Our wanderful facilitator Justine Clement notices the similarities between Street Wisdom and Forest Bathing.
I ran my first ever Street Wisdom experience somewhere around 2016, which now feels like a preposterously long time ago. An awful lot has happened since then, both in my own life, as well as for the life of all humans on planet Earth.
And whilst the actual year that I first stood on a rainy street corner holding a branded Street Wisdom umbrella, waiting expectantly for someone to turn up, has faded into the vast chambers of my post-covid and menopause-foggy brain, the memory of the experience, and the sheer simplicity and wonder of the walk, is still as fresh as if it were happening right here, today.
Over the years, we’ve played around with the Tune Ups, seeing what works best, what’s more effective, what works at home as well as out on the street. I’ve loved trying them all. I’ve found them transferrable to so many different life situations and it’s because of this, that I found myself incorporating them into a very different environment to the streets – the forest.
I’m drawn to things that are somewhat on the fringes of the mainstream, pioneering in their own little ways. I guess you could give it a fancy name and call it being an early adopter, but it’s just the way I am.
Fast forward four years and I’m now a fully qualified Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku as its known in Japan, guide and lead monthly walks for the Surrey Wildlife Trust, as well as for individuals and organisations in the same way I’ve done with Street Wisdom.
Forest Bathing is not wild swimming in the woods (as one gentleman thought recently as he turned up for a session with his trunks, asking all the ladies if they’d packed their swimming costumes), but rather a metaphorical bathe in the delightful atmosphere of a forest to open up your five senses and enhance your wellbeing.
If you’ve never heard of it, Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku was developed in Japan and is based on ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices.
It came about in the 1980’s and was developed by the government in response to a public health crisis the country was experiencing, due to high levels of stress at work and a worrying spike in rates of auto-immune disease.
The reason? Well, it’s very likely to have been as a result of the relatively swift move by much of the Japanese population from living in very a rural, to a very urban environment. And so over the next forty years and millions of Yen and scientific studies later, thanks to the Japanese government, we now understand a little more about why being in nature, specifically the forest, is extremely good for us humans.
A little like the tune ups in Street Wisdom, the exercises in Forest Bathing (known as invitations), are designed to open up our five senses, as well as encouraging greater awareness – of ourselves, our surroundings and our place in them.
To help break down the initial reservations and barriers before each session fully begins, I offer up a few openers for people to ask each other, such as ‘What is your first memory of being in nature?” and “What is your favourite place to be in nature e.g., the beach, the forest, or a specific place that you love/have loved?”. Just like we do on a Street Wisdom wander.
Each Forest Bathing session also places a deep emphasis on the importance of slowing down. It’s an integral part of deepening one’s connection with nature, our surroundings and ourselves and is why the Tunes Up in Street Wisdom are also about slowing right down.
People often say to me at the start of a Forest Bathing session that they already spend a lot of time walking or being out in nature. But by the end of a three-hour session in the forest, what they come to realise is that whilst that may have been the case, their time has not been quality time – they’ve either been chatting to a friend or walking briskly wanting to get from A to B, or on their phone.
Being consciously and energetically present is very different from being physically present – you miss so much without the slowing down and noticing aspect. It’s the same with Street Wisdom – we’re often out on the streets, but it’s an entirely different experience following the tune ups – we’re more in the street, than on it.
I love how all these important life lessons are contained in two simple three hour sessions – Forest Bathing and Street Wisdom. If this resonates with you and if you’d like to learn more about Forest Bathing, either as a 1-1 or a group experience, then do visit my website. I’ll also be running a Street Wisdom wander in London soon. Perhaps try both and notice the similarities and the distinctions?
Whichever way you choose to go, I hope to meet you at some point soon, on the corner of a street, or at the edge of the forest.
About the author
Justine at Street Wisdom Wizard and a former CEO turned certified Conscious Connected Breath coach. Her entire wellbeing roadmap of the past twenty or so years began with trying to understand herself and her place in the world. She began her love of Breathwork 12 years ago with a rigorous Ashtanga yoga practice and believes our breath is the most powerful tool we possess. She is also a Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing) guide and founder of Wonderwoods – Forest Bathing Made In Britain. She’s the co-author of a lockdown-inspired book called I Am Every Woman – A Collection Of Extraordinary Life Journeys and a forthcoming guide to nature connection, called Wonder Woods – Finding Wisdom In The Forest.
Inspired? Street Wisdom is all about finding better ways. Join a Walkshop near you, or head out for your own wander right now with our Tune Ups. Buy your own copy of Wanderful, all profits go back into Street Wisdom to help keep it free.