Early Autumn Forest Bath

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October in the woods in SW Michigan, just minutes from my Three Oaks home…

Moving from the heated expansiveness of summer, a refreshing and introspective autumnal forest calls.  Come walk and linger, enjoy scents and colors, experiencing the restoration and inspiration of the trees, plants, and earth.  The shadows are long and the days shorter, heightening our pleasure of the moment.  Falling leaves reveal the skeleton of a tree.  Scent of decaying leaves is both dank and sweet, a curious embrace.

I imagine most of us woodsy fans are aware of the Forest Bath movement, Shinrin-yuko.  (I rambled about Forest Bathing previously in a wintry blog – Winter Forest Bath). In Japan, formal studies are conducted regarding the health benefits of spending time in nature.  A recent study explores the immune strengthening abilities of essential oils from trees and plant life.  ‘Scuse me while I dab on some Hinoki Oil…

Most beguiling is the personal creativity that awakes in a Forest Bath.  If we step into the woods with senses open we begin to feel very deeply.  We let the forest in –  into us, our psyche – and we experience profound pleasure and the rarified activity, play.

Yeah, it sounds “woo-woo.”  Well, it is “woo-woo.”  Let’s just lighten up go with it.

Here’s some sensory forest bath games to explore.

Scent

Find a scent and breathe it in.  Close your eyes.  How does it make you feel?  Where do you feel it in your body.  Open your eyes and follow the scent until you discover another. Repeat.

Pine, I feel in the head,  throat, and heart.   I walk through the woods tracking pine until I discover a fungal-mushroom scent.  This I feel much lower in my body, it is heavy and rich.  Something about the mushroom seems mischievous to me…  Colors seem brighter after the scent of mushroom.

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Vision

Let yourself gaze at something until your eyes go in and out of focus.  Explore trying not to focus on anything!  Find some lovely objects and make a design with them.

I feel connected to my inner child when I do this.

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Hear

Sit in silence.  Close your eyes.  What do you hear?  Repeat, this time with a smile.

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Touch

Here’s a favorite.  Find a tree.  Go ahead and rest your hand on it.  Feel.  Move your hand away, slowly, and see what you feel now.  Ok, umm. Just wow!  Next, silently introduce yourself to this tree.  “Well, hello there, Tree.  I’m Doreen.  It’s so nice to be in your company.”  See what happens…

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Have Fun!

Go ahead and revel and twirl!  Don’t be perfect!  Be wild and wonderful!  Be present!  Be you in the deep, deep woods of autumn!

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Holding Self Meditation

Dealing With Bad Faeries

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Bad Faerie art by Brian Froud

Although old as dirt, I’m still a novice.  A novice at this living thing.  Shadows and bad faeries linger and whisper nasty shit I know I should ignore.  I still wanna eat pie for breakfast, am sometimes tempted by the gluttony of vapid media, and give in to occasional self-pitying freak outs behind the wheel.  (Where’s that lavender?!?!?!?)

But I have learned a few tricks and I’ll get there.

First I have to say it.  Living is not about thing things being ok.   This is truth.  Conditions for many are horribly shitty.   Our bodies and minds are deluged with toxins and respond with dis-ease.  Even those of us living “privileged” lives are suffering.  Living on earth, at present, is not ok.  Bad faeries are afoot.

Why this is so and how it came to be, we do not know for sure.  There are many many fascinating and plausible theories, but really we don’t know how things got so off track.

But this disconnect is why I choose to bring beauty and harmony into the world the best I can.  Through perfume, yoga, art.

And why I meditate.

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Meditation Faery by Amy Brown

Life is about holding your own in this madness.  Only then can we observe clearly and thus bring action forward.   It is taught, we need to manage our “containers.”  By going inside self, holding self.  If we engage in spilling our containers, we give our powers away.

We need to connect with our bodies and feel our feelings.  We need to let feelings, negative or positive, burble – swell – and explode if they must.  We need to experience how they manifest in our actual physical bodies.  We need to go deep with this and own them.  Own it all.

This is life.  It is a roller coaster.  Allow yourself to experience it.

So much gratitude goes to my yoga & meditation teachers who encouraged me to just sit on the cushion, or stay in that yoga pose and feel my burning thigh for just two more breaths.  Just feel.  “Why are you in a hurry to leave?  There’s just another pose…”  And then taught me how to physically and psychically release and clean out.  To open myself to the TRUE NATURE of my HEART, and all of OUR HEARTS, LOVE.

From here we can create.  Art, beauty, harmony.

A Meditation

Take a few moments.  Longer is better.  But even 2-5 minutes is good.

Sit in a comfortable position.  Take a few deep breaths and then let your breath just be natural.  Resist controlling the breath for now.

Find a “space” of neutrality where your consciousness and mind can just observe self.  Like a little lookout tower in your psyche.

From here observe what’s happening in the body.  Don’t try to change it.  Just observe.  “Hip aches.  Shoulders tense.  Hungry.  Back feels good.”  Don’t judge these things or seek to blame or credit the sensations on something outside of self (your boss, the president elect, your lover).  Merely acknowledge them.

Go a little deeper and check out your emotions.  Again – no judging emotions, or blaming/crediting.  They are yours and yours alone.  Now just feel them.   Allow the feelings to well up.  Allow yourself to feel them.   If they are very intense take your time.  You are in charge here.  But stay in the game!  If you need to cry or breath deeply, totally cool.  In fact good.  Do it.  Maybe you will cry one second and laugh wildly the next.  It’s ok!!!!

Eventually  you’ll feel this has blossomed and the wave is receding.  More waves will probably come.  In fact, they will never stop coming.  This is because you are alive!  If the intense feelings stop, you are probably dead!  This is life!  So, hooray!  It’s ok to feel!

The whole point is that you learn how to manage and express them.  You own them.  You are in charge.

After the container is emptier it’s time to fill up with positivity.

In your mind’s eye create a picture of breath entering and leaving your body.  See it as a color or light.

Now you may choose to control the breath taking deep long breaths.  Upon inhale, breath in white or golden light or smoke.  See it entering your body; through the mouth down the throat, into the lungs.  See this light permeating your body’s cells, filling your body and aura.

Focus on complete exhalations.  With each exhale see gray or dull smoke leaving your body.  With exhale you are further releasing these spent emotions.  Release all of them good and bad.  They are over, gone.  Making space for the new.

Finally, hold your hand gently over your heart.  Your beautiful, true heart.  Know that inside your heart is true and good.

Surf the wave, ride the roller coaster, repeat…

Life.  F*G Messy.  I hope this helps…

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Good Faerie doll by Wendy Froud

Many Gratitudes to my yoga and meditation teachers and the community therein.  Among others – Turbodog Yoga, Tracy Von Kaenal, Shiva Rea, Invision School of Psychic Abilities, & Zen Buddhist Temple (Chicago).