For over four years I lived deep in some jungly woods, in a tiny circular mud hut in a magical mossy glade. I lived without technology or modern conveniences, cooking only on fire, foraging for fuel and herbs, bathing in and gathering water from the stream, entering into close relationship with the elements. Surrounded by a myriad of wild and beautiful beings going about their timeless lives, each one contributing to the life of the whole without vying to gain anything over and above their natural share, I discovered what it is to belong to the community of life.
As a human being brought up in the modern world, conditioned to separation, competition and exploitation, these were sorely needed lessons. Moreover, they were lessons I don’t think I could have had anywhere or anyhow but through intentional immersion in the living woods.
In natural woodland the web of life is still vibrant and diverse. The complex, harmonious kaleidoscope of wild shapes, scents, textures and sounds enlivens our senses and refreshes our perceiving minds. It restores our bodies to more natural rhythms, relaxing and grounding us into a deeper relationship with the energies of Earth and sky. The community of more-than-human-beings coaxes our consciousness out beyond the normal range of human-centred concerns. The inner life of that community subtly entrains our hearts to a field of sentience much richer than that experienced within the narrow confines of anthropocentric civilisation.
Through simply living immersed in the woods for several years, in relentless intimacy with the elements and the changing seasons, imbibing nature’s wild medicine, I received profound healing. By continuously exposing myself to the elements and opening my heart to the community of life, the conditioning I received from modernity was gradually eroded and the doors of my perception slowly cleared.
Over time I learned to amplify this natural healing and cleansing with more focused meditative practices, becoming more consciously open and present to the aliveness and the healing magic of the forest. This combination of nature immersion and meditative practice is what I call Forest Bathing.
It is a beautiful way to re-connect with the healing powers and the living wisdom of the quiet woods and to re-establish a soulful and sensually awakened relationship to the primary source of our physical and psychological wellbeing—the living Earth. Ultimately, it enables a process of spiritual re-wilding, an awakening to the body and Earth as entirely sacred and filled with primordial awareness and intelligence.
I would urge anyone of reasonably sound mind and body to undertake a period of deep retreat in a natural setting. I believe that it is one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves and the entire planet at this time. Not only is our demand on the Earth’s precious resources steeply reduced while living so simply, but the journey of reconnection we make during such a retreat brings through a quality of healing and understanding that is vital to the planet as we move into deepening global crisis.
For those who can’t embark on an extended retreat just now I offer Forest Therapy sessions and small retreats, short forays into meditative, heart-centred immersion in wild nature. These sessions will begin to re-tune one’s body-mind to its natural milieu, and might inspire and prepare one for a longer retreat. The practices offered are gentle, mindful, connective. The immediate rewards are deep calm, enlivened senses and renewed wellbeing.
Please contact me to find out more.
“Here, deep in the woods, with only self-shaping nature visible in every direction, every way we look our eyes are met by living presences happy that we are present among them. All around us, as we move through the vaulted cathedral spaces formed by arching boughs, a panoramic party of extraordinary beings is in full swing—a wildwood party to which we are innately invited…
If we are quiet inside as we move or sit amidst this myriad of playful, interwoven subjectivities, and if we are open to them, whispers of welcome are offered at every moment; fey voices speaking languages of wild fragrance and colour call to us, sparkling their greeting to our subtle senses….
Yes, the Earth knows us as we walk her textured surface, is aware of us as we sit with her, feels each breath we take, each beat of our heart, each rippling thought that leafs and flowers in the forests of our minds. She is with us always, supporting us in being, each step of this multi-dimensional earth-walk…
Can we hold this awareness as we move together deeper into the woods, along a narrow ribbon of path, oaks rising taller and older all around us, holly and hazel and honeysuckle clustering in an increasingly jungly gathering of sylvan revellers? Can we remain awake to the fields of sentience we move through as we move, holding our own aliveness open to being experienced through the extraordinary sensory apparatus of countless wild beings, and, through the combined sentience of all these, by the vast loving intelligence of the living Earth herself, whose presence shines through all?
We can try. We can open. We can choose to feel ourself being known by knowers other than our own rational kind, sensed by a kaleidoscope of sentiences broader than our homo-sapience has hitherto appreciated.”