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Mindful : August 2017
10 mindful August 2017 Barry Boyce Editor-in-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org Our must-read story this issue: In “The 8-Week Journey to Now,” Alan Green takes us through a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, week by week. See page 44. Each day as I come home from work, I walk on a tree-lined street that’s like a small forest. Some days I’m utterly lost in thought, but when possible I try to drink it all in. It’s so much more nourishing than looking at a screen. If I had to choose between a tree and a newsfeed—including a newsfeed about beautiful trees—I would choose the tree. Every time. A friend of mine is an arborist who has long exposed me, on excursion after excursion in parks and wil- derness, to the wonders of trees and forests, first in Pennsylvania and now in California. Whenever we enter the land of trees, almost instantly the mood changes. There is a palpable slowing down of thought and speech. You can hear more, and better. You begin to sense with more of your body, and there is even a preternatural settledness that can easily overtake you. Some psychol- ogists now consider this complex of mental and bodily experiences to be an emotion, which they call awe, and it’s considered restorative. The forest is Awe Central. In his magical book, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, Discoveries from a Secret World, author and forester Peter Wohlleben—who worked for the German forestry commission for decades before overseeing his own Beech woodland and working for the return of primeval forests—unfolds, in one compact chapter after another, the story of why trees are so mag- nificent and why they affect us. First off, trees are living creatures—not inert objects merely decorating our world. They live, breathe, eat, sleep, A Moment of Awe make mistakes and learn, communi- cate, cooperate, and compete, as they ceaselessly reach for light and water. One of the profound ways being amid trees affects us is through the time scale. Youth for many trees starts at 150; old age can be 500 or more. When you spend time around some- thing existing in those kinds of time frames, it can alter your perspective, so focused as it is on the next minute, hour, day, week, year. Perhaps this offers one reason that a study cited by Wohlleben showed that time spent in the forest lowers blood pressure. (See our report on a related study on the benefits of “forest bathing,” page 12.) Trees also show us how deeply entrained community is in our sur- roundings. They network and com- municate with each other by exploit- ing a vast underground system of fungi, warning other trees of dangers and opportunities. Some trees, like aspens, are really not a group of sepa- rate entities. They are one organism, and when, in a strong wind, a whole grove of aspens shivers and shimmers as one, it can overtake you with awe. Perhaps the greatest features of these large organisms that we share our world with is that their power and grace and talent—and indeed their “technolog y”—can help us reduce our obsession with being the center of everything and expose the folly and selfishness of short-term thinking. They allow us to feel that— as part of a much greater whole—we are both small and large. And while our individual time on Earth is short, our actions ripple through time, and as a human community, our life is very, very long. ● VOLUME FIVE, NUMBER 3, Mindful (ISSN 2169-5733, USPS 010-500) is published bimonthly for $29.95 per year USA, $39.95 Canada & $49.95 (US) international, by The Foundation for a Mindful Society, 228 Park Ave S #91043, New York, NY 10003-1502 USA. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Mindful, PO Box 469018, Escondido, CA 92046. Canada Post Publication Mail Agreement #42704514. CANADIAN POSTMASTER: Send undeliverable copies to Mindful, 1660 Hollis St, Suite 703, Halifax, NS B3J 1V7 CANADA. Printed in U.S.A . © 2017 Foundation for a Mindful Society. All rights reserved. To explore the first-ever virtual- reality guided awe walk, go to mindful.org/awewalk PHOTOGRAPHBYMARVINMOORE point of view