Taking the slow road, forest bathing and do we need to rush?

Forest Bathing

Last week I had the rare opportunity of some time to myself. The kids were at a class for a significant amount of time and my usual free time go-to's were all done; the apartment was clean, the washing up-to-date, and I had no pressing admin to sort out (and therefore procrastinate with!)

The sun was finally shining, the air had that beautiful warm undertone and the dogs needed a walk so I took to the nearest forest and enjoyed a peaceful, no obligation meander through the shady trees.

How long it has been since I last had a  responsibility-free (well semi - I still had the dogs!) chunk of time to just be present in the moment, in peace! Kids are great don't get me wrong, and going on walks with them is so much fun, but it's also fast and noisy which means you just don't see the wildlife; it seems that they too don't enjoy loud conversations about Minecraft and Tom Gates!

Anyway, back to my peaceful walk! The sun began to make an appearance, the water from the river running alongside crashed and roared in a humbling cacophony of power, and as I strayed further from the river its loud roar gave way to the bird's songs; delicate music tinkled down in a happy symphony. 

A hidden path laden with twisted tree roots

All of this made me feel full in a contented to be alive kind of way, which, sadly, I find is easily missed with the busyness of everyday life; but the thing that struck me the most, and it's probably something I don't usually notice, was the scent of the air. As I pottered along my mind daydreaming away I realised that I was picking up familiar notes on the breeze and then I got it, the air had a scent of warm strawberries.

Remember those days as a kid picking strawberries on a hot summer's day? The sun beating down on your back, the sticky strawberry juice on your fingers staining them pink, and squashing those not good enough to make the basket under foot as you lunged for the hidden deep red, yellow-seeded beauties? Do you remember stuffing as many as you could into your mouth and how as the afternoon wore on, the strawberries were as warm as the air? Then, as you left, a whiff of the delicate strawberry scent reminded you the strawberries in your basket were toasty and in need of some shade? 

That's the scent!

Trotting through the forest that was the aroma that reached me and boy did it make me smile. If there's something that truly screams sun and summer it's strawberries, sweet and juicy and sumptuous.

I loved that I noticed this, how often do we ever pick up on the subtleties of nature around us? It made me think of all the times I've rushed through things and it got me wondering what else did I end up missing in all my haste? 

A water droplet suspended on a spider web, only spotted as I was going slow!

It made me think of my days with the kids now and how the endless chores, obligations and pressure we put on ourselves weigh heavy, pushing us from one thing to the next without deeply experiencing what we're doing. Why do we accept that way of being? Feeling intense guilt if we pause to enjoy the moment. Can we not just, gasp, decline to rush entirely and instead embrace a daydreamy type of day acting as if time doesn't even exist? 

I have vowed that these moments are important and the kids need to be made aware of it; daydreaming is great for the imagination as well as our brain development. Whilst daydreaming our brains can make sense of complex ideas, process thoughts, be creative and cement our understanding, I feel it's in our best interests to build calm, connected periods of the day as and when we can, to fulfil this deep, innate need.   

One of my new goals for our daily rhythm is to build in these reflective times so we can pause quietly and calmly, preferably in nature, to let our minds wander, to intentionally see things that we often miss, and allow our brains to have a break from the stress and stimulation of everyday life. The sheer amount we're exposed to on a daily basis is overwhelming, it's no wonder we're often worn out.   

I wonder if we can build this slow road into other aspects of our lives too? 

I've read many times about the satisfaction gained by being in the moment when eating and showering (if you need more convincing slow eating can also stop the overconsumption of calories!). The same goes for even the mundane tasks like folding the washing or hoovering, perhaps there's good reason to give this a whirl. So often being a parent you find your time and attention split at any given moment; bombarded with a ridiculous amount of 'to do' tasks, regardless of how achievable it is to have them taking up the finite energy and space in your working memory. What if we were to ditch this mentality and start looking at the slower route? Enjoying what we're doing, but doing less of it? Allowing ourselves to really see what it is we're doing and embracing it rather than going at supersonic speed? Perhaps those moments will be more enjoyable, memorable, and less stressful? 

Forest bathing is a phrase I've heard of before but never really given much consideration to. After my experience last week it's something I think I understand a little better and it may be time to start putting it into more frequent practice!     


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