Experiencing Forest Bathing
By Saveri Nandigama
We met at Cheverly Town Park in Maryland at 11 am. I had never attended a forest bathing walk before, but had an idea as to what the experience might look like because of blog posts I had read. I didn’t have any expectations, but had heard that I would feel more calm and focused after the experience.
Once everybody arrived, our guide, Raquel, led everyone to a gathering spot she had chosen to begin the walk. The beginning of the walk was interesting because it seemed like the spot was made for gathering. I’m not sure whether Raquel had arranged the spot or not, but I thought that was a nice place to start the walk She invited us to all sit on the ground in a circle and share a little bit about ourselves to become more familiar with each other. She asked us a series of questions to help us get in touch with the forest. Together, we used our senses to hear, see, and touch the forest. This part was especially meaningful to me because it allowed me to reacquaint myself with my surroundings.
In a technology driven world, I often find it very difficult to look up from my screen. The forest bathing mindfulness exercise forced me to look up and become more in touch with my surroundings and myself. I felt significantly more grounded in the experience afterwards.
Raquel also told us about the medicinal powers and origins of forest bathing. My experience was largely shaped by the way that Raquel built her relationship with the forest she was guiding us through, and I was really grateful to have had a guide who was so invested in showing us what she thought was most amazing about the forest. I appreciated how personal the practice seemed to Raquel. That being said, Raquel’s way of guiding still allowed for me to develop my own thoughts and relationship with the forest throughout the walk.
After this introductory exercise, Raquel allowed us to move around the forest by ourselves and in pairs. We explored the forest and identified our favorite parts. Then, we were able to take a partner with us on a walk to identify the most interesting parts of the forest. I found that I was pushing myself to be attentive and mindful of the ground I was walking on, as well as my surroundings.
The partnered portion of the walk was especially interesting because I was able to see how my partner observed the forest in a different, or similar, way than I did. After each walk, we came back together to briefly talk about our favorite parts of what we observed. We were not pushed to think about why things were the way they were in the forest. Instead, we were just asked to notice things. Reflecting on the experience, I think this was helpful because it allowed us to be present in nature.
Finally, the forest bathing experience ended with small snacks (fruits, chocolate and banana chips) and herbal tea made from the plants Raquel found in the forest. I thought this part was nice because it acted as an obvious transition point that eased us back into daily life that, for me, can be more stressful and faster-paced.
Throughout the experience, I felt more relaxed and calm. The time went by very quickly and Raquel was an excellent guide because she allowed us to experience the forest in a way that we felt most comfortable with. Overall, I appreciated the forest bathing experience. Since the walk, I value deep breathing and being more focused on one task at a time much more. I would definitely recommend that everyone who is able to try forest bathing.