The world has needed healing for a long time, but especially now, in the midst of and in the aftermath of a global pandemic. This quarter’s issue of The BeZine deals with A Life of the Spirit and Healing. How do we heal ourselves from all of the changes Covid has wrought? How do we heal the rifts, the division, the stress that the pandemic has brought to us all? If nothing else is apparent, Nature has proven to us that She has the means and ability to end us. But She can also heal us.
The isolation of Covid has made everyone a little (or a lot) stir-crazy and anxious to get outside into the fresh air; to feel the sun on our faces, the sand between our toes, the soothing rhythm of rivers or oceans against our skin. Nature has healing powers, but you have to be willing to get out into it, sans phones, or earbuds, without walk-mans or those electronic leashes that so many of us carry around out of habit. You see, those things will distract you from paying attention to your heartbeat as you listen to the wind in the trees. They will pull you away from awareness of the warmth of the sun on your skin, the smells of rich earth and deep greenery beneath your (bare?) feet. Nature has a language and it can help heal the mind, heart, body, and yes, the spirit or soul.
Japanese people have long practiced shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing”. There is even a Japanese Society for Forest Medicine. The chairman of that group, physician Qing Li, has written a book called “Forest Bathing” and he points out: “The country’s two major religions, Buddhism and Shintoism, consider forests mystical. “For Zen Buddhists, scripture is written in the landscape,” writes Li. “In Shinto, the spirits are not separate from nature, they are in it. They are in the trees, in the rocks, in the breeze, the stream, the waterfall.”
If that isn’t enough to at least pique your interest, there are dozens of articles and research papers published about the very real benefits to humans of being in and around nature. An article in Psychology Today about how the healing works in nature says, “Nature also frequently provides positive images for meditation. Just as winter turns to spring, one’s self-healing capacity can move from sickness into health. The restorative quality of nature and your own body is an important image to hold onto throughout your health and wellness journey.”
Consumer Reports even recommends getting outside in nature to get well! Time Magazine did a post about the healing power of nature. The University of Minnesota discussed studies about how nature impacts our well-being. Yale University focused on studies about How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health and asked/answered the question, “How long does it take to get a dose of nature high enough to make people say they feel healthy and have a strong sense of well-being?” The answer is: Precisely 120 minutes.“
If you’re still at all skeptical, I challenge you to get outside and wander the woods, the parks, the beach…anywhere that you can “get back to the Earth” and sit quietly, just enjoying this beautiful planet on which we live. You never know…it might help you heal in more ways than you expect.