“It’s funny how hard it is to just sit and do nothing! Even when I allow myself for a 20 minute meditation, I always feel like I’m going to be late to some places, even when on a holiday.”, commented François on an earlier blog post, Forest Bathing: 5 Easy Tips on How to Forest Bathe

My response to François was “In meditation, it is equally fine to focus on nothingness or on ONE thought/task at a time. For most of us, focusing on nothingness feels unnatural and difficult to do. One suggestion I could give is to start with a guided meditation which helps to provide direction and focus. Another is to do an activity, such as yoga or rock climbing, that requires your undivided focus.”

When I take a group of people out on Forest Bathing & Mindfulness Tours, most of the participants are experienced hikers. However, many of them admitted that they have not actually sat and spent time in the forest, basking in the forest ambiance. Many of us go on a hike, talking mindlessly and hiking from the trailhead to the destination, paying little attention to the peacefulness, the scents and the sight of the nature around us, much less to being present and aware.

Here are some tips and tricks on how to meditate on a hike and cultivate mindfulness in the forest for improved health and well-being.

1. Bring Picnic Lunch

Enjoy your favorite meal or snack in the forest can be a mindful experience. To eat your meal mindfully, start with smelling your food, paying attention to the act of biting and chewing your food and focusing on the tastes and the texture. This may feel funny and unnatural at the beginning, but seeing and smelling your food stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes that help your stomach to digest food and absorb nutrients better.

If you have a hike partner with you, make a pact not to engage in a lengthy or mindless conversation while you are enjoying your meal.

2. Bring a Hammock and Sleep or Read in the Forest

Hang your hammock well under the shades of trees and you are well on your way to reap the benefits of being in nature. Like nothing else, hammock makes you feel free. Being in the nature and being exposed to a warm and gentle sunlight stimulates your inner child spirit. Bring your favorite book to read, but if you feel sleepy, don’t resist it.

Sleeping in a hammock can help you fall asleep faster. Part of this could be due to the fact that your body is in a comfortable sleeping position. It could also be the swaying, which does tend to lull you into a restful, relaxed state.

3. Give Each Other a Massage

If you hiking partner, offer each other a massage. This may feel awkward for both the giver and the receiver, if you have not done it before, but you do not have to be professional at this. If giving a massage is really outside the realm of possibility, ask your partner to lie down on your lap, face up, and stroke his/her hair. Gentle touch is always soothing and welcoming. Both of you are encouraged to breathe mindfully.

On my Forest Bathing tour organized in Kyoto, Japan, a session of massage or Reiki is included in the experience. We hike through some of Kyoto off-the-beaten paths and in the middle of the hike, we stop at a nice secluded spot for my tour participants to lie down and connect to the earth.

As a certified Reiki, Thai massage, aromatherapy and foot reflexology practitioner, one or a combination of these modalities are performed on my tour participants, depending on what I think their minds and bodies need at that particular moment. Not only it is relaxing, but this is the trick to get most people’s minds to calm down. When the mind is relaxed and the body is tired (from hiking), it is easier for most people to focus on their breathing and go into that deep meditative state. The gentle rustle of the leaves in the forest when the wind blows, the sweet chirping sound from birds, the sensation of being grounded and the feeling of being one with nature all contribute to improved concentration and overall alertness and mindfulness.

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