With life throwing curve balls at us all from left, right and centre, our ability to be fully present or even try and switch off has, for most, become a distant memory. So what can you do when you just simply want to ‘stop the world’ and get off, even for a few minutes? Does it take a long haul flight to a remote island on the other side of the world? It certainly seems the obvious, albeit rather costly answer. However, little did we know that the answer can be found right here in our beautiful county of Sussex.
If you go down to the woods today, you’d better go with an open mind and ideally with a fascinating lady named Helena Skoog. Intrigued? The team at Absolute certainly was when they were invited to experience ‘Forest Bathing’, courtesy of the fabulous Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa in Midhurst. Lured by the prospect of learning a new skill and a highly tempting afternoon tea that follows the experience, Victoria, the Editor here at Absolute set sail for new horizons.
Helena’s story is unique. She was born and raised in the forests of Sweden and has spent the past half a decade living totally off-grid in ancient forestry in Sussex. Now a highly experienced and respected Forest Bathing Practitioner, Helena has partnered up with The Spread Eagle to skilfully guide guests through a series of sensory invitations enabling them to connect, in the present moment, with themselves and their natural surroundings.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term ‘forest bathing,’ it simply means the practice of slowing down and totally immersing yourself in the forest atmosphere. This increasingly popular practise is inspired by the Japanese art of Shinrin-yoku which draws on the therapeutic powers of nature to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and tension and impart you with a profound sense of peace.
If you, like many people who attend these sessions, are completely new to Forest Bathing, firstly it’s probably worth pointing out from the start that it doesn’t involve wearing a swim suit and lolloping in a forest stream. In fact, these Forest Bathing sessions (starting at £35 per person) are the perfect stress and judgement-free introduction to this popular Japanese therapy. You are invited to arrive in comfortable clothing, leave you inhibitions and worries behind (in fact you are encouraged to put representations of those worries into a special box, which Helena burns when she gets home) and immerse yourself in the experience, using the forest as a source of natural well being, followed by a delicious lunch or indulgent afternoon tea.
Without giving too much away, when you enter the forest, you are guided fully by Helena and given the skills to pay closer attention to nature than ever normally would. Even the busiest body and skeptic will find themselves being able to trust Helena to lead them as they slow down, look up and around and slowly allow that nagging to-do list to saunter out of their head. You’ll notice the colour of the leaves around you, the feel of the grass, the patterns amongst the branches above, the textures of the sky and the smells of the foliage. This isn’t pretentious, this actually works. Let’s just say that the internal to-do list didn’t stand a chance. It left with its tail between its legs, defeated by the prowess of Mother Nature (ably assisted by Helena).
Each two hour forest bathing experience with Swedish teacher Helena Skoog is followed by a delicious two course lunch (session starts at 9:30am) or full afternoon tea (session starts at 1pm). As is always the case at The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa, the afternoon tea is simply delicious. Think of all your favourite naughty bites, add classic finger sandwiches and a cup or two of premium tea and you leave the experience as full in the tummy as you are fulfilled in spirit.
Our conclusion is simple – try Forest Bathing. Even if you are a little unsure, bite the bullet (and the cake that follows) and experience something new, exciting, enlightening and potentially life changing. You won’t be disappointed.
The next Forest Bathing sessions at The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa will be held on 4th October 2021 – visit www.hshotels.co.uk/spread-eagle for more details