Shinrin-Yoku (Forest-bathing)

A Jewish “Hallelujah” During Quarantine
August 7, 2020
Be Brother and Sister to one another
September 8, 2020

by Sister Laureen Marie Painter, OSF

A few weeks ago, my classmate, Sister Paula, told me about an interesting podcast she listened to mentioning the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku wherein we are invited to simply be in nature, connect with it using our senses, regain some calm and serenity, and take a break from the busy-ness of life. What a gold-mine idea…not new to me but one that I wanted to know more about from the eastern perspective.  As I studied the goals and effects of Shinrin-Yoku, I realized it was all about creating a bridge between the busy-ness and the calm of life much like our Franciscan approach to a healthy spiritual life, the blending of active and contemplative aspects.

Shinrin-Yoku creates a partnership with nature, a sensory immersion, an internal connection that leads to a captive meditation on what God, for we Christians, has gifted to us through creation. So very Franciscan…reflect on the “Canticle of Brother Sun.”  Franciscan scholar Regis Armstrong wrote: “This magnificent hymn expresses the mystical vision of the Saint of Assisi and, since it springs from the depths of his soul, provides us with many insights into the profundity of his life of faith in the Triune God, Who so deeply enters into creation.” Creation enables us to connect to the moment of the now, to open ourselves to its Maker, to be cuddled by God. As I visit the woods here in Sylvania and spend time “forest-bathing,” I am caught up with the bursting trees whose leaves provide shade from the heat and am amazed at the peace and stillness that quickly encompass me. But then I realize that in the not-too-distant future these same trees will be letting go of their leaves so as to rest from the giving and enjoy the nakedness of nothing on them.  For me, a genuine example of the bridge between the active and the contemplative in our lives…so Franciscan, so Shinrin-Yoku.

Our brains are bombarded with decision-making, strategizing, and planning while our spirits cry for a break, a pregnant pause in life, a time of comfort if only for a few moments. It has been scientifically proven that when in nature our brains behave differently, blood pressure decreases, sleep improves, stress and depression lessen. If you want to try the easy ways to de-stress, a site like may have some solutions.

“The path to healing and wholeness lies within us and we carry the forest with us. “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he [she] seeks.” (John Muir)

So where do Shinrin-Yoku and Francis of Assisi encourage us to go when the noise in our heads and the hurts of our hearts need to be healed and our spirits refilled? Possibly to creation and all its glory for therein is God.




Sister Laureen Marie Painter

Sister Laureen Marie Painter

Sister Laureen Marie Painter is steeped in Franciscan Studies via her Master’s Degree in Franciscan Studies and Spirituality. She taught at Lourdes University before pursuing a second profession in healthcare administration. Sister Laureen served as a Vice President and CEO in Louisiana at facilities founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word/Houston and CHRISTUS Health from 1992 – 2005. In 2005, Sister transferred to Saint Joseph Health System in Mishawaka, IN where she was the Vice President for Mission Integration, Ethics, Spiritual Care and Community Outreach Services until September 2019. Sister is a LIFE FELLOW of the American College of Health Care Executives. She now resides in Sylvania, is presently on sabbatical, and working on certification as an End-of-Life Doula.

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sean fissel
1 year ago

beautiful connection. i am starting a journey of studying the human relationship with creation and the therapeutic role it can play in our lives and I was really happy to find your post. bless up.

3 years ago

Thank you, Laureen, for a new look at something we’ve have experience in our lives for years. We need it now more than ever.

Kateri Theriault
3 years ago

Thank you for giving me a new name to call what I’ve been doing for so long and for expressing my experience in your words.

Brigid O'Shea Merriman, OSF
3 years ago

Thank you for your uplifting reflection, dear Laureen. I especially appreciate your comment about the noise in our heads. I find the beauty of nature a great help, not only to praise and thank our good God, but also to calm that “noise in our heads” and disturbance that may be in our/my heart. Again, thank you!

Faith cosky
3 years ago

Yes, I believe that nature can be a natural healer just as your blog suggests.
3 years ago

A different kind of “bathing” indeed. Love the image. Thanks!

3 years ago

Lovely reflection, thank you.

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