In the city of Vancouver, we are fortunate to enjoy an eclectic urban environment while still being able to walk a short distance and immersed ourselves in the peace and quiet of the dense rainforests in Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Regional Park.
Each week, I take a mini-reset for a few hours in the forest. I put my iPhone on airplane mode and just enjoy being in the presence of trees while observing the fascinating patterns, textures, color, light and shadows in the forest ecosystem.
On these weekly forest adventures, I developed a practice I call Sensory Immersion Meditation where I use my breath and body sensations as an anchor in the present moment to quiet my mind and fully immerse myself in the rainforest's sights, smells, sounds and the tactile sense of my feet walking on the Earth.
These forest meditation adventures have become sacred time in my life where I relish the feeling of awe and wonder at being in the untrampled beauty of wild forest ecosystems. These fully unplugged forest meditation sessions have also made it much easier for me to enjoy life in the city while doing wonders for my achieving better productivity and flow in my work.
Lately, I've been studying the health effects of forest walks and how people are using forest therapy to counter the degenerative mental and physical effects of our sedentary culture. I've been listening to the excellent audiobook The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative and learning all about how people living in the world's most densely populated cities in South Korea and Japan have embraced forest therapy to reconnect with nature and find peace of mind.
Studying The Healing Power of Forests:
In the 1980s, the Japanese Forest Service developed a program they called Shinrin-Yoku, which translates as "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing".
In the midst of a tech boom in the early 1980's, Shinrin-Yoku was developed based on an intuitive understanding that being immersed in the fresh air and rich sensory environment of a forest has a healing effect on the mind and body. Scientists studying the effects of forest walks in Japan and South Korea have found numerous benefits of spending time forest bathing:
- Increased ability to focus
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure
- Reduction in the stress hormone cortisol
- Boosts the immune system
- Improve overall feelings of well-being
- Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
- Improved sleep and overall energy levels
In this video from the World Economic Forum, they cover many of the scientifically proven benefits of forest bathing:
In Vancouver, we are fortunate to have an abundance of amazing places for forest bathing and finding silence and quietude in the wilderness.
Here are some of my favourite spots for forest meditation where you can find trails that are peaceful and relatively uncrowded:
1. Dog Mountain
A 2-hour hike (return) through an ancient alpine rainforest to the Dog Mountain bluffs, which offer panoramic views of the city of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
2. Stanley Park
Endless trails for exploring the coastal rainforest ecosystem and unplugging from the city (without going very far).
3. Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Wander through the beautiful trails of the Pacific Spirit rainforest or make the spectacular 1.5-hour trek around Point Grey from the Spanish Banks to Wreck Beach.
4. Lighthouse Park
The trails in Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver wind through the spectacular old-growth groves and along the jagged cliffs with beautiful ocean vistas.
5. Jericho Beach Park
Wander through the deciduous-dominated forests, meadows of colorful flowers and reflective ponds in the forests near Jericho Beach.
Happy trails! You may also enjoy my post on my favourite spots for hiking in Vancouver.