Forest bathing reminds us of God’s goodness

Published 10:11 am Monday, March 27, 2023

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This past weekend, Michelle and I spent some time at our mountain cabin. One of our habits is to go for long walks through the neighborhood and/or hike some of the trails in the national forest, which borders the community. 

Just a short walk to the top of the ridge, one can access some of the trails in Pisgah National Forest. The trails that wind through this area connect to such places as Table Rock, the Chimneys, Hawksbill, and the Linville River. A person can hike for an hour or spend the entire day walking in nature. Oftentimes, the hiker can do so without meeting anyone. During the summer months, the foot traffic is a little heavier but even then, it is minimal. This allows for some quality time in the woods. 

In the early months of Covid, we learned about forest bathing. The term originated in Japan as a means to take in the ambiance of nature as a method to relax and reconnect with the outdoors. This is not a new concept in culture as people have lived in nature for eons. 

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With the business of life, the hustle and bustle of the everyday pace, and the demands of today’s world, it is good to have moments when a person can escape from the norm. 

 For Michelle and I, forest bathing is a time to be in God’s creation surrounded by living things that require nothing from us. We can just simply exist in the stillness that comes from being encircled by the natural environment. Whether we are strolling down the road or walking the neighborhood, forest bathing has a very positive effect on us. It helps reduce the stress that we both deal with, allows for uninterrupted conversations, and gives us some time to slow down. For us, it is like a rest for our souls. 

When we think about it, forest bathing has connections to a Biblical principle. In the Genesis account of creation, Scripture tells us that on the seventh day, God rested from His work (Genesis 2:1). Not that God was tired, but the work of Creation was completed. Later on, God gave Moses the Law in which there is the commandment to keep the Sabbath, which is a day of rest (Exodus 20:8-11). In the New Testament, we read how Jesus took the disciples aside so they could rest (Mark 6:31). God factored into creation a time to rest. 

With the many demands of life these days, the pressures to do, go, live the American Dream and accomplish more, rest can get tabled and overlooked. But we must remember that sometimes the most important thing we can do is to rest. I have heard ministers comment how there are moments when the most spiritual deed a disciple can do, is just to rest. 

Forest bathing provides Michelle and I with those times of rest. Although hiking the trails or walking the neighborhood is physical activity, it provides mental, emotional and spiritual rest for us. We connect with each other and we connect with God. Being in the forest is like walking through the gallery of God’s handiwork. He is seen everywhere. The new buds and blooms, the various woodland creatures, the skies and the mountainous terrain, all show the creative artistry of God. Being in that environment brings stillness to the heart and soul. 

Let me say, however, this is no substitution for attending church. Scripture tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). Forest bathing is in addition to assembling together for worship. It is not an either or, but a both. 

There are other means to accomplish this time of rest besides forest bathing. Perhaps for you, it is listening to quiet music, reading a book or sitting on the porch watching the birds. We have found that forest bathing is the most effective for us. It reminds us of God’s goodness and restores us.