I live in one of the most beautiful areas of the world if you like trees, mountains, and rivers. If you are curious about what I experience by driving just an hour from my home, I recommend you google images of Banff or Kananaskis Country. Spending a lot of time outside has become an absolutely essential part of my life and I’ll tell you why.
The most important reason I spend time in the back country is that I am able to connect with myself! This is, I believe, truly essential in today’s world. Our brains are so able to make most of the ‘brain noise’ white noise; from traffic, work schedules, stress, and simply lots of people living together in a small area. Every time I spend time out in a completely natural setting I find the same transition takes place: For the first day or so I ‘feel’ rested, but after the third day there is this incredible peace that comes over my spirit and I naturally slow down significantly. I fall into a rhythm and tend to enjoy simple tasks like washing in a cold river, going to sleep when the sun goes down, and making my meals or putting the cooking supplies up in my bear hang. There is a word for this… It is called mindfulness. One way to describe mindfulness is paying attention to what I am experiencing in the present moment. Another way of understanding mindfulness is shutting off automatic pilot (think about what you drive or eat or work and how little you are actually paying attention to what you are doing) and turning on manual pilot. When I have far less information coming into my head by being in nature I am able to process the information that IS coming in far more adequately. Something that begins to happen is I actually start paying better attention to me!
My background is in the field of psychology and I firmly believe that a great percentage of the problems most people experience in life; depression, anxiety, addictions, broken relationships, etc. can be closely tied with running away from who we are. Here’s the thing… You are absolutely beautiful! If you give yourself the chance to get to know yourself regardless of the pain and/or trauma of your past you will begin to see just how beautiful you are as well. The better you get to know yourself the more you will like yourself, but our culture tends to do the exact opposite. Do you listen to music non-stop during the day and then fall asleep while watching TV in your bedroom? If this is the case I would highly recommend you spend time getting to know yourself.
Another reason I love spending time in back country areas in Alberta is because, when I slow down, I become more mindful of everything around me. I just spent a few days out of the city and at one point went for a walk by a nearby river. When I paid attention to all that was around me I was completely floored! I could make out almost 10 distint sounds of different birds, I saw so many different types of trees and plants I lost count, and when I was walking along the riverbed I looked down and was amazed at how much life I saw even on the dry rocks. Green, vibrant life was bursting from every crack. Then I looked closer and saw so many different kinds of insects doing life in their own ways. If I had a microscope I would have seen even more layers of life. By simply changing my focus I was able to experience so much more than I typically do and it was a reminder to do the same in the city. How many times have you driven the same way to or from work and not noticed a family that may need some help or a new storefront of some kind?
Lastly, I appreciate the gift of remembering aspects of life that I can forget in the city; the importance of rest and thinking clearly. Now, neither rest nor thinking are impossible to practice within city limits even when that city is huge. The important part, for me, is that if I don’t intentionally seek out ways to practice self-care and clarity of thought… it won’t happen as easily in a city. I find that when I am driving back into town after some time out in the woods every car that speeds past and every group of buildings is almost invasive to my spirit. Here is the reminder for myself as well as you. Find ways to rest and think in your day to day life. I can promise you that this practice will pay off in many more ways than you can imagine. The idea is not to survive the lives we live, but rather to thrive in life. I wish you a live of abundance in your spirit today. Make it fantastic!