By: Nina Smiley, Ph.D., Director of Mindfulness Programming, Mohonk Mountain House
Here at Mohonk Mountain House, a Victorian castle resort surrounded by 40,000 acres of a spectacular natural setting, we’ve been encouraging guests to get outdoors for 149 years!
Our outdoor programs have included guided nature walks since our earliest days, often led by Smiley family members (the resort is still owned and operated by the Smiley family). In recent years, we have woven the thread of mindfulness into these excursions, offering the essence of “forest bathing” before even encountering the term. In fact, our mission since our founding in 1869 has been to provide guests with “opportunities for recreation and renewal of body, mind, and spirit in a beautiful, natural setting.”
Currently, we have a staff naturalist, Michael Ridolfo, who leads daily hikes, early-morning bird walks, guided canoe tours on our Lake, and even night hikes. We have added a new program with Michael, The Art of Nature Awareness, which invites guests to experience the science, art, and culture of a deep nature connection. Through mindful hikes, tracking, nature observation, and authentic survival skills, guests will discover the spontaneous attention that occurs when we immerse ourselves in the natural world.
Learn more about mindfulness at Mohonk Mountain House!
As the SpaFinder Trend Report calls out, forest bathing is “mindfulness meets nature.” It’s important to realize that forest bathing is more than simply hiking. Being Mindful (being present in the moment in a gentle, nonjudgmental way) in nature adds the power of intention to a stroll in the woods. The intention of clearing the mind of thoughts and being present with your senses allows you to unplug in a deep and healing way.
Minds are very busy! They think – that’s what they’re good at! Have you ever been on a hike and suddenly realized you’ve been making mental “to do” lists… stewing over an interaction you had yesterday… planning what to wear on Saturday night? With the mindful intentionality of forest bathing, you become aware of the sights around you, the sounds of birds, the smell of the air, the feel of the breeze… Letting thoughts go and being immersed in nature helps calm and center both body and mind – and recent research is showing this to be true scientifically, as well as anecdotally.
I’ve co-authored a book, The Three Minute Meditator, that’s all about making mindfulness “accessible” to people who think they are “too busy” to meditate. Forest bathing is about making the benefits of mindfulness accessible, along with the remarkable power of nature – a truly amazing combination!
If the name “forest bathing” seems a little silly, let’s get beyond it (we do “sunbathing,” right?) – because the impact is priceless!