In part one of a two-part special, Melissa talks with Brooke Mellen, a Forest Therapy guide and founder of Cultured Forest, an Art and Nature connection company here in New York City. Brooke promotes wellness in the outdoors by leading guided mindfulness walks where she introduces participants to the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, also known as Forest Bathing, where participants take in forest atmosphere. Forest Bathing requires that you slow down and focus in on connecting with nature, not just pass through it as a means to get to a destination. We talk about the disconnect us city-dwellers often feel from nature, and how travel escapes and art have helped her mitigate that. Brooke initially found herself drawn to shinrin-yoku in part as a way to escape the rigors of a high stress corporate job, but found the health benefits that resulted were so significant, she was compelled to travel to Japan and around the world in order to learn from other Forest Bathing practitioners. She created Cultured Forest in order to teach other overwhelmed New Yorkers about the healing powers of nature.
In the next episode,(#8), you’ll get to hear what it’s like to actually be on a shinrin-yoku walk with Brooke. Back in early March of 2020, just before New York City went into social isolation mode to help combat the spread of Covid-19, Brooke took Melissa on a guided mindfulness walk on The High Line and she brought along her field recorder. For those who are unfamiliar, The High Line is a 1.4 mile long elevated greenway built on a former railway on the west side of Manhattan and which has been transformed into one of NYC’s most popular public outdoor destinations.
Major thanks to Brooke for sharing her story of building a company as a way to combat stress and connect deeper with nature, with art, and with like-minded souls. It certainly makes for some crowded streets, but it’s the connection between people that is one of my favorite things about living amongst the masses in New York City.
If you want to find out more about the Cultured Forest community, or bathe in the forest with Brooke yourself, head over to her website at culturedforest.com, or check out her Instagram @culturedforest.
Show Notes / Useful links:
Cultured Forest events page
The High Line in NYC
The Achemist’s Kitchen in NYC
Oivallusvaara in Finland
The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
“Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health” New York State DEC