As I journeyed over the last few days across the diverse landscapes of Argentina, from Mendoza to Bariloche, I was enveloped by the vastness of ever-changing terrains, a complexity that seems to elude the grasp of the mind—deserts, steppes, rocky expanses, lands cloaked with trees, and the imposing Andes of Patagonia.
In the revered role of a Shinrin Yoku guide, the deep connection to the forest serves as both an asset and a challenge. This bond, imbued with respect, and personal experience, empowers the guide to discern the forest’s subtle cadences, curating an immersive journey for participants. Such a connection, while ensuring that the guide resonates deeply with the forest’s rhythms, can at times become so intense that it overshadows the individual experiences of those they lead.
In the grand narrative of human existence, the forest stands as both a sanctuary and a reflection of our innermost selves. Our engagement with nature, particularly through practices like Shinrin Yoku, reveals a profound interplay of giving and receiving, a dance of energies where humanity and the woods are entwined in a mutual embrace. When we immerse ourselves in these verdant realms, we don’t just extract tranquility or insights; we enter into a dialogue, where each whispered breeze or rustling leaf echoes with lessons of mindfulness, reciprocity, and interconnectedness.
If I operate under the belief that I am innately good, or at least neutral by default, then I must question what factors have led this state to erode over time. Is it a vulnerability to the negative influences or ‘diseases’ of others that causes this initial state to disintegrate?
I have to be fine with who I am not. This thought has occupied my mind for a while now.
The statement “I have to be fine with who I am not” certainly invites a deeper level of self-awareness. It challenges me to confront my limitations, accept them, and still find contentment. This acceptance is not a sign of defeat or complacency; rather, it’s an acknowledgment that I am a work in progress, and that’s okay. It invites to yet another inquiry.
Today, I’ve been granted a unique opportunity by the whims of nature. A power outage in my city has disrupted my usual routine, leaving me momentarily adrift. Typically, I’d be immersed in a sea of emails and assignments, but the absence of internet access has created a void in my day. This led me to ponder: how should I spend this unexpected free time?
It took some time to recognize this situation as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience. Eventually, I found myself reaching for my headphones and diving into my music playlist. As the melodies of piano and violin filled the air, I was reminded of the complexities and wonders of human existence, both known and unknown. The music transported me to places I’d never even imagined—uncharted territories within myself that both transform and reaffirm my sense of identity: who I am, who I am not.
Following my extensive exploration of freedom in the forest, I found myself drawn to a new, unexpected terrain—the vast and unforgiving deserts of Argentina. It was an inclination I did not initially understand or even accept. My conviction had always centered on the forest as the conduit for my connection to nature, for my sense of peace, and the catalyst for confronting my fears. The desert, with its seemingly barren landscape, stark openness, and harsh climate, seemed the antithesis of what I had sought in the lush green woods.
As profound as the freedom found within the forest is, I’ve come to recognize that it too carries its own limitations. It’s not the rustling leaves that shiver with the passage of a foraging animal, nor the distant howl of a wolf under the moonlight that engenders fear. Rather, it is the specter of my own species, the potential encounter with another human, that casts a shadow over the otherwise peaceful forest sanctuary.
The words of Henry David Thoreau, immortalized in his famed chronicle ‘Walden’, echo in my mind each time I venture into the wilderness: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, as central figures in the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, made significant contributions to the cultural and philosophical discourse of their era. Their writings profoundly impacted our understanding of humanity’s relationship with nature and personal freedom, a legacy that continues to reverberate in contemporary thought.