Forest Bathing, Tri-Hita Karana and Biophilia at Fivelements
Forest Bathing at Fivelements
By Michael Hallock
Fivelements Senior Wellness Curator
At Fivelements Bali, as I sit riverside with a guest, our gaze falls to the river and we are drawn into the scene — a drooping bamboo waves lazily in the wind, the leaves of trees dance as if thrilled by the breeze, the soothing rushing and lapping of the water soothes, a glimpse of a bright blue bird captivates our attention. "What were talking about again?" All seems to fade in importance in comparison to the scene we are watching unfold.
In hindsight, what we were doing could be called "forest bathing", a recent trend towards spending time in nature as a restorative and healing process.
A surveyor of Yosemite National Park described the phenomena well: "The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system."
Research studies find the "experience of natural environments provide greater emotional restoration, with lower instances of tension, anxiety, anger, fatigue, confusion and total mood disturbance than urban environments with limited characteristics of nature."
In Bali, the principle of Tri Hita Karana — harmony with nature, community, and spirit is a way of life. Daily life revolves around tending to the land, activities with a tightly knit family and community, and daily spiritual ceremony. The Balinese know that health harmony and well-being are all about relationship, as we depend on nature, one another, and even the unseen forces of nature.
In the making of Fivelements Bali, Tri-Hita Karana, was a cornerstone. The ongoing inquiry was, "How can we make this experience one that connects people to nature, to each other, to spirit?" This was a guiding principle in every aspect of the design and guest journey. Sakti Dining Room, treatment rooms, and sleeping suites were all situated riverside for the connection the soothing sounds of the river and jungle, the cooling breeze, and an invitation to forest bathing. Buildings were conceived with natural shapes. When we later saw the completed architecture from above by drone it was ever more stunning: circular sleeping suites and treatment rooms, Sakti Dining Room stretched out like a banana leaf, the Mandala event spaces were like conch shells.
A standout, Mandala Agung's roof spirals into a cathedral-like crown. As sunlight streams through it gives a sense of connection to the source of life. As we tour guests through the property, it is not unusual for them to instinctually lie down in the centre of the space to bathe in the light coming from the skylit crown.
We one-of-a-kind structures we found ourselves winning awards for the natural design, with some buildings made almost completely of natural materials, bamboo and wood.
At Sakti Dining, we sought to connect people to the natural world with plant-based cuisine whose taste and presentation can stop you in your tracks. Meals are adorned with edible flowers and herbs from the medicinal garden, artfully and carefully prepared, encouraging this connection to the origins of our food. Mindful eating happens naturally. Awards and recognition came naturally as well, a testament that we had succeeded in creating spaces that connected people to nature, to each other, to spirit— and ultimately finding more harmony in themselves.
Photography by Ph. Bruna Rotunno
Biophilia at Habitat
Modern psychological also has a name for humankind's innate connection to nature: Biophilia, literally "the love of life", it is our psychological orientation and attraction towards all that is alive and vital. As we are part of our nature ourselves, Biophilia recognises our inherent need to connect with nature to survive and thrive.
With this awareness, we can design spaces with Biophilia in mind to enhance positive feelings. We know that Biophilia inspired design can reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity, improve our well-being and speed healing. For example, a hospital window with a view to plants can help speed up a patients' healing process. Likewise, having plants in a patient's rooms also speeds up healing.
An aspect of Tri-Hita Karana, Biophilia in design intends to strengthen our natural connection to nature, with the understanding that connection to nature restores and heals.
As the world population continues to become more urban, Biophilia in design becomes even more important.
In designing Fivelements Habitat, our design team once again uses Tri-Hita Karana as a guide, emphasising Biophilia design elements to connect with nature.
We wanted to give people the sense of a natural environment and a sense of coming home, hence Habitat! Rather unconventional even to our local design team we insisted on natural materials: stone pathways that can be felt underfoot, bamboo and wood design, diffused soft lighting and natural light. We created spaces for gatherings for people to share and learn, and the Spirit Space for Tea Ceremony and meditation, a space for reflection, contemplation, and connection with their inner spiritual life.
In the skyscraper backdrop of Hong Kong which can easily lend itself to disconnection and isolation, we understand the need for an oasis where people could be nourished by Biophilia "the love of life", and reconnect each other and with themselves.