Here is a new concept I hadn’t heard about before reading about it on my friend Jan Johnsen’s blog   serenityinthegarden.blogspot.com   I usually don’t reblog but I want to share this concept of shrinin-yoku with you  and Jan said it so well I am borrowing her post verbatim.
 I didn’t know the great feeling of walking in the woods had a name, but I whole heartedly agree with the therapeutic benefits. Do you feel better after a walk in the woods? Read on and learn why.

Forest Therapy – A walk a day keeps the doctor away….by Jan Johnsen

I often take a walk in the woods near my house.
I walk on paved streets to reach this forest trail, taking rapid strides and often breathing  in chilled morning air. I catch the early sunlight through the trees. It is such a wonderful time and I feel calmer and more centered.
My little morning reverie has a name: ‘ forest bathing’ or, in the original Japanese, ‘Shinrin-yoku’.  This relatively new therapy, the Japanese tell us, literally instills peace, calms us and promotes immunity to disease!Like a walking healing meditation, “forest bathing” coordinates breath and movement in the presence of the scent of forest trees to uplift us.

Ever since a Japanese government agency coined the term, ‘forest bathing’  in 1982, ‘shinrin-yoku’ has slowly made its way into the vernacular in Japan  It has a great many Japanese fans who now can visit forty two ‘forest therapy’ parks for stress relief.Their goal is to set up 100 within the next decade.

The phrase ‘shinrin-yoku’ really means “taking in the forest atmosphere” and recently, Japanese scientists quantified the effects of this atmosphere through several studies.

They credit ‘phytoncides‘, the airborne chemicals (odor) emitted by plants that protect them from disease and insects, as the elements that provide a positive, protective chemical reaction within us humans.
One Japanese study followed 280 healthy residents. Some were instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours while others were asked to walk through an urban setting.
On the second day, they traded places. Those who spent time in the woods experienced lower levels of cortisol (which induces stress), a lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure while raising levels of white blood cells.
Also in 2007, Japanese men who took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had a 50-percent increase in the levels of natural killer (NK) cells, white blood cells that kill tumors and viruses.
And another study found an increase in white blood cells that lasted a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air.
What this tells us is that inhaling scent from the trees, or more specifically,  the volatile oils from trees, makes us healthier. And since we have spent most of our evolutionary history in natural environments – walking in the woods is like a physiological homecoming.
How this works is simple:  These aromatic chemicals go straight up our nose to the limbic portion of our brain which releases health inducing hormones and more to reduce our stress and boost our immune system instanteously!
(There is a reason the Magi’s gifts included frankincense and myrrh….)
Of course breathing in and out also plays a part. Breathing meditation calms the mind and develops inner peace. When you do this in a forest, park or botanical garden and inhale those healthy tree scents you double the benefit.
And if you envision yourself connected to the earth and to others in the same way that a forest is connected by its web of roots then the beneficial health effect is magnified.
In summary, a healthy mind and a healthy body are both rejuvenated in healthy forests. A group who promotes forest therapy walks writes this:

It was not an herb walk and it was not a nature walk! It was not a “power walk” through nature, it was a way to become part of the nature-moment.”

This group, Shin-rin yoku looks to be quite wonderful…I don’t know them but click on their name to go their website.

Geranium Love

 Below is a post from a friend’s blog, Becoming Safely Embodied Skills. Years ago I gave my friend, Deirdre Fay,  a small geranium plant which I had grown from a cutting from a very special geranium I own. I will write a separate post about my geranium another day, but today I would like to share  Deidre’s  post. Deirdre is a very spiritual person by whom I am constantly amazed and inspired. I love what she says about her geranium and am glad to be reminded of how a small gift can have such a powerful impact. Yes, it’s a cliche, but my geranium to Deirdre is a gift that keeps on giving.  Enjoy this geranium love story, and please share any stories of plants that inspire you.

What My Geranium Is Teaching Me About Transformation
I’ve never had the experience before of being in love with a plant. As they say, there’s a time for everything.I have fallen in love with a geranium grown from a spud of a thing given to me by Amy Murphy who writes the blog “Of Gardens.”

Teaching Transformation

This gorgeous geranium lives in my office and shows me every day the gentle path of transformation. The beautiful, spacious leaves open to capture the light that filters through the window. The leaves reach for the sun, turning toward it, visibly turning away from the room as they cast their full attention toward the sun.

Every couple days I turn the pot so that the leaves orient toward the room. Undeterred the geranium’s leaves orient, once again to the sun reaching, drinking, absorbing, replenishing.

Day after day in my meditation I soak in the geranium’s wisdom, absorbing and modeling myself after this consistent preference of turning toward what brings in nourishment.

Sitting and being with this wise geranium I notice it moves in rhythm with what feeds it. Contrary to my geranium I notice how I linger over moments of irritation, annoyance, judgment, snarly-ness.

Seeing, feeling the call to change my habits: Turn Toward Nourishment

Yet, even with these very human moments I feel the teaching weaving into my day urging me to turn toward what nourishes me, to become so focused on what brings satisfaction, comfort, ease that my attention releases the discomfort, stress, annoyances of daily life.

This is the teaching of any concentration meditation practice whether it’s chanting, saying the rosary or any mantra repeatedly, or practicing metta / loving kindness or compassion.

It’s also a practice that John Gottman, the relationship researcher at the University of Washington, discovered in his “Love Lab” with couples.   Taking his training years ago I was stuck by one of the findings of his research: turning toward.   This simple process of consistently stating your needs, being aware of the other’s needs, noticing their “bid for connection” and turning toward them changes the everyday dynamic of relationship building firm ground beneath and between people.

Since my embedded links aren’t working I’m sending them separately:   John Gottman’s website:  http://www.gottman.com  and to see the Love Lab in action: 


This turning toward as my geranium shows us, is also present in the movement toward transformation

As we consistently turn toward what gives us nourishment we build a steadiness inside us, giving us solid ground when life inevitably is rocky.

Chris Germer is a human version of my geranium whose presence beams self-acceptance and self-compassion and literally wrote the book on the subject of Mindful Self-Compassion. I’m one of a group of people in a class Chris and Susan Pollak are teaching on self-compassion training us to turn our attention toward nourishment, to deliberately cultivate self-compassion. Having a practice group helps me keep the subject – and the practice – ready for use all the time. It gives me a space to rest my heart held in the hearts of others.

Links you’ll enjoy:  Chris Germer’s Self-Compassion Break:   http://dfay.com/archives/3380

Chris Germer’s website:  http://www.mindfulselfcompassion.org

To read the intro to his book http://www.guilford.com/excerpts/germer2.pdf

After years of practice I humbly fess up to the truth

Every day I need the lessons taught by my geranium. Every day I turn my heart toward qualities that replenish and nourish me.   I surround myself with people, practices, and now plants that nudge me, guide me toward a truer path, one in which kindness prevails and compassion binds us.

In the Christian tradition this day of Easter marks the cycle of re-birth, of transformation. People around the world are turning toward, returning to, remembering what generates nourishment on all levels.

Perhaps we can all take time this week, this month to deepen our commitment to create a world of love. Perhaps we can join together to actively, deliberately turn our hearts toward love, toward kindness, hold our hearts with compassion, knowing that suffering is a common experience. A perfect practice might be Chris Germer’s Self Compassion Break.

If you have any interest in transforming the deep underlying patterns of your life you might consider joining a small group of us as I lead a workshop in Becoming Safely Attached in Boston in May. Using the principles of yoga, meditation, and attachment theory we’ll create a space to explore how we can lovely connect and choose to pull out the painful patterns that hold us back.

You might also enjoy Linda Graham’s book on Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well -Being which offers new tools and techniques to help recover our innate capacities to meet life’s challenges, whether everyday disappointments or extraordinary disasters, with calm, clarity, flexibility and courage.  Loaded with accessible neuroscience and powerful exercises Linda shows us how to harness the neuroplasticity of our own brains to strengthen our capacity to “bounce back” not only to get through hard times but thrive in their midst.  Please check the book out for yourself; and feel free to pass on this recommendation to five friends.