Through the years, human beings have learned to confine itself to smaller and smaller spaces. Apartments have been optimized to fit as much furniture in as little room as possible, workplaces afford tiny cubicles just enough for a desk and a chair for tired, sleepy eyed employees. Transportation has evolved into mobile sardine cans fitting as many people into unreasonably cramped seats. Despite the tight nature of common life, individuals still choose to spend 87 percent of their day confined to these tiny spaces. This is because while many would rather choose to be in a wide, open area, the responsibilities and duties associated with everyday living require individuals to suffer in small spaces.
Of course, it’s important that hard working adults keep the duties and responsibilities that makeup the social and economic fabric of our nation, but it is equally necessary for people to give themselves the chance to get away from daily circumstances and explore their spirituality openly and freely.
According to the gospels (Matthew 4:1) we are told that Jesus would often go into the wilderness for a type of prayer-meditation. Following this example we can probably think about adding healthy doses of meditative time with God in nature.
In a recent research, consistent and frequent outdoor exposure encourages the improvement of health and well-being, and allows people to reach higher levels of contentment and peace. Perhaps this is why forest bathing – the latest trend in meditation – has begun to take the world by storm.
The premise is that the demands of urban life has caused people to feel so restricted, that it is taking a significant toll on their mental health. Although it is impossible for people to completely turn away from the the world, it is at least a way to take a well-deserved break from the daily hustle and regain the sanity that comes from time with God. This is where forest bathing, or the practice of meditating in a wide, open, and natural space, comes into play.
More about Forest Bathing
The term might not be familiar to many, but forest bathing has been around for decades. Back in 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture first coined the term “shinrin-yoku” which literally translated means taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.”
The original practice was introduced to people to help them reintegrate into nature, a setting that can reap the benefits of a peaceful mind and a serene personality. Since then, the practice has gained popularity across the globe, and more recently, many of those in the United States of America have begun to observe the practice.
Forest Bathing and Christian Meditation
It’s not enough to simply wander in a forest and hope to reap the benefits of improved health and wellness. Forest bathing is actually best performed with Christian meditation. The combined effects of a serene and tranquil environment plus the powerful outcomes of Christian meditation create a much more fruitful meditation experience than any other and gives people the chance to maximize its holistic benefits. I'm sure Jesus also reaped the same benefits when it was needed the most after days of dealing with the demands of crowds and the constant scrutiny of the religious ruling class.
Christian meditation when performed outdoors can become even more effective because it provides individuals the opportunity to connect with Christ in an environment created by God. This encourages a deeper connection with God.
How Forest Bathing Works
Take time to breathe the forest air. Take slow gentle deep breaths. Feel the freshness of the air in your lungs. Look around you and realize that every plant and tree is producing clean air. Close your eyes and just breathe. Relax.
Gently and calmly walk. Be mindful of each step. Let your senses open to your surroundings. Notice the terrain, vegetation, animals, sounds, and fragrances. Let your mind and body absorb the natural environment. Mindful walking is not exercise, its meditation so let your senses be aware of your surroundings.
Stimulate your sense of touch. Explore the world around with your sense of touch. Experience the texture of bark, don't just feel it, experience it. What about cold creek water? How does the wind feel on your skin?
Naturally, with kind of meditation we need to be aware of our local fauna and the different plant species that may cause allergic reactions. So be sure to study up the local fauna before heading out.
The human ear is exquisitely tuned. After the calm sense of the forest has set in, be still and listen. Can you hear the wind? The sound of a nearby creek? The movement of the trees? The buzzing of insects?
Now walk quietly and listen. Experience the forest through sound.
Look at a single thing. Look at it with tranquility and worlds of light and color will be revealed. You might notice details and patterns.
Look longer and within the play of shadow and light you might hear the voice of God. God is in all the details of creation. Look at things close and far, relax.
Close your eyes and call on the name of Jesus. (Romans 10:13) Breathe and let Jesus be present. Your journey begins and ends with one step, “be”. Just be in the moment with Christ. No complex formulas, or procedures, just be and God's love shine.
5 Benefits of Forest Bathing
1. Decreased Negativity
Studies have shown that those who partake in Christian meditation in a wilderness setting are less likely to indulge in negative thought. This is because both practices thrive on positive thoughts and ideas that help individuals reach a higher level of contentment and peace. Aside from making people feel better – both physically and mentally – decreased negativity can reduce stress levels in the body while improving mental health. All of this enhances personal productivity and motivation.
2. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
The stress and worry associated with everyday life can take a very serious and significant toll on a your health. According to recent research, those who are constantly exposed to the pressures of modern, indoor living are more inclined to have increased blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, these issues can evolve and develop into more serious conditions that might even be life threatening. By forest bathing like Jesus and with the aid of Christian meditation, an individual can recover from even severe stress and reduce the risk of diseases associated with anxiety and pressure.
3. Improved Immune Function
When you are exposed too high levels of stress, you might find yourself more susceptible to sickness. While it’s still unclear to researchers how or why stress is connected to decreased immunity, studies show that meditation and forest bathing are effective at improving the overall function of our immune system. The study focused on a small group of individuals who went into the forest to practice meditative forest bathing for a 3 day and 2 night trip. Scientists collected blood and urine samples both before and after the excursion and were surprised to find that the participants’ immunities were much stronger once they had finished forest bathing.
4. Break from Daily Life
People go on vacations for a reason. Earning a living is an important part of survival in the urban world, but spending every waking hour behind a work desk can prove to be detrimental to the overall health of a person. Not only that, studies have shown that those who choose to soldier on through work without taking breaks away from urban life are more likely to feel less satisfied with life. Forest bathing and Christian meditation make it possible for people to reboot their system. Taking some time of and reflect on God in a natural setting will give you a chance to regain a firm grasp on the power that loves you and nourishes you. This is particularly important for those who rarely ever get to spend time away from work, or constantly think about work and its tasks.
5. Rediscover Your Purpose
When you’re constantly immersed in your work, you might have a few moments of confusion where you end up wondering “what is this all for?” It can be a challenge to identify the reason for your efforts especially when you’ve been working for so long and have little or no recollection of a spiritual lifestyle that supported your well being. Forest bathing and Christian meditation just might help you rediscover your purpose. Engaging God through meditation in nature allows people to reconnect with their creator. These moments are necessary to clear their mind of the unnecessary noise that heavily blocks our spiritual eyes and ears from perceiving God. When clarity of God sets is, it becomes easier to move ahead with life. When the heart and mind are touched by God, even slightly, one will feel refreshed, healthy, and motivated to continue. The added bonus to this experience is clarity of the end result. In many ways, Christian meditation and forest bathing are both essential ways of maintaining our connection with God which enhances our performance in the workplace, at home, and in our relationships.
Forest bathing and Christian meditation are both effective tools that help individuals become better people, but combining the two practices could prove to be a significantly more effective observance. By incorporating Christ into the meditative practice of forest bathing, we don’t only become closer to God our creator, but we are also empowered by the Prince of Christ during the quiet moments. With so many challenges we all need a break to become more in-tune with God's mind from which we can reason with a higher calling. As we improve our ability to deal with daily challenges and hurdles the quality of our life is also vastly improved.
This was the aim of the Japanese government, to improve the quality of life of its citizens. Jesus never spoke of the power of prayer-meditation in the wilderness. He simply left us an example to follow.
The dangers of constant stress and restricted space pose are very real danger and it’s important that we care for ourselves in the proper ways. Since there is plenty of science that backs its health benefits and because Jesus performed the practice, maybe it's time for you to consider it.
Forest bathing and Christian meditation are both powerful tools capable of balancing mind and body making a strong individual who has a clear sense of God. Increasing our sense of God helps us to be aptly prepared to take on any challenge no matter how hefty or daunting it may be. With God's peace in our heart and with our mind touched by God, all things are possible.
Tell us about your experience with Christian meditation. Do you enjoy meditating outdoors? We'd like to know. Type your comments below.
We love you and we're praying for you. God bless you.