As the rosy-fingered rays of the sun poke through our bedroom window, I rise. Shuffling around in the semi-dark quiet, floorboards creaking, socks, boots, jacket, gloves, fence tester, drink some water, ready. Ready to go pig bathing.
Mornings here are still crisp in April and I catch my breath as I step outside. But the chill doesn’t deter the pigs. Most of the babies and young growers are already out excavating their pasture and Mr. Hoss, Sapphire, and Lulu (the boar and sows) wait, more or less patiently, for their breakfast. I feed them first, let the hens out of their coop, check the hotwire. And then I pause. I feel the pull to go inside, to do my kettlebell drills or maybe practice yoga, get breakfast on, start on that mile-long to-do list that we seem to have every day, but I stay here. Because these few minutes after morning chores are the best part of my day. My quiet time. My pig bathing time.
Spending time in the outdoors feels intuitively good to many people but it was not until recently that researchers have begun to study its health. Called “forest bathing,” or shinrin-yoku in Japanese, “taking in the forest atmosphere,” has become incredibly popular in Japan and throughout Asia in the past few decades and with good reason: researchers have found that forest bathing has many of the same benefits as other mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation, including reduced stress, improved mood and focus, and increased energy levels. The practice is beginning to catch on here in the US too as more people search for different ways to improve their emotional and physical wellbeing.
I haven’t got a forest here in New Mexico, but I’ve got pigs.
Standing there in the early morning light with our pigs, I feel a sense of stillness that I’m hard-pressed to find anywhere else. The color of the light on the grass, the muffled snuffling and grunting of the babies, the deeper contented chuffing of the sows as they forage, and the smell of freshly-turned earth fill my mind, leaving no room for anything else. A half-hour or more can pass and I don’t notice. When I come again into myself, I feel good, calm. I feel like I can handle that to-do list, that things here will be ok for another day.
I might be a RYT-200 yoga instructor, but I struggle mightily with traditional sit-and-be-quiet styles of meditation. I get antsy, my body starts to hurt in odd places, and the chitta vritti (mind chatter) of my monkey mind is continuous and unending. But outside in the chill of the morning, I can simply be with my pigs. I can watch them go about their business of living, and revel in the simple joy I feel at watching them express their pig-ness. This is my meditation, my pig-bathing practice. You’re welcome anytime.