Day 28 of the Feast
Dear One,

Have you ever been forest bathing? Most of us have, but perhaps the term is new. When I lead retreats, I am sure to escape deep into a forest. Being surrounded by the beauty, prana, and hidden delights, I instantly feel as if I'm among kindred spirits and am a part of the community of aliveness, harmony, and peace. Being in the forest renews our intimacy with the primordial forces of water, earth, air, space, fire, and light. It seems as if every bit of nature beckons us to fall in love with it. And I do.

What amazes me is how much nature loves, and it goes without saying, unconditionally loves. Lately I've been considering how much mother earth puts up with from us humans: the paving over, drilling, scarring, trashing, carving, and dumping into her. And she, like the loving mother she is, seems to forgive us for it. When I remember to, I apologize to her. Especially when I am in the forest. I realize that my relationship to nature and the earth is one that is beyond the intellect, it is a relationship I have to cultivate, and give back to. I often make this vow: to see the divinity inherent in every sentient being, including the earth.

In Ireland, I am told there are fairies, hidden benevolent and powerful beings, who dwell among the moss covered trees and ivy carpeted ground. You might sense them. I find it's important to walk silently, slowly, and carefully so I can embrace and savor each moment in their company.

In the small, yet great, old growth forest in West Cork where I've hosted the meditation teacher training, there's a slow moving stream which feeds a few small, mostly still ponds. I often make my way down the path onto a wooden bridge where I can stand and watch the water's stillness, punctuated only by a skimming water bug or two.

When I toss a pebble into the surface, the captivating ripples they travel far and strong, until at some particular invisible barrier, they disappear. These ripples teach us that action can be powered by stillness. And, each one of us creates a ripple effect by our practice and our vows.

Here is an excerpt from a poem that David Whyte wrote, All the True Vows:

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break.....
Thank you for putting your spirituality first during this time of deep practice. I am practicing with you.

Love, Sarah

Sarah McLean
Director, Feast for the Soul, Inc.

P.S. The Feast is cost free to anyone who wants to join us. You are never asked to buy anything, or upgrade the services. The Feast is commercial-free and always will be. Our overhead is low, since everyone (but our webdesigner) works absolutely free. The budget is less than $6000 a year. And most of it is for this, the Constant Contact email platform, along with postage and printing. If you and everyone who observes the Feast, donates 50 cents, we'd be able to pay the bills! Click this link if you feel moved to donate.
Meditation Teacher Highlight
This is day 28 of the Feast.

Four weeks of practice! Here is a beautiful chant to listen to before or after you meditate from one of this years' faculty members, Dada the Monk Dude . Watch and listen to him sing a beautiful chant at his TedX talk here. Then, give yourself 40 minutes of silent practice. To time it, use an analog timer. Don't use your phone, or a kitchen timer, or make it arbitrary. Instead, use a watch a clock, keeping time with something that won't disturb you when the meditation period is through. If you want to know what time it is, look up and check your clock or watch. Then, if you have more time left to meditate, close your eyes again. This is how we did it in the good old days :) It works. And you can do it. Let the silence show you the path today.
Spiritual Practice Tip
Let nature be your teacher. Fall in love with a forest.

There's a new name for the practice of deliberately mindfully walking in a forest. It's called shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” and its a practice developed by the forestry service of Japan, where nearly 91% of the population lives in urban areas. It’s practiced all over the world.

The key to forest bathing isn’t to cover a lot of area, but instead to slowly walk while unplugged from devices. Allow yourself to be soothed by the sights, sounds, smells and textures. It’s not a hike, as there is no goal other than to do it .
Here's how to Forest Bathe:

  • Allow yourself at least one hour.
  • Wear the right shoes, and bring water.
  • Turn off your cell phone, completely.
  • Let the spaciousness of nature inspire the spaciousness of your mind.
  • Walk slowly and mindfully, yet walk without a destination.
  • Feel how the earth supports you as you take each a step.
  • When you feel called to, stand sill and close your eyes, feel the air, space, sun, wind.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, welcoming the aromas.
  • Listen to the tapestry of sounds.
  • When you notice your mind wandering to another time and place that isn't here and now, bring your attention back to this moment: this moment is when your real life is happening.
  • Let your senses anchor you to the present moment.
  • If you feel anxious or bored, it might be you are releasing stress. Instead of focusing on your to-do list, practice your to-be exercise.
  • Create a real relationship to the earth.

The experience can be luxurious and relaxing, like a warm bath. Afterwards, you'll likely feel better without even seeing the research proving the health benefits,which include reduced blood pressure, cortisol, anger and depression, as well as enhanced energy, mood, and immunity.
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