Forest Bathing International Magazine, Issue 1 - Page 7

There is strength in our diversity

Because this is a new practice, it’s too early to choose one way and say, “This is it!” That would be like saying we know the whole forest when we’ve walked only a bit of one of its trails. There is much yet to discover. Every time I guide a walk, I learn something new. This learning comes from the forest itself. There are many forests in the world, each with their own wisdom to impart. This diversity of forests, of cultures, of personal outlooks and experiences, naturally creates a rich ecosystem that supports many kinds of practices. This is a strength. 

As a strength, diversity is optimized when we can share what we are learning with each other. If someone is given a piece of wisdom from a forest in Africa, I would love to know what that forest taught them. How can we exchange this information? In the world of scientific research there are robust

mechanisms for this: peer-reviewed journals and professional conferences are just two examples. In the world of forest therapy practice there have recently been a few conferences; the IFT Days event in Finland, featured in this issue of Forest Bathing International Magazine, is an example. So is the Forest Bathing International Conference, Congress, and Celebration that will take place in California in July. This magazine is yet

another example. The strength of diversity

is dependent upon sharing. May we find a way to share freely and effectively.

There are also risks

in our diversity

If our practices vary so much that one is almost completely unlike another, then the term we use, be it “forest bathing,” “forest therapy,” or something else, loses its meaning. In order to build a robust field our terms must become associated in the public mind with a shared understanding of what is meant. 

Consider yoga as an example. There was a time when the term “yoga” had several competing meanings. Over a period of perhaps a decade it took on the meaning that it has now. There are many different schools of yoga, but they are all recognizably the same general practice, based on the same general philosophy and shared goals for well-being of body, mind and spirit. If you were to go on a Forest Therapy walk guided in Japan, and one guided elsewhere by an ANFT-Trained guide, you would recognize the similarities; thus “Forest Therapy” would be clearly applicable to both even though they have differences. That’s what we’re aiming for.

Another risk stems from our human competitiveness and leads us into a political realm that could devolve into arguments about which school is “correct,” and who are and are not “legitimate” practitioners. We could find ourselves in a toxic political landscape, where instead of collegial friendships we come to view each other

as enemies. Let's not let this happen.

Much depends on our

sense of purpose

My sense of purpose has to do with serving the well-being of humans and other-than-humans equally, because of my perspective that we are intrinsically connected. Another sense of purpose has to do with responding to the very real health crises among humans caused by urbanization and the environmental effects of the human footprint on the world. These two motivations are beautiful, and they are not in conflict with each other.

ANFT Guides enjoying forest tea Okutama, Japan