The Japanese practice of Forest Therapy is called Shinrin-Yoku which means “taking in the forests atmosphere.” Quite simply the process is to just head into the forest and that’s about it. Well that’s sort of a generalization of the actual philosophy where you can shed stress and anxiety by spending time with nature by trekking through the woods, engrossing yourself in the silent ecosystem.
Forest Therapy or Forest Bathing is used to embrace nature and to enhance wellness and happiness. Heading into a forest and focusing on being present in the silence while engaging in deep breathing, recognizing smells and sounds can be healthy and therapeutic.
A few years ago as I was researching field recording I stumbled onto a sound course offered through Princeton University called Space and Place. I messaged the Professor to see if I could audit the course although the semester was winding down and his Princeton Arts Fellow nearing an end he was kind enough to share with me the syllabus.
I quickly purchased every book mentioned in the syllabus and proceeded to read every referenced website and article. One particularly interesting piece was on Chris Watson of the 80’s Industrial/Post Punk band Cabaret Voltaire who had since entered into wildlife field recording. Upon reading an articleon his techniques, I realized he and I had similarities in equipment I decided to try some forest field recordings.
As I began to repurpose my film audio-recording equipment and expand my collection of specialty field recording gear with some new purchases I headed off into the woods. Wearing my Kuhl Silencer pants, Merrell hiking boots, Tilley and sound recording gear I headed into the forest. Uncertain of what my expectations actually were and primarily hoping for a clean, noise free forest ambience recording I found a quiet remote location and grabbed a seat on a rock under a dense canopy of trees.
Putting on my headphones and hitting record I silently listened to the sounds of the forest. With a cool summer breeze calmly making the forests vegetation dance like a ballerina and strained to listen for the sound of the forests wildlife. What I heard while focusing was the distant sound of the outside world. Planes, lawnmowers and the distant highway spoiled my recordings.
Calmly I continued to record hoping the noise pollution would stop. The distant persistent noise droned on however as an hour had passed however I was feeling focused, calm and relaxed. The experience, alone in the forest was meditative as I was focused on my environment fully mindful and present.
My recording was essentially trash, ruined by the environmental noise pollution of the suburban forest. I Googled “field recording quiet places” in a feeble attempt to find a quiet place to record nearby my Princeton area home.
“SILENCE IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF SOMETHING,
BUT THE PRESENCE OF EVERYTHING.”
-Gordon Hempton, Founder
One Square Inch of Silence
My research lead me to the Audio Ecologist Gordon Hempton know for his nature recordings on 6 different continents while on an endless quest searching for One Square Inch of Silence.
In 2005 Gordon Hempton while recording in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington’s Olympic National Park, one of the quietest places in the world, he placed a rock on a log claiming it to be One Square Inch of Silence. Hempton defines silence as lacking in human created noise pollution.
For years Hempton has monitored his One Square Inch of Silence often having to inform noise polluters of there noise pollution and writing the offenders letters along with recordings hoping to obtain their support in creating less pollution.
Gordon’s One Square Inch website deeper explains the environmental concerns and educates in an attempt to raise awareness and maintain the silence.
While I have yet to visit Hoh Rainforest or find any location free of noise pollution, my forest therapy continues.
With today being the first day of fall the colorful foliage is about to change. I visualize the sounds of leaves falling and the crunching sound as I walk to a suitable recording spot. Hoping to immerse myself mindfully in the forests serenity.The Startup