Ever heard of Shinrin-Yoku?
In Japan when people want to escape from all the madness — the 24/7 constant assault of motion and commotion — they often head out to the parks, woodland and other open and natural places, to sit in complete silence — with no phone, tablets, music or other distractions.
Although they had probably been doing it for eons before, it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that this practice was recognised and given the name Shinrin-Yoku and since then it has gone on to become the cornerstone of preventative healthcare and healing in Japanese medicine.
There is no exact English-language equivalent, but roughly it translates as ‘forest bathing’, or ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’.
This intrigues me
As part of my global mission to promote and encourage Well being, Well doing & Well living in all areas of our lives, I recently shared a piece on Thrive Global that unpacked a whole kit-bag of life enhancing and life affirming practices from Scandinavia, including SiSu — The Finnish term for being brave, determined, resilient and stoic — although perhaps not all at the same time.
The practice of Shinrin-Yoku might originate from the other side of the world, but I think it’s certainly something else that we should all seriously consider and also add to our day-to-day Well being and Well doing kit-bag.
Silence really is Golden
A 2006 study found that silence really is golden. It can release tension in the brain and body in just 2-minutes.
In fact, the same research found that just silence on its own, was more relaxing than listening to ‘relaxing’ music.
Whilst in 2011, a World Health Organisation report called ‘noise pollution’ a modern plague and it has been proven that loud noise raises stress levels by activating the brain’s amygdala and causing the release of the stress hormone Cortisol.
Silence is good for us and our brain
- It replenishes our mental resources
- It relieves stress and tension
- It can help improve memory by stimulating brain growth in the hippo-campus
- It enables us to tap into the brain’s default setting; an inner stream of thoughts, emotions, memories and ideas that help us to understand and make meaning; &
- It can regenerate brain cells too
In my book ‘Uncovering Mindfulness: In Search of a Life More Meaningful’, I talk about Mindfulness as something that is within each and everyone of us to be uncovered.
And we do this uncovering by the simple act of living our lives in a Mindful way; with passion, compassion, purpose and love.
We are our own consciousness — But not only that — We also hold the key to our own freedom, if we just choose to Be — Freedom from all the motion and commotion of our daily lives — And freedom from all the multiple chains that bind us; financial, familial, professional — actual, metaphorical, and metaphysical.
However, as I explain in Chapter 2, if we were able to look through a gigantic, super powerful electron microscope, we would see something quite surprising and it’s all part of an inherent tension and contradiction of life.
What we thought was form and substance, shape and colour, would turn out to be almost emptiness. In fact, we would see patterns of sub-atomic particles as far apart as specks of stars in outer space.
And if we looked at ourselves we would find that our body had disappeared.
If we were then able to look though a microscope with even more resolution, we would see that the sub-atomic particles are actually not particles at all; they are concentrations, or as Niels Bohr first advanced in his Complementarity Principle in 1928, they are waves of energy without a definite boundary.
In a word, Universal Consciousness?
The Japanese call this state Kensho or Satori, whilst the Chinese word for it is Wu, and these words reference a shared understanding and acceptance dating back a millennia or more, that the whole universe is actually a continuous spread of energy or consciousness, without differentiation.
There are no boundaries separating one sub-atomic particle from another. There are no boundaries separating you, or I, from anyone, or anything else.
So, how do we escape?
“Refuge for the brain is the mind and refuge for the mind is Mindfulness”.
Silence and solitude give us the space to think, act and play ‘catch-up’ with our mind, and can be profoundly beneficial for both physical health and mental well being.
Whilst the daily practice of Mindfulness can enable us to become comfortable with silence and stillness , accepting whatever is in the moment, and it also works with the brain to alleviate stress and quieten the amygdala too.
So, make these 3 things part of your daily routine, or at the very least do them whenever you can:
- Set to mute — deliberately act to quieten the constant chatter, commotion and distractions
- Venture to a place of natural beauty — broaden your horizons just a little further afield (no pun intended) and find places near to you of natural, contemplative beauty; &
- Go for a Mindful walk — Be Zen, so when walking walk and pay Attention in the present moment; practice tuning into what’s going on immediately around you, the sights, sounds and smells — you will savior all the new things that you’ll see and discover
And you really will start to see life through a different lens!
Paul Mudd is the author of ‘Uncovering Mindfulness: In Search Of A Life More Meaningful’ available on Amazon and www.bookboon.com, and in Chapter 6 you’ll find a lot more practical Tips for living a Mindful Life. He is also a Contributing Author to The Huffington Post and a Contributing Writer to Thrive Global. Through The Mudd Partnership he works with business leaders, organisations and individuals in support of change, leadership excellence, business growth, organistional and individual wellbeing and well doing, and introducing Mindfulness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow the continuing journey uncovering Mindfulness on Twitter @TheMindfulBook and at @Paul_Mudd