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A friend recently sent me this link to an article about “forest bathing,” which says,

This Japanese concept revolves around a deceptively simple practice: quietly walking and exploring, with a mind deliberately intent on – and all senses keenly open to – every sound, scent, color and “feel” of the forest, in all its buzzing bio-diversity.

Of course, readers of my blog know that I have been doing this for years – but not so much recently. It has become so rare that I clearly remember the last time  I let the forest feed my soul.

Time when I am truly alone and surrounded by silence has become a precious commodity. Not just for me, I suspect, but for many of us. We all need time to just sit with our thoughts and our emotions. Time when we are truly “present.”

How often are our minds and bodies in the same place? For a dreamer like me, not often enough and over the past few weeks I have been especially distracted. Just the other afternoon, my body was sitting on the deck eating lunch with my husband, while my brain was back at my computer, parsing through an editing issue for work. When he interrupted my train of thought with a question, I snapped at him.

Forest bathing, opening ourselves to feel the gentle breezes, and fully take in the smells and sounds around us can also teach us to be more present in other parts of our lives. It’s a habit we all need to cultivate.

still life with flowers

Recently, my son urged us to listen to comedian Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF. In listening to Maron interview people such as NPR’s Terry Gross and President Obama, I noticed how “present” both he and his subjects were throughout the entire conversation. Being that focused enabled both parties to listen, hear what the other person was saying, and then respond thoughtfully—unearthing some never-heard-before information in the process.

Uncovering new information, finding insight where you don’t expect it, those all can result when we are fully present. For example, one of the things that the leader of the free world told Maron struck a chord deep within me — and it wasn’t a comment about foreign policy.

He said that because his father wasn’t around when he was growing up, being a good father to his daughters is one of his top priorities. Parental absence left a big hole in my life—particularly my adult life. When Obama said that, I realized that living with that void is why being the mother of two adult sons has been both wrenching and joyous. It is a relationship that I can never take for granted and, more significantly, one that I don’t have a blueprint for.

This summer I have several projects going on, but as I turn my attention to each I am going to keep the image of “forest bathing” in mind — even when I am not walking in the woods.

It’s time for a reset.