But first a bit of background. One of the things I've been experiencing from doing this practice on a regular basis is a growing sense of awareness of pleasurable feelings in my body. There is a flow of subtle sensation that is awakened by going through a sequence of nature connection activities. These sensations are things that we might not normally be aware of, but they are there. They are like a kind of electricity that I feel in my chest, my neck, my torso, my face. And they are all characterized by a kind of light tickling pleasure, a very sensuous joy.
I'm thinking of the title of David Abrams book, "The Spell of the Sensuous." It's a couple of years since I read that book; at the time I very much enjoyed it, but I can't remember anything about its content. The title rings true, and as I do more shinrin yoku walks, I experience in ever more profound ways the spell of the sensuous. Opening our senses to the world we are in, particularly the natural world invites the flow of Eros through our bodies. I am using the word Eros in its meaning as the energy of vitality, of life itself. Each activity we do helps to open and fine-tune and expand one or more senses. The trail and the forest enters us through these expanded sensory portals. This is a fundamentally pleasurable experience. In this sense shinrin-yoku can incorporate an element that is erotic.
The scientific literature on shinrin-yoku includes a number of experiments that are aimed at discovering the causative factors for the observed beneficial health effects. I don't recall any of them investigating the hypothesis that is coming forward for me as a result of these walks. My hypothesis is this: the experience of sensuous pleasure associated with opening to nature has healing effects. And these effects are probably in multiple domains: we benefit physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. I think we also benefit relationally, because when we take pleasure in our relationship with landscapes and our companions on the trail (human and not-human) we are naturally drawn to deepen those relationships. If you know of any studies related to this, please let me know about them.
Here's an activity you can try. Don't do this alone. We need each other to hear, witness, and mirror our experiences. The untamed world of nature is characterized by multiply embedded networks of rich relationships; nothing exists on its own, and all events and actions are in the context of relatedness. As humans experiencing nature we are well served to emulate this; do this work with others; and if they are people who you trust and love (as I trust, love, and respect Lindsey) so much the better. Your experience in a group will almost certainly be significantly deeper than if you try this on your own.
Stand in an open place, like a meadow, that is surrounded by natural landscapes. Simply stand still with your companions. Let your body orient itself so you are standing in a way that maximizes the sense of pleasure; consider sunlight and warmth, the direction the wind is coming from, which view calls most deeply to you, and so on.
As you stand together, invite each person to notice out loud anything present that is a source of pleasure. For example, "The feeling of the breeze stirring the hairs on my arms;" "The way the raven makes its turn and flares it tail;" "The feeling of the dirt on my bare feet;" and so on. Give this a good five minutes. Notice what changes for you as do this; do new sources of pleasure become apparent, sources that you might not have noticed before?
It's so sweet to share this with other people. And it's intimate as well. Because of the intimacy it might be a bit edgy for some people. Ease into it and see how it goes. Perhaps you will invent variations on the activity. Please let me know if you do.
Happy and pleasurable wandering!