I was happy in the idea that I was a bit of a nature girl – connected to the creek, the bush…my garden. Going on this forest bathing session with Susan Joachim made me realise how much I was rushing through life and nature. When I’m on the creek, I’m looking at what needs to be done, seeing problems that need to be solved, enjoying the beauty, yes, but in a sweeping, generalised sort of way. That is all perfectly fine… but what a joy to be able journey a little deeper than that.
A lovely shot of the crossing stones at Deer Park by Susan Joachim
We had a group of seven participants and our lovely guide Susan. After introductions Susan invited us to stand around the outside of a large bark circle that she had constructed under a tree. She gave us an idea of what forest bathing was and how she had come to find it. We discovered that this session was a graduation for her – her training completed.
Then she asked us to step into the circle and close our eyes and she led us through a sort of calming down and meditation. With our eyes closed we focused in on the other sensations around us. The dappled sun and shadows of birds flying across our faces, the sound of the wind in the branches of the tree above us, the sound of the creek, the birds, a distant rooster and school children running past in an outdoor endurance test. Even with the distant rumbling of traffic and trucks we were able to hook into the gentle, happy sounds and feelings around us. Afterwards we passed around a stick that Susan picked up and shared what we had experienced. It was so nice to be able to listen to people talk about their feelings about things like the sun on their face or the energy of a tree. Things we don’t often talk about in everyday life.
Hard to believe we are in the middle of the suburbs…photo by Susan Joachim
Next we did a very, very slow walk along the edges of the creek. Once I got over the idea of how funny we must have all looked – walking at a snail’s pace, all about a metre apart from each other, I was able to notice the little things. Every blade of grass became clear. Cob webs with the sun lighting them up, the inviting call of the gurgling water with the ducks gliding past – more noisy than us creeping slowly along the banks of the creek. When we eventually came to a stand still we passed around a piece of bark and talked about what we had seen. Everyone commented on how aware they were and the things they hadn’t noticed before – even though some of the participants lived in the area and walked that stretch almost daily. As well as this new clarity, there was also underlying emotion with a lot of us. When discussing it later with Susan, she said that (and I’m paraphrasing here) when we connect to something as ancient and powerful as nature, it can be emotional for us mere mortals. Nature is almost overwhelming in its beauty and power….
Dave and Eve using their frame. Photo by Susan Joachim
Frames and microscopes
Our next activity was to partner up and walk along looking at anything we liked through cardboard frames and using microscopes. Susan gave us a piece of paper with questions on it – what can we smell, see, feel, imagine and so on. We sent the next half an hour wandering about like happy scientists – looking at lichen on rocks, crushing eucalyptus leaves in our fingers. Even the weeds took on a new beauty…
The glowing sun-like beauty of a weedy dandelion. Photo by Susan Joachim
We enjoyed hanging out on the top of the escarpment. Having never been there before myself, I marveled at the beauty of the view. We found lots of indigenous plants and flowers to look at up there. I can’t wait to take my daughter back there for rock climbing.
High up over the creek. Photo by Susan Joachim
We came to a finish on the crossing rocks over the creek and with the water rushing noisily around us we chatted about what we had seen and written down. Everyone was thankful for the experience and had gorgeous things to say about the rocks, the trees, the water, the birds and the group of people they had journeyed with. Susan then gave us all paper tags and twine and we made decorations out of found objects and wrote messages on the tags to hang on the branches of a big old tree.
Then Susan prepared a delicious tea on a camp stove and we drank it, Japanese-style, from little handle-less cups that were lovely to hold as they warmed your hands through. Lastly, we found a spot to plant an Acacia Implexa to commemorate the day and Susan’s graduation. Susan named the tree ‘Samaya’ which means peace. Our lovely FOKC members Dave and Diane have taken on the role of looking after the tree and checking up on it on their walks.
Everyone I have spoken to after the day has said how special it was and how much they took from it. I wish everyone could have a day like we had. Maybe we will have to ask Susan to take us on another walk soon…
One of the messages hung on the tree. Photo by Susan Joachim
Forest Therapy® is a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. In Japan it is called “Shinrin-yoku (森林浴)” which translates to “forest bathing.” You can contact Susan for more info via http://inmynature.life/