Discover the ancient tradition of blossom-watching this spring and reap the benefit of time in nature

I walked up into the woods behind my house this week, and found some early cherry blossom. Whilst the Japanese are putting some curbs on this year’s ‘Hanami’ due to Coronavirus, the activity of enjoying spring tree blossom is spreading.

Here in the UK, for example, The National Trust has set up a blossom watching campaign to encourage people to connect with nature, and will be planting new blossom-bearing trees in locations including East London and Plymouth.

There are some signs that nature-connectedness in England is fading. Numbers of people feeling part of nature have dropped from 61% in April to 56% in January, and those taking more time to notice nature falling from 74% to 65% in the same period. With weather warming, and landscapes coming alive, now is the ideal time to get outside, and campaigns like the National Trust’s will help. We also know that trees enhance mood, improve self esteem and lower blood pressure – and that planting more ‘diverse’ tree species in cities brings big mental health benefits especially for people on lower incomes.

Coaching can also be part of building our relationships with the world around us. For example through exploring our senses outdoors, or working with metaphor, coaching with nature can involve considering how our leadership and the work we do benefits the planet. Nature coaching can inspire contact, meaning, beauty, emotion, compassion – five activities that have been shown to significantly increase happiness, life satisfaction, happiness and positive outlook, and lead to action that benefits the environment.

Farmers in Japan didn’t need all this evidence to know that spring connected rice planting season with cherry flowering. The word for cherry blossom – ‘sakura’ literally means ‘a sacred place for the rice paddy god to dwell’, and farmers would celebrate the arrival of the blossoms as a sign of good harvest.

In the Nara period (770-790 BCE) these celebrations grew into a festival for enjoying the blossoms – including wisteria and other plants – and nowadays Hanami is a major annual event with picnics and parties both day and night.

These traditions are all about transience of course, and how life is lost even as it continues. Basho put it beautifully in reverse – a night vanishing whilst blossom viewing progresses.

A cloud of cherry blossoms;
The temple bell,
Is it Ueno, is it Asakusa?

How many, many things
They call to mind
These cherry-blossoms!

Very brief –
Gleam of blossoms in the treetops
On a moonlit night.

A lovely spring night
suddenly vanished while we
viewed cherry blossoms

Basho

Either way, we can all find something here to reflect on this spring. How many, many things they call to mind!

Get out there and see what you can find!

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