Sunday, November 18, 2018

Waiheke Walking Festival - Forest Bathing in McKenzie Reserve

No nudity involved! That's the first thing to establish. It's based on the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku, which means letting the trees sooth all your frantic worries and preoccupations, and being (altogether now) in the moment. Yes, of course you're right, that's not my thing at all - but it is for lots of people and, since I'm working at this festival instead of being a free-will participant, I thought I should try a bit of the oo-woo stuff that's an important part of the programme.

It was initially a bit disconcerting then to meet our guide Richard, who's British, an Old Etonian and a former officer in the Coldstream Guards, who had us, as one of our first tasks, actually marching in formation to the entrance to the Reserve. But it all became clear, and entirely understandable, that it was his military experience that left him needing this sort of soul-soothing. He was perfectly open and candid about this, and full of enthusiasm for the processes he introduced us to, so I don't want to sound churlish.

My entrenched cynicism has always prevented me from ever, it seems (and I have tried quite a lot of this stuff, through work) opening up and accepting what is always promised to be physical relaxation and mental calmness. "Serenity now!" à la Seinfeld would be more my approach. But even allowing for that, I did feel that Richard, in his keenness to instruct the many visitors to Waiheke (and NZ) in the group about the state of things here, did strike a pretty gloomy note. His talk featured invasive weeds, extinctions, kauri dieback, climate change, the national suicide rate... he even mentioned Hitler at one point. And he also, in talking to the many tourists in the group, criticised some aspects of Kiwi life and attitudes that made me bristle a bit, him also being an incomer and all. So even if I had been open to absorbing the soothing chemicals given off by stroked kanuka, he would have undone that by many of the ideas he discussed.

Overall, it wasn't a great success for me - though, to be fair, many of the others were quite vocal and enthusiastic about their enjoyment of the session. Probably not co-members of the curmudgeon club, then.

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