Gateways – A Forest Bathing and Mindfulness Deck

 

I am excited to share my latest project! A deck of 55 cards that can guide you in designing your own Forest Bathing and Mindfulness experience in nature – whether in the woods, the desert, a local park, or even your own backyard. 

I’ve used these cards with adults both individuals and groups, scout troops, homeschooled children, and my own grandchildren. I look forward to sharing this deck with you. They are a perfect gift. They are useful for healthcare workers, forest bathing guides, therapists, teachers, and more that I haven’t thought of.

About

Forest bathing is a growing self-care practice that offers many health benefits. With beginnings in Japan, Forest Bathing is now practiced around the world because of the benefits to our overall health in a time where stress, turmoil, and chronic disease increases.

Forest bathing is a mindful slow walking experience to connect and explore the natural world around us. We explore with our senses wide open and slowing down to interact in meaningful ways. Being in nature lifts our spirits, contributes to our health through natural smells, sites, and sensations. In many countries there are guides and designated parks for Forest Bathing experiences. 

Most of human existence has been intricately woven with nature — for food, shelter, community, and for life, itself. We hunted & gathered our food. We sat by fire pits for storytelling, warmth, safety, and connection. We built shelter with branches and undergrowth. We breathed in the fresh air, drank from streams, walked trails shared with wildlife, and recorded stories on cave walls & rocks along the way.

As our lives become busier, our connection to nature is diminishing. Forest Bathing is a practice of reconnecting and gaining the health benefits offered for free anywhere the natural world exists. Give yourself the gift of spending time in the natural world.

How to Use These Cards

Each card is a gateway to connect. Each card includes a photo, a word, and a suggestion. Every card offers you new ways to connect in mindful, slow walking as you explore using your senses.

Plan on at least 15 minutes and up to several hours for your Forest Bathing experience. Choose one card for a brief session – your gateway to a mindful exploration in nature. For a longer Forest Bathing retreat, choose 4 – 5 cards and allot 10 to 20 minutes for each gateway card. 

Make a plan with a group of friends, colleagues, and family for several hours. With a group, create a mandala of twigs, leaves, stones, and other found objects that will grow during your time with each gateway. Have each person choose 1 – 3 cards for personal experiences in nature. After each gateway card, share with a group so everyone benefits from each card’s suggestion.

You will find your own ways to be in nature in beneficial ways. There are 2 blank cards in this deck for you to add your own gateway. Feel free to post your additions to my Forest Bathing Facebook page or email me with your idea. I am always updating and expanding my own deck from personal experiences and guiding others into the woods. Stay tuned, there may be another deck available soon.

Some Benefits of Forest Bathing and Connecting With the Natural World

~ lower blood pressure ~ reduced stress

~ increased Serotonin ~ increased Vitamin D

~ clears mental clutter ~ inspires creativity

~ improves mood ~ improves overall health

~ anti-cancer properties ~ better sleep

~ strengthens immune system ~ increases natural killer cells

In as little as 15 minutes to even days in the woods you will improve your health, well-being, and happiness. Benefits can be gained in a forest, a park, a lone tree, a local greenhouse, your favorite house plant, your garden, and even nature photo’s.

To purchase these decks you can: 1. go to my website @ www.centreforacupuncture.com 

2. Etsy or 3. send me an email at LJ5250@aol.com.

Each deck costs $28.

My Stem Cell Journey

Until a year ago, I’d never heard of Stem Cells except in brief headlines and controversy. Then, I injured my hip during a move. I stepped off a ladder missing the last step. My hip took the brunt of the inopportune landing.

Weeks went by and my hip did not improve. In fact, it steadily became worse, limiting my walking, slowing my yoga, and increasing inability to even tie my shoe. I went to my doctor after I’d tried my personal approach through acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, and stretching through the pain. I was referred to an Orthopedic Surgeon who insisted I needed a hip replacement as soon as possible. She then said to schedule the other hip for a replacement, as well. Even though the other hip didn’t hurt.

I read a pamphlet on Stem Cells as I was considering how to arrange a hip replacement. That article changed the direction I thought I’d been heading in. I learned that Stem Cells are being used for a multitude of healing. Stem Cells are used for healing joint issues. They are used for cancer. They are also used for healing & regenerating damaged organs. They are also used for conditions such as Parkinson’s. 

Stem Cells appealed to me because they are harvested from my own body and placed where they are needed for repair and healing. Stem Cells use our own bodies to begin healing. What an idea! 

What are stem cells? They are undifferentiated cells that live in our body waiting for a job to do. When we are injured, stem cells are called to the area, become what is needed, and signal to other cells in the body to heal the injury. Once they get the call or are placed in the site of injury, they go about differentiating into the cells needed to repair, rebuild, and signal other cells for help in repair.

Until recently, many people travelled overseas for Stem Cell procedures. Now there are a growing number of clinics using Stem Cells for healing within the United States. I decided to call some of these clinics on the East Coast and scheduled a free consultation with the Boston Stem Cell Institute in Framingham. The doctor looked at my X-rays and MRI which outlined the damage I’d done to my hip after many years of running and hiking. The step from the ladder was the last domino to fall. She outlined the options they offer and made suggestions on which procedure would be best for my injury. She also talked about the healing time frame. What struck me was that she sat with me and talked as if she had nothing else to do. The consultation lasted longer than an hour!

I took time to think about the logistics of choosing Stem Cells vs. a hip replacement. I chose Stem Cells. I scheduled an appointment to go forward.

It has now been over a month since my own stem cells were placed in the hip joint and are doing their repair work. Each day, I am feeling improvement, increased range of motion, and the only pain I experience are minimal and natural. I am quite impressed and pleased.

I was able to return to work within two weeks after the procedure. I also began Physical Therapy to help in the healing and rebuilding strength and flexibility. Now, I am ready to return to hiking, kettle bell workouts, and more strenuous yoga. I’ve been given the ok to push the limits and return to woodland trails. 

Stem cells for healing makes sense to me as there is no removing or replacing body parts and long healing times. Stem cells are already in my own body and can be used for healing my own body. If I have problems with other joints, I will definitely pursue using stem cells first.

Blending Positive Psychology, Forest Bathing, and Boy Scouts


After a talk on Forest Bathing in February, a young man came up to me and thanked me for the talk. He asked if I would be interested in leading his Boy Scout Troop in a Forest Bathing experience. Of course, I’d be interested. I had guided adults and my grandchildren in Forest Bathing and the idea of offering the experience to groups of children and adolescents was both intriguing and exciting. A month after the talk I received an email with a date for spending a Sunday morning with a Boy Scout Troop. They would be on their first campout weekend and I would spend their last morning with them.

I arrived to the camp and was introduced to a group of adolescent Boy Scouts and two Scout leaders. We were gathered in an open area in the woods around a fire pit. After introductions, I spoke briefly about Shinrin Yoku (forest bathing), its history, and its benefits. I invited them to spend the next couple of hours wandering slowly as we interacted with the forest.

We began by stretching, breathing, slowing down, and beginning a mandala of nature finds as a gateway into our time together. I gave them a group invitation — standing in a comfortable spot, slowly turn in one direction, then in the opposite direction. A third turn and instructed them to stop when they felt a sense of ‘right direction’. Open your eyes and for the next ten minutes, wander in that direction, notice what you notice with your senses. Take time to listen, touch, smell, and observe. I also mentioned that they might feel an urge to sit at some point. If you sit, continue to observe with your senses. After ten minutes, we gathered in our circle around the mandala to share our experiences as well as to add to our mandala.

We continued with another group invite to walk even slower and notice what you wouldn’t notice if you were going faster. Again, we gathered to share our experience. Gradually our group mandala began to grow.

Then we each chose invites from a deck I’ve made when I lead groups in Forest Bathing. For the next hour, each boy had his own invites. I watched them slowly wander into the forest. What a beautiful sight to witness! I watched them settling into slowing down as they considered and pursued their individual invites.

The deck of invitations I’ve made are suggestions for interacting in the woods in a positive way. I’ve created invitations that blend interacting in the forest as well as practices from the field of Positive Psychology. The range of invites suggest simply noticing, finding a friend in a tree or rock, to exploring in gratitude, kindness, and awe. After each invite, we added to our mandala and shared our experience.

After a couple of hours, we gathered to close our time together. I asked them what went well as a summary of their morning of Forest Bathing. I heard words like relaxed, calm, focused, and how they noticed many things they had overlooked during their weekend camping in the area. They noticed bugs, leaves decomposing into soil, the taste of dirt, the feel of tree trunks, interesting twigs & stones, bird songs, and an abundance of acorns everywhere. They praised the experience and how they felt better than when they began.

We ended by clearing our mandala as our gateway to completion. I finished in gratitude and encouraging them to continue taking time to befriend trees and noticing with open senses to what’s around them.

I came away with a deeper appreciation of the woods and what happens when we slow down and simply notice. Forest bathing is a rich and mindful experience. Everyone comes away changed in positive ways — even (and especially) youth.  

Lessons From Children

 

When my daughter was young, I often told her I was surprised that I’d lived so many years without her advice. I really did know how to cook, drive, plant a garden, or whatever I was doing that she would offer her instructions on how to do it better or, at least, right.

I recently spent several days with my grandchildren exploring, storytelling, walking in the woods, playing, and watching their favorite movies. Every activity was laced with their advice direction, and instructions just as my daughter did when she was their age. This time I watched, listened, learned and was reminded of the poignant beauty of innocent childhood. 

My first career was teaching preschool children. I have fond memories of what I learned from them. My daughter years later, reminded me of how to be in the world. This week, at the perfect time, I was reminded yet again of how to truly be in the world. I witnessed the way they approach life, build courage, and express their natural resourcefulness. 

Now back home, I am filled with their fresh innocence as they learn to face life head on with fierce and fearless determination. I reflect on my time with them with a smile on my face and in my heart. I also ponder a question, when and why do we (as adults) lose the presence and fearlessness in life?

Here is some of what I learned and was reminded of:

  1. Word Quotas: I am certain we wake each day with a word quota that must be used by the time we tuck into bed. Children use up their word quota through storytelling, lengthy strings of thought, words, and fragments of thoughts whether or not they make sense. Brother and sister would walk along both talking (at the same time) without interruption in order to use up their work quota for the day.

2.   Food is Life: Ok, most kids have strong opinions about what they will or won’t eat,      what color plate is needed for any particular meal, and a clear opinion about how the food must be arranged on said plate. Snacks are an ongoing part of the day. In fact, any time of the day is perfect for a snack. 6 am? perfect! After a meal? of course! After a walk? Definitely! Just because? What a great time for a snack! They snacked on fruit, rice cakes, chips, or whatever is within reach on their snack shelf. They are always hungry. Food is life, isn’t it?

3. Life is play: Laughter, tears, a variety of voices & names, and an abundance of stuffed animals, action figures, cars, paper, and even the dogs are essential props in creative play. I witnessed hours of role playing. They were acting out different scenarios and responses they’d experienced in real life interactions. I was listening to them replay events with different responses and solutions to ‘real’ situations. I believe all this role playing was a way to integrate their experiences and practice possible resolutions and responses for next time.

4. Letting Go & Moving On: Pitch a disproportionate fit to a situation. Every so often a burst ofI screaming, crying, throwing, kicking, or flinging themselves to the floor emerged. When this happened, I learned it best to let it go and run its course unless there was injury. Within minutes, the drama would end and he/she would return to play as if nothing had just happened. The dramatic tantrum and the reason they were acting out allowed them to let it go and move on. Brilliant!

5. The Outdoors is an Important Classroom: We went out for a walk in a snow storm and another walk the next day, mostly in mud. We went to experience the wildlife and be out in the delight of fresh snow. Walking with children is a slow wandering as I follow their lead. They look for birds, squirrels, fox, and deer. During the storm, we saw ducks, geese, and a fox. We also noticed animal tracks in the snow before us. My heart swells watching them love the outdoors. On our next walk, we saw a bald eagle, a hawk, geese, and the eagle’s nest. 

6. How to be Out in Nature: I love Forest Therapy (Shinrin Yoku) and I have learned much from my grandchildren beyond the slow wandering. Walking through the mud is an exercise in balance and much more fun than walking around the mud. Jumping in puddles creates an exciting splash. What fun is missed by keeping your shoes dry and walking around the puddle? As you walk, look down, look up, and look in wonder at what nature has to offer. Nature is truly an abundant learning environment.

7. Curiosity, A Growth Necessity: Nearly everything children do is approached with curiosity. Through their curious wanderings outside, their curious explorations in play, and even with how to eat a meal, curiosity is a foundation for childhood. It is how we learn about what we like and don’t like. It is also how we learn about who we are in every situation. Curiosity maintains a sense of wonder in any activity.

8. Be Fearless: Climb trees, jump off the top step, play in every patch of snow or dirt, make fishing rods and bows out of branches and string. When you fall down, get back up with determination and try again. We learned to walk, run, and ride a bike by being fearless. Safety is for the adults in attendance, however, don’t hover.

9. Yes, I Hear You But…: Listening is selective. Yes, I hear you telling me to slow down or be careful or lower the volume, kind of… I realized that it wasn’t that they didn’t hear, it was that their forward energy was already in motion. Sometimes we keep going when there is wisdom in slowing down or stopping. We’re already in motion in thought. I watched, in real time, how every creation and action begins with a thought.

I am already planning my next visit for what I might learn! Life is our classroom and children show us what we, as adults, have forgotten. Being with children, I experience life with more presence, fun, engagement, and curiosity. They are wonderful teachers & guides for living with humor, courage, and noticing.

It’s Not About The High

 

 

 

Cannabis is currently in the news with many stores now capitalizing on CBD oil as a healing herb. Hemp based CBD has recently become legal. Cannabis is also at the top of many minds as Medicinal Cannabis dispensaries are opening to the public as more states legalize recreational use. I just drove by the dispensary in Great Barrington where well over 100 people waited in line in 27 degrees — the weekends bring long lines.

My interest as an acupuncturist and a wellness coach is to understand this herb that’s as old as humankind and is part of herbal medicine in Chinese medicine. Throughout time, cannabis has been recorded as a valuable medicinal for a variety of symptoms and diseases. Beginning in China, cannabis tea was prescribed for the treatment of pain, arthritis, and memory disorders. In Egypt, cannabis was used for shrinking tumors. Hemp, besides having medicinal qualities, has and still is used to make ropes, clothing, and paper. In fact, the word canvas is believed to point to the use of cannabis in making sails. Another interesting trivia is that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper! 

I am asked many questions about whether CBD or cannabis could be helpful in relieving troubling symptoms. Over the past few years, I have been gathering as much information as possible to be able to be of help to the people I see in my work. Though CBD oil is readily available and dispensaries are also opening to the public, the missing information has been how to appropriately dose and use this herb as a medicinal. Many remember using marijuana years ago as the path to being high with friends and having the ‘munchies’. Until recently, cannabis was used recreationally even though it’s been illegal since the mid-1900’s. These people not only have questions, they also have fears and doubts. 

I work with people as they begin to explore using cannabis for themselves. Most people I see are not interested in getting high which is a result of the THC content. CBD oil, whether from hemp or cannabis, has little to no THC content. Medicinal cannabis does have THC content though there are a growing number of varieties with a balance of CBD and THC or a significantly higher CBD presence over THC. There are important ways to use this herb medicinally — low (or micro) doses often works the best. Too much THC can actually worsen some symptoms and can have the ‘high’ effect.

Research and personal experiences show much promise in using cannabis successfully. Many of us know of the company, Charlotte’s Web, and their work using CBD oil with a young girl who suffered from intolerable seizures. CBD oil has improved the life of a growing number of children suffering from epilepsy as well as ADHD and Autism Spectrum disorders. In California, cannabis has been used by cancer patients who have exhausted conventional treatments. Many of these patients continue to live and are cancer free in spite of a dire prognosis. There are increasing people experiencing pain relief, better sleep, and lessening symptoms from anxiety and PTSD. 

What is inspiring about cannabis is that there are almost no side effects, there is a low risk of addiction, and there is no chance of lethal overdose. All of these make it promising in helping patients who are addicted to opioids. In 2014, the University of Pennsylvania found that the states that have legalized cannabis have seen overdose deaths decrease by 25%.

Conditions that CBD and Medicinal Cannabis May Provide Relief

Here is a list of conditions that have reported CBD useful in relieving troubling symptoms: 

Alzheimer’s, Parkinson”s, stroke, heart attack, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, arthritis, pain, cancer, anxiety, stress, inflammation, PTSD, insomnia, night terrors, skin issues, ADHD, Autism Spectrum disorders, depression, migraines, MS spasticity, and more.

In my own life, CBD has been a welcomed remedy in diminishing pain. Most of those I work with who suffer from a variety of symptoms are experiencing relief. I am being convinced to consider its use.

It’s Not About The High

In conclusion, cannabis and CBD as useful medicinals can no longer be argued. For those with unpleasant memories and fearful of trying, it is not about getting high (though that may be fun occasionally.) Most people I work with use just enough to relieve their symptoms. As I work with individuals, I always begin slowly until we find the dose that works best for them.

CBD oil has no psychoactive effects. Medicinal cannabis with all cannabinoid compounds present (the whole plant) generally works best in small or micro-doses for many conditions. Using too much, too often, can worsen symptoms.

Are you wondering if cannabis could help you? Have you had friends tell you that CBD oil could help but you are not sure how to take it? Do you have fears? Do you have questions?

I am excited to be offering consultations for those wanting to find holistic relief, find the dose that works, and explore the varieties of cannabis to find what works best for individual symptoms. As a wellness coach and acupuncturist, my mission is to help people find their way to healthy living.

If interested in exploring further, contact me via message below or email at: LJ5250@aol.com.

Happy Solstice ~ Welcome the Light

Happy Solstice!

Today is the time for celebrating and welcoming the returning light. Our days will become lighter and longer, minute by minute.

I use this time of year to reflect on the year ending by looking at what I accomplished, acknowledging all that was done, and dreaming the coming year into being with the narrative I wish to live into, a word for the year, and positively setting the stage for success. My writing includes what I’ve learned, what I want to let go of, as well as to what I wish to carry forward.

My word for last year was ‘Change’. Looking back, 2018 has been a year of major change — I’ve moved, let go of a home that nurtured me for many years, relinquished lots of stuff I no longer used or needed, and watched my daughter’s family do the same. Within my community, too many people have passed onto the work of light from the other side. 

The process is simple — slow down, go inside, write or create art, answer a few questions in preparation for the turning of the calendar. 

I invite you to join me to prime your environment for what’s to come. What do you want to bring into the light in 2019?

Settle into a few questions with your pen and/or your art materials:

1. Reflect: what was successful in 2018? Make a list. Embellish. I like to fill my journal pages (or large newsprint) with the lists of everything I remember. I’ll use my calendar to look back if I need some prompting. Let this process go on for several days. Then sit up straight and pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished! Yes, take the time to celebrate with pride for your accomplishments.

2. Dream: what are your dreams for 2019? do you have a bucket list? are there projects that wish to be brought forward? what changes and/or additions do you get excited about? what narrative do you wish to live into? Dream it into being by giving it your blessing of welcome! Consider, how will your life be different when your dreams come into being?

3. Letting Go: what can be or needs to be released so the space is cleared for the new? Consider letting go during this time of darkness. Place a box somewhere so you can put the stuff you no longer need into it — then donate it or create a ritual to release it. I put in slips of paper that I write what I am letting go of ~ attitudes, negative thoughts, behaviors, habits, etc. 

Happy Solstice!

A Nature Bath at Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows is a nature park a short walk from my daughters townhouse in Alexandria. Everyone was excited to take me there knowing how much I love being in nature. I am grateful that they, too, love nature. Not long after my arrival, off we went into the woods.

As we began our walk I became very aware of the specialness of place within the city limits — an opportunity for people to step away from their fast paced lives and connect with nature. Living in the epicenter of our government’s hot spot, nature is a welcome respite. Though I noticed few other visitors. I was grateful for the quiet moments when we walked in silence. I also noticed the majority of others walking along slowly or standing by their cameras on tripods were Asian, which is where Shinrin Yoku or Forest bathing as a healthcare practice began.

With each step into the woods we all relaxed and opened our senses to what surrounded us and what surprises we might witness. We shared in one another’s excitement when we noticed something new and awesome — a Kingfisher which invited us to linger at the end of the boardwalk, a tree whittled down by a beaver, the wet footprints of some forest animal on the boardwalk, the variety of ducks enjoying the water, the deer enjoying the woods and the blue herons which seemed to be everywhere.

We relaxed. We enjoyed being together in quiet (or as quiet as children can be). We paused every few steps to witness our surroundings in awe. Though we were cold, we continued because being outdoors together was more important. So we made light and comical banter about being cold and, in places, numb. We were, indeed, bathing ourselves in nature.

Noticing what happened to each of us, I was reminded of living daily with the woods at my doorstep and why I spend so much time outdoors to walk, to meditate, to garden, and simply be in the presence of birds, wildlife, and the changing weather through the seasons. I noticed that, not only did we relax, our attitudes shifted toward more joy, we laughed more, and enjoyed being part of something greater than ourselves. For me, it was a deeply spiritual experience throughout the walk. I love being in nature where I can feel the presence of spirit in every living thing. Each breath and each step I am bathed in love and expansion.

Having recently moved away from the woods and into a neighborhood in the town where I work, I needed the refreshing rejuvenation of the woods. My daughter and family also recently moved from one city to another for a new job opportunity. We all needed to let go of the boxes both unpacked and still packed, finding new routines, and away from the stresses inherent in a major move. For them, Huntley Meadows is only 1/2 mile away. For me in my new home, I must drive several miles to go into the woods. Fortunately, we all have dogs who love the outdoors. I know that the responsibility of animals makes it easier to get outside.

My dog, Willow, loves the outdoors and the exercise of a good hike in the woods. She is my companion to explore and bathe in nature. Daily (weather permitting) we get in the car to leave people, cars and activity behind. Willow excitedly jumps into the car — she knows when we are going to the woods. As I drive the five minutes to a local state forest, I feel my shoulders relax.

Our first few minutes we walk at a brisk pace as if shaking off the cares and stresses of the day. Then we slow our pace to a meditative exploration — my breath deepens, my senses open to the view over the lake, I notice the scents of pine, wet earth, the breeze on my face, and the occasional campfire smell in the air. Willow puts her nose to the earth to explore who’s been here before us. My mind calms as I notice the song I am humming and I settle into the stories I imagine of this land before me. My imagination wanders into narratives such as my curiosity of the volcano that formed this lake, focus on the giant car-sized rocks left over from the glaciers, or who lived here and left their mark with the stone walls that wind through the woods of New England. I find my center, my connection, and my creative inspiration in nature.

I return home with gratitude and joy every time. Once home I more easily begin again the work that awaits my focused attention. For my daughter and family, our walk after Thanksgiving dinner allowed us to reminisce our gratitude for one another. We returned refreshed from the cold air and our exploration of nature.

Shinrin Yoku or Forest Bathing

 

Shinrin Yoku is something I’ve done most of my life and it now has a name because its health benefits in an increasingly stressful world are being discovered as important.  About two years ago, I was introduced to forest bathing while reading Florence Williams book, “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” . While reading about forest bathing, I was reminded of some of my earliest memories (before 4th grade) in communion and relationship with the natural world.

My interest was piqued and I’ve continued to learn more (initially, to deepen and expand my personal love of nature). The more I learn and practice, the more I feel Shinrin Yoku may be an essential part of our self-care.

Shinrin Yoku (aka. forest bathing) is a guided service available in Japan, South Korea, and, now, in some parts of the United States. In Japan, there are a growing number of designated forest bathing parks & paths. Scientists are beginning to study the health benefits of forest bathing and, as a result, the practice is gaining momentum as a health and well-being  practice. 

What is forest bathing? It is a slow walk and exploration of nature with our senses wide open. It is not exercise. It is a consciously mindful practice with the intention of relieving stress, balancing blood pressure, and improving the functioning of our immune systems as well as build a beneficial relationship with this home we call earth. Forest bathing is using all of your senses — touch, see, smell, hear, and more — to fill yourself with the healing energies of the natural world around us.

We’ve all had the experience of breathing in negative ions (that fresh smell) when near a flowing brook or river or after a rainstorm. In nature there are a multitude of healing properties that we can ‘bathe’ in for our health and to relieve stress. There is a sensuality to our experience when we use our senses to see, smell, hear, touch. I find being in nature in a slow and deliberate way is also a spiritual experience as I remember and nurture relationships with all living and non-living elements while acknowledging that I am part of a larger web of living and being. When out in nature and away from the busyness of cities, highways, and the shops along Main street we connect with our primal selves who, not so long ago, lived in harmony with the natural world. Forest bathing is an opportunity to reconnect to the energies of the earth (especially if you go barefoot) — the  ground, the trees, grasses, wildlife, and flowers.

Forest bathing as a guided experience is about slowing down enough to listen with all of your senses while breathing in the healing found in nature. Your Shinrin Yoku guide will offer exercises or invitations to lead you into a deep experience as well as opportunities to write and/or share your experience with others (when done in a group). A forest bathing experience often lasts an hour or more while exploring less than 1/2 mile in the woods. Even though the word ‘bathing’ is used, in a forest bathing experience you are fully clothed (unless you choose to remove your shoes so you can go barefoot). The bathing is what happens when our senses are open and receptive to the natural world. 

Note: Interested in knowing more or having your own experience of Forest Bathing? If you live in New England, I would be happy to be your guide. Feel free to comment below or send me an email at: LJ5250@aol.com.

 

Meditation Monday: On Opening Your Heart

Version 2

Today’s meditation is all about loving yourself. Most of us know what it means to love another — our partner, our children, our parents, friends, even our pets. How often do we offer love to ourselves?

Today, we’ll focus on using the breath to expand our heart and deepen our relationship with this miraculous inner organ that beats continuously throughout our lives. We will take time to appreciate our heart. Then, we’ll use our imagination to breathe in and out of our heart center which is all about love and joy.

In our fast paced world, settling into our heart energy and extending love to ourselves is an important piece of self-care that we rarely consider. 

I hope you enjoy this meditation and return to it more than once — you deserve your own self love! Consider sharing this meditation with someone you know so they, too, can experience their heart opening to self-love.

Meditation Monday on Self-Compassion

Version 2

Do you treat yourself as you treat others? Are you kind, caring, and encouraging toward yourself? 

We tend to be our own worst critics. We easily see ourselves as “not good enough”; “not worthy enough”; “lazy”; etc. What are the judgements you lay on yourself? What is the standard you hold for yourself? Is it lower or higher than the standard you hold for others?

Compassion is an inner strength and a resource for building resilience. Compassion is caring, respect, and encouragement within the awareness of feeling and wanting to help make things right. For many of us, it is easy to offer compassion to others while, too often, it is awkward to be compassionate toward ourselves. 

Self-compassion builds our ability to cope with stress and to ride the waves of adversity or challenge. Todays meditation is a practice in self-compassion. Let’s give ourselves permission to be human during our sitting. As your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to return to your breath and your relaxed body. Let go of judgement toward yourself for wandering away from the breath or the silence of sitting.

Honor this time for offering yourself caring, kindness, and respect. When we practice self-compassion we are caring toward our feelings, we treat ourselves with respect, and we are encouraging. Through self-compassion we bring out our best and can better advocate for ourselves and our needs. 

Be on your own side. Be kind and sympathetic when you feel fear. Be warm when you are getting sick or sad. Be encouraging when you are embarking on a new venture or goal. All these are simple ways of practicing self-compassion. 

We can also ask, “How would I be with another if they are feeling afraid, insecure, or sick?” Place the same standard on yourself as you would another.  

Make this a week of practicing self-compassion and become your best. Give yourself permission to be magnificent!

**At the end of this meditation you will hear my dog barking. I left it in as it was my fourth attempt to record without external noises. A barking dog, a child, cars passing by, outdoor noises, or a cat is part of our everyday life. My own practice of self-compassion is being kind with my own desire to be perfect.**