A Mindful Journey Through the Woods

Published: Jun 16, 2023

I’ve always enjoyed nature. But, I work from home as a data engineer, so to counterbalance that I make sure to spend as much time as I can exploring the outdoors, far away from digital distractions. Most days, this can be as simple as taking a walk around the local park or going for a bike ride.

Last month, I took a solo camping trip to All You Need Institute with the goal of exploring the concept of “forest bathing” and getting some peace and quiet.

Forest bathing, a Japanese concept I recently came across (though it’s been around since the eighties), is the practice of immersing oneself in nature in order to promote physical and mental well-being. They call it shinrin-yoku. It’s meant to be a mindful activity where you purposely slow down and pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the natural world. The health benefits of this practice are myriad.

I arrived at AYNI for my five-day excursion without too much of a plan for the weekend. The sprawling homestead, run by two New Orleans natives, is located on a beautiful plot of 111 acres in the Sandhills of Mississippi, in the Piney Woods region. The grounds are lush with new growth, with towering pine trees, rolling hills, a swimming pond, and unique flora and fauna such as deer moss and gopher tortoises.

I stayed in the “Cozy Pineland Micro-Cabin”, one of the non-primitive sites on the grounds. It’s a tiny camper with just enough room for a bed and an air conditioning unit, which was a nice amenity in the upper-eighty-degree heat. The only things I took with me were my phone (for family check-ins), my Kindle Paperwhite, my black lab Gracie, and camping essentials like food, water, and a hammock.

Once the camp was set up, I spent the next five days exploring the grounds and soaking in the natural surroundings. Gracie and I hiked through the winding network of trails, enjoyed the one-acre pond, and throughout the weekend I read Nick Offerman’s book, Where the Deer and the Antelope Play in the piney shade. While I’m not sure I agree with every aspect of Offerman’s book, his writing reminded me to appreciate the simple things in life, and of the importance of intentionally connecting with nature (by now, you can probably sense the theme here).

Here are a few book quotes from that weekend I saved to my Kindle clippings:

And so I go into the woods. As I go in under the trees, dependably, almost at once, and by nothing I do, things fall into place. I enter an order that does not exist outside, in the human spaces. I feel my life take its place among the lives—the trees, the birds, the living of all these and the dead—that go and have gone to make the life of the earth. I am less important than I thought, the human race is less important than I thought. I rejoice in that. My mind loses its urgings, senses its nature, and is free. —Wendell Berry, A Native Hill

A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles. —Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

…our species is merely one small part of the “great economy” that is all of nature, and the ecological humility that our place in nature subsequently requires. —Nick Offerman, Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

Wherever a man separates from the multitude and goes his own way, there is a fork in the road, though the travelers along the highway see only a gap in the paling. —Henry David Thoreau

All in all, it was a great trip.


My time camping in the Piney Woods was a refreshing experience. I enjoyed the rest and reflection and emerged feeling reinvigorated.

I think the Japanese are onto something here. Forest bathing is a simple but powerful practice that can have a profound impact on many aspects of general wellbeing.

If this sounds like something you might enjoy, I highly recommend doing a bit of forest bathing yourself. It’s a great way to relax, de-stress, and reconnect with nature. If you’re looking to improve your physical and mental health, give it a try.

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