When was the last time you stepped into the cypress forest, leaving your worries and your phone at the threshold, and tapped into all of your senses? 

For some Marjory’s Circle members and Friends of the Everglades staff, this slow and mindful shared experience kicked off Easter weekend Saturday morning at Riverbend Park in Jupiter. 

Following forest therapy guide Kelly Bruce, the group learned how to “forest bathe” under gently swaying native Florida trees, along a meadow of wildflowers where butterflies danced, and next to a lively cypress pond brimming with life. Forest bathing, Bruce explained, offers numerous health benefits, including better sleep and immunity, and lower stress and blood pressure. This practice originated in Japan, where it is known as Shinrin Yoku. 

Being encouraged to slow down meant noticing the smaller details of nature that are typically missed when barreling down a trail — like the way the sun reflects off the web of a spider, or the subtle changing of the seasons as our tropical winter gives way to spring.

This nature-immersion experience, offered exclusively to members of our Marjory’s Circle donor program, also allowed the group to form stronger connections with each other as they shared their discoveries along the way. They pondered how the indigenous tribes of Florida cohabitated with the land long before modern technology brought development and how nature teaches us about life and death. 

Bruce helped the group consider other teachings, too, like this quote from Braiding Sweetgrass by author Robin Wall Kimmerer: 

“We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads up high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of the earth’s beings.”

As these photos by our Multimedia Producer Leah Voss show, the forest-bathing experience was a true lesson in taking time to find moments of zen.

It felt especially meaningful to gather with Marjory’s Circle members a week before we celebrate the April 7 birthday of Friends of the Everglades founder Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Interested in being part of future experiences like this one? Find out how you can become a member of Marjory’s Circle.