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‘Forest bathing’ takes tree hugging to new extremes

By Steve RubensteinApril 18, 2018 Updated: April 18, 2018 3:10pm

There’s a revolutionary new way to walk through the forest. V-e-r-y slowly.

Take a few steps. That’s far enough. Now sit down and talk it over with the person next to you, for a long time.

It’s a New Age thing in Sonoma County. Walking very slowly through the forest — while thinking about walking very slowly through the forest — is a full-blown movement. It could be a paradigm. The people who do this call it “forest bathing.” It doesn’t involve actual bathing, the kind with water. It’s figurative bathing. You soak in the wonders of the forest. Take your time, a whole lot of it. And bring a cushion.

About a dozen of us forest bathers were sitting on the ground the other morning at Quarryhill Botanical Garden, in Glen Ellen (Sonoma County), to find out what it was all about. We had taken an hour to meander from the parking area 50 yards down a manicured garden trail overlooking a vineyard. The idea was to look closely at absolutely everything. Examine all twigs. Inspect all leaves. If you see an ant, stop and take it in. Get up close and personal with your ant.

At a half dozen steps per excruciating minute, covering 50 yards takes some doing.




Forest therapy guide and trainer Amos Clifford explains the practice of “doing nothing” in the woods of Sonoma County.

“It feels good to sit here and not go anyplace,” said Amos Clifford, the man in charge, the fellow who helped dream up very slow forest walking and who just wrote a book about it. His $15 paperback, “Your Guild to Forest Bathing,” has climbed like a trumpet vine to No. 3,726 on the Amazon best seller list.

“The slower you go, the more you experience,” Clifford said. “We’re always in such a hurry to go from ‘here’ to ‘there’ that we never fully experience ‘here.’”

There was a lot to talk about the other morning. There was a long discourse about a hummingbird. Several of us had seen it. The hummingbird had been amazing, we agreed. Also amazing was a wild rose bush, a honeybee, the sound of a distant stream and some purple flowers that nobody knew the name of.