Tag Archives: cypress

Wood weaving & forest bathing in Nagano, Japan

Last weekend, I co-organised a trilingual forest retreat weekend in Nagano, Japan I helped to organize. Yes, trilingual 😃. At some point I was mixing Japanese, Spanish and English 😅. On the program we had wood weaving, yoga, core tuning, hot bath (onsen) and the forest therapy session – which I guided. We stayed in a 200 year old wooden house. Japanese style in the countryside. It has an irori, a sunk fire pit in the wooden floor. In this blog I will share some impressions about wood weaving and forest bathing.

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This forest weekend retreat was hosted by the yoga studio Mind Body Space in Nagoya.

Wood weaving

Hinoki is one of the most elegant types of wood in Japan. This tree is a type of cypress that is considered sacred and only grows in this part of the world. Hinoki has been used since ancient times in Japan as a construction material to build temples and shrines and is considered as one of the 5 “forbidden woods” in the time of samurai. You could lose your hand or head if you cut down this wood. In other blogs I wrote (indirectly) about hinoki wood and the sustainable silviculture practices introduced by samurai in the 17th century:

It is not only the durability that makes this wood amazing. Yes, some constructions made from this wood are more than thousand years old, like the Horyuji temple, the oldest wooden structure in the world. What I like the most about hinoki, is the scent. Even after some years you can smell the scent. Another application is to make strips of it, and weave it according to some patterns into hats, baskets and other useful stuff. Last Saturday afternoon, somewhere in Tsumago (Nagano), with the help of patient professionals, we made coasters. It was quite therapeutic, to use your hands, and focus on the patterns for 1,5 hour.

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Forest bathing in a gorge

On Sunday morning it was my task to wake up everyone at 05.30 to do a silent walk next to the river. I asked them to leave their phones and cameras (but I took mine to take some photographs in the end, although I also felt difficulty in the beginning to not take my camera and look for “good pictures” instead of looking for the nature in myself).

First we sat in a circle at the entrance of a path, and I explained them some differences between Japanese forest bathing and western school of forest therapy. I told them that for me forest bathing is not the same as meditation, but more about finding pleasure. We will open up our senses to feel sensuality. I told them to listen -like elephants- and observe – as owls- for five minutes, and then to share one thing they  noticed and how it made them feel inside. After this exercise I asked them to be silent from the moment we will enter the forest. It felt like we entered one of the magical forests depicted in the Japanese popular anime movies from Miyazaki, like “My Neighbour Totoro”.

Some people expressed they felt very nostalgic to a connection they had with nature when they were a child. Someone admired the resilience of trees, even in a landslide we passed, and that she wants to be more like this. Another participant felt the suffer of a tree when she touched its trunk. Forest therapy is not always about getting “good feelings”. It is about restoring the relationship between nature outside us and the nature in ourselves. And then we see we have been bad to trees, rivers and nature. For me, forest bathing is also a way of environmental activism.

At 07.00am we were back in the 200 year old house where we stayed, to share corn tea from a Mexican friend who stayed behind to put away the futons and prepare the meal. After a breakfast, I hold a second session where the participants were invited to go back into nature and create art, like a collage of things they found, a haiku or a song. Our youngest participant made a haiku about how the moon and the stars became friends.

It was a beautiful weekend. I am grateful.

This is the poem I wrote during my own forest therapy:

When the sun invites the moon,

I hear the drums of the forest.

The colours start to dance to it’s swan song .

Shades hug trees and rocks like old lovers,

too busy during the day. Only time for an embrace,

when the sun invites the moon.

The colours fade away. My heart beat stops.

The moon arrives. A new journey begins.

I only breathe when I listen.

Interested to participate?

I will leave soon Japan for three months, for a training in Colorado and data collection and other projects in Belgium and Sweden.

However, in late autumn, when the trees in Kyoto color deep red, I will return and plan more moments of forest therapy. If you are in Central-Japan, and like to hang out with international company (trees and humans), send me a message of contact me through Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wereldwoude_verhalen/.

Ha en god dag! 

Written in the Trees: Celtic Tree Astrology (1/2)

Did you know that the ancient Celts based their astrology on the flowering period of trees? They translated the characteristics of the prevailing trees into characters. The tree calendar is divided into 39 periods. There are 21 tree species with a ruling period of up to ten days in the spring and autumn. In addition, there are four holy trees (oak, birch, olive tree and beech) that are bound to one day in the year. Do you recognize yourself in the tree that reigns during your birthday?

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1. FIR  TREE (mysterious): extraordinary taste and dignity, sophisticated, loves anything beautiful, moody, stubborn, tends to egoism but cares for those close to them, rather modest, very ambitious, talented, industrious, discontented lover, many friends, many foes, very reliable.

2 . ELM TREE (noble-mindedness): Sensitive and independent, this tree type is quirky and engaged the willpowerful traits of a convincing leader. An elm person has a clear goal in mind and can also really see people for who they are. The elm loves harmony and is open-minded. By definition, this does not give him an easy character, because this tree has high expectations of itself and others. Other characteristics are pleasant shape, tasteful clothes, oddest demands, tends not to forgive mistakes, cheerful, likes to lead but not to obey, honest and faithful partner, likes making decisions for others, noble-minded, generous, good sense of humor, practical.

3. CYPRESS (faithfulness): Cypresses are strong, muscular, adaptable, content, optimistic, craves money/acknowledgment, hates loneliness, passionate and insatiable lover, faithful, quick-tempered, unruly, pedantic, and careless.

4. POPLAR (uncertainty): The poplar is often insecure, because it has a serious attitude to life and an extremely sensitive character. The poplar is creative, philosophical and organizational. He is a good manager, but he can also be very sloppy and confused. Poplars tactically hide their feelings out of fear of being hurt or dependent. This is not good for love relationships. Other characteristics are very decorative, not very self-confident, only courageous if necessary, needs goodwill and pleasant surroundings, very choosy, often lonely, great animosity, artistic nature, good organizer, leans toward philosophy, reliable, takes partnership seriously.

5. CEDAR (confidence): Unlike the poplar, the cedar is known for its self-confidence. He is going to achieve what he wants to achieve. The cedar is sure of that. He remains faithful to his views. He also likes to impress others and knows how to adapt effortlessly to situations and companies. A cedar always goes for gold. A cedar is of rare beauty, adaptable, likes luxury, of good health, not shy, tends to look down on others, self-confident, determined, impatient, likes to impress others, many talents, industrious, healthy optimism, waiting for the one true love, able to make quick decisions.

6. PINE (particular): Pines are quiet people who can even appear passive. Appearance deceives De den sets high standards and is known as the most picky tree type. Seriously the pine strives for perfection and justice. Generally this tree type is beautifully set, but love can release passionate passion. A pine, they say, loves agreeable company, very robust, very active, natural, a good companion but seldom friendly, falls easily in love but the passion burns out quickly, gives up easily, everything disappoints until the ideal is found. A pine can be trustworthy, and practical.

7. WEEPING WILLOW (melancholy): This empathic and artistic tree type can fully enjoy the good life. He has an eye for obliqueness and is intuitively underlying death. Willows wine honest, bold and energetic. They are also popular. They like to travel, but also often like to be at home. He is beautiful, but full of melancholy, attractive, very empathetic, loves anything beautiful and tasteful. He is a dreamer, restless, capricious, honest, can be influenced but isn’t easy to live with, demanding, good intuition, suffers in love but sometimes finds an anchoring partner.

 8. LINDEN (doubt): A linden tree type accepts what life dishes out in a composed way, hates fighting and stress, dislikes laziness and idleness, dislikes labor, soft and relenting, willingly makes sacrifices for friends, many talents but not tenacious enough to make them blossom, often wailing and complaining, very jealous but loyal to lovers and friends alike.

9. OAK (brave): An oak is very honest. What you see is what you get. They have a robust nature, are courageous, strong, unrelenting, independent, sensible, do not like change, keep their feet on the ground and are persons of action.

10. HAZELNUT (extraordinary): They are the explorers and travelers. They are always interested in new adventures and experiences. They are modest and because of their charm and their empathy they can conquer many hearts. They are undemanding, understanding, charming, knows how to make an impression, fighter for social cause, popular, moody and capricious lover, honest and tolerant partner, precise sense of judgment.

11. ROWAN (sensitivity): A rowan is a world improver. It is a finely sensitive tree type that attracts the suffering of the world. It is an example to others and holds the social reins in cocks. He is all positive, likes to be in good company and loves honesty and openness.full of charm, cheerful, gifted without egotism, likes to draw attention, loves motion and unrest even loves complications, is both dependent and independent, good taste, artistic, passionate, emotional, good company, does not forgive.

12. MAPLE (independence of mind): full of imagination and originality, shy and reserved, ambitious, proud, self-confident, hungers for new experiences, sometimes nervous, has many complexities, good memory, learns easily, complicated love life, wants to impress.

13. WALNUT (passion):  Passion and passion characterise the walnut tree. These are solid types that know what they want and how to achieve it. These people are spontaneous and sociable. A walnut bean is alert, driven and quite stubborn. They inspire others by their natural overview and powerful attitude. They are unrelenting, full of contrasts, often egotistic, noble, broad horizon, unexpected reactions, spontaneous, unlimited ambition, difficult partner, not always liked but often admired, ingenious strategist, jealous and passionate, no compromise.

You can find the rest of the tree astrology here.