A few years ago I read a book by M. Amos Clifford about the spiritual practice of forest bathing (Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature).  Clifford goes into detail about forest bathing—the Japanese term is shinrin-yoku.  You can look up all sorts of information about the practice if you’re interested!

In a nutshell, forest bathing is intentionally slow and relaxed (not the same as hiking).  There is also not a need to travel far.  The practice comes from the Shinto religion, with the belief that all things have indwelling spirits within them: mountains, rivers, trees, etc.  When we spend intentional time in nature and see our natural world as sacred, we may discover that the natural world has a great deal to teach us.  Forest bathing is about noticing how we are part of creation and that a web of relationships exists within creation.  I would say that it’s a form of walking meditation.

Trees, flowers, sunlight, wind, rivers, birds, you and me . . . we are all in this thing called life together.  The practice of forest bathing is similar to some of the walking meditations my spiritual director (a Roman Catholic Sister) shared with me on one of my silent retreats at Eastern Point Retreat House.  One walk called “Bowing to the Spirit” was inspired by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn.  Another walk was called “Sensing the Spirit” that came out of the Franciscan tradition. Maybe it just goes to show that there are beautiful (and surprisingly similar) spiritual practices across faith traditions.

Clifford muses in Your Guide to Forest Bathing, “The tree grows, finding its place in the forest. Its leaves grow and shed with the seasons. Fires sweep through; it is scorched but survives. I imagine you’ll find this imagery familiar, that your life has moved through similar cycles of change and growth.” 

Amen to that.

As the weather has gotten nicer (I just love these sunny spring days before it gets too hot!), I hope that we can truly enjoy them.  However that may look to you.  Remember that we are part of something so much larger than ourselves.  Thanks be to God.

Pastor Lauren

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

Thursday Thoughts 5/11/23