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By Guest Blogger, Susan Sommers*:

shin rin

In the 1980s, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries introduced the concept of Shinrin-Yoku, also known as forest bathing. This immersive practice, designed to engage all five senses, namely touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste, encourages individuals to connect with nature.

Think of it as a blend of a nature walk, moving meditation, and a serene, contemplative experience. Today, this practice is gaining global recognition for its numerous health benefits.

Discover the Art of Forest Bathing:

  1. Find Your Perfect Spot: Start by selecting a serene location, away from the distractions of the modern world. Keep your phone on silent and stow it away to resist the urge to check it constantly. Take slow, purposeful steps and let your intuition guide you. Listen to where your body wants to lead you, follow your senses, and savor the journey. It's not about reaching a specific destination; it's about immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and scents of nature.
  2. Tune into Your Body: Pay close attention to the sensations in your body as you move through the forest. Feel the earth beneath your feet, the rustling leaves, and the breeze on your skin.
  3. Engage Your Senses:
  • Hear Nature's Symphony: Listen to the melodious birdsong and the gentle breeze dancing through the leaves of the trees.
  • Witness Nature's Artistry: Observe the lush greenery of the trees and the dappled sunlight filtering through the branches.
  • Inhale Nature's Fragrance: Breathe in the delightful scents of the forest, letting the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides invigorate you.
  • Taste the Freshness: Inhale deeply and savor the crisp, clean forest air with each breath.
  1. Connect with the Environment: Get hands-on with nature by touching the trunk of a tree, dipping your fingers or toes in a nearby stream, or even lying on the forest floor. This tactile connection allows you to truly absorb the forest's essence, which can invoke a deep sense of joy and tranquility. This unique state of mind can be seen as your sixth sense, a sense of profound connection.
  2. Forest Bathe Anywhere: You can practice Shinrin-Yoku anywhere there are trees, regardless of the weather. Whether it's hot, cold, rainy, sunny, or snowy, nature always has its charms.
  3. Bring It Closer to Home: Once you've grasped the art of forest bathing, you can enjoy the benefits in your nearby park or garden, making it a part of your regular routine.

By embracing Shinrin-Yoku, you can tap into the profound healing and soothing powers of nature. So, leave behind the hustle and bustle of daily life, immerse yourself in the tranquility of the forest, and nurture your body and mind with the therapeutic practice of forest bathing.

I did so as I determined to walk El Camino, The Way Pilgrimage

The Camino de Santiago, a historic 778-kilometer pilgrimage route in northern Spain, has beckoned adventurers from around the world. During the tumultuous times of COVID-19 in 2020, I decided to take on the "Conqueror" challenge and virtually walk the Camino, seeking to merge forest bathing practices with my journey.

This endeavor was no small feat; I set a daily goal of walking 15,000 steps in and around Toronto, offering me a chance to explore the local natural wonders and connect with the tranquility of nature amidst the chaos. Beyond the physical challenge, my daily excursions acted as a potent stress reducer, allowing me to deepen my self-awareness.

As I wandered through Toronto's picturesque landscapes, from waterfronts to nature trails, I captured the beauty in my photographs and shared my adventures on social media. My inspiring journey encouraged many of my friends to embark on their own Conqueror challenges.

The Camino de Santiago represented a profound test of my endurance, blending excitement and fear. Walking alone or with my husband, Peter, I crafted various routes that led me through neighborhoods, trails, beaches, and ravines.

On October 25, 2020, when I finally received my medal, I recognized the strength, determination, and resilience that had carried me through this remarkable journey.

This lofty goal led me to reflect on the myriad challenges and triumphs I  encountered throughout my life, gathering stories and lessons along the way. The Camino pilgrimage provided me with a new perspective on my journey, offering valuable tools and insights.

Before the Camino, I was a goal-driven individual, deeply focused on achievements in life, fitness, and business. However, as I progressed on my journey, I experienced a transformation. It became evident that the Camino was not solely about reaching goals or medals; it was a journey of self-discovery that unveiled profound connections between the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of my life.

Above all, the Camino challenge illuminated a new world for me, one teeming with beauty, excitement, tranquility, and boundless possibilities.

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*Susan Sommers is an award-winning health and fitness expert and author with a compelling story. She has completed two 7 1/2 hour Marathons and 35 walk races since the age of 59. In June, 2020, Susan registered for the 778 kilometer Camino de Santiago trail, virtually, and walking 15,000 steps a day, received her medal in October, 2020.
Susan is the co- author of two successful books on health and fitness for women: Love Your Body...Embrace Your Life! and Power Source for Women: Proven Fitness Strategies, Tools, and Success Stories for Women 45+.
Her new book, The Magic of Walking: A Guide to a Balanced, Purposeful Life, finds a place on our Ageless Travelers' bookshelf, her inspiring journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of both forest bathing and personal exploration.

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