My family ate a quick meal before heading out the door. We were on our way to a Full Moon Mindfulness and Nature event led by Amanda of Landkind Guide. As we drove further into rural Brattleboro, the sights and smells became more peaceful. I could already feel myself relaxing as I anticipated the evening. My wife asked me to drive faster, and I joked that it was probably the first time in 17 years that I’d received that request.
We pulled into a parking lot and met Amanda and two other participants. After connecting a bit, we walked a short way up the hill and sat as Amanda introduced us to shinrin-yoku, the traditional Japanese practice that translates best into the phrase “Forest Bathing.” While Amanda was talking, we saw an owl fly into a tree. That was auspicious! However, I was still feeling pretty tense, shy, and nervous.
Amanda told us that she’d planned our trip so that we would get the “hard work” of walking up the hill out of the way first. It turned out to be a pretty short walk up, but it was hard for me; there was something about the grasses that made it hard for me to catch my breath. I coughed and had to stop for a drink of water. However, the person behind me waited kindly.
We ended up in the woods, where Amanda invited us to notice the light for a few minutes. I wandered away from where we had been sitting until I reached a spot that spoke to me. Instead of thinking about social anxiety, I was now thinking about depth. I saw the contrast between the deep, dark woods in one direction and the shallow, light woods in the other. I saw the light and depth above me, too, noticing that all the trees above us were of a uniform height and filtered the light similarly.
The worried chatter in my mind disappeared. Its absence was deafening and delightful, but I didn’t realize it was gone. I was absorbed, engaged, and curious. When we gathered again, each member of the group shared their experiences. As the evening went on, we had several more prompts, each easy, helpful, and fun. We were sinking more deeply into comfort as the night went on, and once the full moon came out to play with the clouds, we were able to experience it in awe.
I ended the evening feeling very connected to all the members of our group. It felt like an experience of summer camp packed into two hours: nature’s beauty and new friends you know will always have a place in your heart, even if you never see them again.