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Mindful forest bathing (shinrin-yoku)

 If you think that mindfulness is hard to achieve, I have news for you. You and I, and everybody else, are naturally capable of being mindful. Mindfulness is an innate capability of our human mind. Except, we don’t often use it. In a world that offers multiple stimulations and easy distractions, we often drift away from the present moment into multitasking.

Everyone of us has the ability to focus our attention on the “now” without distractions or judgment; we are able to thoroughly experience everything “in the present moment” without trying to make sense of it; we certainly have the innate ability to weather any situation even the most distressing ones, with resilience and sharp focus.

However, we are not doing it often enough. Actually, modern life has reduced the time we spend with ourselves. In the past, human beings used to spend most of their time specifically focused on a single chore at a time, or contemplating the world around one image at a time, without being bombarded by emails, twitters or text messages. Today, we are experiencing a sort of collective addiction to multitasking, the negative effect of which are well documented by numerous scientific studies, and made available to the large public via some excellent summaries.

Although we might feel efficient when we juggle several things at the same time, the reality is the opposite; for example, when we jump from one thing to another (like checking messages during a meeting) we often direct the collected information towards a “wrong” part of the brain, thus making it difficult to correctly retrieve it later on, or risking to mess up our thought process. In our busy world, we have an enormous number of distractions that come our way and we are submersed by messages that imply we can be better, smarter, slimmer, faster, prettier, healthier, etc. All this often makes us anxious, it fatigues our minds and it instills exhausting self-doubts.

Mindfulness training is about re-discovering our ability to focus our attention on one thing at a time, without judgment or further reflections, just absorbing what happens.

We feel tired, we notice it. We feel happy. We notice it. We feel hungry. We notice it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I find that the best way to reach mindfulness for those like me who are used to be active and mint find it difficult to just sit still without being “invaded” by judgmental thoughts and sketches of action plans, is actually to take the walking mindfulness approach. An especially nice and refreshing type of walking mindfulness is what the Japanese call “Shinrin-Yoku” or “Forest Bathing”. We do not literally “bathe” as in getting wet, we simply immerse ourselves in the essential wood oils that emanates from tress in green areas, especially in natural parks, woods or even better dense forests.

To honor this passion of mine, I have added Forest Bathing Mindfulness to the programs that we are launching in the New Year, with the opening of our Grooa Inspiria Center in Netherlands (close to Eindhoven). The building is surrounded by a small private area with woods and forest where we can take slow mindful walks and then reflect upon the experience with a cup of herbal tea in the cozy center.

I look forward to seeing many of you visit and take a Mindful Forest Bathing Walk with me!

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