The five senses are easy. We’ve been using them since we were born and everybody agrees that we have them. The sixth sense – the intuition – takes some effort to develop, so it’s helpful to have a practice to turn to.
I found an interesting one in Forest Bathing by Dr. Qing Li, chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine.
As a side note, I’m amazed to discover that the Japanese have highly developed systems for forest therapy. They have certified forest bases (62 of them!) with trails, restaurants, and doctors on hand. Each one is selected based on its perceived healing features, like the fragrance of the trees or the beauty of its streams. Apparently the Japanese are highly stressed out, and they love their forests, so forest bathing is very popular.
Much of forest bathing is about focusing on your five senses in a meditative way to relax and heal physical issues, but Dr. Li did include a bit about connecting with the sixth sense. He suggests this intuitive sense is our sense for happiness.
There is something in nature that can make us happy that is separate from the happiness we get from other things, like friends, or family, or music. Our relationship with nature is unique, and it can make us uniquely happy. When you can feel that joy in nature, then you are truly forest-bathing!Dr. Qing Li, Forest Bathing
I suggest his exercises are simply a way of helping you focus in on your whole self, and that’s where the happiness comes from. Either way, I had never considered that spending time in the woods might offer a pathway to new flavors of feelings.
Finding your feelings in the forest
When you are in the forest, notice your emotional response to being there
Start by closing your eyes. See if you can feel which way you want to walk. Use your intuition
Notice all the sensual pleasures of the forest
What do you feel when you hear the breeze in the trees and the songs of the birds?
What do you feel when you look at the trees around you?
What do you feel when you smell the forest fragrance?
What do you feel when the sun warms your face, or you lie on the ground?
What do you feel when you taste the fresh air?
Let time drop away and, with it, all your worldly worries
What do you feel now?”Dr. Qing Li, Forest Bathing
And I would add, what do you know now that you didn’t know before?