You probably know that I text with my Mom once a day and Skype once a week. What you may not know is that, during these Skype sessions, she is the one doing most of the talking while I just let her yammer away and vent whatever is on her mind, without much of a chance at putting in a word edgewise. That is because my Mom is always ON, and does not know what it means to truly relax, to switch off for even just a couple of hours.
This situation is created by life circumstances that are too lengthy and complicated to explain – as family dynamics usually are – and that – in her case – go on from the moment she lost her mother at the age of three. She is now a spunky seventy-three-year-old who does not look a day over fifty-five, and although she is overall healthy, she recently discovered that she has high blood pressure. This scared her, and for a moment, her temporary panic created a breech into which I was able to drop some simple suggestions.
Among these simple tips – and they had to be simple or I knew she would not follow through – I suggested that she take five or ten minutes a couple of times a day, go someplace quiet and private where she would not be disturbed, and take five slow and long-drawn breaths. I had to give her a number. Simply telling her to go, be calm and breathe deeply would have been too vague. Knowing that the deep long breaths required were (only) five, and there was nothing else complicated around that, gave her mind something structured to hold on to, and also defined the amount of time involved.
Miracles do happen, and she actually started doing it. This was a couple of weeks ago. For a few days thereafter, I bugged her via text to make sure she was not cheating, now I do not have to anymore. A few hours ago, during our Skype session, she spontaneously shared that she is really enjoying doing the deep breathing, that she does it several times a day, including when she goes out at night to walk the dog, and that this is really helping her feel better. She added that, at first, she was finding it difficult to take deep breaths, but now she feels her lungs expanding and the breathing is more open and free.
“What have I been trying to tell you all these years?!?!” – but I did not say that. I just quietly congratulated myself for my tiny bit of success. Catching the opportunity I added that, when the weather allows, she should try doing the long breaths in the garden, preferably near some trees, to get even more benefit. I explained this was due to the organic compounds released by trees that are beneficial for our wellbeing, especially conifers. She said she would.
One step at a time.
This long story to explain how the idea came to me of sharing with you little Shinrin-Yoku invitations that are simple to do and will not take up much of your time. I thought that, like my Mom, some of you might also need to decompress, and although we all know the overall how-to of de-stressing, sometimes a little simple structure is what we need to get us started.
My plan is to post, once a week, a little invitation based on my forest therapy training and personal experience. These invitations will be simple and short, and, though best done in a semi-wild forest setting when the opportunity is there, a park, garden or even back yard will do for every day.
The one at the top of this post is the first one. After this, every Friday you will find a new one posted at this dedicated page. I will, of course, announce it each time through social media, and you will also find a widget in the sidebar that will make it easy for you to find the invitations’ page. Once a month, I will refresh the page and start over.
You can print the invitations out, if you like, so you do not have to memorize them, and keep them with you somewhere handy throughout the week. As more invitations are added, you can do just the single one, or also combine them together, one after the other, expanding the benefit of your time in nature. You can also modify them to suit your comfort, location and the weather. They are, after all, just that: invitations. You can accept them, or decline them as feels right to you.
My intention is to offer you something simple and easy that will make you feel better afterwards.
It will be like joining me on a Shinrin-Yoku walk from wherever you are.
I hope you will enjoy my idea and my invitations, and feel free to share them with your family and friends. Today, as a little extra gift, I have added the image above to the free computer wallpaper selection, where you can find instructions to download and set it as your desktop image.
For those of you unfamiliar with the practice of Shinrin-Yoku, you can read more about it here.