The Forest as a Bath
The Forest as a Bath: A metaphor to live by
How can getting out in nature contribute to your health? Researchers are studying how the simple act of being in nature or “bathing” in nature influences mental health and physiological parameters such as blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and a host of other effects. Many Asian cultures value and embrace this type of sensory engagement with the forest with an intention of healing engrained in the practice.
We are uniquely poised in Colorado to experience a diverse array of forest and mountain landscapes. Whether gardening with a backdrop of Lodgepole pines and Engelmann spruce, breathing in the fresh mountain air, smelling the volatile essential oils, seeing vivid colors in the plants, sunrises, sunsets, feeling the wind blowing through the canyons, all of these experiences have the potential to contribute to our healing response.
Intention has been shown to have a significant impact in healing so I invite you to get out into nature with the intention of health and healing for yourself, Earth, and the other creatures we share this planet with. Learning about our watersheds, ecological niches, sustainable ways of living, and simple interactions with the natural world is what we offer at Beaver Ponds, and we invite you to do this on your own as well. Individual actions are needed to help our environment. Mindful people help themselves and their local environments. We encourage learning about and taking action to regenerate soils, to produce alternative energy, to share seed and food, eating locally, and to appreciate the dynamic interplay between organisms and resources.
Bathing our senses in the perceptive diversity that we encounter is an opportunity to be present and calm. When stress reduction, peace of mind, relaxation, lowering blood pressure are measurable results what do we have to lose in regular encounters with nature? The better question is what to we have to lose without regular encounters with nature?
One of the pleasures of working at an Environmental Education Center is to experience the wonder and fascination that people have when they experience and learn from natural settings. People from all walks of life may display a wide range of engaged and enchanted reactions to certain natural sights, smells, tastes, and textures.
There is much overlap between health care, ecology, biology, chemistry, physics, anthropology, agriculture, sociology, and mindfulness. Multifaceted interdisciplinary approaches to living more harmoniously with nature may be warranted. Collaboration is essential. Again we are lucky to be in such a beautiful place with protected spaces to get outside and explore.
In German bath towns there is a strong integration between natural environments and healing facilities. They even utilize the phrases cure park, cure garden, aroma garden, and saline promenade (modern versions are called inhalatoriums)! Nature cure was exemplified by promoting walking barefoot, “stepping” or slowly walking in streams with a specific intention. Hydrotherapy, therapeutic nutrition, psychology, art therapy, physiotherapy, herbal medicine, sauna, and many other disciplines are blended in a very eclectic stew brewed with healthy intention and practice. Spa vacations (4 weeks duration when I was there) in these “bath towns” are something that is part of healthcare in Germany, often getting people out of the cities into smaller countryside towns and forested areas.
As the August 21 solar eclipse reminded many people, we live on a mysterious and beautiful planet. For a moment people flocked outside, traveled hundreds of miles, scientists studied the surface of Mercury among other myriad questions, and thousands of people reveled at our place in the universe and the opportunity to see such a unique event. People who are lifelong learners often hold on to the three year old curiosity that helps to make ordinary moments in our natural world feel fresh and intriguing as the eclipse did for many.
If “forest bathing” is trending in fitness programs, what does this suggest about our collective progressive dissociation with nature. We as species have co-evolved with our natural environments. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that seeing the color green, smelling the essential oils of pine and cedar, or hearing the water flowing down the creek would be good for us.
Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center offers groups and classes an opportunity to bathe their senses in nature while learning about and engaging in practice involving sustainable energy, agriculture, wild crafting plants, ecology, watersheds, and more. We offer workshops in tincture and salve making, fiber arts, local food production and health benefits, gardening, among other opportunities. We also enjoy working with volunteers, local schools, interest groups, and scientists to collect data and to share data. We all learn on the shoulders of others and provide a space for dialogue and education
So how can we as community interact in a mutually beneficial way with nature, reduce our carbon footprint, and heal individual and societal ills. “Get outside” like your mom used to say. Perhaps this will help your own health, and help nourish and foster the appreciation and good stewardship that our land needs. For your sake, for our sake, and for goodness sakes, please take a forest bath.
Beaver Ponds will be sharing tips for gardening in the Rocky Mountains, food as medicine, ecological tidbits, sustainable energy, and other information that we feel may help our community as individuals living within our special ecosystems here in Colorado and elsewhere.
Eric Chatt N.D.
Site Manager Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center