In much of America right now, it’s devastatingly hot. If this doesn’t terrify you, you’re not paying close enough attention. This is why we in the environmental community are doing the work we do, no matter how challenging. The situation is urgent.
But it is also the fourth of July, which, for our non-American readers, celebrates American independence. It’s a day famous for fireworks, parades, family gatherings, and barbecues.
So in the spirit of today’s holiday, the Instigator will take on a lighter topic and suggest a new tradition for us to embrace. We’ll resume our hard work fighting climate change and other environmental challenges in our next issue.
A timeless tradition for a modern problem.
I know that many enviros are like me — often so caught up in our wonky, important work that we don’t find the time to enjoy the very wonders we are trying to protect. What if, on this holiday, we put down our devices and get outdoors. Not just outside in our back yards. Not just to a friendly barbecue. Something more immersive.
I suggest this holiday we look to the Japanese and embrace their great tradition of Shinrin Yoku, aka “forest bathing.”
Why a Japanese inspiration?
I’ve lived in Japan twice in my life for a total of six years, and I really loved it. I always marveled at how skillfully and joyfully people in Japan are able to live in very crowded urban conditions while maintaining a zen attitude day in and day out.
How do they do it? One way is by staying closely connected to nature (even though — or, perhaps because — they mostly live in big noisy cities).
Forest bathing is a classic Japanese activity.
Here’s how to do it.
- Go to a forest.
- Wander around aimlessly. Try to take everything in using all of your senses.
You don’t have to exercise or treat this as a workout. No need to hike a long distance. Don’t worry about how many birds you are able to identify. Don’t do anything other than pay close attention to the forest.
I bet you’ll find this practice to be very satisfying. You’ll be where you belong doing what you’re meant to do.
It’s good for you too. There is no shortage of studies about the many benefits of being in nature generally and of shinrin yoku specifically.
Let me know how it goes.
Here’s a bonus idea.
Take one of your acquaintances who does not prioritize environmental matters with you. Invite them to forest bathe with you. See if the experience broadens their thinking.
We practice what we preach here at the Instigator. In order to accommodate the big ramp-up in time spent outdoors that we plan, we will transition to a summer schedule, publishing one issue per month, until September.