Commune, why did I choose that word? Commune as a verb speaks to me on several different levels. There is the broad meaning of the word “feel in close spiritual contact with” or “share one's intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone or something), especially when the exchange is on a spiritual level.”
You can commune with nature when out for a walk, skiing, hiking or just being and sitting in a forest. There is a fairly new concept in the West called, Forest Bathing, which is a perfect example of communing with nature.
Forest Bathing is a Japanese concept also called So shinrin-yoku, which means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.
Forest bathing has become a vital part of preventative healthcare in Japan. The results of Japanese studies have shown forest bathing improves sleep quality, mood, ability to focus, and stress levels. Chronic stress can contribute to the development of ailments like anxiety, depression, and insomnia, to name a few.
My sister Marie and I went to Sundara Spa and Resort last year and experienced Forest Bathing. A naturalist took us literally on a walk through the woods. She had us stop periodically and just breathe in the smells, listen to the sounds of the forest and touch the moss or rocks with a mindfulness mentality. In the end, she made a spread of herbal tea for us to sit in the woods and sip. At first Marie and I laughed that our brothers and brother-in-laws would roll their eyes at the concept of Forest Bathing. They would no doubt feel they Forest Bath during hunting season, but that probably is not with the Japanese had in mind.
You can also commune with your family and friends over a meal that is meaningful and full of ripe conversation. The Tricklebee Café in Milwaukee was created with the whole idea of nurturing the body with a meal and nurturing the soul with conversation and prayer. It is a pay-what-you-can community café that offers healthy meals, food-service training, and spiritual nourishment on the edge of the volatile Sherman Park area of Milwaukee. The cafe primarily serves a low-income black community.
Tricklebee’s web site says, "We seek to be a peaceful gathering place in a neighborhood that has experienced violence and neglect. We are a safe, inviting place for neighbors to gather to promote reconciliation and peace. We work to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against the economically and socially marginalized by creating a space where individuals from all backgrounds may gather around the concept of a community table." It is a special place and a mission of the Moravian Church.
Finally, when I think of commune, I think of communion. As a former Catholic, I was brought up to believe in the sacred, mystical, spiritual practice of taking communion. It is a beautiful experience and one that Christian faiths throughout the world practice in their own way. Again, it is communing over a meal in remembrance of a sacred meal shared by Jesus Christ and his disciples about 2000 years ago.
So today, if you are dealing with one of life’s challenges, I hope you will consider the concept of communing. Take a step back to be in nature or with family and friends over coffee, wine or a delicious meal. If you’re alone during the pandemic, just take in a long deep breath and let it out slowly thinking of the last time you were in nature. See if you can imagine the sights, sounds and smells. My hope is that you will be able to let the cares of the day dissipate and melt away if even for a little while.