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This blog informs you about upcoming workshops or retreats at Emerald Mountain Sanctuary along with seasonal events, here in the mountains of Virginia – perhaps a precious wildflower just in bloom, a meadow lark nest, a salamander down by the pond, or freshly picked produce from the gardens.  Occasionally, we’ll review or link to posts by other authors about nature- and retreat-related themes.  If you click on the “Follow” button below, you’ll be notified by e-mail about new posts, so you won’t miss anything.  You can also stay in touch by “liking” our Facebook page.

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Grandmother Elm

I met her there, at the edge of the large meadow,
deeply rooted and
spreading her shade wide.
She is old, so old.
Still, she stands her ground and beckons to
those who will sit with her.
Like the Buddha head nestled against her roots,
she is a faithful witness to the beginning of time.
A stony witness to change through
loss of leaves, loss of limbs, loss of youth.
Still, she persists,
a timeless guardian
providing
refuge, shade, solace, counsel
without expecting reward.

Take it or leave it.

Grandmother Elm
Grandmother Time.

If you would like to experience a connection with a tree, find one and visit it frequently. Sit quietly, observe without expectation, breathe, journal. The tree will tell you stories. I invite people to find “their” tree on our guided forest bathing walks.

Intense Tree Love

Trees are fascinating beings! I came across this post from my Beauty Along the Road blog that is worth revisiting.

The Beauty Along the Road

I have lived in many different countries and physical environments; however, I don’t think I could live without trees for long. I remember a cross-country ride from California to DC, crossing the seemingly endless Kansas flatlands with hardly any tree in sight; then approaching the first tree-covered hillsides in Missouri. Seeing those trees felt like a homecoming.
I grew up in the foothills of the Black Forest in Southern Germany. There were trees everywhere, they are part of me. I believe in what I call the “landscape of the soul.” It is that place we feel most at home in. The landscape of my soul always contains trees; whether they are pines, mangroves or mango trees does not matter.

Ich habe in vielen verschiedenen Ländern und Umgebungen gelebt; jedoch denke ich nicht, dass ich ohne Bäume lange leben konnte. Ich erinnere mich an eine Crosscountry-Fahrt von Kalifornien nach Washington DC…

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Have you heard of Forest Bathing?

Forest bathing is a term that sounds a bit magical; however, it means nothing more (or less) than being with trees in a mindful and receptive manner. You can sit or meander under the trees, no need to hike or exert yourself – nature appreciation in its simplest form.

Forest bathing originated with the Japanese phrase shinrin-yoku.  Japanese researchers now have research results spanning several decades that document the beneficial effects of spending time with trees.

These are some of the positive physiological effects of communing with trees:

Forest bathing lowers heart rate and blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, boosts the immune system, and improves feelings of wellbeing.  In a 2009 study, research subjects showed significant increases in natural killer (NK) cell activity in the week after a forest visit. The positive effects lasted a month following each weekend in the woods. NK cells are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20074458

It appears that by inhaling the phytoncide contained in the forest air (essential oils emitted by trees to protect themselves from germs and insects), our human immune system is strengthened as well.

Another Japanese university study took various biometric measures of subjects during a day in the city and compared them to the same measures during a day that included a half-hour forest visit.  The researchers found that:  “Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835

In other words, we feel more rested and less stressed after spending time with trees.

One of the studies of the psychological effects of forest bathing found the following:

Almost 500 healthy volunteers filled out measures of hostility and depression, twice in a forest and twice in control environments. The subjects showed significantly lower hostility and depression scores, and felt much more alive, after exposure to trees. The researchers concluded that forest environments can be considered “therapeutic landscapes.”  http://www.publichealthjrnl.com/article/S0033-3506(06)00146-6/abstract?cc=y=

Here at Emerald Mountain Sanctuary, specific trees seem to hold unique and distinct energies – we have stately oaks, wise maple trees, gnarly apple trees, spiky hawthorns, and many other trees to visit with.  In fact, when Dan and I first visited this property with our real estate agent, I sat under a large oak tree for a while by myself.  It was here I received the strong message that this was to be our land.  I have no doubt that it was the oak tree that whispered to me.

Source for much of the info in this post came from: https://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/