuine and deep connection.
Then, when we leave after a last offering to the forest, the time has come to give thanks…to yourself! Say thank you for treating yourself to such a wonderful moment of wellbeing and rejuvenation. And maybe, just maybe, say to yourself (and say it like you mean it!): “next time I won’t wait that long before coming back to soak in this particular and dreamlike energy”. When will forest bathing be as common as our daily shower?
The sun always hides behind the clouds before it shines again
Enjoy this experience
Duration: allow 3h in order to discover forest bathing.
Forest Bathing Experience: €20 per person.