This week's guided meditation will be from a forest in British Columbia. Have you heard of forest bathing? It's not actual bathing in water, but immersing yourself in the woods. Being present, noticing the trees, the wildlife, the sounds, the aromas, etc. Forest bathing became an integral part of Japanese preventative health care in the 80s because they discovered that being in a forest lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormone production and boosts the immune system as well as increasing feelings of well-being. In this visualization, you won't be in the forest, but I hope to help you experience the next best thing.
Before we begin our visualization today, I would like to read a quote by Thích Nhất Hạnh (Tich Naht Hanh)
“Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a water snake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.”
You find yourself alone in a red cedar forest. The trees tower above you, and their enormity evokes a feeling of insignificance. The atmosphere is hushed. The ancient forest has trapped in the air around you, and it vaguely smells like incense and earth.
The path winds through the tall cedar grove, and when you look up at the trees towering above you have the impression you are in a cathedral — beams of sunlight filter down to the forest floor. With a sense of reverence, you tread gently on the trail which winds through large clumps of ferns. The pathway is soft from the pine needles littering the forest floor.
The trees have miraculously stood and survived here for hundreds of years despite many challenges. Each one is unique in size and shape. Some of the tree trunks have green moss carpeting their trunks and branches.
You sense some movement above your head. When you look up through the dense canopy, you see a small speckled owl with large brown eyes peering down at you. You gaze at each other for a few moments before you continue walking down the path.
You feel a need to walk even more carefully lest you disturb any other gentle spirits that dwell here.
After a while, you begin to hear a subtle sound of water. As you approach the noise, you see somebody has carved a totem of a frog from a cedar log and also formed a collecting pool in a cedar stump. From its mouth pours a small rivulet of spring water. You scoop the clear water up with your hands and put the water to your lips. It tastes sweet as if it has distilled deep within the earth since the beginning of time. You pause for a moment appreciating the gentle sound of the fountain.
The trail widens, and as you begin walking up a slope, the path opens up, and now the sky is visible through the trees. It is vivid blue, and there isn't a cloud to be seen.
Soon the trail starts meandering through some monolithic boulders. You reach out to touch one of the rocks. It feels cold. The silence of the forest begins to be broken by the sound of rushing water and birdsong.
The trail ends at the base of a tall cliff face over which cascades a glittering waterfall. The mass of it sends a wave of cold air over you, and now and then you feel a light spray on your bare arms and face. Several rainbows dance in the sunshine. The magnificence of the scene is profoundly overwhelming.
To the side of the trail, you notice a bench carved out of a massive cedar log. You walk over to it and sit down. The sound and beauty of the landscape in front of you consumes all your senses. You feel very comfortable and relaxed. Your eyes become heavy, and slowly you drift off into a deep, deep sleep.
Our visualisation today will take place in Venice, Italy.
Before we begin, please find your most comfortable space.
Take a few moments to focus on your breathing to feel grounded and centred.
Here is a quote from Ryokan Taigu which I would like to share with you.
“Keep your heart clear
And you will never be bound.
A single disturbed thought
Creates ten thousand
You find yourself alone in the streets of Venice.
You are lost, but that's OK. That's what happens in the tangle of streets.
The streets are narrow, and the grey rectangular stones you walk on are polished from centuries of people's footsteps. Traders, bakers, fishermen, painters, sculptors and now mainly tourists. Very few people are out walking at the moment.
It is late afternoon. The street ends at a square with one tall shady tree in the middle. Some people are outside drinking coffee; others are looking at a map. As you pass through the plaza, the church bells chime for mass.
All you can hear are the footfalls and the voices of people, and it's inexplicably calming to be in a place where there are no other sounds of the modern world.
You pass through the square and find yourself on an even narrower street. You stop to look up at the houses. They tower above you, resplendent with their crumbling facades, wooden shutters, ornate stone carved window frames and balconies, over which tumble pink geraniums. Underneath a men's clothing shop has closed for the day. The sign in the doorway reads "I Open Sometime".
You keep walking down the perfectly straight street and before long you are standing on a small stone humpbacked bridge. The canal is the colour of jade, and the still water perfectly reflects the grand houses surrounding you. When you breathe in you can distinctly smell the salty Adriatic sea. You are entirely alone, and it is quiet except for the noise of the water in the canal and the sound of some pigeons.
A gondola appears. It is entirely black except for some red upholstered pillows shaped like hearts. The gondolier waves casually to you as he passes underneath the bridge. When he disappears around a corner, he begins to whistle a song.
The sun is low in the sky, and thick golden shafts of light glance through the old dwellings, making the atmosphere more mysterious and magical than it already is.
You continue walking through the straight, narrow passage. You pass by a tabby cat looking at you through an open window.
The street ends at an open lagoon where twelve gondolas are tied up along the side of a small dock. Across the bay, you can see a large domed church with a clock tower. Someone has set up a yellow deck chair by the side of some stone steps. You go over to it and sit down. The breeze, the mellowing sunshine and the sound of the water are intoxicating. You feel calm and at peace. Like you belong here. You close your eyes for a moment, and before long you drift off into a deep, deep sleep.
Our visualization this week is from a secluded part of the Florida seashore.
Before we begin, find your most comfortable position. Close your eyes. Let's take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep breath. Now breathe out. Focus on how the air flows in and out of your lungs. If any thoughts appear in your mind, do not focus your attention on them. Let them drift away, and bring your focus back to your breathing.
You are walking on a straight, smooth wooden boardwalk weathered by its proximity to the sea. The walkway passes through some tall dunes with tufts of high bleached hummock grass. As you walk along you notice little lizards sunning themselves on the warm wood, your presence surprises them, and they dart away.
The wooden bridge ends at a wide sandy beach. The tide is quite far out, and you can see several bands of gentle waves rolling in towards the shoreline.
You take off your shoes. The fine sand feels like powder and cools the soles of your feet.
As you make your way to the shoreline, the sand becomes increasingly dense and compact.
The light wind smells of the ocean and softly brushes the hair away from your face. As you inhale and exhale the air, you feel your cares fade away.
The sky is deep cerulean blue, and the smooth, saturated sandy beach reflects the perfect white fleecy clouds.
When you reach the water, the sea feels warm, and laps gently over your feet as you stroll along the shoreline.
A squadron of pelicans flies overhead. You count eight of them.
In front of you are shorebirds snowy plovers, sanderlings, gulls, terns and long-billed curlews. They are feasting on something just underneath the surface of the sand. As you approach, some fly and others run swiftly away and find another place a little farther ahead. They always manage to maintain a safe distance from you.
Your company is the shorebirds scurrying along in front of you and your shadow cast on the sand by your side. You feel relaxed, at peace.
You notice different things have abandoned by the receding tide, some large fleshy jellyfishes, broken seashells, an empty crab shell and a feather from a bird.
A child is jumping in the waves with her parents. She laughs wildly, and her voice is carried away on the breeze.
You stop and wade into the water, enjoying the pull of the tide against your legs.
As you gaze out into the sea, you notice silver shoals of fish jumping out of the water.
Beyond the waves, the ocean is infinite flat and glassy. You imagine the immense stretch of water between you and Morocco or Algeria.
You make your way back to the powdery sand, and there you sit down, close your eyes, lulled by the hypnotic sound of the waves. You dig a small dip in the cool sand and lie down. You feel the sand cocooning you. Soon you drift off into a deep, deep sleep
Our visualisation today will be from the Mediterranean Sea in Italy.
Before we begin, let's take a few moments for a simple relaxation technique. Find your most comfortable place, and sit or lie down.
Gently close your eyes and take a few moments to connect with your breathing. Inhale calmness, Exhale stress.
Now we will focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group from our feet to our toes.
To begin with tense the muscles in your feet. Now relax the muscles in your feet.
Now tense the muscles in your knees, and then relax the muscles in your knees.
Now tense the muscles in your hips, and relax the muscles in your hips.
Now tense the muscles in your shoulders, now relax the muscles in your shoulders.
Tense the muscles in your neck by looking down, now relax.
You find yourself alone on the hillside next to the Mediterranean Sea. In the distance, you can barely make out the bright blue house in the small fishing village where you have been staying.
The colourful houses there have been clinging to the cliffside for centuries. Small fishing boats are moored in the harbour below. The tranquil water in the shallower parts is emerald green and glimmers in the sunshine. When you look out to the sea on the horizon, it is indigo.
The sunshine warms your skin, but a gentle breeze moderates the heat and brings with it the aroma of the olive groves, the vineyards, the lemon orchards, cypress trees and other assorted wildflowers and herbs you see growing all over the landscape surrounding you.
You are walking on a smooth path that has been traversed by many, Romans, fishermen, traders, and now tourists. On this late summer day, you alone are following in all their footsteps.
In a few moments, you are walking amongst terraced rows of vineyards. Large bunches of green grapes hang from the vines, as you walk along you pick one and put it in your mouth. The plump fruit tastes like delicious nectar. Unlike anything, you have ever tasted before.
On the opposite side of the path is a field of goats lying down amongst some rocks. A solitary donkey peers over the fence, it saw you take the grape, and its expression suggests it would probably like to taste one too.
You are still walking in the vineyard, far below you the water dazzles like rare jewels around the rocks of the cliff.
The vineyard ends, and now the path begins to wind through an ancient olive grove interspersed with cork trees. All trees surrounding you are stubby, gnarled and knotted. Here many birds have found refuge in the shade of the canopy. When you look up through the branches, you can see them darting around.
After a while you find yourself walking gently up the slope into a lemon grove. An old man is working amongst the trees picking the lemons, and placing them in a large wicker basket. He sees you and begins talking to you in Italian, and you clumsily tell him you don't understand. You smile, he smiles and then gestures to a lemon press and a couple of glasses on a checked tablecloth. He squeezes some lemons, adds some honey and water and passes one glass to you and keeps one for himself. "Cheers". The drink quenches your thirst and is delicious.
You say goodbye to the kind Italian soul, and begin walking again along the trail.
Thick gold bands of light are slanting through the branches, and with them, a mysterious sense of drowsiness overtakes you. Off to the side of the path, you see a small bench that someone, maybe the old man has put there. You go over to it, lie down, take some breaths deeply inhaling the delicate air. Slowly you drift off into a deep, deep sleep.
This week the visualisation will lead to a secret garden.
Before we begin, let's take a few moments for a relaxation technique. Find your most comfortable place, and lie down.
Gently close your eyes and take a few moments to connect with your breathing.
Move your right hand to your left collar bone, and use your fingers to gently massage the muscle area underneath it, then around your shoulders and the side of your neck. Feel for any knots or tightness and spend some time massaging those areas.
Now take your left hand and use your fingers to gently massage the muscle area underneath your right collar bone, then around your shoulders and the side of your neck.
During the week, experiment with incorporating this into your regular relaxation routine.
You find yourself alone on a barren hillside covered with purple heather, and bright yellow gorse. A rainstorm has just ended, and the mist has been swept away by a gentle warm wind. The summer sunshine breaks through the broken clouds with long shafts of light that illuminate different areas of the landscape for brief moments.
The air smells of a delicious mixture between damp earth, and the kaleidoscopes of flowers warming up in the sunlight.
Birds fly high overhead, and you can hear insects stirring in the undergrowth.
The pathway leads gradually down the hillside into a valley and becomes increasingly more overgrown with old maid's lace, foxgloves, brambles and the odd nettle. A blackbird appears on a branch overhead and makes eye contact with you. You stop for a moment before continuing.
The trail ends at a tall old brick wall that is entirely overgrown with ivy, honeysuckle bushes, and thick hedges. You pull some of the overgrowths aside, and you discover a heavy, wooden door with a large iron key.
You turn the key, and after pushing lightly, you can go inside.
The garden has been locked up for such a long time that the rose bushes have grown into a tangle, but despite their neglect, the roses are all blooming. They are climbing the walls, wrapped around the tree trunks, and the branches. You see scarlet, yellow, peach and white. As you breathe in and out deeply, you can smell the delicate fragrance of their flowers.
In addition to the roses, you see all kinds of wildflowers too. Satiny poppies of all tints nod their heads in the slight breeze.
You can see the birds have built many nests in the trees and bushes. On the ground, you see the feather of a woodpecker and also broken pieces of a small blue eggshell.
In the middle of the garden, you see an enormous weeping willow tree. Its branches hang down like green curtains. You go over to the tree, part the leafy branches and suddenly you are enclosed by a vault of green.
Underneath the canopy and surrounding the massive tree trunk is a fluffy bed of lush moss. You sit down and look up through the branches. Inside looking out, the leaves appear neon, and in the spaces between them, you see the sky peeking through like beautiful blue eyes.
You lie down on the soft bed of moss close your eyes and slowly drift off into a deep, deep sleep.
〰️ Clara 〰️
I am bringing my favourite outside experiences and imaginings to create visualizations that encourage peace and relaxation.