• vslachman

Shinrin-yoku

Updated: May 22, 2019

It's just a walk in the park . . .



Dorian lives in a completely different world from the intellectual, the one I do when I'm teaching. A place of stillness, quietude, alertness, trust, at-oneness with his surroundings.


It’s a far more appealing place than the chaotic, disappointing, frustrating, sometimes heartbreaking world I’ve lived most of my life in.


One snowy, cold day I decided I was going to try to live a bit more like Dorian and a bit less like . . . me.


My goal? Live like a horse for at least a brief span of time. Say, on a walk in the park . . . .


Once home from the barn, I took Lily for a walk in the snow-filled park. Giving myself over to thinking about being present gave me the idea to try an experiment.



So, for those moments on our walk, I tried to experience the world as a horse might. I had to imagine that, of course, seeing through huge eyes at the sides of my head, being able to take in nearly 360 degrees.


Sounds crazy, right?


Maybe, but I learned a lot.


Doing that meant I had to actually be in the park—it was all around me, in my awareness. I felt serene, which is how horses exist and likely is why (at least to my mind) they’d rather be out in the open than cooped up in a stall.


There’s precedent for how calm, buoyant, and rejuvenated I feel when I'm riding Dorian in the woods.

Shinrin-yoku


Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” Developed in the 1980s, it’s a method for slowing down to take in the surroundings, to listen, see, feel . . . simply be. Studies conducted show this practice results in remarkable health benefits, including


* boosting the immune system * reducing stress * improved mood and focus

* faster surgical recovery * increased energy *improved sleep

* increased intuitiveness *increased sense of overall well being

(http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/)


Japan has given over a significant amount of land dedicated to this experience, and other countries are following suit in implementing mindful forest immersion experiences, including Scotland, Finland, and North Korea.

So my walk-in-the-park experiment wasn't all that crazy, as it turns out.


In fact, as I walked, I realized I wasn't separate from the fields, trees, snowy hills, the ponds, and flocks of honking geese. I wasn’t conscious of myself in the way I normally am. Instead, I had to literally let go of my awareness of self.


I fooled around with this for a while. When I held onto “me” I felt like I was dragging the landscape along with me, which of course is impossible and a constant strain. There was “me” and then that which was outside of “me.”


I think that’s how we have gotten used to living in the world.—as separate from it Alternately dragging it with us, or trying to struggle into it.


But a horse doesn’t live that way. When I was oblivious of myself, there wasn’t any more “me” and “outside of me”—it was simply “all” and that little “me” blended into that vastness outside the supposed outlines of myself without boundaries.


Add to that, the fact that horses have ears that can swivel and an acute sense of sound, hooves that can literally feel what’s happening a long way off on the earth, and a sense of smell that’s vastly superior to our own . . . it’s an astounding way of being in the world when you contemplate it.

Give it a try yourself--you'll see what I mean, I bet.


So I can understand how horses are so authentic . . . their very existence is at one with all else that exists. They don’t struggle to “be” or “be present”—they simply and effortlessly are.


And aren't we all searching, maybe sometimes a little desperately, for exactly that?


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