As someone who is pretty dyslexic, I often switch prefixes and mash up my words when writing and speaking. When talking to a good friend who was feeling very scattered and exhausted, I somehow came out with the word “mentical” when observing how she was mentally disconnected from her physical body. It seemed to be a perfect way to describe the “dis-ease” that a lot of 21st century urbanites suffer from, and we immediately adopted it into our vocabulary. And then I told her: A walk in the woods is a way to mitigate the mentical.
[Three years ago] after spending many hours in a hospital with my mom over a two-month period, I knew what I needed to do to get rid of the accumulated “ick” from such an environment, and headed to a nearby nature preserve. I felt the benefits in five minutes! It was as if I had dipped myself in some magic potion; I came out refreshed, healed and cleansed.
Several years ago, I gave as homework to one of my clients, an African-American woman, to go spend some time exploring and journaling deep in a woodsy park. She looked at me as if I had two heads and said, “You know Black folk don’t hike…?!” I laughed and of course didn’t care, and she wisely heeded the assignment. She is now an avid fan of the activity, and has even influenced many in her circle to try it as well.
However this is not about hiking per se, in the very athletic sense of climb difficulty and the views as a reward, etc. It’s about letting the energy of those deep-green leaves absorb any negative mental, emotional, physical and spiritual vibes within and around us, and letting us take in some good ones from them. It’s purely alchemical.
Most people flock to the beach in the summer. I’ve always headed for the trees. At least in the Northeast, this is the time of the year when they are the most lush and verdant. They are at their peak of healing juiciness, and they call out to me big time!
As usual, science finally caught up with and has now “proved” what I and others have known intuitively and have been doing for eons; I was thrilled to come across this article, which justified my cure to me and others of spending time in the woods. Apparently the Japanese have coined the term “forest bathing,” and put some explanation and studies behind what I simply considered common sense and what made me feel good; now it is being used as preventive medicine as well as treatment for asthma, depression and other ailments! I bow and thank you for affirming my “homework,” Japan.
I have come to find the practice even more necessary these days with our increasing dependence on electronic devices — who knows what stuff they are emitting and what WiFi is really doing to us mentally and physically. Remember that plants and trees suck the carbon dioxide out of the air and increase the oxygen — for us city folk we need as much clean fresh air as we can get. Especially if you have been spending a lot of time in hospitals, airports, and/or inhabit the concrete jungle, it’s the perfect antidote to erratic energy, as well as recycled, conditioned and even toxic air.
Once you get yourself to a park, preserve or forest, the first thing to do is express gratitude. Think about how the trees and plants are always there, evolving, growing, moving toward life, no matter what they’re handed or how much they suffer — they remain steadfast in supporting and healing us. By giving thanks, perhaps we can counteract some of the abuse we humans have doled out! I generally recommend going alone, or with just a few close friends/partners who “get it.” Take deep breaths and move slowly. Be grateful for the miracle that is Mother Earth. Visualize and feel the trees like a filter absorbing all the guck in us at that moment. Let yourself be grounded and feel any stress, worry or disease be released from your mental, physical and emotional bodies.
If you can’t get to an actual forest, perhaps your gym’s tread mills have one of those virtual videos courses so you can feel as if you are — now this does not give you any of the alchemical benefits I’ve mentioned above, however it is still good for meditation purposes so hey it’s better than nothing!
The beach can be the bomb in a different way when it comes to healing too so listen to your body and hear what it’s asking for. You probably don’t need to go to the extreme like Reese/Cheryl in order to your reclaim your soul and sanity, but if you’re not sure about the who, what, why and where of your personal Nature Rx, give me a buzz. I’ll be the forest ranger in the Pharrell hat that points you in the right direction, reminds you to take it all in, and will be there should you get lost on the trail.
Today’s PGG essay originally published on www.kristinaleonardi.com on June 9, 2018)
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