We began by slowing down and looking at the wider forest. We looked at what drew our attention close by, and then in the middle distance before doing the same as far as we could see. There is so much to gaze upon from colours to specific flowers or trees to birds and insects flying around.
After waking our eyes up we moved on to what we could hear, touch and smell, using different techniques to awaken some of these senses. The forest came alive in a truly vibrant way. As I smelt the humus of the forest floor, I was struck by how much death within the forest continues to sustain the life of the forest…in a beautiful way. It made me wonder about whether there is such a pattern in our human communities, and whether the death of those we have loved and see no longer is in some way sustaining for us…? If nothing else, I wonder whether that comes through in the knowledge and wisdom that those who have gone before us have imparted.
Whilst these are still very early thoughts, I am drawn to that concept of life and death co-existing in some way. That is perhaps not surprising as most Sundays I lead a community of people to remember Jesus’ death, and the hope we find in that. I am not sure I expected to find such clarity of that Last Supper and remembrance as I scrabbled around on the forest floor, unearthing the humus!
We finished our Forest Bathing by lying (with a groundsheet) on the forest floor, gazing up into the sky, protected by tree canopies. I have never done that before, but it is perhaps the most blissful and relaxing thing I have ever done – lying in the middle of a forest, as one would a bath, just listening to the noises of the forest, feeling the wind on your face, smelling all that the flora and fauna had to offer and soaking it in. I felt so close to the Holy Spirit, the arrival of which the Church remembers and celebrates today – it was one of those thin spaces…where the veil between heaven and earth is almost tangibly absent. A truly wonderful experience, which I commend to you!