Sampling a Forest Bath

“What is Forest Bathing?”
“Do I get to keep my clothes on?”
“Will we take a bath outside?”

Turkey Hollow Trail at St. Mary’s Sewanee

These were the first questions the staff asked when we learned that St. Mary’s Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development is sponsoring a retreat called Forest Bathing with Painting Response. Because we wanted to know more about this unique offering, the staff asked presenter Connie Keetle to come give us a “sample bath” so we could really understand the opportunity this retreat presents.

And then this is what the staff wrote afterwards:

There was something incredibly calming about being under the canopy of the forest.
— I noticed the smallest things that I would have otherwise overlooked.
— A tree talked to me. I placed my hands on the scraggly bark of an oak tree and it told me it was dying, but that it was okay. The tree urged me to look up, and I saw that it still had a few branches with healthy leaves. In that moment, I recognized that we are all dying, yet we are all alive.

Connie led five of the SMS staff on a Forest Bath in May . It was a beautiful late Spring day with a light breeze and bright sunshine. She invited us to close our eyes, stand very still, and listen to the forest. To smell the aromas around us. To swing our arms gently from side-to-side and feel the breeze. We moved very slowly, with great intention, an examined a small portion of the Turkey Hollow Trail that morning. Some of us looked at the bright green new growth on the moss under the trees. Some of us touched and communed with trees. Others examined the way the rocks on the path had eroded, wearing away to nothing but patches of fine sand in the trail.

We only sampled the forest in our brief, but powerful walk. When you join Connie on retreat, you’ll have a longer time in the forest, followed by a delicious lunch prepared by Emily Wallace. The afternoon will be an opportunity to express whatever you experienced in the morning. Connie is a talented artist who will bring her paints and materials for all to use as you recall your first Forest Bath.

Forest Bathing with Painting Response will be offered twice in 2020. Look in the Events Listing for the dates and registration information.