By Catriona Towriss
Forest bathing for wellbeing
The Japanese have a term called Shirin-yoku, which means Forest Bathing. Shirin-yoku is about soaking up the atmosphere of the forest. It's about allowing the forest to permeate deep into your being. While there are physical benefits to being outside, forest bathing is less about raised heartbeats and improved stamina. It's about experiencing the plethora of goodness that comes with simply being present in the multisensory experience of the forest environment.
Before I realised there was a term for this in Japanese, I was years into my own shirin-yoku practice. On Sundays I walk with a beloved friend in our local forest. Together we indulge in the earthy smell of the soil, we admire the multitudes of greens and browns of the trees, we listen to the bird song and the wind rustling the leaves of the forest canopy. Our forest walks make us feel good: they are journeys of inspiration, of winding conversations, of being present with one another and our surroundings.
Art with found objects in the forest
So perhaps it was inevitable that the forest and the trees would seep deeply into my being, and be expressed in my art. One Sunday, without a plan, I began collecting tree bark, curious about what I could create with these textured, richly coloured materials. Since that first bark-collection, I have transitioned into being a fulltime artist and I work with this material almost everyday. I collect what I find in the forest, carry it to my studio for cleaning and shaping, and then assemble it into sculptural art works. I see my art as a collaboration with nature. I create in order to explore the patterns, tones and shapes of nature, to uncover nature’s visual language.
As I spend more time creating, I experience the creative process itself as a force of wellbeing. Like forest bathing, creativity can open us up to being present in the moment and carry us on a flowing current into other realms. We can experience both relaxation and focused presence, much in the way that we can through meditation. I carry my difficult emotions into my studio, and find that making my art allows me to be present with them, weave them into my work, leaving me with a greater sense of peace.
All of us are creative
The poet John O’Donohue said that each one of us is an artist, that every human being has imagination and is involved in the creation of their world. I see my work as an artist as two fold: to make art that moves those who look at it, and to demystify creativity and guide others to experience its gifts for themselves. In my work as a creative coach and teacher, I witness people blossom with the benefits through creating: they experience expanded self-confidence as they develop new skills, discover joy in the act of doing something for the simple pleasure of it, and find new self-acceptance as they embrace the inevitable failures along the way. The gifts of creativity do not only belong to professional artists, all of us are creative.
Catriona Towriss is an artist and creative coach. She supports clients to connect with their creativity so that they can overcome their blocks and make their ideas a reality. In a former chapter of her life, she got a PhD and worked as a lecturer and researcher in population health. Now, she combines her teaching experience, her interest in wellbeing, with her love of creativity. She uses mindfulness techniques and guided creative exercises offer people an opportunity to develop their creative confidence, and to feel inspired and joyful.
In her own artistic practice, she gathers inspiration and materials from nature, and creates sculptural artworks that uncover the visual language of the living environment.
You can find out more about Catriona's work on her website: www.catrionatowriss.com
Catriona has an upcoming Mindful Art Course, Inspired by Seasons and Cycles, in which you will learn about how cyclical patterns of time manifest in your creativity and in the natural world. Each session offers a themed meditation, guided art-making and writing time. This course is for people who are looking to develop their creativity, overcome blocks and experience the joy of making art. It is suitable for all levels of experience.
The course will run on Zoom from Tuesday 3rd May 2022, from 18.00 - 19.30 GMT for eight weeks. To reserve a place email firstname.lastname@example.org
What have customers said about my courses in the past?
“I’ve really enjoyed your course and thought it was a fantastic way to reconnect with creativity. I loved your inclusive approach which gently guided us through the pieces week by week. There are no mistakes!”