There’s something unmistakably restorative about walking through a forest. It can be a time of relaxation, reflection, and reconnection with your inner Self. While it might be impossible to regularly escape into nature, you can have a similar experience in the comfort of your own home through meditation.
Qi Gong—an ancient Chinese practice—offers a visualization meditation that walks you through a forest. It’s meant to reconnect you with the abundance of healthy life energy inside of you and all around you. Using your body’s natural rhythms, this meditation can help create greater harmony in your mind, body, and spirit, as well as more bliss and healing.
Scientific studies confirm that spending time in nature, or even just seeing photos of nature, can make you happier and healthier. A 2015 Stanford study found that when young adults spent an hour wandering through parkland, it improved their anxiety levels and their memory.
According to another recent study, people who simply look at pictures of green pathways recover faster from stress. These studies are proving what Qi Gong has always taught: Visualizing being in nature can be extremely beneficial for your whole being.
Follow these steps to begin your Qi Gong’s forest meditation practice and experience its life-altering power.
Step One: Become Present
- Sit in a comfortable, upright position or lie down with your spine straight, yet relaxed.
- Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath, becoming aware of how your body feels as you inhale and exhale.
- Guide your attention from your head down through your neck, shoulders, and arms. As you allow your awareness to descend, notice if you can feel the earth gently pulling you downward. See how much you can allow each muscle to surrender to the pull of gravity.
- Slowly continue bringing your attention down over your torso, shining your loving presence on each part of your body.
- Allow your attention to move into your pelvis, through your legs, and into your feet.
Step Two: Enter the Forest
- From this place of deep connection with your body, imagine yourself standing in a pristine forest that you love.
- Picture yourself walking down a path through the forest, noticing the sunlight coming in through the tree canopy above. Are there ferns in the forest? Become present to dragonflies or other insects flitting about in the woods.
- As you move through the forest, feel your feet on the path.
- Take a moment to smell the fresh air and to experience it on your bare skin.
- Reflect on what a miracle it is that every day this forest replenishes itself, without any assistance from you or anyone else. The trees naturally clean the air, transforming carbon dioxide into the oxygen you breathe so effortlessly. The water in the creek nourishes the forest that it rushes through, and you have the good fortune to be able to show up and enjoy all of it.
- Observe how your body feels in this spot, and notice how you are just as much a part of this healthy ecosystem as anything else present in this forest. You are home here.
Step Three: Find the River
- Listen for the sounds of a running water up ahead, and then look up to see an opening in the forest where you see a river glinting in the sunlight.
- Walk towards it and out onto a sandy riverbank that warms your feet.
- Ease down to the river where you place your feet in the warm, crystal clear water, allowing it to wash over your toes. Imagine any negativity floating away in the healing balm of the warm water.
- Slowly walk deeper into the water until it swirls around your calves and then around your hips, being aware of how the yin and yang energies of the sunlight and the water converge on the water’s surface. The splendor of the light on the water reminds you that all the cells in your body also contain healthy, life-giving energy and water.
- Work yourself all the way into the water, feeling it cascade around your shoulders, carrying away any tension or stress you may be holding.
- Now, visualize walking up onto the sandy shore and finding a comfortable place to sit down.
- Take a moment or two to notice how you feel after experiencing the rejuvenating effects of the river. Allow those uplifting sensations to be fully present in your body.
- From this refreshing place, consider how you want to feel in your body as you move around in the world. Who do you want to be, and how do you want to feel? What would you like to be doing? What do you want your relationships to look like? How do you want to show up at work or bring your talents into the world? What changes do you want to make? What do you need to let go of to be more in harmony with the vitality you experience right now?
- Envision yourself doing and being all of these things. Trust that the universe is powerful enough to grow these seeds within you.
- Now, bring your hands to your lower abdomen, feeling your mind, body, and spirit in harmony.
- Express gratitude to yourself for making the time to experience the miracle of life in this moment.
- When you’re ready, open your eyes.
Taking the Forest into Your Life
By visualizing being in the presence of a life-giving forest, you can powerfully activate and engage your own vitality. You can also open up your capacity for inner healing and for living a more authentic life.
Make time to journal about what surprising things you saw or discovered about yourself or who you want to be in the world. And put a date on your calendar to go out into the natural places you love.
Finally, as often as possible, recognize that just as the forest has its own harmony, you too can be a source of harmony for others.