Thanksgiving Forest Bathing

An article by on November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving Tree bathing: We have been bombarded with a wave of mindfulness apps and agendas, myriad techniques and promises. From Indian yoga and Ayurvedic prescriptions to Japanese tea making to Scandinavian simple-cozy homemaking, we embrace these new (to Statesiders) methods – learning from other cultures, always a beautiful thing – while at the same time, forgetting a rich literary heritage already in our collective archive. Walt Whitman on the healing properties of nature, Ralph Austin on the spiritual use of tree blossoms, John Muir’s meditations on the Sequoia’s, to name a few.

Even the Buddhist Shinrin-Yoku: “forest bathing,” is recognized in other cultures. But with focus on this particular subset researchers demonstrated that this “taking in the forest atmosphere,” is healing. Indeed, measuring cortisol levels and cerebral activity indicated that cortisol and stress-indicators were significantly lower after just 20 minutes of forest walking.

The poets new this instinctively, however, and I’m sure we do too.

For his part, Ralph Austin draws from the “deep religiosity of his era, [while] at its heart is a deeper, timeless wisdom that speaks to those [ . . .] who are nonreligious but invested in attaining a sense of secular spirituality  . . . Trees, he assures us, contain great gospels of truth:

“The world is a great library, and fruit trees are some of the books wherein we may read and see plainly the attributes of God, [God’s] power, wisdom, goodness … for as trees (in a metaphorical sense) are books, so like-wise in the same sense they have a voice, and speak plainly to us, and teach us many good lessons.”

And John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that . . . Wilderness is a necessity.”

Walt Whitman suffered a stroke at 54. In the two long years of recovery he found solace and healing among the trees: “How it all nourishes, lulls me, in the way most needed; the open air, the rye-fields, the apple orchards.”

 

This week, for the US, is Thanksgiving. It is meant to be a feast and gathering of family and friends, and space for communion, of rest, and place of gratitude. But too often rapidly decomposes, as it were, into a stressful flurry of cleaning and cooking and fretting over how the guests will get on.

So with me, please commit with me to daily find nourishment, strength and healing from the trees:

 

Go outside! Grab a coat, it may be cold.

Inhale, deeply. Gaze on the branches – nearly naked now, that persist, reach out and up and on. They defiantly hold their pose, stretching still further – a promise, the hope that comes with long-lived experience: they will bloom again.

Drink in the crisping air the hint of the winter to come; sip the fragrance of dirt now laden with layers of fallen leaves. Smell the ground where the blades and needles begin their work to decompose, to rot, decay. They go willingly, carrying with them that secret power the putrefaction transports deep into the earth, covering the roots, nourishing, nurturing the tree-in-cold.

Listen to the wisdom in the trees’ voice.

[“Thanksgiving Forest Bathing,” ©️ Nicole S. Oliver Snyder]

Let the air that carries such substance waft and whirl, convey its insight through your senses. Bath in the forest – if even, for you, for now, is a row of bushes along your front porch. When the kitchen heats up, or the tensions rise, step outside.

Start today. Go outside! Grab a coat, it may be cold.

Inhale, deeply. Gaze on the branches – nearly naked now, that persist, reach out and up and on. They defiantly hold their pose, stretching still further – a promise, the hope that comes with long-lived experience: they will bloom again.

Drink in the crisping air the hint of the winter to come; sip the fragrance of dirt now laden with layers of fallen leaves. Smell the ground where the blades and needles begin their work to decompose, to rot, decay. They go willingly, carrying with them that secret power the putrefaction transports deep into the earth, covering the roots, nourishing, nurturing the tree-in-cold.

Listen to the wisdom in the trees’ voice. What wisdom do you hear, today?

 

“Down To The River To Pray,” vocals: Greer Snyder, Samantha Snyder, Nicole Oliver Snyder

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About Nicole

Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (MI).

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