Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: The best tonic: Take a long walk

We’re all feeling the stress of the current situation. Social stress indicators such as domestic violence are up as the whole world faces this unprecedented event. 
What to do? 
We’ve all read about the health exception to the Stay at Home Order: get outside and exercise! I go for a walk almost every day and I’m seeing a lot more folks — individuals, couples and families — out walking, both in the neighborhood and in the woods. We, on the Board of the non-profit project Spirit in Nature (we call it SpIN), would like to extend an invitation to do some of your health-promotion/stress-reduction exercise on our paths in Ripton along Goshen Road.
Inspired by a visit of the Dalai Lama to Middlebury College in the late ’90s, a group of locals created this interfaith project on land owned by the college. Local faith groups were enlisted to define and clear a path to bear their tradition’s name — American, Buddhist, Jewish, suggesting that spiritual tradition’s take on nature. The quotes encourage a mindful, contemplative mood while walking and enjoying the ferns, trees, birds, beaver activity, wild flowers, mossy stones, mottled sunshine and gurgling water. It reminds us that our species is a part of nature and connected to it all.
There are many studies documenting the stress-reducing effects of spending time in nature, even as little as 90 minutes per week, according to a recent study at Yale. A lot of this research has been done in Japan and has led to a national movement they call Shinrin-Yoku, which translates into English as “Forest Bathing.” Search “forest bathing” and you’ll find that it’s done all over the world and has many health benefits.
We invite you to “bathe” in the forests of the Green Mountains on the Spirit in Nature Paths and find relief from the lockdown and regain physical, emotional and psychological balance. 
From Route 7, take Route 125 east from East Middlebury five and one half miles through Ripton and turn right on Goshen Road. The SpIN parking lot is on the left, less than a half mile off Route 125. Maps are by the parking lot and at every trail junction. It may be best for safety reasons not to take a brochure (with map) from the box at the parking lot but plan your walk from the big map behind the Plexiglas and then use the maps at each trail junction. You can’t get lost! And, with six-plus miles of paths, social distancing is almost guaranteed. There are paths on both sides of Goshen Road.
Ron Slabaugh
President
Spirit in Nature
Interfaith nature paths

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