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What Is Forest Bathing And How To Unwind Your Mind With It

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What Is Forest Bathing And How To Unwind Your Mind With It

If you somewhat love nature and want to unwind your mind, then forest bathing is the right therapy for you. It’s a chance to not only discover more about your connection between you and nature but more importantly, to also improve your overall health—to better understand your senses and intensify them.

I started writing this article just after my daily ritual of forest bathing. During my stay at my parents’ house, who live just a few walking minutes from a huge forest that stretches for many miles, I used the occasion to again explore the region I once roamed when I was a child.

Back in the days, when we used to play there, I surely wasn’t aware of the influence that the forest had on my mental well-being, and I never thought that I would appreciate this rich environment to this extent. I was spontaneously connected with it—like being one with it.

Forest bathing was something that our ancestors just naturally did, not seeing it as a form of therapy but just a way of living. Today, we use it to recharge our batteries and unwind our minds.

The Urban Jungle vs. Forest Bathing

Why is bathing in the woods prescribed by some doctors as a therapy for reducing stress? Forest bathing researcher explains that “spending time among trees offers a panacea for a range of modern ills, including stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as the power to boost the immune system, decrease anger and even help you sleep better.”[1]

As our daily life became digitalized and we spending more of our time in modern infrastructure in between shopping malls, offices, airplanes, metros, trains, cars, and so on, our connection with the healing energy from the forest diminished.

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All of the comfortable but artificial spaces in which we spent most of our time seem to give us a sense of efficiency, safety, and productivity but take away our vitality, versatility, and creativity.

This is where the problem for stress creation begins as well as the trigger for a loss of passion towards what we do. Nonetheless, we began to think that life is to be found more in the midst of industrial cities—that life there is vital and creative—however, it turns out that the velocity of that life is just ill dynamic that breeds more stress and struggle than it creates vitality and creativity.

Therefore, forest bathing is prescribed as a stress reduction therapy to re-establish the connection with the source we basically come from—the forest.

The Idea of Forest Bathing

Physically reconnecting with nature is important, but if the emotional connection to nature—and, in particular, to the forest—is missing, the forest bathing has only a little effect. If you want to benefit maximally from the forest, you need to take it within you; the trees, the smell, the scenery, the humidity, and everything else that goes along with it.

Even when you’re physically not in the forest anymore, the forest is inside of you. Alone, the thought about the trees—being your external lungs—should evoke positive emotions and peacefulness.

We must not forget our roots and must return there (emotionally)—to where our food, our earliest skills, and inventions began. Deep in our spirit, we are “forest dwellers,” and all of our “lower” knowledge about construction, architecture, medicine, gastronomy, craftsmanship, and many other artisan skills have been learned from the woods and in the woods.

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The least you can do today, being an urban living being, is renounce just a few metropolitan habits (the ones that are responsible for your distress) and go out to hug an oak, a cedar, or even a birch—to look at a flower and understand the bees and feel the smell of the surrounding trees.

This is the idea of forest bathing. So, get out there and make the connection! In the next section, I’ll give an example of my connection with forest bathing. It simple and you can gain great value out of it by applying it.

Why Is the Forest So Powerful?

Did you know that the birth of the Upanishads—the people that researched the human consciousness and the universal consciousness to an unprecedented extent, creating the concept of meditation—found a place in the big forests of India? Therefore, the name for one of the earliest Upanishad is “Brihadaranyaka Upanishad—the Big Forest.”[2]

They retreated from civilization and went into the woods to contemplate the essence of life and explore the essence of the human mind. The forest was their temple, their shrine—it gave them stillness and calmness for exploring themselves. It gave them harmony of just being a plain human being,  unconditioned by ideologies created by corrupt individuals; it gave them space for opening their minds and look into the vast capacity of consciousness.

Before I started to study the Upanishads, I already have made a connection with the forest and fell in love with the trees. And to this day, I withdraw an enormous amount of energy out of them—their energy flushes all the unnecessary thoughts out of my mind.

I moved to a place which is literally in the forest, and I am surrounded by hundreds of different trees. I can set new goals when I spend time looking at them.

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How to Unwind Your Mind With Forest Bathing

I guess you have been many times in the forest, in the mountains, or the groves near your house. If you haven’t felt what proper forest bathing is, the next time you go to the forest, follow these steps:

1. Take a Good Look

Take a good look at the forest before you walk in it. Recognize it as your external lungs and get ready to get physically and biologically in touch with it. Understand that there is a molecular interaction between you and the whole forest. You inhale the oxygen from the trees as they inhale the carbon dioxide you exhale.

At this level, you are one with the forest—you both breathe together. This is the highlight of forest bathing, and it stands higher than your connection with it on a sensory level. However, the smell of the trees, flowers, and weeds, the look at all the marvelous colors that the forest offers and the sound that the trees, the birds, and the bees produce are pure enjoyment for your senses.

2. Smell the Odor of the Forest

As you continue to walk inside of the forest, smell the odor that the forest is spraying throughout its humidity, and deepen your inhalation gradually. Breathe gently, slowly, and deeply, intensifying your sense of smell. Identify, if you can, the different odors that the forest is producing. Enjoy your walk as you breathe deeply, and explore all the different odors. Make it a meaningful and significant experience for you.

3, Sit on a Rock or a Trunk of a Tree

After a while, sit on some bench, rock, or a trunk of a tree. Get in touch with nature, physically—hold a piece of wood, a branch, or a flower in your hand. Just sense how it feels. Touch a leaf or hug a tree—feel their energy. Know that a tree carries a great history within itself—some 350 million years.[3]

4. Have a Look Around

Have a look around you and see all the different colors that the forest displays—the colors of the trees’ trunks, the branches, and the leaves. Enjoy the beautiful scenery which magically changes its colors according to the season of the year.

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5. Listen

Finally, listen and hear the different sounds emerging from all parts of the forest, close and distant—the sound of the wind blowing the trees, the sound of the leaves, and the different sounds of the chirping birds. Let the sound of the forest occupy your mind and feel the positive vibration resonating through your whole body, especially in your head.

Final Thoughts

Bathe in all these sensations by making your connection to nature deeper. Learn to respect nature, and see it as your greatest energy resource. Consciously engrave these sensations and experiences within you, saying to yourself that you won’t forget them even after walking out of the forest.

Promise to yourself that these essential qualities that the forest instilled in you will resonate when you go back to your urban jungle. Take it all with you and carry this energy inside of you-let it grow by consciously taking slow deep breaths. The forest lives inside of you.

More Benefits of Forest Bathing

Featured photo credit: Yanny Mishchuk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Japan Times: Stressed out? Bathing in the woods is just what the doctor ordered
[2] Britannica: Hinduism: The Upanishads
[3] Plant Evolution & Paleobotany: Rise of Trees

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Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

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How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

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There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

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From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

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3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

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6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

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Reference

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