Water & Shinrin-Yoku


“In all things of nature there’s something of the marvelous” (Artistotle)


It’s an early morning in late September. Sunlight is radiating through the morning fog on the Amstel river, painting the small waves in front of me with silver sparks. In the air I smell the unmistakable earthy, plant-like scent of sweet water. There’s hardly any wind, and in the air I can sense a crisp touch of Autumn. Waves slosh gently against the SUP board under my feet. With my paddle, I slowly touch the water back. Branches of big trees along the quay, covered in golden morning sunlight, are reaching out to the water, some of them all the way down. A couple of ducks and later on a beautiful swan swim along with me and my board, just for a moment. In the distance, a red bicycle is crossing a drawbridge. I hear the sound of a piano, coming from an open window of a house high above me on the quay. Little boats and big tour boats are still quietly moored at this hour, the hustle and bustle of ordinary city-life far ahead. In the sky high above me flies a flock of geese, making an unsettling type of noise. Window-blinds of the houseboats that I pass are mostly closed; a few times I notice someone making coffee or reading a morning newspaper. At this time of the day, I have the myriad of waterways of this so called ‘Venice of the North’ all to myself. A labyrinth of nature in the middle of a busy city, on which I can slow down, relax, breathe, tune-in, focus, find creativity, new ideas and connect to nature, while awakening all my senses. 

When I first came across shinrin-yoku (Japanese for forest-bathing, or in Dutch: bosbaden), a well-ness practice in which you immerse yourself in a forest setting by using all your senses and slowing down, I thought I could only use this technique in a forest, or perhaps a (big) city-park. Since I live in the middle of a capital city with only a small balcony facing some trees, I was sad I had to travel quite a distance to be in a forest and could not practice shinrin-yoku on a daily base. However, inspired by Vicky Kyan, one of my mentors during my training to become an ANFT certified forest therapy guide, offering nature bathing walks on a beach with not a tree in sight (Great Barrier Island, New Zealand), I realized there’s actually a lot of nature nearby my Amsterdam doorstep. Why not practice the Japanese inspired art of slowing down through sensory immersion in nature along the Amstel river, or one of the 165 canals, stretching over 75 kilometres of waterways?

Using the technique of shinrin-yoku when spending time along, on or in the water and slowing down through sensory immersion gives me a feeling of awe, purpose, contentment, vitality, connection and an overall positive emotion: effects similar to forest bathing. Engaging in the practice while being in my day-to-day surroundings has changed the way I see and experience nature forever.

In his landmark book “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do”, marine biologist and bestseller author Wallace J. Nichols also concludes that being near water sets our minds and bodies at ease. Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with compelling personal stories from top athletes, leading scientists, military veterans and gifted artists, Nichols answers questions such as how proximity to water can improve performance, diminish anxiety, amplifies creativity, expands compassion, increases professional success and improves our overall well-being. 

Wanna learn more about the practice of shinrin-yoku, and experience what the art of stillness in nature through sensory immersion can do for you? Please join us on one of our guided shinrin-yoku walks!

From my heart to yours! Marjolein

Free online screening

Free online screening  documentary “The Hidden Life of Trees” (Peter Wohlleben)
October 13, 20:00-22:00 CEST, Goethe-Institut London 

When Peter Wohlleben published his book “The Hidden Life of Trees” (2015), he stormed all the bestseller charts overnight: no-one had ever written about the German woods like the forester from the parish of Wershofen before.

In the documentary “The Hidden Life of Trees” (96 min, directed by Jörg Adolph), the sensorial capacities of cinema are used to thrillingly visualize Wohlleben’s observations, letting you into the secrets of nature that lie beyond human vision and temporality.

The film simultaneously offers fascinating and often visually stunning insights into life in our forests.

Wohlleben tells us in an entertaining and enlightening fashion about the solidarity and cohesion of trees and strikes a chord with his ever-growing community of readers: he brings us closer to these astounding living entities in guided tours of the woods and readings. Wohlleben travels to Sweden to see the oldest tree in the world; he visits businesses in Vancouver that are looking for a new approach to how to treat the woods; he sides with the Hambacher Forst demonstrators.

Because he knows that we humans can only survive if the woods are healthy – and that the eleventh hour is already upon us…

You can get your free ticket for the online screening of the documentary by the Goethe-Institut London here.

Enjoy!

& if you want to slow down, relax and tune into the language of nature live on a guided shinrin-yoku walk, do check out my website.
There are new dates for October / November in the Amstelpark (Amsterdam) and Duin & Kruidberg, Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland (Santpoort-Noord).

Marjolein

Nature Connection & Health


“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter” (Rachel Carson)

The evening light is fading, offering a more subtle palette of colours. Birds, hidden in the high trees and bushes set out for a final serenade. A strong aroma of earth, grass and flowers fills the air. Rain that fell in the hours leading up to the shinrin-yoku walk, has refreshed the atmosphere. Light reflects on thousands of raindrops that rest on top of flowers, plants, leaves and spiderwebs, turning them into little diamonds. The south-western wind brings in lyrics from a song by boaters, navigating the Amstel river in the distance during this golden hour. Human visitors to the Amstelpark are scarce at this time of the day. A curious rabbit observes us from a distance. I pour seven wooden cups of fresh herbal tea, six for us, one to offer back to Nature. We sit in a small circle on the grass, above us huge branches of two sycamore trees. This is my favo moment of a shinrin-yoku walk: the tea ceremony. A moment for participants to share, if they wish, their experiences with each other. 

During tea – the final part of a shinrin-yoku walk -, many participants share that by truly slowing down and focusing explicitly on their senses, they experience a deeper connection. To the present moment, present place and their present state of being. This gives them focus, inspiration, calmness, joy and a feeling of deep relaxation. 

Often, participants say they feel an elevation and rejuvenation of the mind, body and spirit. 

Some participants also share what for them constitutes a ´door of connection´ to nature: “When we focused our attention on the sounds of the spot in the dunes where we were standing, I realized that for me, my sense of hearing really re-directs me away from the business in my head into the now. That’s so relaxing. Something I will do again when I am in nature.” Or: “The floral scents I smelled during one of the ‘invitations’ on the walk in a deserted Amstel park brought me back to where my passion as a chef originated, and how much I like to experiment with fresh herbs in dishes.”  

What is known about the health benefits of shinrin-yoku or nature immersion, in which you engage as many senses as possible and aim to be truly present in the moment? In his book, ‘Shinrin-yoku. The Japanese Way of Forest Bathing for Health and Relaxation’ (2018), Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki shares the results of his 29 years of research in this field: 

– Increased relaxation of the body due to increased activity in the parasympathetic nervous system; 
– Reduced stress of the body due to a reduction in sympathetic nervous system activity; 
– Reduction in blood pressure after only 15 minutes of forest bathing; 
– Reduced feelings of stress and a general sense of wellbeing; 
– Reduction in blood pressure after 1 day of forest bathing, which effects last up to 5 days after taking the forest bath;

– Strengthened immune system and improvement of weakened immunity, with an increase in the count of natural killer cells, which are known to fight tumours and infection. 

Miyazaki’s research into the effects of nature immersion on human beings has extended as far as considering the effects of looking at a bouquet of cut flowers or a pot plant or smelling naturally dried wood (as opposed to treated wood). More specifically, Miyazaki has examined their calming effects on the human body and mind, which may or may not lead to physiological relaxation and immune function recovery. This of course, in turn can help prevent illnesses. 

Miyazaki concluded that by feeling part of your natural surroundings and the web of life as opposed to feel separate from it, your overall feeling of well-being increases. Further, a thing that we humans often have lost due to our disconnect to nature, is an understanding of the vital importance of community. Finally, there’s the positive impact of taking in the nature atmosphere, such as phytoncides (the chemicals released by plants and trees), ions and the earth’s surface electrons, for your body system. 

If you are interested, there’s ongoing research on the health benefits of the practice of shinrin-yoku and nature connection. Do have a look at the Forest Library for a collection of the latest articles on the health benefits of shinrin-yoku and nature connection by popular press, as well as rigorously researched and peer-reviewed studies in this field: https://www.theforestlibrary.com/forest-bathing-online-articles

Or… just try a guided shinrin-yoku walk to experience the results for yourself, and learn how to really slow down, relax and reconnect with nature, while being guided by a certified guide. For upcoming walks in Amsterdam or its surrounding forests/seaside, please check my website www.shinrin-yokuclub.com.

“Make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, and match your nature with Nature” (Joseph Campbell)

From my heart to yours! Marjolein

Finding The Mother Tree. Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest.

Free online talk with author Suzanne Simard on 7 May 2021@12 p.m. PDT / 9 p.m. CEST 

A forest is much more than what you see. 

Over 30 years of research in Canadian forests by Forest Ecology professor Suzanne Simard has revealed that trees talk, often and over vast distances. 

Trees share resources right under our feet, using a fungal network nicknamed the Wood Wide Web. Some plants use the system to support their offspring, while others hijack it to sabotage their rivals. 

The fungi networks move water, carbon and nutrients such as nitrogen between and among trees as well as across species. These complex, symbiotic networks in our forests mimic our own neural and social networks. 

In her eye-opening debut, “Finding The Mother Tree. Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest”, Suzanne Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she illuminates the fascinating and vital truths – that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complicated, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own. 

In her book, in which she artfully blends science and memoir, Simard writes how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors, and remember the past; are able to identify which saplings they are related to; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies – and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them.

Wanna hear more? Join Suzanne Simard on a free talk on Fri 7 May 2021@12 p.m. PDT / 9 p.m. CEST, where she will discuss her first book: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/simard/register

A walk in the forest will never be the same again! Marjolein

Sit Spot

One of the most powerful ways to connect with nature for me so far has been Sit Spot. 

Sit Spot is a path, a journey. One that will lead you from the known into the unknown and back with unforeseen treasures. It will change the way you look at both your outer and inner worlds. 

Our native hunter-gatherer ancestors relied upon their ability to follow and read the messages written upon the earth. The meaning of a change in wind direction; the language of the birds for our survival; an animal movement that leads to water. Tracking these things allowed them to live and thrive by observing and questioning. Since we no longer need our ancestral tracking abilities for our daily survival, we use them less and less, and often fail to see how all things are interrelated.

“When we tug at a single thing in nature we find it attached to the rest of the world” – John Muir


How to do a Sit Spot
Sit Spot is the simple act of finding a particular place outdoors where you sit quietly and observe. Do what feels right. Breathe, look around, close your eyes, listen. Be present with all your senses. 

You need at least 20 minutes and a place nearby your home to visit as often as you can. The longer you sit and the more frequently you go, the more effective it will be. Experience the rhythms of nature vary with the time of day and time of the year.
As a city-dweller with no access to a garden, I actually have three Sit Spots😊.

My primary Sit Spot is on my tiny balcony from where I can notice not only my balcony plants (and opposite neighbours), but also three huge trees changing during the seasons, green chatty parakeets chilling on the waving tree branches, like surfers waiting for their next wave, seagulls, bees, butterflies, the wind, sunshine, rain drops, snowflakes, the moon and stars. 

My second Sit Spot is in the nearby Sarphatipark. By now, I got to know most of the trees there, various ducks, geese, and other park inhabitants, as well as its regular human visitors. Visiting the place is starting to feel like catching up with a dear friend. 

My third Sit Spot is in front of our caravan in a forest, where I spend most of my weekends. Robins are starting to greet me there, butterflies sit on my shoulder, a fox regularly walks by. As if by really slowing down, my surroundings are relaxing about my presence, too. Each and every time I discover more new little details about the same place. 

You can sit in whatever way you like, either on the earth for the connection, or on a chair. The power lies in really getting to know one place very well, so do not change Sit Spot from day to day. By taking yourself out of your regular daily routine and reconnecting with the rhythms of the natural world, you begin to recalibrate and reconnect with your own true nature. By spending time outside in this way, and by consciously practicing your ability to observe, you will strengthen your awareness. 

What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of the buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and 
loses itself in the sunset.

– Crowfoot, 

Blackfoot Warrior and Orator 1830 – 1890
In case you want to read more about Sit Spot, I would recommend the book ‘Sit Spot and the Art of Inner Tracking. A 30-Day Challenge to Develop Your Relationship to Self, Earth, Others, and the Wisdom of the Ancestors’ by R. Michael Trotta.

Happy sitting! Marjolein

What the Robin Knows. How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World.

They say birds are the sentries – and our key to understanding the world beyond our front door. These early Spring mornings, with new beginnings just around the corner, birds start waking me up with their lively, golden songs. Still dark and quiet outside, without any of the usual Amsterdam city buzz outside my window, their melodies are so pure, vivid and heart-opening.

On my ongoing journey to deeper connect with my natural surroundings and the nature beings I share this land with, I came across the book What the Robin Knows. How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by lifelong birder, tracker and naturalist Jon Young. By reading the book, you will discover a universal bird language that will speak to you wherever you go outdoors, be it in a city park, seaside or forest, opening your mind onto a wider mind of the land itself. 

By tuning in to the bird’s vocalizations and behavior, we can acquire much of this wisdom for our own pleasure and benefit; and the birds’ companion calls and warning alarms are just as important as their songs. 

Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over.

The book unites the indigenous knowledge, the latest research, and the author’s own experience of four decades in the field to lead you toward a deeper connection to the animals and, in the end, a deeper connection to ourselves. A brilliant work, born of a lifetime of listening, teaching, and tracking what really matters, waking our animal senses.

Enjoy! Marjolein

Shinrin-yoku Invitation

“This invitation is called: ‘Walking on this earth’. There are many beings walking on this earth together with us, all on their own unique journey. Find a track and go explore it with all your senses. I wonder where it is taking you?”

Have fun and if you like, please do share what you are noticing?

During a shinrin-yoku walk, the guide invites the participants to take part in several ‘invitations’: voluntary activities suiting the very moment and place. An invitation serves to connect participants with nature, themselves and each other. 

This was the first invitation I crafted during my training to become an ANFT-certified shinrin-yoku guide, and was inspired by a 5-years-old😊

Marjolein

Why use a Certified Guide?

Like yoga, forest bathing can be considered a ‘practice’, which after having learned the basics, you can do on your own. Practicing it initially with a certified forest bathing guide, you will learn the intentional flow and sequence, truly slow down your pace and keep your mind in the present.

Forest bathing guides are trained to enhance sensory perception, facilitating connection with place, body, nature and the more-than-human world. This is what we can call ‘opening the doors’. The forest bathing guide is trained to slow people down, help them turn off the stream of habitual thinking and establish embodied contact with the present moment. They work in partnership with Nature and also have a function of supportive witness, enabling participants to experience whatever the natural environment has to offer to them at the moment, without interfering and disturbing this process. A forest bathing guide is trained to provide the open, non-judgemental space for people to share and connect with one another, as well as with the natural world.

Forest bathing guides will know the local area and conditions very well and set out a trail that matches the goals of forest bathing and would fit the chosen invitations to open the senses.

Finally, like yoga, when doing it with a group of like-minded people to share your experiences and connect with, your forest bathing experience can be much more fun!


 “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” (Albert Einstein).

What happens on a Shinrin-yoku Walk?


“The great work of this century is to usher the reconnection to nature – there’s nothing else that matters more” (Thomas Berry).

During a shinrin-yoku walk, you walk slowly and not cover long distances. The focus is not on plant or animal knowledge, but on experiencing nature by simply opening your five senses and connect with natural elements, such as trees, through taking part in several activities (‘invitations’). You see, hear, smell, touch and taste  the forest. You try to be with nature instead of being in nature and experience the forest in an unexpected and fresh way. 

I will act as your guide on this journey into nature to slow down, recharge, feel deeply rested and content. I hope to inspire you to use all your senses to embrace the moment of living, relax your mind, revitalise your body and rediscover your Self and include shinrin-yoku as a healthy and wealthy part of your life-style.

The shinrin-yoku walks that I offer are the expression of my passion for nature and wellness and my desire to share these experiences.

Follow me, in small groups. Serenity and magic awaits us!
Try shinrin-yoku for yourself and let the natural world take its restorative effects on your body and mind. 

What is the Shinrin-Yoku Club?

Shinrin-yoku: The art of stillness in nature.

Be silent. Go slow. Think less. Feel more. Reconnect. Do good for yourself and all beings. May the calm of nature always be with you.

Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing, or ‘sylvotherapie’ or ‘bosbaden’ in Dutch) simply means immersing yourself in a forest setting. It is a unique sensory way to experience and connect with nature and a natural way to calm your senses in a busy world without modern day distractions. The practice reconnects you to the forested planet that we as humans grew up in and, in doing so, imparts you with a profound sense of peace.

Shinrin-yoku, originating in Japan in the 1980s as a self-healing technique to combat stress, has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. It is scientifically proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, increase creativity, clarity and the ability to focus, improve energy levels and overall feelings of wellbeing. The practice of shinrin-yoku invites you to (re)connect with nature and protect our planet Earth, realizing we are part of it. Indigenous and ancient populations have been connecting with nature for more than 50,000 years and for them, the protection of nature and the natural environment and their subsequent survival as a species is evident. 

The Shinrin-yoku Club aims to inspire people to (re)connect with nature, themselves, each other and this moment in time and to practice forest bathing on a regular basis. We organize small-scale guided forest bathing walks in nature both in the Amsterdam area and elsewhere. The walks are for individuals and groups of friends/family/colleagues/teams.

We also offer an option to combine the shinrin-yoku walk with an outdoor yoga class. Like shinrin-yoku, yoga has its very roots in feeling a connection with nature and the natural world. Practicing yoga outdoors, in the fresh air, surrounded by greenery and fresh oxygen gives you a boost of energy, strengthens your immune system and stimulates your senses. You can smell the plants and trees, have a wonderful view during your asanas and could listen to the sound of the birds. This will inspire, motivate and stimulate you. 

For upcoming activities, please check our Upcoming Guided Walks or contact us in case you want to organize your own forest bathing trip or mini-retreat combined with outdoor yoga on a different date and time and need a certified forest bathing guide (and/or certified yoga teacher).