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The Forest Therapy: A Meditative Rejuvenation

In ancient India, the sages who went deep into meditation and attained enlightenment, most of the credit goes to the forests. Their ashrams were also situated in the forests.

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The Forest Therapy: A Meditative Rejuvenation

Swami Chaitanya Keerti


While conducting meditation retreats around the world, it has been my experience that the participants went deep into meditation in places where there were more trees or where we felt that we were in a forest. More than a decade ago, a meditation camp was organised for us in Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, but the hotel where we stayed did not have a proper meditation hall. So the reception courtyard was temporarily turned into a space for the group of meditators. There were about 30 participants. This courtyard did not feel the right space, suitable to settle into oneself in meditation. Suddenly, on the first morning, when I looked outside the hotel area, I saw one huge Banyan Tree. There was a gentle intuitively feeling that there we could do our meditations--Osho Dynamic, Tantra Prana, Vipassana, Nataraj, Naadbrahma, Kundalini, Kirtan and Evening Satsang--and it was a right decision. After the first session of meditation, the participants got so much rejuvenated that they themselves did not want to leave the tree area. There was some kind of magical prana energy which kept us all there every day from 7am to 8pm. The 3 day camp seemed to be a very short time. The participants did not want the retreat under this benevolent tree to end.


In ancient India, the sages who went deep into meditation and attained enlightenment, most of the credit goes to the forests. Their ashrams were also situated in the forests.


And now we hear about a new concept of "healing forests" in Japan and Korea. The researchers are informing us:  Forests are known to have great healing properties. As humans, we have evolved in nature. It’s where we feel most comfortable. It has been scientifically proven that when we spend time in nature, our brain behaves differently. It affects how we feel and think, which has a direct impact on our immunity and healing powers.


The ted.com tells us that the establishment of dozens of healing forests has become now a part of South Korea's surprising  prescription to improve the health of its citizens. It is attracting large number of health conscious people. It has been reported that Mr. Park Hyun-Soo, a cancer patient, didn’t look like a man on chemotherapy. Forty-one and with a full head of black hair, he can hike the socks off anyone, but he prefers to take his time. Not exactly a forest ranger, Park is is part of a new breed of Korean Forest Agency employee known as a forest healing instructor. He’d actually gone to graduate school for this, passing rigorous entrance qualifications. Although he began his career in a competitive corporate job, he received a diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia at age 34. He decided to seek peace and recovery in the woods, and it worked so well he decided to orient his entire life to the cypress trees.


Mr Park says: Between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors come through here every month, including three to four groups per day geared to some kind of healing, from cancer patients to kids with allergies to prenatal groups and everything in between. Depending on the program, participants may do activities like guided meditation, woodcrafts and tea ceremonies. But the heart of it all is walking in the Hinoki forest.


"Park is at the forefront of South Korea’s ambitious National Forest Plan. Its goal is “to realize a green welfare state, where the entire nation enjoys well-being.” The scope of all this is, true to Korean form, ambitious. In the same way Samsung is trying to outmaneuver Apple and K-Pop intends to dominate Asia, Korea is on a path to outdo the world in forest therapy trails and science." (Courtesy ted.com)


The other Asian country, Japan also woke up to this phenomenon in 1980.  There they use certain term Shinrin-yoku that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. Now their research is helping to establish Shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.  The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.


(Swami Chaitanya Keerti is the author of Mindfulness: the Master Key. He facilitates Osho Meditation Retreats around the world)


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