The Latest California Fad: Forest Bathing

From the state that gave the world tree-hugging, I now bring you the latest in eco-kookiness: forest bathing.   That’s correct, in California’s Sonoma County (best known for its incredible wine) there’s a revolutionary new way to be one with nature, and it must be done v-e-r-y slowly.

Fortunately, it doesn’t involve naked hippies submerged in tubs full of compost.

Instead, forest bathing is about moving through the natural environment as slowly as humanly possible—slower than a sloth on sleeping pills.  In the process one carefully examines everything they come in contact with—absolutely everything.  Examine all twigs.  Inspect all leaves.  If you see an ant, stop and take it in like it’s next of kin.  At a half-dozen steps per excruciating minute, covering 50-yards is about all one should be able to accomplish in a day.

And, of course, there’s a guru ready to guide you for a notable fee.  His name is Amos Clifford and he even wrote a book on the subject.  His $15 paperback is entitled, Your Guide to Forest Bathing.
“The slower you go,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle, “the more you experience.  We’re always in such a hurry to go from ‘here’ to ‘there’ that we never fully experience ‘here.’”

Hmm.

Would you be surprised if I told you Clifford, 63, is a longtime Zen meditation student (and a former mental health counselor) who entered the forest bathing trade about six years ago, adapting it from a similar Japanese practice.  Now this new-ager is raking in the greenbacks.   Clifford has turned his lethargic walks into a cottage industry. He leads $50 forest bathing treks for newbies, and for $3,400 there are forest bathing workshops for wannabe leaders.  In fact, Clifford is in such high demand that he’s flying around the world in jets to tell people they’re moving too fast!

Clifford says forest bathing walks are a series of invitations to “do something,” like “embody awareness” or “notice what you’re noticing” or “talk to a tree.”  Trees, he claims, are very human-like; so much so that he says we all have a twin tree out there somewhere.

“I want everybody to find a tree that’s your twin,” Clifford said.  “Talk to your tree.  Ask your twin about yourself.  Find out all you can from your tree.  Put your hand on your tree.  Take your time to get to know your tree.”

Put your hand on your tree?  I’m wondering how that will fly with the #MeToo movement?  Sounds like potential harassment.

One forest bather told the Chronicle, “My tree asked me why I was so afraid.”

“My tree said it thought that we could grow together,” said another.

One woman observed that the leaves at the top of her tree swayed in the breeze, but that the trunk of her tree did not move, being thick and solid and stuck in the ground.  She called it an “interesting contrast.”  |

I’m calling it a case of someone who may have spent their entire life inside a sanatorium.

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