Shinrin-yoku amid healing Nature

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

“Forest bathing” – or Shinrin-yoku in Japanese – means “taking in the forest atmosphere”. It is a meditation practice that started in Japan in the 1980s, and its popularity spread to South Korea. Now it is an international movement credited as a philosophy and approach to good health.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

“Forest bathing” – or Shinrin-yoku in Japanese – means “taking in the forest atmosphere”. It is a meditation practice that started in Japan in the 1980s, and its popularity spread to South Korea. Now it is an international movement credited as a philosophy and approach to good health.
Japanese and South Korean researchers have amassed an extensive body of knowledge regarding Shinrin-yoku’s benefits. And any of us who practice yoga, tai-chi or other meditative disciplines realize how mindfulness increases relaxation and invigoration of mind and body.
Similarly, followers of Shinrin-yoku specifically spend time in forests where they believe they derive calming benefits, improved mood, increased energy levels, better sleep, and more.
Outaouais’ awe-inspiring nature
Now, whether you believe specifically in Shinrin-yoku or not, many of you enjoy the outdoors. I didn’t idly write “awe-inspiring”. Nature amazes me because of its intricacies, its seeming fragility yet astonishing endurance, and the seasons’ eternal rhythms.
Who cannot marvel at the ice and blowing snows of winter, where -40C is a reality – yet appreciate spring’s delicate flowers? Trees suddenly sprout leaves despite being snow-clad only a few months prior. Add animals’ hibernation, the migration of species, grasses with beads of dew in the mornings and glowing fireflies of evening into the mix, and who can’t find something to admire in nature?
Appreciating nature comes from different activities, too. It could be while simply inhaling the scent of a rose; cycling along bicycle paths such as PPJ Cycloparc; paddling the Ottawa, Dumoine, Coulonge or Noire rivers – or one of our many lakes; riding horses on Gatineau Park trails; or walking forested paths in Duhamel’s Route des Zingues.
I believe we receive healing exhilaration as well as soothing tranquility while immersing ourselves outdoors.
Nature’s stress-busters
Living in the Pontiac, I frequently drive our highways and back roads. While leaving Gatineau and subdivisions behind, I revel in the green embrace of country views. I derive joy, comfort and peace, for instance, driving west of Aylmer towards Luskville, with the Eardley Escarpment (southernmost ridge-boundary of Gatineau Park) to the north, and the sweep of the Ottawa River to the south.
To me, such views invite me to explore and learn about my environment by hiking, paddling, photographing, bird watching and more. All these activities offer peace, serenity, and the ability to understand my small place in this amazing universe.
Observing nature – whether it is a leaf gently wafting to the ground, a fawn gazing at passers-by from a meadow, or the sight of the canopy of stars and Milky Way in an inky sky – rewards all of us, children and elders included. It rewards us by inculcating curiosity, dreaming, and reflection. All are so important in our busy, complicated, and often frustrating world.
Where to go?
Happily, here in the Outaouais, we have many events, places to go and things to do in nature. Here is a brief list for starters.
Events: Les amis du PPJ 2018 Jamborees, July 27-29 where you can cycle in daytime or at night, absorbing the beauty of the Pontiac countryside (and full moon rising!). Bhakti in the Woods Aug 17-19.
Outfitters: HorizonX whitewater rafting including full-moon trips; Esprit for paddle-boarding through the day and multi-day whitewater rafting/paddling trips; Black River Outfitter for canoe camping on La Rivière Noire.
Accommodations: Kenauk Nature north of Montebello offers luxury cedar cabins, some on private lakes; Les Cabines de la Chute, Coulonge River (see page 16); camping Parc Leslie.
Destinations: Gatineau Park; Forêt-la-Blanche Ecological Reserve; Mont O’Brien.

Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author and visual artist. Books include Historical Walks: The Gatineau Park Story, and Capital Rambles: Exploring the National Capital Region. Check her award-winning books: katharinefletcher.com