Objective: To encourage participants to connect with nature through the sense of touch, cultivating mindfulness and a deeper appreciation for the forest environment.
Duration: 30-45 minutes
1. Gather participants in a circle and briefly explain the concept of Shinrin Yoku, emphasizing the importance of using all senses to connect with the forest.
2. Introduce the activity, explaining that the focus will be on the sense of touch. Encourage participants to be open to the experience and to approach it with curiosity.
3. Ask participants to close their eyes and take a few deep breaths, centering themselves and becoming more present in the moment.
4. Invite participants to slowly and mindfully walk through the forest, either alone or in pairs, encouraging them to maintain a comfortable distance from one another to minimize distractions.
5. As participants walk, ask them to explore the forest through their sense of touch. They can reach out and feel the textures of different surfaces, such as tree bark, leaves, moss, and stones. Remind participants to be gentle and respectful of the environment, avoiding harm to any living organisms.
6. Encourage participants to notice the sensations they experience as they touch various objects, such as the roughness or smoothness, the temperature, and the moisture level. Participants should focus on the present moment and their connection with nature.
7. After 15-20 minutes of exploration, invite participants to find a comfortable spot to sit or stand, and spend a few minutes reflecting on their experience. They can consider questions such as: What textures or sensations stood out to them? Did any particular touch evoke a memory or emotion?
8. Gather the group back in the circle and invite participants to share their experiences, if they feel comfortable doing so. Encourage open and non-judgmental listening.
9. Conclude the activity by expressing gratitude to the forest and to the participants for their willingness to engage with the experience. Encourage participants to carry the mindfulness and connection with nature cultivated during this activity into their daily lives.
[Shinrin Yoku Guide]: Welcome everyone. Today, we will be engaging in a Shinrin Yoku activity, which is also known as forest bathing. This practice involves immersing ourselves in nature and using all of our senses to connect with the forest. Our focus today will be on the sense of touch, which can help us cultivate mindfulness and a deeper appreciation for the forest environment.
To start, please close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, allowing yourself to become centered and present in this moment. Now, I’d like to invite you to slowly and mindfully walk through the forest. You can choose to walk alone or in pairs, but please maintain a comfortable distance from one another to minimize distractions.
As you walk, I encourage you to explore the forest through your sense of touch. Reach out and feel the textures of different surfaces, such as tree bark, leaves, moss, and stones. Please remember to be gentle and respectful of the environment, avoiding harm to any living organisms.
Notice the sensations you experience as you touch various objects. Focus on the present moment and your connection with nature, observing the roughness or smoothness, the temperature, and the moisture level of each surface.
We will spend around 15-20 minutes exploring and focusing on our sense of touch. Afterward, we’ll gather back in the circle to share our experiences.
[15-20 minutes later]
[Shinrin Yoku Guide]: Welcome back, everyone. Let’s gather in the circle and spend a few minutes reflecting on our touch exploration. Consider what textures or sensations stood out to you, and whether any particular touch evoked a memory or emotion.
If you feel comfortable, I’d like to invite you to share your experiences with the group. Please remember to be open and non-judgmental, creating a supportive atmosphere for sharing.
[Participants share their experiences]
[Shinrin Yoku Guide]: Thank you all for sharing your experiences and engaging in this touch exploration. I’d like to express my gratitude to the forest and to each of you for your willingness to connect with nature in such a meaningful way. I encourage you to carry the mindfulness and connection with nature cultivated during this activity into your daily lives. Let’s take one more deep breath together and express our gratitude for this experience. Thank you, everyone.
While the described activity is generally safe and has potential benefits, such as promoting mindfulness and a connection to nature, there are some physical and psychological risks that participants and facilitators should be aware of:
- Tripping or falling: Participants walking with their eyes closed might stumble over roots, rocks, or uneven ground, potentially leading to injuries.
- Allergic reactions: Participants may come into contact with plants or substances to which they are allergic, causing skin irritations or respiratory issues.
- Insect bites or stings: Encounters with insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, or bees may lead to bites or stings, which can be uncomfortable or, in rare cases, cause severe allergic reactions.
- Exposure to harmful plants or fungi: Participants might accidentally touch or disturb poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, or toxic mushrooms, which can cause adverse reactions.
- Anxiety or fear: Participants with a fear of forests, insects, or being alone may experience heightened anxiety or panic during the activity.
- Disorientation: Walking with eyes closed in an unfamiliar environment may cause feelings of disorientation, confusion, or vulnerability.
- Unpleasant memories or emotions: The activity may evoke distressing memories or emotions for some participants, especially if they have experienced trauma related to nature or similar settings.
- Social pressure: Participants may feel pressured to share their experiences in the group discussion, potentially leading to discomfort or anxiety.
Mitigating the risks
- Ensure participants are aware of potential hazards and provide guidance on how to navigate the forest safely.
- Encourage participants to use insect repellent, wear appropriate clothing, and be aware of any allergies they may have.
- Emphasize that participation is voluntary and participants can opt out of any part of the activity that makes them uncomfortable.
- Offer alternatives for participants who are not comfortable with certain aspects of the activity, such as walking with a partner or keeping their eyes open.
- Create a supportive and non-judgmental environment during the sharing portion of the activity.