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Forest Bathing – How it feels to reconnect

An introduction to forest bathing.

Thetford was in full, Friday morning flow, people rushing in and out of town, planes from the nearby airbases overhead, cars and lorries thundering by on the A134. And our little group was walking away from it all. Not far. But far enough. As we moved over the grassy heath, passing between the yellow-flowering gorse and the winter-bare trees, the traffic and people noise began to fade into the distance.

We gathered beneath an old oak in a small clearing and laid out our mats in as much of a circle as the tree roots would allow. Nicky read us a poem to start the quietening of our minds and then we took a slow walk out to the fringe of the trees. We took some time to listen and look, to explore the landscape, the sky, the bark of the trees and the feel of the ground beneath our feet. Nicky took us on a journey through looking.

When we returned to our mats in the clearing, the noises of the town and the road had become another layer distant. We had spent time reaching out across the heath with our eyes and ears but, somehow, it had tuned us out of the human-world.

Nicky had shown us the bigger picture through poetry and landscape but now it was time to get close. Seated on the ground, we explored the earth, the moss, the twigs around us. Like children on a picnic, we played and followed our curiosity. There are no rules here, only the earth and us. And then, closer still, we lay on our mats and closed our eyes. Now all we knew was the feel of the earth beneath our backs and the sounds of the birds in the trees, the snap of a twig, the whisper of leaves in the breeze. Nicky took us into a guided meditation this way and the final stresses and anxieties of everyday life slipped off us. We no longer heard the people rushing, the cars passing, the planes overhead. All we thought about was the scent of the earth, the press of the ground into our shoulder-blades and the feeling of the dappled shade on our faces.

Finally, we celebrated our new-found moment of calm with some pine needle tea and biscuits. The tea was slightly sweet and slightly lemony and an absolute revelation to most of us. Once again, we were like children at a picnic, excited by life and all its unexpected wonder.

Of course, we couldn’t stay there, in our peaceful clearing on the heath. We had to return to our cars, our jobs, our families and routines. But there was a moment of calm in our day, a moment of connection with the land and the trees and ourselves and we were better for it.

 

This introduction to forest bathing event was created and lead by Nicky from Sound and Ground and subsidised by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through BFER.

 

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