Have you ever wondered, “Why, even in the midst of astonishing natural beauty and wondrous life cycles, do I feel so stressed and out of touch?” As a former farmhand and current farmwife, I have often found myself disconnected from that which brought me to this livelihood.
Droves come to our region to vacation in the agrarian countryside, to eat good food, to hear the glorious racket of August insects, see clouds and stars, inhale what the woods and fields breathe out, feel dewy grasses swipe along ankles and thick earth cushion feet, have the stunning feeling that the cows and deer and pigs and hawks are gazing right back. Unlike some visitors, this is a farmer’s experiential bread and butter, or can be. Sometimes we’ve got to work harder to bring it home.
Beyond this essential matter of personal connection to place, there is also the challenge of managing the complex, interdependent relationships that make a farm hum along. How could I possibly understand, and therefore manage, the farmscape when I am disconnected from the living, breathing, happenings of it?
A few years ago I came across a practice known as shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, forest therapy, or the medicine of being in the forest. It is an approach to wellness that immerses people in a nature-rich environment (traditionally coniferous forest) through a series of guided meditations, or ‘invitations’, that focus awareness through the senses. Whether phytoncides specifically or just good old, vitamin N, the forest offers its medicine to those who show up, become present, to accept them. However, an important part of the forest bathing practice is to reciprocate. To become fully present, be curious and loving with our attention and give thanks is good human-made medicine for the forest.
If I can only say two things about my forest bathing experiences, I will say that:
1) The practice is an incredibly fast way to deeply plug into what’s happening in the world around me. And there is an overwhelming amount of life happening. I cannot say quite how astoundingly much is revealed in plain sight.
2) When I notice life happening, I love it. I want to take these happenings on dates and learn about their families, their hopes and dreams, make plans together, or just get myself out of their ways so they can do what makes them shine.