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The Seeker: Forest Bathing Presents Itself on a Fifth Anniversary

Woods over whiskey

Katie Grant looks ahead and smiles
Katie Grant, The Seeker. (Photo by Lauren Mazzella)

As one of the world’s leading cities in creativity, New York City is a remedy for the banal. While I don’t regret not paving a path in the Big Apple, it’s always refreshing to visit. The city that never sleeps also never disappoints, and I never leave uninspired. 

My husband and I booked tickets to see the Austin-based psych soul duo Black Pumas at Brooklyn Steel for our fifth wedding anniversary. From a traditional perspective, the fifth-anniversary gift is wood-themed, meant to represent solid roots and an enduring relationship. While New York City and Black Pumas have nothing to do with wood, our circumstances lent room for creativity.

I’m a whiskey lover, so the first thing that came to mind aside from the physicality of wood, is spirits. Fun fact: It is estimated that wood is responsible for 60-75% of the taste of a finished whiskey. Another fun fact: Wood is one of the four raw ingredients in single-malt whiskey, along with barley, yeast and water.

I arrived in New York mentally connecting the dots between our anniversary, whiskey and how I would down every old-man drink in the city within the parameters of one weekend. 

Before that could take place, what was supposed to be a quick trip to a coffee shop turned into a multi-day affair. It wasn’t quite the cafe but a palm-reading psychic next door that really derailed my plans, and quickly. A sign outside the coffee shop led me to a small psychic stall. 

I reasoned with myself for a moment, considering I had never had my palm read in New York City, so why not? It was only $20 for one palm, so I went for it. Coffee could wait. 

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m constantly questioning my career path, but that gets stale even to me. However, upon entering the psychic’s shop, it was clear it didn’t matter what I was interested in hearing. My advisor, who went by the name Honeybee, was very straightforward by stating she was not there to map out my life but to provide life coaching based on what she saw.

Honeybee told me a little about her background, including that she had become a healer at 9 years old. We made small talk for a little while, then she took my right palm into her hands. She placed it right-side-up on her circular table. Standing between us was a crystal ball, but her gaze stayed on my palm or within eye contact during our whole conversation.

The accuracy of this statement carried such a weight I reevaluated my whiskey tour of NYC. Alcohol was a topic of discussion — not that I have a drinking problem — but that I drink to feel something different. With so much stress from work and school, it became clear I needed to shift my focus inward, toward mindfulness. 

Mindfulness was recommended for good reason. While I fret about the uncertainty of the future, mindfulness allows me to reclaim my attention and focus on the now. It has also been shown to lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression, both of which I started taking medication for this year. 

One suggestion from Honeybee included mindfulness paired with nature — walking meditations, forest bathing, quietly sitting outside without an electronic device. She also unabashedly pointed out that she would like to continue life-coaching me for the small fee of $1,700. 

I said I would think about it while quietly choking down a laugh. That’s more than my mortgage, so hard pass. 

My husband and I returned to Charlotte just in time for Flow Fest at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. The free event offered more than 50 yoga and meditation classes in an outdoor setting. Perfect for pairing mindfulness with nature, so why not give forest bathing a try? Free sounded much more appealing than paying a life coach who lived over 600 miles away. 

According to Global Wellness Institute, “Forest bathing and forest therapy (or shinrin-yoku) broadly mean taking in, in all of one’s senses, the forest atmosphere. Not simply a walk in the woods, it is the conscious and contemplative practice of being immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest.” 

A form of mobile meditation under the canopy, forest bathing was developed in Japan during the 1980s, when the country made it part of its national health program. Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have established a growing body of scientific literature on the diverse health benefits.

Whitewater’s Flow Fest proved to be the perfect fifth wedding anniversary after all — the ideal blend of wellness and mindfulness. Plus, we were able to incorporate the traditional theme of wood by practicing yoga immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of Charlotte’s canopy.

The whiskey can wait.

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