Lorton As part of the national day of reflection, Fairfax County Park Authority’s observance included a Forest Bathing event on the National Day of Service and Remembrance, Sept. 11. Participants were invited to “Tune into the beauty and wonder of nature with all your senses.” Held in Lorton by Laurel Hill Park’s Volunteer Team, the event was led by Ana Ka’ahanui, a certified forest therapy guide, with a supporting group of Virginia Master Naturalists and park volunteers.
Ka’ahanui led about a dozen participants to stroll, pause, look, listen, touch, smell, and engage with the woods around them. Mid-way in the session, participants built a simple branch habitat as a refuge for wildlife, before joining Ka’ahanui’s invitation circle. Participants were invited to share their experience of heightened awareness during their walk along the woods trail. Each then collected an item from the forest, as they were sent on a brief exploration of textures and color. Then explaining what drew their attention, before adding their items to the tea circle.
A ritual tea pouring provided a moment to reflect on their experiences of the day and of the past, given the significance of the remembrance. Sipping hot lavender tea together after first offering a cup to the forest, the session ended with stillness, before a ceremonial bell broke the silence, ending the session.
The practice of Forest Bathing, or shinrin-yoku, began in Japan early in the 1980s. Bathing invites full sensory immersion in the beauty and wonder of trees and nature. Attention to smell, touch, and sounds draw one into a closer connection with the natural world. Researchers in Japan and South Korea have documented positive neuropsychological effects, and reduced stress, anger, anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. Participants often observe lowered blood pressure and stress levels, and greater mental clarity.
The session, advertised in the “Celebration of Trees” campaign event calendar, is one of many nature related events that can be found at www.plantnovatrees.org highlighting the environment and the importance of native trees to our wellbeing.