Happy, joyous April,
I hope the past 4 weeks have been fabulous for you. Mine have been filled with workshops, presentations and 4 amazing retreats in some fabulous bush and beach settings.
I love retreats, the locatations are always stunning and relaxing and even though I'm running workshops I learn so much from the attendees. At one of the retreats held in the Dandenong Ranges a delightfully joyous participant who introduced herself as 83 year old Margaret, ‘call me Mem’, mentioned the idea of Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing. I’d first heard about forest bathing just a few weeks earlier when one of the members of my community laugher group asked if anyone had heard of it. While I’d had a chance to look into it Mem was an avid practicioner.
Mem shared with us that Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, was developed in Japan in the 1980’s. It involves the combination of meditative walks and relaxation in forests where the air is filled with the essential oils emitted by the trees. These oils, or phytoncides, which are produced by trees and other plants as protection from insects and bacteria, have been proven to have a beneficial effect to humans. After sharing her understanding of the science behind Shinrin Yoku Mem smiled and added “but forget about the science, the reality is that walking amongst the trees or even just being out if a forest is going to make you feel good!”
I’ve always loved ‘going bush’ as we’d called walking in nature in the town where I grew up. The primary school I went to was unique in that we had lessons from local Aboriginal, Wiradjurin, teachers. Alongside maths and English were lessons in boomerang throwing, tool making, natural medicines and the importance of ‘going bush’ or bunbinya and barraminya – rest and recover in the local Wiradjuri language. One of the female elders shared that trees, especially the gum trees, eucalypts, had special powers. Their oil had cleaning or disinfectant properties and vaporised it was good for the lungs, benefits that many medical and chemical companies have discovered and put to good use over the years, and that just being in the bush, just being in the shade of a big gum tree would make you feel ‘good’. In my early 20’s the words of the elder were reinforced when I read some of the works of Henry Thoreau who in 1843 wrote an essay on the value of walking in Nature.
Whether you call it Shinrin Yoku or forest bathing, bunbiny and barramnya or rest and recover, going bush or just getting out for a walk in nature, this month why not try to make some time to be where there are more trees than cars or people. Perhaps even set aside an hour, or even a full day in nature without technology. With Easter almost on the door step it could be the perfect time.
On April 24 I head to the USA for the annual Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humour (AATH) conference. Thank you to Jill and Charley Knox for awarding me the Knox Family Humour for Peace Scholarship for my work with Gross National Happiness, and to Mary Kay Morrison and the AATH Board for awarding their annual book award to Kathy Laurenhue and myself for our new book Creating Delight – Connecting Gratitude, Humour and Play for all Ages (which Kathy actually wrote – I really just helped out) . Both awards are being presented at the conference.
I wish you a wonderful April, may the Easter Bunny pay you a visit and may you find the time to ‘go bush’ for a bit.