Cladoptosis Is Healthy.
I’ve been fretting about how someone in my marketing role could possibly find anything in “forest bathing” that is relatable to my work.
However, the solution was found in a tiny book called “The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing” by Julia Plevin. Chapter by chapter and a bit over halfway through the book, there it was . . . a chapter called “let it go” and I quote: “In nature, certain species of trees go through a process called cladoptosis. They self-prune, shedding branches that are shaded or diseased, as they grow toward the light. As part of the beautiful cycle of all things in nature, the branches that were a drain of resources for the tree decompose to become offerings of mineral-rich detritus to feed the earth. When we let go of what’s no longer serving us, we create spaciousness in our lives to nourish what we really want (or need) to cultivate.”
For the sixteen years I've been working in housing for older adults, the mantra I hear is the very natural objection to moving from one’s home. Material things root us there with all the memories imbued in them. Imagining letting go of these familiar comforts is threatening. How can we give away a watch that may have belonged to your mother, a tie from a deceased spouse, a piece of furniture that you inherited from your grandmother? The minute you touch them, the memories grab onto your heart and say “no, don’t let me go.” However, that is probably one of the most healing things to do despite the anxiety this may produce. As the author says, “with a big exhale, drop the stick or leaf back onto the ground and release your worried energy into the earth. Don’t be concerned about dropping your energetic baggage onto Earth – she recycles energy that’s no longer serving you.”
So this is where forest bathing and downsizing a life converge. Both the forest and our life’s accumulations need pruning later in life. You will feel lighter for it, although while doing it, it can be daunting.
When we had our home remodeled, the person helping us said all our furniture had to go. What?!! After we recovered from that edict, we did it. Then we left the house for over 6 months, only returning occasionally to check on progress. We put our faith in the designer and contractor and didn’t stress it. The ultimate result is a home that has little furniture in it, very carefully-curated pieces of art returned to a re-envisioned, beautiful Zen-like place that exudes peace. We discovered that lightening our material load gave us a sense of control and lightness we never expected.
Candiece Milford is the Managing Director of Marketing of Rhoda Goldman Plaza, a non-profit residential community for people needing assistance or memory care. She’s President of the Board of Directors of At Home With Growing Older, a non-profit whose mission is to educate, inspire, and connect people across generations/disciplines to re-envision and improve the experiences of later life.