Human beings often view spirituality as an optional part of everyday life yet for many, it is an innate need, much the same as our primal need to find a connection with nature. Research carried out by Dr. Harold G. Koenig found that people who are more spiritual enjoy better mental health throughout their lifetimes. One fascinating new way countless people across the globe are strengthening their spirituality is through shinrin-yoku: the ‘forest bathing’ ritual developed in Japan in the 1980s, now considered a key pillar of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
How can Spirituality Improve your Health and Wellbeing?
Regardless of whether or not one embraces one particular religion, it is easy to see how spirituality improves wellbeing and connects us to nature. By prioritizing people and the environment over possessions, we are able to keep many maladies that plague the world of materialism, at bay. Stress, anxiety, and depression can arise when we neglect our inner world, and because effort is not necessarily a guarantee of material wealth, ‘failure’ at unrealistic goals can result in major disappointment.
Nature plays an important role in reminding us of what really matters - our loved ones, our peace of mind, empathy for others. Since enjoying time outdoors instills a mindful state, we can freely acknowledge our thoughts, feelings, and emotions when we are in the midst of a natural setting without letting the worries of everyday life block the flow of energy through our body and mind.
What does Shinrin-Yoku Involve?
Shinrin-yoku is also called ‘forest bathing’. It involves walking through a natural area in a relaxed way, opening your senses to the sights, sounds and textures of the green world around you. Guides who take people on these walks encourage them to embrace trees, sit down and listen to birds chirping, and meditate on fascinating life forms such as moss. Ultimately, the aim is to ‘be in the present place and moment’.
The Benefits of Shinrin-Yoku
Research shows that forest bathing has been important benefits, including the reduction of stress, a boost in immune functioning, and enhanced creativity. One study found that people who backpacked for a few days in a wild had a 50% better score at creative problem-solving tasks when they returned. Cognitive psychologist, David Strayer notes that nature permits the brain’s command center (the prefrontal cortex) to rest, just like an overworked muscle. Tuning out enables the brain to concentrate more and improve in terms of conceptual thinking.
Shinrin-yoku is currently used to help many people - including those overburdened by stress, people in rehabilitation for substance abuse, and anxiety-ridden executives whose brain needs a powerful boost. It has many positive physiological effects, but equally important is its ability to instill a mindful state that is requisite for realizing the important role spirituality can play in our lives.
Sacred 7 Inner Sanctuary Meditation
by Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, CHT
Dear Nature Lovers and Wisdom Keepers,
I AM HERE to Re-MIND you, that when feeling overwhelmed by modern life
and unable to take a walk in nature:
take a stroll into your own HEART-wired,
natural inner WHOLENESS,
because your true essence
and the elements,
WATER, FIRE, AIR and EARTH,
also harmoniously co-exist
WITHIN you always and in ALL WAYS.
It may require some re-Member-ing and Re-wiring,
but you KNOW in our BONES, HEART, and SOUL
how to be in the FLOW,
on FIRE, GROUNDED (earth), and SPACIOUS (air)
ALL AT ONCE.
This inner sanctuary meditation provides the structure for "talking a stroll into your own true nature" through the shamanic journeys that I guide nature wisdom keepers on during my re-tree-ts. These re-tree-ts are designed to help you:
Harmonize the song and story of your soul with the elements of nature and the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Clear cultural conditioning that's keeping you small, misaligned, and afraid to emerge out of your protective shell. Live the life you were born to live and resolve unfinished business from this and all previous lives.
"This meditation is the first of a series of deep healing meditations that will help you to resolve unresolved conflict, trauma, depression, and anxiety by building a soul sanctuary. This process will be guided and supported by the sacred 7 directions: the above and below, the 4 sacred elements and directions, the within direction - your sacred heart space - and your own animal, spirit, and ancestral guides (in time)."
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Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, CHT, is a holistic psychologist, shamanic healer, and Depth Hypnosis practitioner, and happiest when exploring how the natural world relates to our true nature in healing sessions and retreats, on the page, and in her meditation journeys and dreams. She's devoted to helping wisdom keepers, seekers, healers, and teachers awaken their fierce inner warriors and carve out their sacred dream paths in service of their dynamic whole self and the greater good. Visionaries, educators, holistic healers, artists, change-makers, and psychotherapists from the Native American Health Center, the UC Berkeley Counseling Center, the Space Clearing Society of the Sacred Stream, and at her private practice, the Sacred Healing Well, have benefited from her gift in holding sacred, creative space, and seamlessly weaving modern psychotherapeutic knowledge and ancient wisdom in her holistic approach.
"In a memoir that’s braver than most, Loraine Van Tuyl shows how personal and ancestral stories and gifts breathe vitality into our life force. While taking us through a memory portal, she invites us to retrace our steps through our jungles of experiences, and dares us to recognize our own instinctual reactions at interesting crossroads in our lives. Her story of reclaiming and nurturing her awakening life force as a student, in the face of strong resistance, is valuable because it opens the door to how personal, cultural and spiritual truths and traditions can transform traditional Western psychology as well as individual lives."
- Maria P. P. Root, PhD, Award-winning Psychologist, Reiki Master, Artist, and author of The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders as the New Frontier
“Loraine Van Tuyl's debut memoir, Amazon Wisdom Keeper, weaves personal and political truths with poetic mastery. By daring to break from limiting conventions—in the field as well as writing—Van Tuyl has forged a liberating path for those at the margins just as her ancestors once did. It is an absolute must for psychotherapists and healthcare providers seeking to make conscious social change and expand the purview of traditional psychology through their multidimensional practice.”
- Tala Khanmalek, PhD, Research Associate, Gender and Sexuality Studies,
"A triumph of the heart! Amazon Wisdom Keeper reminds us of the essential need to connect to our authentic wholeness in order to provide service in the world. Loraine Van Tuyl has vulnerably and powerfully laid out her own journey along this path, inspiring growth, faith, and hope along the way."
- Anne Lowe, MSW, social work instructor, Salish Kootenai College
"From the very beginning, Amazon Wisdom Keeper is a feast for your inner child as well as your growing and developing spiritual indweller. Loraine Van Tuyl draws the reader into a sacred setting that is, for most of us, far away and unknown, yet so richly and succinctly described that the plentiful allegories hang ripe, sweet, and waiting to be plucked and savored. The journey Van Tuyl reveals in dewy, saturating, and powerful language renders her intensely personal experiences into savored, exotic delicacies that are somehow as welcome and familiar as a beloved family recipe. I devoured."
- J. R. Schumaker, author of Diana’s Dragons: the Awaited