Shinrin Yoku: Forest Bathing Explained By Katriina Kilpi

Katriina and I crossed paths through my blog, and she quietly stayed in the corner of my Facebook chat, until one day, fate led us to talking. I found out that Katriina is a Forest Bathing Guide. Sounds fancy? I know! Now, I’m going to dive straight into our conversation and let you learn from the source.

Note that this discussion is the outcome of an hour-long Zoom call with Katriina, so I’m putting together her resources in a series of posts. And all the images used in this article are contributed by Katriina herself, from her wondrous musings in the the beautiful forests of Finland.

So Katriina, what is forest bathing, how do you see it?

Forest Bathing is a concept that originated in Japan, and was called Shinrin Yoku.

The Japanese saw people getting really stressed and they knew intuitively that being in nature is really good for you. They love going out into nature, and even their religion, shinto, has animistic qualities.

Forest bathing could be likened to sunbathing  – everyone has their own preferences and ways of doing it but the idea and goal is the same. The practice came into culmination in the 80’s. Someone picked it up in the west about five years ago, and it became really popular. Nature became very “trendy”.

forest bathing, nature, forest therapy, self care,
And what I think is pretty interesting is that elsewhere as well, people started creating similar approaches, combining nature and mindfulness.

A case in point, my friends Ian Bayard from the UK with Natural Mindfulness, Sirpa Arvonen from Finland with Forest Mind and Nitin Das with Healing Forest from India. And of course, Amos Clifford from The USA with Forest Therapy.

I’m not sure what channels all these people were listening to but around 2014 things started popping up. And I too was getting laid off in 2015 and felt like I finally needed to get started with my passion.

The time had come for me to get back to nature. I just didn’t yet know how exactly I was going to get started. So I did a bit of everything: Forest Mind, Skogsmulle, nature guide certifications. And then some.

The conversations that I’ve had with the Japanese people (commoners and researchers) leads me to the conclusion that it all comes down to using your senses to experience the forest.

In the last 3 years many books have been written. As one of the great resources to educate yourselves on the subject, you can also explore Dr Qing Lee’s work, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health & Happiness.

So, as a beginning point, understand that it’s done for the goal of relaxation, and in the west its become more pronounced about nature connection as it has got mixed with ecotherapy.  

Forest bathing allows you to see the miraculous beauty in the small. It’s another mechanism of forest bathing where it works like mini-meditation. You’re being very mindful when you pause everything and try what a leaf feels like, or the tree bark.

forest therapy, forest healing, nature, katriina kilpi, finland forests

The Japanese concept is quite broad, which really speaks to me. My intuition says that when you try to limit it and say it has to be done in a certain way, you lose authenticity and intuition. You lose something that comes from the heart of the people.

Some people bring their druidry into forest bathing. Some incorporate flower essence in their work. And some use this work as relational ecotherapy, for healing. The core remains in connecting with the forest.

You’re lucky to experience forests in such an organic way! Many of us are surrounded by a concrete jungle. Then how can we “work with the small” when living in a crowded metropolis?

There’s something there, there’s something in it, which is why small pockets are planted. They know it works, they just don’t realize why.

I once gave a lecture to a landscaping firm based in New York City, they wanted to bring forest bathing to small spaces. It’s about facilitating the opportunity to immerse yourself in the forest atmosphere.

To create the feeling you are in it, experiencing it with all your senses. You need to be able to interact with your surroundings. There are even virtual applications that attempt to do the same, and these can be used in hospitals and in other institutionalized settings. 

In these “made up” forest bathing spaces, you will do well if you manage to attract life there through the use of flowering plants.  The variation of structures, heights of plants, and colours will stimulate you and you might want to look closer.

forest therapy, forest bathing,
Something you can smell, something you can see, something you can touch, something you can interact. Probably biodiversity is one of the secret ingredients. There is indication that people prefer biodiverse surroundings for restoration.

Belgium talks about food forests, it helps you stimulate taste buds to experience nature through shrubs, berries, apple-picking and so on.

I would LOVE to be a part of a food forest trail! But it makes me wonder, are there any ethics for forest bathing? We don’t really want to leave an imprint, do we.

Yes, think from a person’s point of view, and the forest’s point of view.

If you go with a group, they are typically group events, you have to draw the line, how many people can go because you leave a trace.

You should be able to sit alone and get off the ‘track’. You’re in the vicinity of a guide but you should have an alone experience. But as you do that, you leave a trace, so you want to be mindful. 

And think of the seasons. In spring, a lot of species are nesting, so some sections should be avoided, keep it quiet.

I always tell this to people, don’t take anything that’s growing. Treat yourself as a visitor. Even if you see a lose item, like a pine cone or a stone hat you would like to take along, ask yourself if you really need to take it with you.

It is part of the lifecycle of the forest and the forest has its use for it. Of course, a souvenir now and then that helps you to remember the experience you had, is perfectly okay. This is something Vasundhra uses for Art Therapy too.

That makes sense. And is forest bathing for everyone? Are there groups that are not benefitted?

Mindfulness may not be a good fit for everyone. Here’s a conversation that Vasundhra and Clayton did on the subject, of what that means.

Or if you’re guiding groups who might not be that used to the forest, I might ease them into it.  Whenever you are dealing with groups with special needs, you should be mindful about your own skills as a guide.

Although you can never fully prepare for everything, the guide needs to take their responsibility and know what kind of groups they are able to guide.  Being trauma-informed would be an asset.

When we go in nature, what is made loose in us is surprising. Natural environment is always a powerful partner. Due to my limited skills, I focus on health promotion and relaxation, but you want to gauge how deep you want to take the group.
shrubs, bushes, food forest, forest baths

For people that have trauma connected specifically to the forest, you have to be the most mindful. But they’re probably not the first ones to sign up.

And in your advertisement, you should be clear on what you’re doing, what to expect, etc, and that YOU ARE NOT a therapist (unless you actually are a licensed therapist). 

Especially during this pandemic, mental health problems are skyrocketing so you need to be prepared for more anxiety and related challenges. Though forest bathing has been shown to alleviate mental health problems, as a guide, it’s important to communicate clearly  that this is not a therapy session, unless you have the clinical background for that.

Thank you, that’s an informative way to approach any healing modality, really. My next question is, can you do this without a guide?

Yes! You can’t do it wrong. I like to say, if there’s a place you’re familiar with, that’s the best place to go. For self care, you should go to a forest or natural place you’re comfortable in. There’s no surprises there and that automatically drops off the nervous element so that you’re able to just be there with the pure experience.

When you’re there, you can go through the all the senses and interact with the forest through your eyes, ears, smell and so on. Concentrate on each sense for as long as you feel called to, and see what comes up for you.

People might have one strong dominating sense. For me its my sense of smell, and that leads me in forest walks. Of course all senses work in unison, but some people might be more lead by one sense than others.

Also, some days when I feel like I need to ground myself, I tend to want to touch things a lot. Or go lie down on the ground. So it depends on your mood and state as well from day to day. You might discover where you get most memories and reactions in the forest. 

You can even try forest bathing in your backyard or in a park.

Katriina shares tons of educated insights in her book, which you can learn immensely from and use for your own forest bathing experience.

Curious to try out Forest Bathing for yourself? Here’s a beautiful example.

Katriina put together this video just for us! You can see her passion through and through her sharings on this blog and the video. Do drop her a comment in the section below and give her some love 🙂

To be continued….

Like I said, this conversation is extracted from an hour-long discussion on forest bathing. So it seemed like a good idea to create a series of articles, touching on different aspects of forest bathing.

I am leaving you with these resources for now, but just know that in the upcoming discussion, we’re taking things even deeper! She’ll be unpacking questions like getting lost on a forest walk, learning about forest therapy, rekindling the lost art of Japan, her forest bathing story, and much more. Stay tuned 🙂

to be continued sigange

Katriina Kilpi
Katriina Kilpi

Katriina is a Forest Bathing Guide, originally from Finland living in Belgium, who is deeply passionate about nature connection. She continues to inspire countless individuals through all her environmental-related projects, keeps looking for ways for the world to get back to Mother Nature.

Is Smoking, Drinking Or Eating Meat Bad For Your Spiritual Growth?

Can drinking, smoking or eating non-vegetarian food be bad for your spiritual growth? Here is an educated answer to these questions.

Should you quit drinking alcohol or become vegan if you are on a spiritual journey? Is it really important to stop smoking if you want to be spiritual? These are common questions that crop up in our mind, from time to time because we want to know what’s bad for our spiritual growth and then get rid of it. Same as why we leave old jobs and toxic relationships behind.

I want to address this sensitive topic with utmost respect and love for everyone, regardless of what you eat, drink or inhale. At the same time, letting all readers know that after my own spiritual awakening, I did not feel the need to continue casual drinking with office colleagues, have milk, or to eat eggs.

As a matter of fact, my body reacted pretty badly to all that, and I naturally weaned off everything that no longer served my wellbeing. I am a vegetarian, and for most parts, caffeine-free (minus the chocolates).

That tone set, let’s address both frames of mind, and educate ourselves on how we want to proceed.

What IS Bad For Your Spiritual Growth?

If we speak high-level, and I mean really high level, there really is no right or wrong. It just is the way it is. And as Michael Singer beautifully reinforces in his book, it’s really us humans who have ‘preferences’ of how things should or should not be.

So, is there anything really bad for your spiritual growth? Yes, and no.

The Universe (and you) are self-correcting. This means, whenever you are off-balance, you automatically feel it and know, deep down inside, that this was too much or too little of what works for you.

It’s kind of like a pendulum inside of you, which naturally swings until it reaches equilibrium. And everyone’s inner pendulum is unique to them.

collection of retro wall clocks in antique store

So when it comes to personal preferences like downing shots of vodka or eating chicken wings, the first person that needs to decide if this works or not, is YOU.

Because every person’s spiritual quest is unique. While some get to their destination meditating, some choose to never sit still. There isn’t only one right way to attain enlightenment.

Related Read: The 4 Ancient Paths of Enlightenment

If you feel like those things don’t serve you anymore, give yourself permission to change your mind. Take a moment, and pause here, to answer this question:

If I never did (activity) again, would something feel missing in me?

Whatever your answer is, is your truth at the moment. And now what?

Step into the why. This is an optional step for those that want to explore their dilemma deeper.

You know that you still get charged inside when you think of doing this activity. It’s important to now ask yourself why it feels necessary to you.

As an example, if you’re using alcohol as a way to numb pain, then it may not be serving you long-term. Of course, pain is painful, and because we aren’t taught how to face it, we are scared to do that. And so, we develop different coping mechanisms.

is drinking bad for your spiritual growth, alcoholic

And if you are using alcohol to numb pain, then its grip on you will be quite intense. There’s a reason why Alcohol Anonymous has a 12-step recovery process – addictions aren’t purely physiological needs. They are rooted much deeper in lack of self-worth.

Asking yourself why something is so important to you, whether it is drinking, smoking or for that matter, staying in an unhealthy relationship will help you become aware of the unconscious desires that you are fulfilling. Even if at a conscious level it can seem to you that there isn’t anything in this for you.

Does science matter in all this?

Initially, when I was reading through different spiritual books and teachings, I was deeply inspired by two people. Sadhguru and the Buddha. And they both had an energy and wisdom in common, which did not need drinking.

It left an impression, and my search led me to scientific inquiry, about the actual disadvantages of alcohol. It might give us a high in the moment, but it does slow the body down. Just like caffeine, which can temporarily recharge you, but can make you crash a few hours later.

Later on, when I read Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, I also learned that drinking helps quieten the prefrontal cortex of the brain and that intoxicants help us adults tap into the emotional part of the brain. In fact, in some traditions, an argument in the tribe is only resolved once everyone has relaxed their nerves with an intoxicant that helps them reconnect at a social level and resolve from a more “human” place.

That’s of course until alcohol takes over the emotional mind, and we lose control of ourselves.

scientist, jnana yoga, is alcohol bad for your spiritual growth
Science only matters if you are on the fence, and want to approach the answers logically. This serves people who are deeply rational and left-brained in their day-to-day life.

But when you want to let a habit go from its root, you have to move beyond education and into the unconscious level patterning of it.

This is one space I am being trained in, to help people become aware of their conditioning and let go of habits when they are ready to. Not because they “think they should”. If that’s something you’d like to talk about, feel free to set some time up on my calendar, here.

Are you doomed if you don’t quit what’s bad for your spiritual growth?

The idea that God will punish us or banish us from heaven because we are not perfect, is outdated. I want to challenge that idea with a simple example.

Let’s say that you call an old-time friend, and they start yelling and hurling curses at you. You are startled, and feel hurt for their actions. After a few days, your friend’s family member reaches out to you, to let you know that your friend is undergoing an episode of bipolarity. And that they’re not really their true self right now.

black couple arguing with each other at home

From being hurt and feeling misunderstood, you would rapidly move into an AHA moment and a state of understanding. It would make sense.

The same is for God. The creator is omnipresent, and thus, always aware of the deeper why in every situation. Therefore, there is no judgment, just compassion.

Knowing all of this, it isn’t to say that you carry on doing what you’re doing because God will forgive everything. There’s nothing to forgive, but if you’re not in alignment with how you really want to live, you won’t live to your full potential. And then what? Reincarnation, mwahahaha!

Spiritual jokes aside, I think the conclusion for us to understand is that we are not necessarily being held accountable ‘up there’. But we do need to hold integrity towards ourselves.

It isn’t about what you do, but why you do it that will be your compass.

Concluding Thoughts

Ultimately, the spiritual journey isn’t about living in the duality of what is right or wrong. Rather to transcend it, by neither being charged by what is right, or wrong.

One step at a time, keep asking yourself what serves you, and walk down that path, without judging yourself for doing what wasn’t serving you anymore.

Accepting all parts of you is also a big part of your healing journey. Are you ready to be imperfectly perfect? 🙂

Ready to take your healing deeper? Let’s talk about it! You’re welcome to fill in this this form and submit an application to become eligible for a complimentary session with me.

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7 Strange Ways Your Body Releases Old Energy To Heal Itself

Did you know that your body has strange ways in which it releases energy in order to heal itself? Here’s a fun spiritual post to learn more!

I’ll be honest – I used to live in my head a lot. But ever since I started practicing emotional and somatic awareness, I’ve been observing weird things happen in my body as a part of the process. These recent events inspired me to talk about some strange ways our body releases residual energy to heal itself!

Note that while I’m pointing out the spiritual meaning of bodily reactions such as tremors and pains, there can also be an underlying physical challenge. That may require medical intervention.

So, this article isn’t intended to substitute for any kind of medical advice. Rather, to offer an alternate outlook to the different ways your body might respond to all the healing work you’re doing.

On that note, let me start with a funny story.

#1 – Yawning

As a part of my coaching certification, I’m required to practice on a peer before I can practice the tool on a client.

As soon as our session began, my peer kept yawning. At one point, I felt annoyed! I began questioning if she wasn’t interested in the activity, or if she was bored.

yawning is one way the body releases energy to heal itself during an intense healing session

But as our session concluded, she revealed how deeply transformative the work had been for her. I was confused because it didn’t add up for me. Being a deeply intuitive spiritual coach herself, she revealed that her yawning was actually a way for her body to inhale new energy.

To shift out the old.

Who would have thought?!

#2- Tremors

Now comes my turn. I am being coached on a challenge that had recently ‘shaken’ me, and I notice my body tremor as I work through the emotions. As that happens, it also strikes me that this has happened before to me, in a group coaching setting.

So this time, I pay deeper attention.

The tremors felt as if every inch of me was shaking to release the trauma it was uncovering. I felt very uncomfortable, as my heart raced and different body parts experienced the shaking. But deep down inside, another part of me was aware that this was actually helping as my body released old energy to heal itself.

Turns out, this shaking is classified as neurogenic tremors. This is our primal response to trauma, and it holds true throughout the animal kingdom. Which is why you’ll see a zebra shaking off their rears after a close chase!

a zebra will shake its body to release energy and heal itself; neurogenic tremors

But for humans, we can go into shock (or freeze) and forget this primal skill. Later on, this shaking can happen as a response to recollecting the trauma, and intensify the event as it replays, not just in the mind, but in the body too!

Tremors can be felt in different parts of the body, as a response to anxiety, fear, and what-not. Not qualified to medically diagnose this, but it can be an important part of your spiritual healing. And if it feels okay, you should give yourself permission to fully shake off whatever is holding you hostage within.

Learning about tremor therapy from a somatic healing specialist can be a great way to ground your shaking practice, as a way to release the old energy from your body.

#3 – Burping

It’s just getting weirder, and weirder. I hear you!

One way the body reflexively releases excess or dormant energy from its system to heal itself, especially during a Reiki or massage session, is burping.

I’d first heard about this phenomenon when I watched a random YouTuber talk about her massage experience. It sounded just as strange then, so I didn’t take it very seriously, but then a friend confirmed this too. And it is very real!

reiki to release old energy from the body to heal

It can feel awkward if you or the other person starts burping so profusely. But now that you know why it’s happening, I’d say you celebrate the energy that has officially and so loudly passed through!

#4 – Tingling or Numbness

This first began for me when I was experimenting with different types of meditation.

Many people will experience weird tingling, tickling, or numbing sensations in their extremities during deep meditation. Your arms might feel light, or heavy. There may be sensations running up and down your spine.

It might even feel like currents are running up and down, inside of you!

shock, sensations, tingling, tickling, current in the body as a response to healing

Without getting scared, try to tap into the sensations and be aware of them as they pass through you. Just like everything else, this too is a part of your body’s way of releasing old energy.

#5 – Change in body temperature

I remember the first time I had a chiropractor realign my body. I could feel so much heat rushing out of me from different points, as if these parts were “letting go” of something.

Similar things happen when you are meditating or seated in deep contemplation. You might experience heat rising in different parts of your body, or conversely, yourself cooling down and feeling lighter.

stack of stones, healing, spirituality

If that happens to you, it’ll be interesting to take note of what you were thinking about right before the change started. Because the chances are, you are probably releasing your old patterning from that very memory, through this change in body temperature.

#6 – Aches and Palpitations

When I first started listening to Binaural Beats, I wanted to focus on healing my Heart Chakra. And every time I’d listen to this particular frequency, my heart would start pounding as if it were truly “opening”.

love, heart chakra, selfawareness, self love

A few years later, when I experienced the same phenomenon during the Heartfulness Meditation, my theory was confirmed by the spiritual teacher, Daaji.

But it’s not just our heart that may pound. You may have a sudden, sharp shooting pain in some part of the body, like a headache or stomach becoming sore as your body resists or releases old wounds.

While there could be a purely physiological explanation at such a time, don’t eliminate the possibility of something psychological.

The book You Can Heal Your Life is another powerful introspection into the different diseases and bodily ailments that actually have a deeper spiritual meaning.

#7 – Unexplained crying

When the Dark Night of the Soul kicks in, you are more than likely to undergo a deep “grieving” that is at times, unexplainable. It can feel like a dark cloud that is trapping you in, and you might feel like crying for no reason.

crying is another way the body releases energy to heal

Well, you’re not alone. This blog, among many other amazing spiritual websites out there, is here to simply remind you that this too shall pass.

The spiritual meaning behind crying for no reason can be associated with the way your body is using the eyes as a passageway to release energy and to heal.

For many people, this can actually mean crying after years of pent-up emotions! Building the muscle to cry without having shame and guilt around it is in itself another huge relief for you in your healing journey.

And it doesn’t have to be unexplained crying, it can also very well be consciously triggered. Many people use music to express and feel their emotions, and the crying that comes through such experiences has a profound release for the body.

Also, as Jim Schmidt, another wonderful spiritual writer added in conversation with me recently, crying also releases toxins that shrink your muscles and suppress your immune system. When you are under stress, your body produces toxins that do both of these things.

Your body will collect these toxins and concentrate them in your tears. When you cry it flushes them out of the body. Releasing these toxins is a very intelligent way your body deals with stress!

Even if you don’t feel like crying, if you’ve been under a lot of stress, you can lie down on your back and pretend to yawn. Often this will get your eyes to start watering. Then, wipe excess moisture away with facial tissue.

Concluding Thoughts

We don’t give our body the credit it deserves. Truly, it’s a piece of art that can speak volumes to us if we step down from the mind. And now knowing what you know, you can work with your body to help it release old energy. Some great examples of healing practices that will help you feel a release at the body level include:

  • Energy healing practices like Reiki and crystals;
  • Forest bathing rituals;
  • Intense breathework practices like the Wim Hof Method and Holotropic;
  • Somatic healing (for which yours truly is professionally trained in as well).

That said, I also want to give you a reminder to take it one day at a time. There’s no rush, and every step counts in your healing journey. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself with healing either!

Ready to take your healing deeper? Let’s talk about it! You’re welcome to fill in this this form and submit an application to become eligible for a complimentary session with me.

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