I believe dark psychic forces are a real thing and forest spirits populate the Pacific Northwest. Labyrinth and Pan’s Labyrinth top my favorite-movies list. So when I signed up for a forest bathing (also called forest therapy) session in western Portugal’s Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, I wasn’t totally surprised to find myself having a sort of mystical experience among the mossy rocks and ivy-covered oaks, poplars, and acacias.
Forest therapy taps into the nowscientifically verified theory that spending time outside can make you happier and healthier. The official forest bathing protocol, called Shinrin-yoku, was developed in Japan during the ’80s to help a burnt-out workforce reclaim its mojo. Forest bathing is a set of mindfulness practices done in nature tohelp you dissolve stress by connecting to your senses and to something greater than yourself—the energy and innate wisdom of the Earth. For example, in an exercise called Texture Gathering, you wander slowly, often off the beaten path, exploring the way things feel—rough tree branches, decomposing leaves, slick stones. You become fully present and alive, and your anxieties and fears about the past and future start to slip away.
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March - April 2020